Erica, Kristen, Claire, Shaun, and I all ran the Rave Run 5K last weekend. It’s an untimed novelty run with raveish music and (some) lights along the course. It was fun, but in the podcast we get a bit nitpicky about how it didn’t quite live up to its own hype. But hey, when else do I get to paint my fingernails.
I was asked by a friend for running headphone recommendations because “white earbuds be slipping and sliding”. I pooped out this little review below that will probably not help her, because I use the thing that doesn’t work for her, but may help you. Or not.
For day-to-day use I wear Skull Candy Ink’d (w/ Mic) because they are cheap (I find them on sale for less than $10 fairly often and buy in bulk when I do, because I’m hard on headphones) and they’re pretty good at blocking outside noise, which really helps on the train. But that feature makes them terrible for running—they block too much noise and I worry I’m going to miss some insanely fast cyclist grunting “left!” or a mother who just lost her stroller yelling the traditional “my baby!” and get in a wreck.
For running and cycling, then, I usually wear the white ear buds that come with iPhones—they’re actually kinda crappy at keeping out background noise, which is good for me, and I like having the little mic/control so I can pause music quickly to be able to hear even better. Right now I also have in the mix some crappy earbuds that were a promo item from Brooks at the last race expo I went to. They don’t have a control, but they were free. That’s a thing for me—I’m hard on headphones, but I’m really hard on running headphones. If I don’t catch them on something and end up stomping on them, then my sweat corrodes them into non-functionality.
I’ve never tried any of the hook-over-the-ear or whathaveyou type headphones. Sorry!
Erica and I (and you know, 39,998 other people) ran the Shamrock Shuffle 8K* this morning down in the Loop. It was an interesting exercise in determination, because my right knee started hurting after the first mile and usually that would be my cue to walk or slow down, but this morning I decided to just keep pushing it and see how I could do. I ran the next four miles in pain, but at a pretty good pace. So, that’s good to know, that I can do that if I need to.
If you would like to join our team for the Rave Run 5K (Saturday evening, April 27, 2013, here in Chicago) we are “Robot Lazer Kittens”. Registering as part of our team saves you $5, which does not stack with the $5 coupon in the Active.com email that went out today. But hey, kittens.
The really good news, I think we can all agree, is that I can finally stop self-asterisking whenever a marathon comes up and I say “I ran the Chicago Marathon, just not all of it, but they called it off mid-race, but I wasn’t going to finish anyway”. Anyway, now I can just say, “yeah, I ran the 2013 New Orleans Marathon”.
New Orleans was as wonderful as it always is. That was actually a bit of a problem on Saturday, the day before the race, because we were staying right in the French Quarter and the temptation was to walk around all day and see everything. Mid-afternoon I had to be a jerk and made us go back to the hotel so that I wouldn’t wear out my legs. We did bring back a pretty good haul of street musicians’ CDs, the best of which is by Yes, Ma’am.
Sunday morning we got up super-early and walked over to Cafe Du Monde for a super-healthy pre-race breakfast of beignets and coffee. Funny story, at Cafe Du Monde when you ask for a “half-caf” they think you mean half-black coffee, half-cafe au lait, not decaf. I thought we might see some other runners who would think that was a good idea as well, but at 5am I think we were the only customers in the place who weren’t still up from the night before.
The race is part of the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” series of races and they really did give it that vibe. The National Anthem at the start of the race was played as a guitar solo by Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, who was running the half-marathon distance. There were band stages almost every mile along the route and most of the bands were pretty good, especially the New Orleans-style brass bands like Big Fun. Crowd-support was a little sparser than in Chicago, but the organizers had also scattered groups of middle-school cheerleaders between the aid stations. They had all dressed up in different “Rock” themed outfits: eighties, KISS, as actual LPs, etc. The best was a group that were dressed up as “Rock-n-Roll Grannies” and they’d tell runners that “your gramma is proud of you”. It was very Fantasy Grandma.
The route is a great tour of New Orleans. The first leg goes out into the fancy neighborhood along St. Charles, which is part of the Mardi Gras parade route, so the trees all have beads stuck up in them. Then a loop back into the CBD (Central Business District) and then through the French Quarter. The halfway point is at City Park and is, I think, a rather cruel part of the route. The majority of the racers (13,500 out of 16,000) were running the half-marathon distance, so they peel off to finish and the road was suddenly a lot more empty. And then the remainder of the marathon route is a big out-and-back up to Lake Pontchartrain and as you pass the park on the west side you can see (at least, if you’re as slow as I am) much faster runners who are finishing the whole thing.
Run-wise, I made a few mistakes that led to some pain and slowness that I think could have been avoided, especially given how successful my 20 mile training run in New York went. The biggest was simply that I went out too fast. I was telling myself over and over, from the start of the race, to stick to a 12-minute mile pace, and to take plenty of slow-downs and even walks. But I had my headphones out, to be engaged in the ambient music and the runners around, and so I wasn’t getting my Nike+ info every mile. And it’s easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm of everyone around you. So I ran the first 7 miles at about 10’30” per mile and it just knackered me out. By the halfway point I was feeling worse than I had at the end of 20 miles a few weeks before, and I was starting to have some knee pain. At 4 and a half hours, I had to give myself a little pep talk when it was obvious that I wasn’t going to finish under my, completely imaginary, 5 hour goal.
BUT. I ran a marathon and had a great time doing it. And I was mostly free of pain by the next day. Mostly. And we had a whole extra day in New Orleans to enjoy with our dear friend/relatives Chad and Elizabeth, who drove over from Jackson to hang out with us and take us to great eating spots like Domenica and Cochon Butcher (the latter of which we enjoyed enough to sit out in the rain to eat our lunch).
After that 20-mile run in New York, I’m now into the taper portion of my marathon training; I’ll be running less and less over the next two weeks until the marathon itself. But “less” does still mean that I needed to run 12 miles this last weekend. And just when I was contemplating that in the middle of the week, Erica sent me an IM saying “look what Zach is doing”. What my friend Zach was doing was running 13.1 miles, but broken up into 3 separate races, spread across the day on Sunday and spread across 100 miles of Chicago suburbs.
It’s a funny thing about challenges. A few years ago, running twelve miles alone would have seen like a challenge, but now that I’m in training, it seems like a simple thing. You just run a mile, and then don’t stop until you’ve gone eleven more. So adding a ridiculous layer of challenges on top of it just seems like, well, a good idea.
There are all sorts of reasons why it’s a bad idea. The weather was promising to be awful. With just two weeks to go, I really should be really careful not to injure myself so I don’t screw up the marathon I’ve been training for for months. The structure of the day seemed almost designed to injure us: I’ve gotten into trouble before by running hard and then cooling off and then trying to run again. And the middle run was a trail run, which introduces the dangers of tripping over roots and breaking legs.
So, I emailed Zach right away and asked to get in the action. Zach checked in with Antonio, who would be driving, and then we were agreed.
The day turned out surprisingly well. We made it to all three races. I made good time in all of them. I even set a PR in the last 5 miler (well, easily, because I’ve never run a chip-timed 5 mile race before).
Rather than maintaining separate race pages for each year, I’ve put both upcoming and historical races on a single page. If you go glance at it right now, you might see that my next three races are all listed for the same day. That’s because I’m going to do this with my friend Zach. It’s a really dumb idea, two weeks out from the marathon, and I’m probably going to sprain something from running really hard and then spending an hour in the car and then running again. Oops. I’m already signed up.
So after the successful run-on-the-road in Denver, the very next weekend (this last one) we were going to be in New York for a whirlwind trip to celebrate my birthday and see the show Sleep No More, and it was also the weekend for my last big run of the training: 20 miles. We were trying to figure out how to fit the four hours I’d need for the run into the schedule and so I did a little bit of Google Maps research and decided on an audacious plan. When we arrived at La Guardia Airport, Erica took our bags and got in a cab and went to go visit a friend in Brooklyn and then would later make her way over to Manhattan to check into our hotel. I walked out of La Guardia and started running.
I had literally two pages of Google Maps turn-by-turn directions clutched in my hand to guide me through Queens to the Queensboro bridge and then over to Central Park. I thought I’d have to do two loops of the Park to make my distance, and then it would be 3 miles down to the hotel.
Running through Queens was a lot like running Chicago neighborhoods, plus hills. And with a little bit of almost-getting-lost, as the route I was taking had me paralleling highways for a while and several of the streets I needed to follow were unlabeled access roads where I needed to turn onto them. I also took a chance on some signs that directed me to the “waterfront”, since I knew I had some extra miles to kill. It turned out that the small waterfront park I ended up at did not extend south towards the bridge, and so I did have to do some detouring around the power plant. But that did let me find the Queensboro Bridge Park and I was happy to discover that New York park bathrooms are open in the winter.
It was cold but impressive running across the bridge, and plenty of other people were out for a run or bike across the bridge. In Manhattan, it wasn’t ideal running on the crowded sidewalks, but fortunately it wasn’t far Central Park.
I had forgotten how hilly Central Park is as well, but the looping drive is smooth and wide. When I got to the Reservoir, I decided to take a loop around, as I knew I still had some more miles to chew up. It didn’t hurt that it’s nice and level, and it was cool to run around that “jogging” landmark.
The north end of the Park is really hilly and that was a bit of a slog for this Chicago-trained runner, but at the top of the hill I had a nice surprise when I noticed some folks looking into the woods and I got to see one of the famous Central Park red-tailed hawks. (I think. I’m pretty sure. It was some big raptor.)
Coming back down the park, I was happy to be able to visit a restroom again, and to refill my water bottle with a Gatorade purchased from one of the many park vendors. As I hit the southern end of the park, I did a mental calculation and was pretty sure that I had managed to chew up all the extra miles I needed to do and could just head straight for the hotel.
Running down 7th Avenue, with the short blocks and crowded weekend tourist traffic, was very start-and-stop and I was getting a little frustrated. If I had it all to do again, I’d do the extra miles in the Park and take a cab to the hotel. But I did run through Times Square, so I suppose that’s cool. When I got to the hotel, I’d undershot my distance by a mile, so I headed down 29th Street (at least fewer stop lights running on the longer Street blocks) and added on the distance I needed.
Nike+ says that I again set a PR for the half marathon distance. I have no idea how that’s calculated on a long run like this—if it’s the first 13.1 or just any fastest segment within the run. But for sure the 20 miles and change was the longest distance I’ve ever run. And really, it was pretty darn cool. I’ve taken a cab from La Guardia to Manhattan so many times—to run that trip feels pretty badass.
The big goal, that I actually try not to think about too much right now, lest I get overwhelmed, is the Iron Man in Madison in September. But I knew I needed a more immediate, over-winter goal, lest I just swim once a week and lose all my fall-triathlon fitness. So I decided to pick a spring marathon.
I’ve heard from a variety of sources that I wouldn’t really need to do a marathon before the Iron Man, that plenty of people finish their first marathon as that final leg of the IM. But I’ve got that failed marathon hanging over me. And as much as I can point to the fact that the whole thing was cancelled, the reality is that I wasn’t going to finish anyway. My training fell apart that first year of running, from IT Band injuries, and I never ran over 16 miles. The 18 miles I went (I hesitate to say “ran”) in the Marathon was the farthest I had ever gone. Even while I’ve done longer and longer Triathlon distances, I haven’t run over 10 miles since. So, I really wanted to knock out any potential mental stumbling block before I entered the more grueling IM training.
So, I signed up for the New Orleans Marathon at the end of February. Erica and I both love New Orleans and the timing was just about perfect. I’ve been doing the Hal Higdon Novice marathon training program, again, but this time sticking to the program much more and so far at least, injury free. Out of 15 weeks so far, I’ve only missed 5 runs: a couple from scheduling and three from the bad intersection of a cold and the cold. But the tail end of the training schedule had a couple of potential problems, as long-run weekends ran into some out-of-town trips that Erica and I were taking.
Last weekend, we went to Denver for our friends Kate and Brian’s wedding, and I had a 14 mile run scheduled. I didn’t do much planning ahead of time, other than bringing my running gear, but I was excited to discover when I got there that A) it was an unseasonably warm 50° and B) Denver has developed a really gorgeous set of trails right through the downtown along the Cherry Creek and South Platte River beds. From the hotel I ran over to Mile High Field and found the trails and asked a helpful walking couple for suggestions of which way to run.
The trails were gorgeous, surrounded by downtown and then light industrial just above the riverbed, but with the river and trees and wildlife all down the center. I’m guessing that in the summer when the trees fill in around the edges, it’s even more of an oasis of wildness in the middle of town. Also, there were tons of homeless people. So that was interesting.
I was worried a bit about the elevation, but it didn’t seem to be a problem, and in fact Nike+ said that I set a new PR for the Half Marathon distance.
You know, it’s hard to get me to go visit even my dear friends without some sort of hook. It’s a character flaw and I’m working on it. But so it was clever of Matt Martin, currently working in Turkey, to send Shaun and I an invite to come run the Istanbul 15K with him.
The visit was something of a whirlwind: we flew into Turkey on Friday and left Monday morning. That is not enough time to adjust to the 8-hour time difference, and so the whole trip we were in something of a haze. And even though we were staying right in the oldest part of town (8,000 years old) we didn’t do as much historical-site visiting nor informational-plaque reading as I would normally do. But we did eat plenty of good food, visit the Grand Bazaar, and run from Asia to Europe.
And then our trip back was completely uneventful, except the part where one of the jet engines on our plane failed and so we landed in Gander, Newfoundland and spent the night there…
Erica and Shaun and Zach and Brynn and my co-worker Cheryl and I all ran the Carrera de los Muertos 5K yesterday. It’s one of Erica and my favorite races, both for the course and the energy and vibe of the neighborhood. Check out my mangling of the pronunciation of the name of the race on the latest episode of our podcast.
Place: 851 / 2852
Place in Sex: 554 / 1120
Place in Division (M 40-44): 60 / 135
I don’t mean to brag, except for the part where I’m really proud and I’m telling you about it. I’m one of eighty-seven people who got this shirt in the mail for completing the Chicago Triathlon Triple Challenge. So, yeah, bragging.
The second 5K we did this weekend was a rather different affair. Yesterday we ran the Run for Science literally because we wanted the race shirt. Today we did the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K Run/Walk as a memorial to Erica’s dad, David Reid. This is the fourth year of the run in Chicagoland (we’ve run two of the previous three years) and this year we decided to step up our efforts a little. Erica created a team — the David Reid Memorial Classic Rock Appreciation Club — and nine of our friends came out to race with us. Shaun, Kristen, and Ryan ran with me. Sylvia, Gabe, Denise, Noah, Stephanie, and Jessy walked with Erica. It was a pretty emotional morning, especially for Erica, but it was also a gorgeous day and it was good to be out on a morning by the lake with friends. Check out the podcast episode for more from Erica and I about the day.
I’ve now started the first week of the training program I’m using to train for the New Orleans Marathon in February, so I needed to run 6 miles sometime this weekend. Erica and I got to Montrose Harbor early enough that I ran a mile and half away from the start and then back and timed it well enough that I only a few minutes of downtime before the race started and I was off for my second three miles. Ryan and Shaun were both fresh and kept me at a good pace—the official results don’t seem to be online yet, but I know we were sub-30 minutes. With all the longer distances I’m going to be doing over the next year, I’m imagining I’m going to cool it on the 5Ks a bit, as it just gets harder to fit them in with a longer run.
(I’ll update this with the official times when they’re available.)
Place: 79 / 298
Place in Age (M40-49): 13 / 21
Place in Sex: 51 / 120
Erica and I did two 5Ks this weekend. The first was the Run for Science, a run for, and at, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. It turned out to be a lot of fun, both the run and heading into the Museum afterwards for the Bugapalooza and Backyard Monsters exhibits.
We talk about the race on our new, but still unnamed, podcast.
(Official times were posted at the Museum after the race, but don’t seem to be posted online.)
Place: 297 / 371
Place in Age (M 18-99): 109 / 119
Place in Sex: 122 / 149
(Shaun and I did not plan to both wear our new Triple Challenge finisher’s shirt, but oh well, we’re nerds.)
Last night Shaun and Kristen and Erica and I went out for a run in the Rosehill Cemetary for the inaugural Crypt 5K. The run had some logistical problems, that we talk about on the podcast, but it was pretty cool to run in near-darkness (many sections lit only by the full moon) through the cemetary.
Overall place: 498 / 572
Place in sex: 174 / 195
Place in division (M, 40-44): 25 / 32
Erica and I ran the Bucktown 5K Sunday morning. It was a great, cool morning for a run and the race winds through a lovely residential neighborhood, with plenty of families sitting outside watching the race with coffee cups and dogs. If you want to high-five a bunch of 6 year-olds during a 5K, the Bucktown is for you.
Our race review podcast now has its own central home: The Unnamed, Mostly-Chicago Race Review Podcast. You can subscribe to the podcast manually in iTunes by using Advanced > Subscribe to Podcast and then pasting in: http://fuzzyco.com/racereviews/itunes.xml (or wait a few days and we'll be in the iTunes podcast directory).
Most years since I started running, September marks the end of my real training. With the Chicago Triathlon out of the way, I might do a couple of races here and there—the Bucktown 5K is fun (and yes we're doing this year's) and there are Pumpkins-in-Parks and Spooktaculars and Turkey Trots and Santa Shuffles and so on and so forth—but that's usually it. But this year I'm keeping my training rolling through the winter and I've got some exciting races coming up over the next twelve months.
Get Your Rear in Gear
Get Your Rear in Gear is a Colon Cancer Coalition fundraiser, a cause close to our hearts, and so this year Erica has formed a team. You can register for the race, or just donate, in the name of the David Reid Memorial Classic Rock Appreciation Club. The race is October 21 at Montrose Harbor—Erica will be walking it and I will be running, so you can come along with either of us.
First off, I have to say that we're just doing the 15K distance, but we still get to cross the Bosphorus Bridge and run on two continents. My friend Matt is working in Turkey and invited Shaun and I over to run with him. We're going over for the race and will also be doing a few days of sightseeing in Istanbul. This will be my first trip to a non-English speaking country, so that's exciting.
New Orleans Marathon, Wisconsin Ironman
Somewhere in the endorphin rush of doing the Triple Triathlon a few weeks ago, it started to seem reasonable to just keep it rolling and do an Ironman. I mean, I just swam 1.7 miles, biked 43 miles, and ran 11 miles over 2 days, with a nice rest in between. So how hard could a 2.4 mile swim, 112 bike, and then a 26.2 mile marathon run be?
You want to know the weirdest motivator? Shaun got a big Ironman logo tattoo on his forearm after completing Ironman Louisville two years ago and I have to see that stupid thing all the time when we're running and swimming and such. I'd hate to have to look at it for the rest of my life without ever trying to complete one myself. And if I'm going to do an Ironman, I figure I should do a marathon first, since I've never actually completed one. So I signed up for the New Orleans Rock 'n' Roll Marathon at the end of the February.
There are two Mid-westernish Ironman races—Madison, Wisconsin and Louisville, KY. Shaun did Louisville two years ago and there a few things that make it a challenging course—the swim start is staggered, which can be bad for a slower racer like I expect to be, the bike course is rather hilly, and Kentucky can be warm in August. Wisconsin has none of those disadvantages. But it's biggest problem is that it doesn't have any problems—the race sells out very quickly every year. Past participants and volunteers get priority signing up, so I actually thought about volunteering, but it was the same weekend as a wedding ceremony I was helping perform, so that was out. But this Monday afternoon when the registration opened (the day after this year's running), I was online and got in. I say that like I was buying tickets to a concert and instantly clicked "Buy". Actually, I filled out the form right away and then dithered for an hour, talking to Erica and Shaun and my brother, trying to figure out if this was a reasonable idea. It's not just the size of the challenge—I'm confident that if I use a training schedule and stick to it, I'll be able to complete an Ironman in less than 17 hours. But that training schedule itself is part of the daunting nature of this thing. By next summer, I'm going to be spending many hours a week swimming, biking, and running. I'm going to have to start going to bed much earlier than I do these days, to be able to get up early enough to get in a run or bike before work.
But I went for it. Shaun was able to get a spot as well, which is awesome, so we can train together, which I'm sure will help keep me on track.
So one thing at a time. For now, I just need to get a habit started again of running four times a week (including the Bucktown 5K this weekend). Then in late October I'll start a marathon training plan that just happens to have a 9 mile long run on November 11. And then a marathon. And then...
Shaun, Erica, and I ran the Hell Run this morning and a Coolio concert broke out. Err, or something.
The Hell Run is a perfectly fine mud run race, albeit in a looping course on a horse racetrack rather than being out on some country-side location. The timing worked out that this was a post-Triathlon lark for us, and the real attraction was that Coolio was performing at the post-race party. It had the potential to be weird and sad, like when some once-arena-packing metal band plays a county fair, but in fact Coolio and his two younger cohorts (one of whom rapped, DJed the MacBook, and played the sax) put on a great show and seemed to be having fun.
For no good reason, I paid the extra $5 to get a timed bib rather than just an entry. Really, I have no idea why I did that—when am I ever going to compare my time in this random 5K+obstacles to any other race? But then, to add insult to self-inflicted-financial-injury, they haven't posted the times (that I don't need) anywhere that I can find.
I have a new waterproof camera and carried it along on the course and got a fair number of photos. Erica has posted her usual exhaustive look at the race. And we recorded our seventh episode of our race review podcast in the car on the way home. We're back down to a manageable 15-minutes or so. And sorry about the audio quality—I was warned that the audio recorder gets a little distorty when the batteries get low, but I thought I could eke one more 15-minute podcast. I now know to change the batteries sooner.
This is how many wristbands you get if you’re doing the Triple Challenge (well, I had a couple of them before). From left to right:
The orange band is the same one that relay athletes get and it means you can enter the transition area out of sequence—normally, after the setup time is closed very early in the morning, you can only come into transition when you’re coming out of the water or are on your bike.
Livestrong. In the wake of Lance’s recent issues there’s been some criticism of the Livestrong Foundation for not spending enough on ‘cure’ research. That’s not what’s it for.
A nice touch of the Chicago Triathlon is that they pre-check IDs at the Expo/Packet Pickup, when you’re normally carrying your ID, and so you don’t have to tuck it into your swim trunks or something in order to get a beer at the post-race. And dangit, if I’m running two triathlons, I’m gonna get a beer.
A different bib number for each triathlon (left to right: Spring, Full, SuperSprint).
There are ways to work it out to not have to wear so many wristbands all at once, but I didn’t mind showing off a little race-bling. Maybe I was showing off a little. Definitely.
First off, I'm super proud of Erica. This morning she did a full International distance Triathlon (sometimes also called Olympic-distance since it's the distance they do… in the Olympics). She trained hard, including doing two Sprint triathlons earlier in the year, and really rocked it today. I got to see her on all three legs and every time I saw her, she looked so amazing.
As for me, I'm sore and tired, but proud of myself as well. Yesterday I did the SuperSprint distance (1/4 of the full distance) and then today I did the Sprint distance (1/2 of the full) triathlon and then went back to the start and did the full International distance. Three triathlons in two days. That's the Chicago Triathlon Triple Challenge and only 88 people finished it (by the bib numbers, 117 people signed up for the challenge).
The weather at 6 am was wonderful. The water has been so warm that I didn't even wear a wet suit. The Triple competitors got to leave in the very first wave, along with Mayor Rahm Emanuel (he didn't do the Triple, it seems that if you're the mayor, you get to sneak into the first wave). I took the Sprint pretty easy and it felt great. I'm really undertrained on the bike this year, mainly because my work situation was so weird this summer and I wasn't biking to work, and yet the bike felt really comfortable and fast. The meta-transition was rougher than I thought it would be. Because of the constraints of holding a Triathlon in downtown Chicago, the whole thing is pretty spread out. It's a mile from the finish line to transition. I'd heard there was a trolly to carry Triple participants back to transition, but I didn't see it and so I hoofed it over to the swim start just in time to see Erica start her swim. Then I booked down to transition to drop off my running shoes, pick up my swim gear, and made it back to swim start just in time to join my wave. Shaun had a hotel room at the Hilton and had packed two of everything, so he just ran back to his room, took a hot shower, and then was rested and ready for the second triathlon.
The full distance was a little rough. For the swim, I did wear a wet suit, just for the buoyancy. On the bike, I was starting to feel a little tired on the bike after the first 15 miles (I've only been on the bike about 15 times this year, and rarely over 10 miles). And then it started to downpour. It slowed down to a drizzle for the first half of my run, but then came down hard for the last half. I don't mind running in the rain, but I was cramping a bit and walked off and on. But somewhere near mile 3 I did some math and realized that I was just on target for a four hour triathlon if I kept up my normal running pace. So I started chanting a little mantra to myself and pushed through to run the last couple of miles. It worked—I finished 45 seconds under four hours. Which, I realized when I looked it up, is only 8 minutes off my PR. So not too shabby for the third triathlon of a weekend.
We recorded another episode of our race review podcast. It's kind of a long one, but we're talking about three races here.
The Chicago Triathlon is coming up this weekend. Erica is doing her first Olympic-distance triathlon and Shaun and I are doing the Triple, that is, doing all three distances, Full, Sprint, and Super Sprint. You can download an app for your iPhone or Android and track us as we run the various races:
Erica's number is 4525
My numbers are 7496, 177, and 6286
We're just a week and a half away from the Chicago Triathlon, which means a) I should be waking up in a few hours to go for a training ride and b) that there's a certain Question I'm Asked Frequently (a QAF, if you will):
Erica and I ran the Chicago 10K this morning, and boy are my legs tired. Which is a little scary, since in two weeks I'll running a 10K at the end of a bunch of swimming and biking. And for more, check out our latest podcast:
Last night Erica, Shaun and I biked down to Soldier Field* and ran the Terrapin 5K, a Grateful Dead-themed race held every year around Jerry Garcia's birthday (August 1). Wait, let me correct that—Erica wasn't there, Bob Weir was:
Now, Erica was Bob Weir, not Jerry Garcia, because, well, basically because our jokes can never be simple. The main indication she was Bob Weir was the Ratdog tanktop she made, so she got lots of "Happy Birthday Jerry"s. Cie la vie. Shaun and I ran a nice fast (for me) 5K and Bob Weir ran pretty fast for a 64 year old man (or for a woman who last year was unable to run this race at all because of her injuries). And we continue to record our little podcast reviewing these races:
Shaun, Erica, and I ran the South Shore Triathlon today. Erica and I are running off to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary, so if you want to know how we liked the race, you'll have to listen to our latest podcast:
Erica and I were at Run Away Multisport (the retail arm of RAM Racing) today picking up our packets for the Terrapin 5K and we chatted with Charlie who runs the RAM blog and a couple of other folks whose name I didn't catch. They all emphasized that they hadn't talked to any of the course marshals, so this is not anything official, but we talked about our question as to whether the swim had been shortened. They said that all of the buoys were where they were supposed to be, but that because the swim was started farther out in the water than the planned start point (to get swimmers out of the waves crashing on the shore), the route would have been a hair shorter than planned. As well, one guy speculated that our times were faster than expected because we were doing so much pushing off the bottom. That's certainly true—I think I mention in the podcast that I got into a rhythm of taking 5 or 6 strokes, getting barreled over by a big wave, standing up to get my bearings on the next buoy and then pushing off for another set of strokes. Here's the route as originally planned (the white arrows) and then our actual path (the red arrows are where we were walked out to start, the blue lines our path after that):
Also, in the podcast I refer to a video released by RAM Racing addressing criticisms of the Hot Chocolate 15K which I said was hosted by a dancing cup of hot chocolate. I can't actually find that video, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't hot chocolate but rather the marshmallow man seen in this video below. I regret the (probable) error.
It was 102° in Chicago today, without even considering the heat index, so I'm a little amazed that Erica and I even left the house at all. But we made it down to Ohio Street Beach and went for a swim in Lake Michigan. This was the first time in all of our open-water swimming that we'd gone into Lake Michigan without a wetsuit. A wetsuit would have been tremendious overkill as the lake was about the temperature of a lukewarm bath. Ha! I went to see what Open Water Chicago said the lake temperature was and that's the title of his post from Saturday: Bathwater. It was 78° that day and I'm sure it was at least that today -- occasional pockets of colder water came as a relief. I swam a mile and it felt great. I need to add another half-mile onto that to be ready for the Triple at the Chicago Triathlon, but I'm feeling good about the South Shore Tri coming up here in a few weeks.
Last Thursday Erica and I ran one of Chicago's fine week-day/after-work runs: the Bastille Day 5/8K. We both did the 8K distance. It was a hot day, but I feel like I had a pretty good run nonetheless (less than a minute off my 8K record). You can hear our quibbles and comments on the race in the second episode of our podcast, above.
This is the sort of crowding inside the museum we're complaining about.
This has been my year of really busting a bunch of my PRs (well, and running some new distances that automatically become records). These are my personal records in officially timed races. I’ll update this post as I continue to smash my times (FUZZY SMASH!)
Update February 2013: I’ve integrated these records into my over-all races page and won’t be updating this page anymore.
Erica has written a great post about our trip up to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to do the Bigfoot Triathlon, so there's not a lot to add. I felt pretty hardqore swimming without a wetsuit, the bike was gorgeous (despite all the hills), and I had a little tickiness in my knee that prevented me from going flatout in the run, but oh well, this was just our warm-up triathlon. (And heck, this was my first timed Sprint Distance triathlon, so it's automatically a PR!)
And yes, having Magic Hat No. 9 as the post-race beer was a lot nicer than Michelob Ultra or what-have-you.
Mostly I'm super proud of Erica for finishing, and rocking, her first for-reals triathlon (that's her determination, not mine -- I was proud of her last year for doing the super-sprint despite her injuries).
We've been tossing around the idea of doing a podcast reviewing the races that we run, and rather than get started in any sort of professional manner, I pulled out my iPhone on the drive back from Wisconsin and pointed it into everyone's faces as we discussed the race. The sound quality is commensurate with the circumstances.
Erica and I are both training for the same triathlons this summer, but we haven't actually been training together that much--we each have another training partner and slightly different schedules. (I was going for longer distances leading up to the SF10, she swims near work, I use Gill Park, etc etc.) But this morning we were doing a 5K without any of our other partners and it was a ton of fun to bike down to Lincoln Park and then run together. I'm really lucky that I can share something like that with my sweetheart.
And the run this morning was a blast. It was the Run for the Zoo, which finishes with its last mile or so through the grounds of the Lincoln Park Zoo, mostly through the large animal enclosures. So I was all "rhino! alpaca! camel! hairy cow thing!"
Overall place: 1203 / 1872
Place in sex: 536 / 761
Place in division (M, 40-44): 47/67
Hey, look who's crossing the 50-yard line at Soldier Field!
I've run the Soldier Field 10 (miles, that is, not km) once before in 2010 (and longer distances back in 2007 when I training for that Marathon I mostly did). Two years ago I kind of had a rough time with the training leading up to the run, and the run itself was a little rough -- I had to walk the last couple miles and while I ran onto the field, it was pretty painful.
This year, though, I really felt like I was on track with my training. I could have stood another short run a week--most weeks I was just doing a 4 miler during the week and then my longer run on the weekend--but I kept with it and didn't have any injuries.
The run went really well. Since Shaun's ankle injury last year, he's down at my pace, so we stuck together the whole way. I only slowed down to a walk at a couple of the water stations. At 9 miles my legs were getting stiff and I thought I might be in for a repeat of my first SF10, hobbling into the stadium. But I paused for a quick stretch and it totally worked--I was refreshed and practically bounded into the stadium. My time reflects my good feelings: nearly 30 minutes faster than two years ago.
Erica is rocking the runs this year, but isn't quite up to ten miles. But she came along and did the Hut Hut Hike (a two and a half mile walk around the stadium). She got the same stadium blanket award we did and a much better shirt and was able come into the stadium and take a bunch of photos of us finishing.
Our friends the Martins are in town for the Chicago Improv Festival and we all decided at the last minute to run the Ravenswood Run. That meant, again, moving my weekend's long run to Friday morning and Matt came along with Shaun and I on what he thought was going to be a quick 3-mile run but turned out to be our 8. He's a good sport so he came along for the whole thing.
I've already got a couple Ravenswood Run shirts, and so I almost decided to run it bandit. I'm glad I didn't for two reasons. First, because when we were all lined for the start, an organizer was going on about how much money all the registrations had raised for a food bank and two health centers at high schools. So, you know, altruism. But then also, keeping up with Matt set a bit faster of a pace than I've usually been doing and I ended up finishing with a new Personal Record for the 5K -- 25:59. It's nice to have that documented by the timing chip. Thanks Matt!
A few weeks ago I ran a 5 mile training run on a Saturday morning and then a 5K the next day and my ankle let me know for the next week that that was not acceptable. So when I saw the Home Team Charity Run 10K coming up on my calendar for this Sunday and an 8 mile run on the training schedule, I knew there was nothing for it but to wake up really early on Friday morning and do my 8 miles then. It turned out to be a cold and rainy day on Friday, which was icky, but also always makes me feel really hard core if I run at all.
It seems to have worked, taking a day off, because I ran the 10K this morning in under 60 minutes. A sub-30 minute 5K feels pretty new in my world, and this was two of those back-to-back.
The run is a joint program between the charities of the Bulls, Blackhawks, and White Sox and takes place down in Bridgeport and finishes on (the side of the field) at US Cellular Field (we ran on the gravel around the actual diamond and there were tons of volunteers whose job it was to say "keep off the grass, please!"). The route was an interesting mix of businesses, residential and light industrial--the mariachi band playing in front of giant concrete blocks really amused Shaun.
Afterwards we got to meet Southpaw, Tommy Hawk, and Benny the Bull. Benny was kind of spastic and wouldn't take a picture with Shaun because he was too busy assaulting young ladies and jumping into the Dunkin Donuts truck through the serving window. Southpaw was nothing but a gentleman.
Erica's friend Melissa is in town for Erica's birthday weekend and this morning she joined us for her first timed 5K ever—the Race to Wrigley. It was a great morning for a run: 55°, slightly overcast, a nice route along major roads in the Lakeview neighborhood. Melissa says she had a good time—I'm glad Chicago came through for her.
Before the race, we were able to find our brick. Several years ago, Shaun bought us a commemorative brick as part of a Wrigley Field renovation (it's a common thing, I guess)—we got one and then one was placed in the sidewalk around the field. A few years ago they added the Captain Morgan Club outside bar on the southeast corner of the field and moved all the bricks out of that area. I wasn't sure where ours had ended up, but this morning we found it in the Jack Brickhouse section right in front of Gate F at the front of the stadium.
I managed another sub-30 minute 5K, so that's cool. And since Shaun and I are training for the Soldier Field 10 next month, when we finished the race we skipped the banana-and-bagel area and headed right out to run the four miles home, to make it a 7-mile training day. It feels pretty hardcore to trot out of the finish lane and just keep running. We had run almost four miles Friday morning, which I was a little worried about, since running two days back-to-back last weekend goofed up my ankle a bit. But today I feel fine—generally sore, but in the normal, good post-long-run way, not any particular pains. Thanks for asking :-)
I kinda did things in the wrong order this weekend, running the long-run (6 miles and change) of my current training schedule yesterday and then this morning running a 5K. But that was just how everything shook out. So I was a little tired and sore from the start, but I still managed to come in around my current 5K time.
I don't usually wear the shirt of the race to the race, but the Bunny Rock gave everyone these ears and (cheap) sunglasses, so I thought I'd be a sport and add to the group effect. I didn't see as many dropped ears and sunglasses as I thought I would along the course, but I also saw plenty of people running with their ears in their hand by the end of the race.
Ran the Shamrock Shuffle this morning with Shaun. It's the first big race of the Chicago running season—40 thousand people signed up and 34 thousand of them showed up. It does a nice 8K loop around the Loop.
I've actually been training a little this spring - I got up to 4.5 miles this week, so the 5 miles of the race was not too bad. It's always amazing how preparing for an event like this makes running the distance non-terrible. My spring goal is to run the Soldier Field 10 and have it be non-terrible—the only previous time I ran the SF10 I limped across the finish line. This year I'd like to finish running.
Hopefully I’ll see you at a race, run, or ride somewhere around Chicago (unless otherwise noted). Here’s what I’m planning on running this year (and I’ll try to remember to update this post as I sign up for more through the year).
Erica, Shaun, and I ran an interesting 5K this morning. It was the inaugural Warm Your Heart 5K, an indoor run at the McCormick Place, the big expo center in downtown Chicago. The promise of the race was that, unlike other indoor races, it was a single loop. McCormick is pretty big, so I had a picture in my head of running around through exhibit hall after hall. It turns out that while McCormick is big, it's not quite that big—the race was held in two of the halls and the route snaked back and forth in loops through the two.
The whole place is all slick concrete and I'm really surprised I didn't see anyone wipe out after the water stations, with big puddles on the concrete. And there were a lot of tight turns. I assume because of that latter, they spaced out the various pace groups with distinct starts. Shaun and I got at the end of the 9 minute/mile group with the intention of slowing down and ending up with the 10 min/mile group. But somehow we just kept running at that pace and I finished the whole thing at a 9:08/mile pace—setting a personal best in a timed 5k. How odd that I'm a faster runner at 42 than ever before in my life.
I'm sure she'll talk about it on her blog, but this was Erica's first race since her accident last year—she did a great job running and I'm really proud of her.
This morning Shaun, Erica, and I all did the Carrera de los Muertos (“Run of the Dead”) 5K down in Pilsen. For Shaun and Erica both it was a big milestone—it was Shaun’s first run since he broke his ankle and Erica’s first since her bike accident and everything since (Erica walked the whole thing, but that’s still a big step). For me, it was just my first organized run since the Triathlon.
We’ve run a number of “neighborhood runs” in Chicago and this is now by far my favorite. I haven’t spent a lot of time in Pilsen, so it was fun to explore the neighborhood at a trot (Since Erica was walking, she got some great photos of all the street art). There was a variety of great music along the race, from a Mariachi band to DJs. And dancers and giants and food. Oh, and my race bib said “El Fuzzy” and Erica’s said “La Erica”. We’ll definitely be visiting Pilsen soon, and signing up for next year’s race as soon as we can.
Yesterday Erica did the SuperSprint distance of the Chicago Triathlon (I'm so proud of her) and this morning I had my turn as I ran the International distance for the third year in a row.
The first year, I trained pretty hard just to be able to survive the thing. Last year I had a goal of doing it pain-free, so I trained pretty hard again and ended up shaving off over half an hour over my total time. This year I got busy and cocky and I was hideously under-trained. As well, the day was a little rough. The wind picked up today and so the water was pretty choppy and there was a strong head for both north-bound laps of the bike (and then somehow that wind disappeared when I started running, leaving it rather hot). And there were just little things like missing my wave start, some goggle trouble I had on the swim, my bike computer going missing during the race (and oddly turning up back on my bike after the race), and, comically, someone else's helmet sticker getting stuck on my front bike tire for 5 miles or so. Fwip fwip fwip fwip.
So after all of that, I was really surprised to check my watch during the run and realize that I was doing OK on time. I ended up finishing with an official time of 3:52:58. This may or may not be a new PR. As I mentioned, I started a wave late (pretty embarrassing since we'd been down there at 5:00 am). Technically, by Chicago Triathlon rules, I was disqualified since I started with the wrong wave. I'm glad they kept my times anyway. But the question is whether that official time is from my assigned starting time or my actual one. If assigned, then I actually completed the race in 3:48:58 and it's a new personal best. If this time is accurate, then it's only 28 seconds slower than last year, and given how little I've trained this year, that's still impressive to me.
I have to credit some of my fast pace to Shaun, who caught up to me at the transition into the run and ran the first four miles with me. He really kept me going when my body kept suggesting that really, we were pretty tired and it might just be nice to walk, or even to curl up in a ball in the shade. And Erica was, as always, my biggest cheerleader and seeing her sweet face when I finished the swim and when I started the run really gives me a lift.
Clock Time 03:52:58
Overall Place 2955 / 3321
Gender Place 2148 / 2327
Division Place 345 / 364
There's plenty of room for improvement in all 5 stages here (I notice that the mayor blows away my transition times, for example) and now that the whole Gerdes family are triathletes, we can train up together and see if we can keep getting that time down.
That's my Google Translate-fueled notion of my proposal for a Gerdes family motto—"Achievable Goals". You know me, I don't set myself lofty or grand goals to count something as a success. Like, I made a quick comedy video making fun of a pop-culture phenomenon and my goal was literally to get 100 views on YouTube. We're over 500 now, so that's a multi-success in my book. Boom. If I was aiming for 300,000 views or something, I'd be sadly disappointed. (Quick, someone go watch the first episode of Drunk Monkeys one more time to get it into triple digits.)
So, too, it's been with athletic endeavors. My goal with the first triathlon I ran was to finish, and for my second it was just to run it pain-free—the fact that I improved my time dramatically was an unsought bonus. I've been running 5Ks mostly just to set little way-points along my training path where I'd have to run (and, frankly, for cool t-shirts). But as I noticed that my times were usually hovering just above 32 minutes or so, I set my set a little goal: to run a chip-timed 5K in under 30 minutes. This is not a huge or unattainable goal. But for a couple of years it eluded me. I've run that fast on my own, according to my Nike+, and I'm pretty sure I ran the Race to Wrigley 5K last year in under 30 minutes, but I hadn't paid the extra $5 to get the timing chip. And between one thing and another my time in timed races just has stubbornly hovered above 30 mintues.
So last night Erica and I went over to the Terrapin 5K. It's a race that definitely falls into the cool shirt category. Erica's knee has been slowly getting better, but it's nowhere-near running-ready yet, so I had to run by myself. I put my headphones in, put on some Wugazi, and started Nike+ GPS as soon as the race started, which always means there's a few minutes of shuffling up to the actual start line to get everyone running.
Wugazi is stupid-good running music, the weather was gorgeous, and I got into a nice pace. Around the first mile marker, I realized that I was making pretty good time and so where I would usually slow into a walk at the half-way point water station, I instead barely slowed down enough to snatch a Gatorade out of a volunteer's hand. During the second half, I kept setting myself goals of people to either keep up with or pass. When I hit the 3-mile mark, I sprinted the last 1/8 mile, which I never do. As I crossed the finish line, the clock said 32 minutes or so, so the question was how long that shuffle from the start of the race until I actually crossed the start line took. I had to wait until the race results were posted this morning to find out that I did the 5K in:
29 minutes 10 seconds !
The rest of my results were:
Pace: 09 min 24 sec
Overall place: 1354 / ?
Place in Age Group: 107 / 179
Place in Sex: 796 / 1259
Whee! Next goal? I don't know, but something small, I'm sure.
So, mud runs. Pretty popular right now, as I was just saying. Shaun found out about twonew ones just this week. The Muddy Buddy was a race that we did last year (where we = Shaun & our friend Matt and Erica & I) and it has the interesting twist that you do it as a duo who have one bike between you—you hand it off at the periodic obstacles.
I was really proud of Erica last year for stepping up to the challenge of the Muddy Buddy. And she was really looking forward to the race this year, with all of her triathlon training she figured she'd be able to really attack it, instead of just surviving. So she was really bummed (and I was, too) that her knee injury took her out of the running (literally).
So Sunday morning it was just Shaun and I driving out to Indian Hills Farm out in Gilberts, IL. Last year, we obeyed the emailed race instructions and got out to Gilberts frightfully early—arriving in darkness and enveloping fog. We got all of our pre-race tasks done in plenty of time and then spent a few hours waiting for our start time napping in Shaun's truck and slapping ravenous mosquitoes. This year we decided to roll the dice a little, even though we were in an earlier wave, and slept in an hour. There was a little bit of traffic just as we arrived at the farm, but when were able to get all of our check-in and prep tasks done just in time to start with our wave. One of those tasks was to find me a helmet—somehow I had forgotten that one of hard rules of the race is that both members of your team have to wear bike helmets throughout the whole course, even when running. Oops. Fortunately, the race organizers had a bin of bike helmets (I presume lost and found from previous events) that they were happy to loan me.
I have to admit that since we had just done the Tough Mudder, the run felt a little easy. The obstacles are all pretty easy—a few are literally bouncy-castle style inflated obstacles. I hadn't paid close enough attention to the course map and so during what turned out to be my last running leg I was holding back a little, 'pacing' myself for the (non-existent) miles to come. Also, in the Tough Mudder you're put in and out of mud and water throughout the course, with the last few water obstacles actually rinsing you off a bit. As long as you don't slip and fall after the electric shock obstacle, you can in fact finish the run grimey, but not totally mud-laden. By contrast, in the Muddy Buddy, Shaun and I noted that we were entering the final obstacles completely clean, then the course runs you through a (gratitous?) mudpit and then you're done. Not to sound prissy, but clean up is a pain. And, to whine a little bit more, something in the mud triggered an alergic reaction that had me sneezing and snotting for the rest of the day.
But it's a fun day, novel with the bike-switch-off, and I'd heartily recommend it to anyone as their first mudder.
After the disposable camera debacle of the last week, I picked up a waterproof disposable camera at Walgreens and it weathered the mud with aplomb.
There's a whole category of athletic events that I'm sure have been around for years*, but have been increasing in popularity recently**: mudders or mud runs. They're runs out in some countryside somewhere with obstacles thrown in at various points, at least one of the obstacles always being, of course, some sort of mud pit. Erica and I and some friends did the Muddy Buddy last year, a 6-mile race that throws in the twist that you have one bike between two participants ("buddies", if you will) and so each person runs and bikes half the distance. Shaun has done the Warrior Dash, a 5K run with obstacles.
So this year Shaun found out about the Tough Mudder. It's a 10 mile run with a bunch of obstacles: 25 on the Wisconsin route. Their website really talks up how difficult their course is, and even puts down other mud events—calling out the Warrior Dash by name. They're so sure you're going to be so proud of finishing, for example, that they have a tattoo artist at the finish line ready to give tattoos of their logo. Shaun convinced me and improv legend Sean Cusick to give it a try, but going in we weren't sure if they were really just masters of hype, or if we were going to die.
Spoiler: We didn't die. But that's not to say that it was easy or anything. In addition to the explicit obstacles, over half of that 10 miles was in a ski resort—a Wisconsin ski resort, so we're not talking 10,000 ft elevations or anything, but still. So just the up and down and up and down all those hills really got to me. And many of the obstacles were pretty tough. I do not like 12 foot tall walls, no not at all, it turns out. And the second half of course is in a golf course, and they kept routing us through water hazards and it just got tiring going into the water and out again. So by the time I got to the end of the course and encountered the obstacle that was freaking out all of my friends beforehand—running through some wires that shock you with 10,000 volts—it was something of a relief because you didn't have to think about how to conquer it, all you had to do was run through, endure a little pain, not slip in the mud, and then you were done.
Fuzzy injury report: I made it through without any real heel pain nor IT-band pain, which were my two biggest fears going in. I did, however, get a big cramp in my left calf by being a smart-ass and jumping off the balance beam challenge and landing weird in the water. And then I got an even bigger cramp in my other calf about 10 minutes later in a super-stinky pond, as far as I can tell just from the stress of trying to keep balanced in the muck. I'm still very sore today all over my body.
And it's not a race, but just for my own records, it took us about four hours to do the 10 miles, which is… just below a normal walking pace. I know Sean and Shaun could have finished faster, so I'm glad they held back with old man me.
There are a number of things I really liked about the event. For all of the tough-guy talk, they also stress that the event is not a race and even make you swear a pledge just before you start that includes "I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time. … I help my fellow Mudders complete the course." We really saw that in action, from just the simple fact that people were very polite in any line for an obstacle, to really helping each other get over obstacles like the walls. At the Walk the Plank obstacle, it took Sean and I a few tries to help an older guy to get up on the platform. When I reached the shore on the other side and looked back, he still hadn't jumped and his friends were encouraging him and I stopped to make sure he made it into the water—I was invested in his success.
Given how blistering hot the day was, they could have used a few more water stations. If I wasn't wearing my new Camelbak (thanks Erica) I probably would have been in a bad way, water-wise. And the parking situation was defintely not ideal. There was a huge traffic jam coming into the event and we ended up parking across the street from the offical parking (which seemed to be full) in just someone's yard who was charging double the official parking rate (I mean, just $10, but still). I know it's tough for these events who have to balance their popularity with the capacity of the somewhat remote places they need to hold them.
With the level of muddiness of the Muddy Buddy in mind, I had brought along a regular disposable camera, not a waterproof one. That proved to be a mistake, as we were definitely quite submerged a number of times and not all of the film made it. But a few shots survived.
* Columbia, South Carolina's USMC Mud Run is in it's 16th year. As we just learned on King of the Crown***. Ahem.
** Possible translation = "I finally noticed them"
*** The first and only season is on Netflix streaming. Episode 4 has the mud run, if you're curious. The show takes place in Columbia, South Carolina and there keep being little things we 'get' because we've visited Christopher and Katie. When Cyrus was complaining about a kid playing in his studio, for example, he said "what is this, Frankie's Fun Park?"
The follow-up to my barefoot-ish running experiments is that I don't think my problem is a return of plantar fasciitis. But I did definitely do something to my right heel (a deep bruise or something?) and so after a very painful half-mile run a month ago, I've been sticking to biking and swimming and trying to be as gentle as possible with my feet. But we were signed up for the Bastille Day 5K last night and so I laced up my normal running shoes and set out to take it easy and see how it went. Erica was tired from a big day of biking and a fast run the day before and so she was happy to stay down at a moderate pace with me. I'm happy to report that I made it through the run without any serious pain. My heels are a little sore this morning, but I'm hoping it's regular haven't-run-in-a-month aches, and not serious stop-running-now-before-you-have-to-take-another-month-off pain. I've got a hard run in a week (it's right in the name) and then the triathlon in a month, so I'm going to abandon the toe shoes for the time being and then pick up the experiment again in September.
My Bastille Day results:
Overall place: 922 / 1494
Place in sex: 388 / 550
Place in division (M, 40-44): 46 / 69
A couple of weeks ago I got a pair of Vibram FivefingersBikila running shoes and already the questions are coming in from friends and strangers on the trail. "Are they comfortable?" "Are they any good?" "Are they worth it?" I can't answer strangers' questions here* but I can at least write down my stock answers to avoid re-answering the same questions over and over from my friends.
So, first off, I'm no expert, certainly no great runner, and I've only had these things for a few weeks. But here's what I think I know.
For a couple hundred thousand years, people ran around barefoot. And then for the recent few thousand years runners have worn simple strips of leather and such -- which lasted even into the twentieth century. It's only been in the last 50 years or so that science has gotten in on athletic shoes and those shoes have gotten more and more engineered, spongier, and cushier. Which is great -- science is awesome and comfy shoes are comfy. But… there's maybe been some evidence in the last few years that comfy shoes let you run in a way -- with your heel striking the ground first -- that's fine in the short term (the comfy shoes absorb the heel impact that if you were barefoot would having you screaming in a minute) but that can cause injuries and problems in the long term. When you land on your heel, the argument goes, the impact that isn't absorbed by the comfy shoe is passed along up your leg to the knee, which isn't that great at handling that kind of jarring. If you run with the front of your foot hitting the group first, the impact is handled more by your calf muscles acting as a kind of big spring.
Shaun has been yammering at me about this kind of stuff for years, and even more so recently after he listened to the audiobook of Born to Run, so it was a few years ago when I switched up my stride and started running more on the front of my foot. It took a little getting used to, but it wasn't a very long transition. I did this, though, wearing the same old generic Nike running shoes I'd always worn.
A month ago, Erica and I were at REI and there was a big display of all the varieties of Fivefingers and I figured I should get a pair. Three things attracted me to these weird shoes. 1) I was already running in the way that these shoes are supposed to be ideal for -- the theory goes that if you're running with a forefoot strike, you don't need or want all of the cushioning of a standard running shoe, and in fact, why carry around that weight. 2) I have wide feet. I wore sandals, and went barefoot through a lot of my teens and early twenties partly because it was hard to find comfortable shoes. As an adult, I've discovered 4E width shoes, which are awesome. But the fact that Fivefingers let your toes spread out where they will, rather than jamming them all together in a narrow little shoe, was very attractive. 3) They're weird! Why not?
So how has it been? The advice from everyone -- the Vibram site, Shaun, people in the shoe store -- was to take it really slow and easy at first. Run a mile at most, a couple times a week, in the new shoes. Well, I didn't need to do that, because I had already made the running adjustment years ago that most people are making as they switch to this style of shoe. So I ran a couple of miles, a couple of days in a row. And ouch! I've had calf soreness, which I expected, and have also had some heel pain that I'm worried might be a harbinger of my old nemesis plantar fasciitis. Maybe I am already used to the style, but it's still an adjustment to go from padding to almost-no-padding. So now I'm taking it as slow as I really should have from the start.
Are they comfortable? They're not comfy, as I've using the word above, but once I get them on (getting all the toes in the right slots can be a bit tricky, especially when I'm sleepy in the morning) they hardly feel like I'm wearing anything at all.
Should you get a pair? I'm not going to tell you that you should (and especially not until I get this heel pain under control) -- if you're a heel-strike runner it's going to be a big adjustment. And, as I've discovered, even if you're a fore- or mid-foot strike runner, it's still an adjustement. And all for the eventual benefit of… having strangers stare at your weird shoes and ask "how are those, anyway?"
* Well, I suppose I could print out cards with the URL of this post and hand them out when asked.
The most fascinating 12 seconds of video you have ever seen! Especially if you like Shaun talking over everything.
Saturday morning was the Hot Chocolate 5K/15K. I sign up for these races to, theoretically, make myself train for them and then, even if I don't, at least get out and do the run itself. With this one, I didn't train and then had to make the fallback from the 15K that I had signed up for to the 5K. Since I just made that decision on my own, I don't get official results. Erica does, though. I'm so impressed with Erica—this marks just about a year since she ran her first official 5K, which was also in pretty chilly weather.
I'm a little disappointed with the run and with RAM Racing (the organizers). I think the race has just grown faster than they're capable of handling—Shaun said that a few years ago when he ran the race it was 3,000 or so runners. This year it was 24,000. It was just too many runners for the course. There were several chokepoints where the whole thing just slowed to a walk as people tried to fit onto a suddenly narrower path. And when we finished the race, we made an attempt at getting our promised hot chocolate, but the lines made us decide that it just wasn't worth it. And while a little piece of chocolate is a fun post-race treat, the more usual banana or bagel would have been welcome (and especially if we'd actually been doing the 15K). We did get a nice hoodie, though :-)
Erica, Shaun, and I ran the Bucktown 5K this weekend (Foresman, Dori and Becky were around somewhere, but we didn't run into them). My time was pretty poor—I've only run a couple of times since the Triathlon—and my knees were really feeling it by the end of the run. I'm signed up for the 15K distance of the Hot Chocolate next month and I'm starting to regret that ambition a little.
So, I did it. My goal was to finish the Chicago Triathlon for a second time, but do it pain-free. Last year, I finished, which was a great accomplishment, but I was in quite a bit of knee pain for most of the run segment. I didn't have any super-scientific training schedule—I put up a calendar and filled in some target distances in pencil, which mostly got quickly abandoned. But training days accomplished get filled in in sharpie, and if there are too many blank days in a row I get motivated to get back out there. But I think the biggest difference between this year and last was just not stopping that training in the fall and winter. For my first triathlon I trained from April to August. I've been training for this triathlon since September last year—I took a few weeks off running right after the triathlon because of my knees, but I was swimming within a week or so. I also signed up for a fair number of organized runs to make sure that I was getting some running miles in.
So my only goal was an absence of pain, but I guess I got my general fitness up enough that I managed to shave more than 30 minutes off my overall time. So, yeah, that feels pretty cool.
Indulge my data-diddling for a minute with a table of my two Triathlons:
So my improvement was pretty much across the board. I also benefited a bit from entering a new age bracket, mainly because it meant I got to start about an hour earlier in the morning. That was a great benefit on a really hot day. It also meant less standing around futzing. Erica and I drove down at the frightfully early hour you have to set up your transition area and then we went back to the parking garage and slept in the car for about an hour and a half.
We strolled back over to the lakeshore, got Erica a brat and some coffee for breakfast, and then I got to the swim start pretty much right in time to push up to my wave and then get in the water. And then we were off.
It was great to not have stood around waiting to start, but to just be in the water. It was a really warm day—the water was up near the temperature where they don't allow you to wear a wetsuit. Many people elected not to wear a suit, but I wore mine. Last year open water was still something of a struggle, but now I'm pretty comfortable out there.
I wasn't wearing a watch, so I didn't know what my time was like, but I could tell as soon as I got out of the water that I was in much better shape than last year. Last year I had exited the water pretty exhausted, had barely acknowledged Erica who was cheering me on, and I had stumbled down to the transition area. This time I felt fine, gave Erica a kiss and took my iPhone back from her, and jogged off to change clothes and get on the bike.
Last year I would have said that biking was my strongest leg, but it was the sport I practiced least this summer. But I had advantages over last year. I had purchased my probably-a-bit-fancier-than-I-need bike shoes (and despite my accidents earlier in the summer, I was confident of wearing them on this ride since there's no intersections or stopping for 7 miles at a stretch). And I had finally put a super-cheap cycle computer on my bike. I work really well with numerical feedback and so just knowing what my speed was and setting myself little goals for each hill and leg and so on is really helpful for me.
Speaking of numbers, it didn't help me during the race, but I'm happy that I've finally found something of the analog of the Nike+ system for biking. The iPhone has GPS so there are several apps that help you track bike rides and I've settled on Cyclemeter. Despite the name, it'll also track runs and you can manually enter workouts as well, so I can use it to keep track of my swims.
I owe a couple of my friends an apology because of my improved time. Erica had sent out an invitation to friends to come down to the lakefront and join her in watching the runners and cheering me on as I went past. Because there's such a long stretch between the swim finish and the run she had included an estimate of when people should arrive to see me come past. By that estimated time, I was already well into the run, so they either didn't make it to the race at all or could only meet me at the end. I'm so grateful that they even wanted to encourage me at all, and so I'm sorry that I messed up their attempts to see me run. (Though, of course, I have to be happy about my speed improvements.)
When I talk about pain-free, my biggest worry is always the run, because that's where my IT bands fall apart. I gave myself permission to walk as much as I wanted and I only felt the tiniest twinge in my knee once. Near the end of the run I was reminded how distance running is as much a mental sport as a physical one. I wasn't in any pain, and while I was tired I was nowhere near the end of my resources, but it was hard to push myself to keep running and I kept slowing to a walk. I had to keep reminding myself that I wanted to run. I missed Shaun at that point—a good friend, he usually finishes and then comes back and waits to run the last mile or so with me. But he was off in Louisville doing a much larger challenge and so I certainly couldn't begrudge his absence.
So now I want to keep this fitness train rolling. Erica and I have signed up for some runs this fall, but first, a tropical vacation awaits us.
I finished the Chicago Triathlon this morning in record (well, personal record) time. More details later, but I have to go prepare for my standup show tonight. But I'll point out that my time today was over 30 minutes faster than last year. And, yes, I achieved my goal of a pain-free triathlon. Yay, me.
(As I write this, Shaun is 9 hours into his Iron Man and has just started the run portion of the race. Go Shaun!)
So this last weekend I did my last two big training days before the triathlon this weekend. Saturday I did a brick day of a mile open water swim, a quick four mile bike (I had meant to do a little more, but I ran into a big run on the lake path and had a time-constraint of getting down to Indiana for Jase's wedding*), and then a five mile run.
Sunday I did 30 miles on the bike. This was the opposite of Saturday—I had meant to just to do 25 miles, but it was so slow getting through the Belmont-Ohio Street stretch that I wanted to stretch my legs a little when I finally got down to the nice, clear south side. Also, I thought I was really in a groove because the whole ride felt really easy, but it turned out it was just a tail wind, which turned into a head wind when I headed back north. Ugh.
Last year I did my first triathlon and my only goal was to finish. I did that, and was proudly the 61st slowest person of 4243 people who finished the full Olympic-length triathlon. I did, however, finish in pain and so my goal for this year was not to really work on improving my time or anything, but to finish pain-free. I didn't, however, really apply any scientific training to that goal. The main difference was that I didn't quit training right after the triathlon last year—when I finished my most-of-a-marathon three years ago, I immediately stopped running, so when I took up triathlon training last year I was mostly starting from scratch. This time I kept swimming mostly weekly and signed up for a bunch of 5Ks, to guarantee that I would at least run that much, and I actually ran quite a bit over the winter and managed to (slowly) do 10 miles in May. Biking, which previously had been my strong suit, is probably my weakest area this year. I got a indoor-trainer-mount for my bike in February, but only did a few sessions on it before it warmed up enough that I felt like I should be outside on the bike, so I took it off the mount, but then didn't really do a lot of riding. I got some probably-too-fancy-for-what-I-need biking shoes that clip into pedals, but then fell over a couple times, banging up my knees pretty good, and got spooked a little and stayed off the bike for a while. But I finally got a bike computer hooked up on my road bike (I do well with numeric feedback) and discovered Cyclemeter for the iPhone just as I finally got a GPS-capable iPhone.
So, that's all to say, I'm feeling reasonably confident about achieving my goal this year.
And THEN, however the race turns out, I've got my standup class graduation show that night at 9:30 pm. It's free, and you're invited, if you like. I've done standup before**, but lately I've been feeling like I needed some structure and so I decided to take the standup class at Second City***, which happens to be taught by my friend Bryan Bowden. I've gotten the deadlines I kinda need to produce new material, and it's also been a great analytical approach to standup that's been really valuable to me.
And before all that I have to get through a week where I've got some big stuff at work AND another shoot for a video gig that I think I'm all NDAed about. Whew.
** Heck, I've been paid to do standup.
*** My first Second City class, ever. I moved to Chicago eleven years ago to do comedy and never got around to taking a class at the largest comedy training center in the world.
Shaun, Erica, our good friend Matt, and I did the Muddy Buddy this weekend—a 6 mile obstacle-laden off-road course that you complete in pairs with one bicycle between you. Erica did a really extensive run-down of the day, to which I'll just add that she was a champ. Erica had never ridden a mountain bike before a week ago, and certainly had never ridden off-road, so to complete 2 seriously challenging off-road biking legs and really ride most of it, well I'm quite impressed.
The aforementioned crappy-but-waterproof camera came along in my bike bag and I took some shots along the way.
Erica and I ran the Bastille Day 5k last night. (Yes, yes, Bastille Day is actually next week.) It was threatening to rain for hours before the race, but managed to hold off until right as we were approaching the finish line. Erica has written up that last sentence much more eloquently.
The robot shoes say I ran 3.35 mi on 7/7/2010 at 7:30 PM. (It looks like they've taken off the pace information. Boo. I know I'm slow and I'm proud to share that with the world.)
Erica, Claire, and I ran the Chicago Beachathon yesterday—it's a 4 mile run along the lakefront with "tropical obstacles". The obstacles are pretty silly—for example, one consisted of simply running past some hula dancers. But this was Erica's longest race yet, and my first run in too many days. And there were plenty of fun costumes and I won't pretend that the free beer at the end wasn't refreshing. So, yay.
Despite my recent shoutout to my roboshoes, I thought the obstacles might serious, or at least wetter than they were, so I didn't wear my Nike+ shoes. So all I've got are the official results (I realize that probably sounds backwards, but dangit, official results don't show up in my Nike+ totals).
Overall place: 1070 / 1441
Place in sex: 403 / 481
Place in division (M, 40-49): 37 / 50
I love the Nike+ system. I Lyle Love-it. The sensor in the shoes and the thingy in the iPod and I just plug it in and boom, there are all my numbers. It even auto-spams Twitter and Facebook for me, so I don't have to brag to my friends by hand. The one thing that really drags about the whole system is the terrible Flash-laden website. And I even usually don't hate that too much, but. But....
When I first hit 100 miles on the shoes, back in 2007, they emailed me a simple but cool certificate with that milestone. I've been waiting to see what the next level was and Shaun told me it was 500 and I noticed recently that I was creeping closer and closer. And I did it! And... they've changed the system on the site and I don't get a certificate. Boo.
What I am is 104 miles away from the "Blue" level. (The levels are all metric, so that's a nice even 1000 km.) Oh well.
Yesterday was the Soldier Field 10, which I've been working towards all spring. Except for the last three weeks or so when I got injured and then went to Mississippi and then got sick. So I was a little undertrained going in, but I wasn't going to miss it for the world. And, indeed, I only coughed for the first mile or so, and didn't have any knee pain until mile six or so. So, you know, win. Erica came along and did a 2-mile walk, which she was pretty OK fun, but she's already talking about tackling the run itself next year.
Shaun took off right at the start, but came back just before entering the stadium (none of this "Race Near Wrigley" bs, you finish the Soldier Field 10 on the 50 yard line), sacrificing his chip-time to run it in with me, which was very nice. I also saw Claire and Chip within 5 minutes of each other somewhere around mile 8. As each one of them passed me, I picked up from my walk and ran with them a few minutes until my knees gave out again. Stupid knees.
Chip's post reminded me that we heard an announcement just as we were coming into the stadium that they had changed the course conditions grade to "black" and were officially canceling the race. It all seemed very odd to me, because while it was a little humid, it was definitely still running weather AND it was only 20 minutes or so from the time when they were going to cut off the race anyway (to close down the stadium).
My shoes say I ran 10.07 mi on 5/29/2010 at 7:33 AM with a pace of 13'09"/mi (the shoes always get a little pre- and post-race shuffling around).
Yesterday Erica, the Hanson-Ryders, Shannon, Johnny and Anne (and Violet) Knight, and I all ran or walked in the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K which benefits colon cancer research—a topic close to our hearts. We went to the first running of the race in the Chicago area last year out in Tinley Park and it was a pretty boring course. This year was in Oak Park and was a delightful run through a cute neighborhood.
Sometime between when we signed up and yesterday, the start time of the race moved up a half hour, so we actually got there just as the race was starting. We hadn't picked up our shirts and all, so I ended up running that all back to the car, and then running back just as the walkers were starting and working my way past all of them to catch up with our little crew (so that's the extra mile on my robot shoes):
The shoes say I ran 4.01 mi on 5/23/2010 at 8:32 AM with a pace of 11'28"/mi.
I've worn an ankle brace for the last two runs, because I've been experiencing some ankle pain ever since my stupidity after the Race to Wrigley. I'm happy to report that I had no ankle pain on either of these runs. Instead my heel and arch are killing me. Oy vey. So I'm really looking forward to that 10 miler this weekend.
As a small update to my Mission adventure race post, here are some photos by William L Snyder. This is us arriving at the last canoe checkpoint and then doing our mapping to figure out the next section of the race:
Athletic event official photography usually has a cookie cutter feel—the photographer just parks somewhere near the finish line or such and tries to snap a shot of every single person who runs/bikes past. I understand why, so that everyone can have a photo of themselves, but they all kind of look the same. Mr. Snyder really got out in and amongst the racers at several different locations. The whole gallery of his photos from the day is a really great overview of the race.
The second big trip I took this last weekend was down to southern Indiana for the DINOMission Adventure Race. What's an adventure race? That's an excellent question, especially since I myself didn't quite understand all that would be entailed until I was well in it.
An adventure race is a multi-segment race that uses a variety of transportation methods—in this one, foot, bicycle, and canoe. You don't know what's coming up in any of future segments, and even within a segment you don't know what challenges might be waiting for you at a checkpoint. All of the checkpoints within a segment are presented simply as map coordinates and you have to find them with a map and compass (use of a GPS is a disqualification). And it lasts 18 hours*.
Shaun, of course, was the instigator of getting us into this endeavor—DINO primarily runs mountain bike races in Indiana, which Shaun used to do and he's still on their mailing list. He and Andrea had previously done an urban adventure race—the Wild Scallion—and so he was able to rope her in as well to make us a 3-person coed team (which turned out to be the most common of all the divisions—10 of the 42 teams were "3C").
We drove down to Deleany Creek Park in southern Indiana on Friday night and, because we of course forgot the time change (and had some slightly wonky directions on how to get to the park—we wondered if it was our first test), barely got there in time to take a ropes refresher course, have a provided lasagna meal and race meeting, and then get our transition area set up. We tried to get to sleep early in the lodge we were sharing with 20 other racers, but we had forgotten how much noise turning over in a sleeping bag can make. And snoring. And the Mission Lite racers didn't need to be up until 8 am, so many of them stayed up until midnight. So it was a very restless night. We were up at 5 am, had some oatmeal (we felt very clever for bringing the fixings for a hot meal) and were off to the starting line.
The first section was all on foot, orienteering to 6 check points. We were all fairly rusty with our map skills and so it took us awhile to get back into the swing of things and really use the UTM corner tool properly. Yes, yes, we should have practiced at home, but we're nothing if not bold foolish (and did I mention I'd just spent a week in Mississippi?). So we only got 2 of the 6 CPs in the four hours that were allotted for that segment.
Then we were off on bikes. Our first bike challenge was a trick and a great reminder that we needed to stop and think at each decision point during the race. The map coordinates sent us to the top of a steep driveway in the camping area where we were greated with instructions to go 500 meters along a certain bearing. There were bikes scattered all around from people who had headed off into the woods on that bearing. We headed after them, but after fighting our way through 100 meters or so of scrub, I had the presence of mind to pull out the map and see where the end point of that bearing was. It was in the middle of a picnic area clearing, easily accessible from the camp road. So we headed back to our bikes, coasted down the hill, and completed an easy log carry challenge to get our cards punched.
We then headed out of the park, on what we assumed would be a long bike ride. But instead our checkpoint was just 5 miles away and was a parking lot with a semi trailer and bunch of canoes. We put our bikes in the semi and got in a canoe for our next segment.
The canoeing segment was where we really realized just how tough the day was going to be. We started out by paddling upstream for a mile or so, to pick up a checkpoint under a bridge we had just biked over. It was hard work, but then we parked our canoes on the river bank and went for checkpoint 11.
In the first orienteering section, the checkpoints had all been located on or in recognizable topographical features like re-entrants usually about 50 meters off a nice forest trail. Checkpoint 11 was located in the middle of a featureless, level section of small trees and vicious thorns and poison ivy, 500 meters from the shore. The actual checkpoint was located in the middle of a shallow, muddy pond. The only way to find the checkpoint was by dead reckoning. It was hard, muddy work, and our sense of accomplishment was enormous once we'd found the checkpoint. But what, we wondered, if it got a lot harder from here?
The rest of the segment proved to be fairly easy, just a bit of a slog. We canoed 10 miles or so, punctuated by two easily hiked-to checkpoints just off of roads. We did get rained on during that hike and it turned out later that our change of clothes back at the transition area were also getting rained on. Boo. I don't think I've ever been on a non-lazy canoe trip. Actively paddling for 10 miles is pretty wearing.
Then it was back on our bikes for a 14 mile bike ride along country roads. All the varied activities of the day meant that just when you were so exhausted you felt like you might collapse, it was on to a different activity that used different muscles and somehow we were able to go on.
Back in the park, the next segment was still on our bikes as we were back up on the same trails as the morning for bike orienteering. Andrea and I had never ridden on trails before, so it was pretty exciting for both of us. And then soon after we found our first checkpoint it began to get dark. We had heard from other racers that the next easily accesible checkpoint featured a rappel, so we pushed on in the dark to reach that. We'd been carrying our climbing gear all day, as required, and we didn't want that effort to go to waste.
By the time we reached the rappel, it was pitch dark. It was Andrea's first rappel and she'd been nervous about it all day, so we were proud of her that she tackled it in the dark and loved it. I was happy for the dark because the rappel probably would have been a little disappointing in the day (it was pretty short) but the dark added an air of danger.
We felt OK covering familar ground on bikes in the dark (by this time we'd been over that route several times on foot and bike) but uncomfortable pushing on into uncharted territory. We decided to accept the penalties for skipping the rest of the bike orienteering check points and head back to the transition area and move on to the next segment. In just a few hours Andrea and I went from never having ridden trails to riding on them lit only by headlamp. It was, I have to say, pretty fricking cool.
By the time we got back to the transition area, it was 11 pm, just an hour away from the midnight cutoff (the whole race is designed so that everyone is occupied for 18 hours—the winning team got 33 of 40 possible checkpoints—so there's a hard midnight cutoff). We looked at the next set of checkpoints which were all on foot in unfamilar territory on the south side of the park. We noticed that one was in an easily-discovered location on the south side of the lake and was noted as a manned station. We thought that might be something interesting that we could fit in in the last hour and so we headed that way. It turned out to be a zipline across a narrow part of the lake. Again in the pitch black! Wheee! We were the last riders of the zipline and then the volunteers packed up and we all headed back to the finish line.
We checked in at 17 hours and 56 minutes, grabbed the heroes' dinner awaiting us, and immediately collapsed into chairs while the winners in each category were announced. We were 35 of 42 overall and 7 of 10 in our category—a very good showing for first-time, unprepared us, I think.
All the way through the race we kept noting things we'd do better "next time". Whether we're really crazy enough to ever do this again remains to be seen.
* There was a 4 hour "Lite" Mission available. And, as always seems to happen with these extreme sports, someone has just done something even more extreme than what you're doing right now. One of the women running the Mission had just done a 36 hour adventure race in Norway.
Saturday was the Race to Wrigley. It was also the day I was supposed to do a long run, so Shaun and I ran the 3 miles from our neighborhood down to Wrigleyville and then when we got there 15 minutes early ran a half-mile down the already-closed Addison and back to the starting line, just in time for the National Anthem and then the start of the race.
The concept of the run sounds cool—you finish by running through Wrigley Field—but it turns out you don't actually ever see the field or anything. Right at the end of the run you cut through the ground-level concourse of Wrigley—that is, running through a concrete corridor lined with closed concession stands and smelling faintly of power-washed beer spills. Oh, and with scary steel beams down the middle. Oh well, the t-shirt is cute.
Even after running 4 miles, Shaun pushed me a little and we finished somewhere under 30 minutes. I don't have an official time because the run, unusually, offered you a choice of whether to spend an extra $5 to get a timing chip and I elected to save that money. My robot shoes say I ran 3.05 miles* in 28:56, for a pace of 9'28"/mi.
Afterwards, Shaun wasn't going to run anymore as he had touch football later and my hands were full of post-race banana and Gatorade, so I rode the train with Shaun, dropped off my stuff at home, and then went back out for another two miles to get my long run total up to nine miles. I think those last two miles were a mistake. The train ride was just long enough to let everything start to tighten up and I didn't do enough stretching before I went back out. My left ankle and heel were pretty sore right away. And then that evening I went out to Schaumburg for the Laugh Out Loud show and it was a CIF show, which meant everything ran a little long, and then it was also the last Saturday of the month, which meant there was the free Jam after the show. All fun stuff, but it meant I didn't get home until 1:30 AM.
All of which to say that this morning when I got up at 6:30 AM to go to Ravenswood Run I was in enough pain that I wasn't sure if I was going to even walk the course at all. But Erica has been starting to run on her lunch breaks with Shannon and was going to run the 5K as her first for-reals running 5K. She's doing 3-1 run/walk intervals and so I thought I'd at least start the run with her and then I could always bail and just walk back to the finish. But I warmed up enough, and was able to switch up my running gait to favor my ankle a bit, and we finished the race in 38:48. I'm super-proud of Erica. And it was great to see all the folks we ran into at the race: Becky and Dori, Paul**, Chip, and Trent and Heather.
My robo-shoes say I ran 3.27 mi on 4/25/2010 at 8:02 AM with a pace of 12'39"/mi. The official results say:
Overall place: 2642 / 2929
Place in sex: 1278 / 1339
Place in division (M, 40-44): 141 / 149
* I know, not quite 5K. Robot shoes are not 100% accurate.
** Great time, there, Paul.
Update: Gena found this great picture of Erica and I by Steve Stearns:
We saw Chip Aucoin on the route and he gave us a shout out on his running blog. Run, Chip, run.
I've been running, as Doctor Failure so eloquently puts it, a "fuckton" this spring. I'm on track for the Soldier Field 10 (I'll be running 7.5 miles this weekend. Woot.) but I'm signed up for a buttload of 5Ks along the way (based primarily on coolness of t-shirt). Perhaps if you are also a runner I'll see you at one of these?
Robot shoes say I ran 5.19 mi on 3/21/2010 at 8:59 AM with a pace of 10'29"/mi.
This morning I ran the Shamrock Shuffle 8K — it's the first big race of the Chicago season, with a field of 36,000 (25,562 actually showed up/finished this morning). It was my first time running this one, but I think it's sort of traditional that the weather looked nice for a week or so and then cooled down and got snowy & rainy just in time for the race. But everything cleared up at the last second; the pavement was wet but we didn't get rained on and it wasn't too cold (especially, of course, once we started and I was in motion).
I had planned to be up to 5 miles before the race, but had only done up to 4 miles this week. Now I've got 10 weeks to get up to 10 miles for the Soldier Field 10. I'm usually a minimum-efforter, but the plan, I'll lock myself into publicly, is to add a mile a week and be running doing long runs of 10 miles for several weeks leading up to the race. The SF10 finishes inside Soldier Field and I want to run to the finish line.
The results page has been hammered all day, but here finally are my official results. (The Nike+ numbers above include the literal shuffle to the starting line.) (Oh, and I'm now in a new age bracket. Hell-ooo early forties.)
Overall place: 14872 / 25560
Place in sex: 8483 / 11514
Place in division (M, 40-44): 1039 / 1453
Robot shoes say I ran 4.01 mi on 3/17/2010 at 7:30 PM with a pace of 10'39"/mi.
This was my first brick day of the season, if you can call it that when the two activities are 12 hours apart. I swam a mile in the morning and then ran these four at night. And boy are my calves barking. (Which doesn't make *much* sense, since I swim triathlon style, which is to say, kicking as little as possible.)
Nike+ sez: ran 4.01 mi on 3/11/2010 at 6:33 PM with a pace of 10'42"/mi.
This is the farthest I've run since the 18 miles I did of the 2007 Chicago Marathon. Erica points out that I did 6 miles in the 2009 Triathlon, but I didn't run the whole distance—I ran about 2 1/2 miles and then walked/hobbled the rest of the way. So I'm pretty chuffed that I'm back up to 4 pain-free miles. The goal for 2010 is a pain-free triathlon. So here we go…
but hadn't been posting them here. Why should I spare my own blog my running chatter?
I'm signed up for the 2010 Chicago Triathlon and I'm feeling good about where I am in my training already. I've been swimming once a week and I bought an indoor bike trainer stand and I've been on the bike a few times this winter. But I think I'm most impressed with the fact that I've been running outside most of the winter. I only started running a few years ago and when I did it was in April and I was proud of myself that I was getting outside in 45° weather. Now I've been running in below-freezing weather! Yay me!
Running is definitely my weakest leg* of the triathlon and I made the terrible mistake last year of never actually running the distance before the race. So I've signed up for a few races this spring to make sure I get up to speed (well, up to distance). I'm doing the Shamrock Shuffle (March 21, 8K) and the Soldier Field 10 (May 29, 10 miles). Any other races with cool t-shirts I should sign up for?
I've just now signed up for the 2010 Chicago Triathlon. Pretty soon after last year's race I started thinking that I would like to do it again, and that if I started training earlier than April for an August race I might be able to do a pain-free race, and maybe even finish better than 63rd from last. Maybe. Well, I did keep swimming all fall and winter, and ran an occasional 5k. Last weekend I got a indoor bike trainer and printed out a calendar to start writing in training goals. So tonight I made it all official. It's about $175 to sign up for the triathlon and that's a hefty enough sum of money to make it seem real. I can decide all I want, but once I've laid out some cash, by gum I'm not going to back out.
Shaun, Shannon, Erica and I all did the inaugural Santa Shuffle 5k. It was Erica's first 5k and the sub-freezing temperatures made it an extra-tough first go, so I'm really proud of her for tackling it and finishing.
They were going for a massed-Santas thing and so everyone got a free hat and beard. It was impressive, but since the run was around the Lincoln Park Zoo and since it was so cold, there weren't a lot of unsuspecting passersby to have their minds blown. Blowing minds, that's what I like.
Here's my results:
Overall place: 540/803
Place in division (M, 35-39): 20/28
Shaun was signed up for the Treat or Treat Trot 5k and sent me a text message Friday night asking if I was as well. I wasn't, but I had a terrible night's sleep and woke up too early with a sore back Saturday morning and I figured that a 3 mile run couldn't make me feel any worse. And, hey, you get a shirt.
The run actually felt pretty good, and triggered off a day of productivity around the house.
So here's my results:
Overall place: 383/827
Place in sex: 170/270
Place in division (M, 35-39): 18/27
And I guess I never posted my Bucktown 5k results, from three weeks ago (Oct 4, 2009):
Overall place: 2530/3581
Place in sex: 1150/1360
Place in division: 176/208
After months of training, the big day finally arrived and yesterday I participated in the Chicago Triathlon. Actually, let me emphasize, yesterday I finished the Chicago Triathlon. Woo-oo! If you don't mind a little rambling, let me step you through the day.
Transition setup: The Chicago Triathlon is the world's largest with, this year, 9300 participants. That means that a) they have to secure 9300 bikes while you're out swimming and running and b) there are 59 waves that they let start 4 to 10 minutes apart. And that means that we had to be done setting up in the transition area by 5:45 am but then I wouldn't start the race until 9:04 am (Shaun was a few waves ahead of me and had an 8:50 am start time). So we got up at 4 am, drove downtown and set up our transition spots, and then went back to Shaun's truck and got an hour or so of as-good-sleep-as-you-can-get-in-a-truck. (On the upside, we did get to see a spectacular sunrise.)
Swim: Before this summer, I hadn't swum any sort of serious laps since I was 12 or 13. So I was quite impressed with myself that I went from a gasping-and-sore 200m to swimming 2000m in just a few months. I have to give a shout-out to the Chicago Parks for providing great swim facilities -- there are plenty of open adult lap hours at Gill Park where I swim, and registration is about $10/month.
As well, I went out swimming in Lake Michigan 5 or 6 times over the summer, renting and then buy a full-length blueseventy wetsuit from Fleet Feet Sports. Even with a wetsuit, a couple of those outings were real bears -- big waves, really cold, etc. I'm really glad I had that experience (as sad as I may have been any particular day) as it made race day seem quite pleasant.
It had been so rainy and chilly the week leading up to the triathlon that I was sure the water was going to be frigid, but it was about 64° and with a wetsuit it felt downright comfortable. The swim leg was in Monroe Harbor and so there weren't any big waves. The only surprise over training was just how crowded swimming with other people in open water can be. There was plenty of accidental feet grabs, and so on, and I got smacked in the back of the head really good once and pushed under the water by someone's downward stroke landing right in the small of my back.
Other than that, the swim was long, but I didn't ever go hang into the rope to rest or float on my back. I did take plenty of dog-paddling breathers/sightings, but it didn't feel especially hard until I got out of the water and I was really disoriented. I had previously decided to take the swim-to-bike transition really calmly, but for some reason straight out of the water I felt like I needed to go-go-go and so I kinda stumbled off down the path.
Bike: Biking was a series of good news-bad news. Bad news: there was a really strong headwind going north. Good news: that meant there was a nice tailwind coming south. Good news: It was really nice to ride on two cleared-out lanes of Lake Shore Drive. Usually I'm a very defensive rider, always on the lookout for an erratic pedestrian or rollerblader darting into my way. With two car-lanes of bikes headed the same direction, it was great to just get head-down and ride. Bad news: I think of Chicago as very flat, but Lake Shore Drive goes up and over every major road that cuts over to the lake. I'm sure for anyone from anywhere actually hilly, it would seem like nothing, but to me it seemed like I was shifting every few seconds.
I think I could have gone out a little more on the bike ride, but never having done a triathlon before I really wasn't sure how much energy I need to save for the run. It turned out that energy wasn't my problem in that leg…
Run: OK, my bad. I didn't run enough this summer. Especially, I didn't run far enough -- I never got beyond 3 miles in any one run. Somehow, I thought that having run 18 miles two years ago would magically translate into being able to do 6 this year, which is carefully forgetting everything I learned about training and my body that year. I am a creaky old man and I need to work my body up to even reasonable distances.
The biking had felt really smooth, but as soon as I got off the bike in the transition area, my knees felt a little wobbly. "It's just finding my land-legs," I thought and I headed out of the transition at a reasonable jog. I managed to pass by Erica and our friends Scot, Noah, and Stephanie looking pretty good, like I was a runner or something, but just a bit down the path my right knee started giving me a very distinctive twinge. "I am Fuzzy's IT Band and you continue to irritate me at your peril." I'm well acquainted with my IT Band problems and the big danger is not the pain that day, which I can handle ("pain just hurts", as I'm fond of saying), but that it'll ruin my knee for days and days afterwards. If I was going for some sort of time goal, I might have made the sacrifice, but since I was mainly trying to finish this thing, I slowed to a walk.
An unusual thing about the Chicago Triathlon, compared to most major races that combine professional and amateur events, is that they have the pros go last. So just as the path was thinning out with just me and other schlubs just trying to finish, a bike rider came along blowing a whistle and warning us that the pro runners were coming along. So I had the honor of getting passed by Matty Reed and Sarah Haskins* on their way to winning the Chicago Triathlon.
Speaking of other celebrity sightings, we saw Peter Harsch (of The Amazing Race 10) at the Expo on Saturday and then Erica saw his ex-partner Sarah Reinertsen running in the race.
So anyway, about a mile from the end, Shaun had worked his way back from his much-earlier finish and met up to keep me company to the finish. Just before the bridge under Lake Shore, there was a photographer sitting in the middle of the path, so I jogged past him, saying out loud "oh look, how much running I have been doing the whole way!" Yeah, I'm clever. I walked again right after passing him until we got into the chute leading to the finish line when I tried to run again. I was hobbling pretty bad and the announcers took a guess and called out "this guy has a blister the size of Kansas, but he's finishing!" But yes, I crossed the finish line running and got my medal (and roses that Erica had brought for me!). And hey, I came in 4183 / 4243 overall, so there are 60 people slower than me!
Cheerleaders: I'm really grateful to Erica, who's been super-supportive all through my training (often in the form of telling me to get out of bed very early in the morning, when I was contemplating turning off the alarm and skipping a run) and who put in a full day at the race, getting up at 4 am with me and cheering me on at every leg of the race. And Shaun has been a great training partner — there were plenty of (again) early mornings where one or the other of us would have skipped if we didn't know the other was waiting. I was also humbled by the number of friends who made the trek downtown just to see me swim or run by for a few moments. Thanks to Jodi, Noah, Stephanie, Kristen, Holly, and Scot (the last for sticking around after his own sprint triathlon).
Next Year? There was an interview with someone in the Triathlon program who noted that with this sort of event you either finish and check it off your list or get hooked. Right now, I'm feeling pretty check-listy, but I've certainly set myself enough of a low bar that it shouldn't be that hard (start training a little earlier in the year, run more) to set a better time next year, and do it without wrecking my knees again… We'll see.
Hey, I completed the Chicago Triathlon today! Thanks so much to all the encouragement from friends and family - especially Erica, Shaun, Kristen, Jodi, Noah, Stephanie, and Scot who all came down to (or stayed at) the course to cheer me on in person.
My race number is 7130. I'm in wave 43, which means I'll start swimming at 9:04 am and I'll be wearing a yellow swim cap. I'll refer you back to my earlier post for more information, because I need to get to bed -- the transition area is only available for setup from 4:15-5:45 am.
I'm going to be doing (racing? running?) the Chicago Triathlon this Sunday and some of y'all have expressed interest in following along either in person or via the interwebs, which is far, far too kind of everyone.
If you want to come down in person, the Triathlon has a Spectator Guide. The race starts, in general, at 6:00 am on Sunday morning (8/30). As they note, to find me, especially in the swim part, you'll need to know my "wave number, race number, cap color & start time". And unfortunately, it seems that I myself won't know those things until I do my packet pickup on Friday or Saturday. I'll update this entry as soon as I know those thing. Update: My race number is 7130. I'm in wave 43, which means I'll start swimming at 9:04 am and I'll be wearing a yellow swim cap.
You can also follow along from home by going to the race results page, which should be active on raceday. You can search by my last name, "Gerdes", so there's no need to check back here to get my race number or anything.
Thanks so much if you were even considering coming out and encouraging the athletes. I'm just a sweaty middle-aged guy who's pushing himself a little bit, but there are going to be plenty of people out on the course for whom the race is going to be a major life marker and your cheers really will help them complete the triathlon.
I was chatting with my friend Paul yesterday and he, to my comfort, confessed that he had the same attitude to exercise and training as I do -- if he isn't working towards a race, he can't get himself to run. I not only have to have big goals, but really like to combine milestones within the training for those events with other races or events.
So it was that Shaun and I did the "Tour Da Lakefront" for the second time -- riding the 18* miles from Margate Fieldhouse (4921 N Marine) to Rainbow Beach Fieldhouse (3111 E 77th) and then back. If you do even just one leg of that, the city will give you a crappy t-shirt. Free crappy t-shirt, hooray! (And really, if you've ridden all the way north or south from where you started, you're gonna hop on a bus home with your bike? Get back on that trail!)
We had done a mile swim in the lake that morning (maybe Shaun did a mile and a half? He's now mentally checked in to doing an Ironman next year, so he's treating the Olympic-length triathlon we're doing as now a stepping stone along the way to his larger goal. Me, I'm treating it as a major accomplishment.) and so it was a really good triathlon "brick" day.
Shaun and I both bought wetsuits this weekend, which means that we're no longer contrained by the Saturday morning, Tuesday evening schedule of Fleet Feet's wetsuit rental at Ohio Street Beach. It also means that now I have to go swimming in the lake all the time to justify having bought a wetsuit. Yay?
My triathlon training is going pretty good -- I swam the triathlong distance for the first time this week (the distance 1500m and I went 1600m to make it a nice, even mile), though in the pool, not open water. And when a nice organized run intersects with my training, I try to go for it, because, hey, free t-shirt*. So yesterday Shaun and I ran the Elvis is Alive 5k. Check out this hot action! 11:44/mi. Yeah, you're jealous.
* Cotton? Really, Fleet Feet? Most runs are switching to tech shirts these days.
Some people are thrill-seekers—I think I'm a numbers-seeker. One of the funnest parts of my marathon training was that each of the long runs was the farthest I'd ever run, and that I kept having that kind of personal-best success every week or two. (And the Nike+ system didn't hurt, when Lance Armstrong or Paula Radcliffe would come on my headphones and let me know that I'd just set a new personal distance record.)
This year I'm having that same success with my swim training. I just did 1100m this morning and that's the farthest I've ever swum. Ever! And this last weekend I did 900m in the lake, which is the farthest open water swim I've ever done. (As well as being my second real open water swim.)
I suppose I'll eventually run out of things to keep getting better at (because, no, I'm not doing ultra-marathons or anything) but I'm already thinking ahead to next year and thinking that a bike century might be a nice goal…
I haven't talked about it much here but I'm signed up for the Chicago Triathlon this year. After my better-than-I-expected, but not-actually-finishing, performance in the marathon two years ago, achieved by following a regimented training schedule mostly on my own, the next logical step would probably be to join one of those group training programs -- either a fund-raising one like Team in Training, or just a paid program -- so that I'd have benefits of the system as well as the encouragement and peer pressure of the group.
So, instead, in my usual contrary way, I signed up for a different sport and I'm training without any real plan other than "swim, run, and bike as much as I can". I have a calendar through the date of the Triathlon (the end of August) and I fill in each day with the distances I reached. A couple of blank days in a row reminds me to get out and do something.
Shaun is also signed up for the Triathlon and we're swimming together most days we do -- so there's a little bit of peer pressure. And I am availing of some outside resources -- I went to a little class Fleet Feet held at Ohio Street beach with some tips and tricks for open water swimming and this last weekend I went down there and rented a wet suit from them and went out for my first lake swim. (As Erica notes, I am now a Great Lake Swimmer.) I knew it was going to be hard -- I was going to be swimming a half-mile, which was 50 meters farther than I've done in the pool -- but I was surprised that when I was done I wasn't really physically exhausted but I was mentally wiped. Ohio Street is pretty easy as far as open water swimming goes -- the wall is always right there to sight off of and you can touch bottom for most of it (which won't be the case in the real race). But still the effort of constantly sighting and the unfamiliarity of it all really wore me out. It's such a cliche, but it's true that so much of athletic effort is mental.
The results of this year's Chiditarod have finally been announced and Blewt's Silly Funny Goof Gang weren't very fast runners (we came in 46th out of 77, nearly an hour behind the winners) but we were awarded "Best Fashion". Yeah, that's right, we're pretty.
Blewt fielded a team in this year's Chiditarod -- Chicago's own shopping cart race and mobile food drive. Everyone dresses up and decorates their carts, so we went as the Silly Funny Goof Gang.
The race was a lot harder than I thought it would be -- the course is just 4 miles long and there are 5 mandatory stops along the way where you have to spend at least 20 minutes each (kinda sorta like the real Iditarod). But somehow we ended the thing completely wiped and a day later I'm still sore.
Yes, I'm slow, but hey -- this is the first time I've run since October.
Erica and I joined the gym -- for me so I can get on the treadmill and start running while it's still cold. I'm considering trying to do the Grandma's Marathon up in Duluth, and that'd mean I'd need to start really training in February. I do not want to run outside in Chicago in February.
I haven't run since the mostly-Marathon, but I've now signed for a 5 mile "Turkey Trot" in Austin, Texas since I'll be down visiting my family for Thanksgiving. And heck, if it turns out not to fit our plans, there are worse things than donating $20 to Caritas of Austin. (And I'm really hoping that the run t-shirt has those turkeys from the poster -- they're so intense.)
Since the 70%-Marathon I haven't run at all - I've set the alarm for running-time a couple of mornings and then snooze-buttoned my way through it. It's really interesting what a difference the structure of training and goal of the race make. Right now running is in the "I really should for my own general benefit and long term success" category and that means that, like flossing, it just doesn't happen.
Also, I was really happy that I'd made it through the whole training process and nearly-marathon without any of the crazy side-effects you hear about -- bleeding nipples and so on. Well, it turns out I actually did lose a toenail, it was just hanging on by a sliver and I didn't notice until I sat on my foot funny on the couch. Neato. Doesn't hurt at all, it just... fell off. I'll spare you pictures.
As some of you may have heard, the Chicago Marathon was canceled around noon today due to the heat. I was around mile 16, headed east on Jackson when they told us to skip the Southside portion of the course and just head straight to Grant Park. I did so and crossed the finish line, but that time is for about 18 miles, not 26 -- I was on track to finish in about 6 hours. They gave everyone a medal, so I'll have to make an asterix for mine.
Until then, running in the Marathon was as crazy and fun as I expected it to be. Matt Larsen and I started the run together, but as soon as we'd seen our incredible support crew -- Erica, Brandi, and Matt's dad and stepmom -- he headed off (Matt finished for reals). There were all sorts of folks running and so many people being so supportive. And my IT Bands stopped hurting around 8 pm tonight, so I'm ready to do another (entire) Marathon as soon as I can.
I'm running the Chicago Marathon tomorrow. If you'd like to track my progress from afar, my bib number is 48874 and you can, I'm given to understand, get nearly-live updates on my (v.slow) progress throughout the event (I hesitate to call it a 'race', at least for my own involvement in the process).
So, if you're obsessive (and I know some of you are, because I got one comment by phone) you might have noticed that the mileage total on my little running meter on the sidebar hasn't been going up in the last few weeks, nor have I posted about any of my long weekend runs. That's because I haven't been running very far, or often, for the last three weeks. After my 16-mile run my ITBs were really hurting, and everyone says that to run once they're irritated will just prolong the problem. I took a few days off and then ran two days in a row, to pretty noticable pain.
So I ended up taking off nearly two weeks, wherein I saw a doctor and started some physical therapy. I probably should have done some none-running exercise in there (other than dance) but between not knowing if biking would hurt my ITBs just as much, and not having access to a pool, and just being plain busy, it was really easy to just let it all slide.
So now I'm back on the horse, but I've missed three weeks of running. My ITBs are feeling fine, but everything else is a bit creaky -- I had a backache this morning that I hadn't felt since months ago. I've also missed what should have been two 16-milers and an 18-miler. This upcoming weekend the schedule would have me running 18 miles and then beginning my 'taper'. So I'm rather uncertain how far I should be pushing it in this last three weeks. As always, comments from the peanut gallery are welcomed.
Yesterday, I mentioned to Kenner that I was having trouble with my Iliotibial Band after Sunday's run and he said that he'd had some success with a foam roller and that I should pick one up at Fleet Feet. I was fretting on the way home that I didn't have time to stop by the store and pick one up, but what was waiting for me but a foam roller (with handy diagram)! Barely moments back from her honeymoon, Andrea Strening (neé Swanson) had read my post about my problem and dropped by with the solution. What wonderful friends I have.
Lots of ice and ibuprofen, and I 'rolled' last night and this morning and felt 200% better today. I'm thinking of going out for at least a shuffle around the block tomorrow, but I'm also pretty sure that's a terrible idea.
This has come up a few times, so I thought I'd stick this up here where I could point my friends at it if it came up again. The table below is the "Preliminary Training Program" from the Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer. It's the exercise regime they suggest for total non-runners before starting the 'official' 16-week marathon training program, which starts with running 3 miles a day. Now, I must heartily disclaim that A) I am not a trainer or coach -- I'm just a guy who started running recently and B) this chart is from a book for Marathoners, and most of my friends who are running are just trying to get to a comfortable 5K. In fact, if you google "couch to 5k" you'll find plenty of greatprograms, with charts rather similar to the one below. The other thing to note is that you don't have to do all eleven weeks -- jump into the chart at the point you feel comfortable. (Except Dan -- Dan, you are required to do all 11 weeks. Because I said so.)
Training Days per Week
Total Time (minutes)
Moderate walking pace (17-20 min./mile)
Moderate walking pace (17-20 min./mile)
Fast walking pace (13-16 min./mile)
Fast walking pace (13-16 min./mile)
Jog for 5 min. and then walk at fast pace for 5 min. Repeat twice.
Jog for 10 min. and then walk at fast pace for 5 min. Repeat once.
Jog for 15 min. and then walk at fast pace for 5 min. Repeat once.
Jog for 20 min. and then walk at fast pace for 5 min. Repeat once.
I've reached the point in my training program where the amount of time it takes to complete each of the runs is becoming a factor. I'm a bit jealous, in fact, of the AIDS Marathon training that Kenner and Agnes are doing -- it's more weeks over all, but they never run more than 40 minutes a day in their mid-week runs. (Their training does, however, include the unbelievable-to-me final training run of 26 miles.) This week I ended up skipping my 7 mile Wednesday run because I just didn't have 80 minutes to spare, and I did my Thursday run at 10:30 pm after Apes.
So this morning when it was pouring down rain it was something of a test of will, a quick check-in of "am I really going through with all of this", to get out and run 16 miles. Fortunately, I had already arranged with Matt to run with him today and when I called to see what he felt about running in the rain his response was "I love running in the rain!"
Let me list some of the great things about this run: the rain was warm and it wasn't too bad, Matt is a delightful conversationalist, and I finished the run with plenty of energy. Let me list the terrible thing about the run: my ITBs starting killing me around mile 11. So I've been icing my knees and eating ibuprofen like candy for the rest of the day. We'll see how this goes.
A common suggestion from friends and the marathon books I've been reading is that to get prepared for the size of the marathon and the details of running an organized race it would be a good idea to run a smaller race ahead of time. This last weekend, my planned 14-mile training run coincided with the Chicago Distance Classic half-marathon, so I signed up.
As an experience, it was a blast. Erica came along to cheer me on, we got to run on city streets and Lake Shore Drive, I got a medal with a penguin on it, people handed me water just like you see on TV, etc., etc.
As a run... it was OK. I didn't get a lot of sleep the night before (stoopid 6:30 am start time) and I think I was a little enthusiastic out of the gate and ran a little too hard. I ended up with a ton of knee pain starting at mile 11 and did a fair amount of walking in those last two miles. My "chip time" for the 13.1 miles was 2:29:40, which means I finished 6504 out of 8720 finishers. I've been trying really hard to not care about time and concentrate on finishing, but as I was hobbling though mile 12, the 2:30 pace group caught up to me and I decided that I didn't want them to beat me to the finish line. So I hobbled a little faster and beat them by 20 seconds. In your face, 2:30!
Best t-shirt I saw:
Front: Length: 13.1
Back: That's what she said.
I'm half-way through my training and for this weekend's long run I'll be running in the LaSalle Bank Chicago Distance Classic (which happens to be a half-marathon) on Sunday morning. My bib number is 7648 if you want to find my results before I blog them.
Can we get serious for a second and talk about how redonkulously gorgeous it was in Central Oregon? At one point, Erica had me pull the car over so she could process the natural wonder and beauty we'd already seen before we went on to any more.
Anyway, also gorgeous was Andrea Swanson in her wedding dress. We were in Oregon to attend Andrea's marriage to Michael Strening, Jr. at the Black Butte Ranch. It was one of the funnest weddings I've ever been to, and it was really convienent how close everything was on the ranch (which is more golf-resort than ranch). The day of the wedding, we helped set up some stuff and then went and canoed for half-an-hour and still had time to change into our wedding clothes with no rush at all.
I also did my 12 mile run on the ranch. In contrast to my usual half-way-out-and-back method, I sat down the night before with a map of the resort and figured out that a circuit of the bike path around the whole ranch would be just about 12 miles, so I did that. It turned out to be 11, so I had to overshoot our room and then come back. But in all it was pretty cool to get to see the scope of the whole place. I ran past horses and deer, through a meadow, around lakes, and up some easy hills. Next weekend, the half-marathon!
S'true -- I'm too tired to type more than the distance for a title.
I was going to run with Matt Larsen again this morning, but I guess he's hurt his ankle (my cell phone was a little hard to hear when I was listening to the message, so I hope that's accurate) and wants to rest it, which is entirely reasonable. I ran pretty much the route we ran last week and whole enterprise felt just a little better than last week. This week does still fall into the category "imagine how easy this will feel when I get enough rest and eat right" -- I had a show last night in the suburbs and didn't really eat dinner. I found myself at 11 pm in a gas station about to make the drive home, trying to figure out what snack food I could eat that would help me carbo-load without having too much fat. I'm not advocating Nutter Butters, but that's what I got.
Oh, and I ran out of my power gel thingies and didn't have a chance to get more. (And the stupid kiosk right near the turn-around point doesn't open until 10 am.) I was thinking of getting a case of Crank e-gels, partly because they have free shipping and then I wouldn't have to run an errand this week. Yes, says the man who just ran 11 miles, I'm that lazy. Anyone have any particular love/hate relationships with any brand of energy gel?
I was feeling pretty good near the end of my run this morning, so I decided to "sprint" and I ended up doing a new personal best for the mile -- Lance Armstrong told me so. 9'06" (down from 9'53"). Chariots of What? Yeah, that's right.
I usually run along the more westerly path to stick near the water fountains, but for the past couple of days I've been hugging the actual lake shore and this morning my 2.5 miles out got me to a little nature preserve dealie. I think I was on the outskirts of the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary. It was a neat little break to run through the wild flowers and scrub. I saw some rabbits and the most crows (four) I've seen together in one place since the West Nile virus hit.
Oh, and again not to be a shill for the Nike+ thing, but they're pretty good at making you feel like a winner, whatever level you're running at. Unannounced, they just emailed me this certificate when my Nike+ mileage went over 100 miles. It's a nice little thing I can print out and put up next to my training calendar in the office. I have no idea what the next milestones are, and I kinda don't want to know so that they'll just be happy surprises.
I'm not sure if I need to tell y'all about every single one of my weekend training runs -- but on the other hand, if I can't blather along on my own blog, where can I blather along?
This weekend was 10 miles -- my first foray into double digits. Matt Larsen came along for the run and was a delightful companion -- even when our slightly irregular route meant we'd finished ten miles with nearly a mile to go before we got home and he convinced me to keep on pushing and run that extra 8/10 of a mile. Even then he was delightful. Hated, but delightful.
I've been trying out a sampler pack of power gels on these longer runs, eating one somewhere after 5 miles. This week I had a pack of chocolate-flavored gel and I don't think I'll be eating that flavor again. I love chocolate, but that heavy taste just sat in my mouth for the next mile or so. Blech. I think I'll be sticking to the fruity flavors.
So this last weekend I was supposed to do 8 miles for my long run and I was a little worried about fitting it in, because I knew that my schedule was pretty full in Utah over most of the weekend. As well, I was concerned about the heat and elevation in Salt Lake City, to which worries commenter Justin added hazy air from fires. Justin was not just supplying problems, however, but solutions as well and suggested that I run at the Olympic Oval. The Oval looks awesome, but it's a ways out of town and we were relying on our hosts to ferry us around -- I felt a bit weird about asking someone to get up early, drop me off at the Oval and then pick up a very sweaty me a few hours later.
So, when I got up Friday morning and saw that temperature was still only 80° and I knew we didn't have to be anywhere until noon, I decided to seize the moment and I suited up, grabbed a bottle of water*, and headed up into the hills above the University of Utah campus.
For the first few minutes I was gasping for breath and I was worried that that it was the altitude. Then I realized it was because I was running straight uphill and Chicago-running hasn't prepared me for anything more than a slight incline. As soon as possible I headed along a hill and the run got a lot easier.
In the end, it was an awesome run. I walked plenty, especially any uphill parts, but I ran plenty, too. Up in the hills, it was gorgeous -- I actually took my little camera along and took a bunch of pictures, and then somehow lost the camera in the hotel room. [Update: found it.]
I've now trained in 3 states for this marathon (well, Arizona barely counts, since I ran a whole mile there), but Kenner has me beat with his Paris and Dublin runs.
This whole training thing is kinda blowing my mind.
The previous times I've tried to pick up running I'd usually go out with a friend who was already a runner and stumble after them for 2 or 3 miles or whatever and come home completely exhausted, knees terribly sore, and swear off the whole endeavor as completely impossible. This time, I had that whole "pre-training" phase where I started out just going out for 3 mile walks with occasional jogging and worked up to jogging with occasional walks. Which makes all sorts of sense, even if I wasn't headed for a much larger goal.
And speaking of the road to that larger goal -- holy cow. Three-and-a-half weeks ago, 5 miles was a big freakin' deal. This morning, it was my easy run. I won't front, it started kinda rough, but by the time I hit the half-way mark and headed back home it felt pretty... good. Crazy, but true.
According to my marathon training schedule, I was supposed to run 7 miles on 7/7/07. Instead, Shaun, who is in training himself for a half-Ironman, convinced me and Jin that it would be a good idea to re-do the 38 mile bike ride that he had missed because he was out of the country. So we did that yesterday and this morning we (plus the handsome and debonair Matt Larsen) ran 7 miles. I was not in the best of shape this morning -- in addition to the bike ride, I was also up late taking photos for the Belmont Burlesque Revue at their Martyrs' show -- but I keep telling myself that if I can survive these runs when I'm not feeling that great, imagine how easy it will be when I actually get some rest beforehand.
So, I did the first run of my 'official' marathon training this morning. As if to test my resolve about this whole enterprise, I had a little tickle in the back of throat last night and woke up this morning with a full-on sore throat and stuffed-up nose. "Too bad, body," I said to myself, "we're running anyway." It was just 3 miles, so it felt pretty regular at this point.
Not to be an ad for the Nike+ or anything (well, too late with all the charts and widgets I'm posting) but this morning was the first time I used its distance-goal mode. It was pretty nice because it meant I didn't have to stick to a specific preplanned route, I could just run along the path until the little lady in my ear said "halfway" and then turn around and retrace my steps.
I also ran into Kenner and Agnes on the path, again. They're training for the Florence Marathon (Italia!) and I need to see how their training schedule matches up with mine so maybe we can do some runs together.
I finally got my Nike+ dongle for my shoes and a (refurbished) iPod nano and now I can showing off to the world the miles I'm racking up in an automated fashion. Whee!
Shaun gave me a running log a few days after I had started running and I've logged 55 miles (mostly 3 mile runs down to Lawrence and back) over the last 5 weeks. And I've run in 3 states. And I don't think I had ever run 3 miles, in a row, before. So I think I'm doing fine.
I know I had mentioned the Hal Higdon training schedules, but for my marathon training I'm going with the program set out in the Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer. This is a book that comes out of a class at the University of Northern Iowa that is a joint class between a psychology professor and a phys. ed. professor -- the phys. ed. professor brings the training you need to complete a marathon and the psychology professor brings a lot of self-helpy stuff about the mental preparation you need to get through the training process and then the race itself. I'd make fun of the self-helpy stuff, except that it seems to be helping already. And the book is aimed squarely at the non-runner and getting you to complete a marathon. Not do it with a great time or lose a lot of weight or any other side goals -- simply complete a marathon. Since that's what I'm trying to do, it seems like the perfect training program for me.
And as part of that, the training schedule is actually lighter than many of the others I've seen. The official "training" is only 16 weeks and so doesn't begin until June 18. Right now I'm in "pre-training", where I'm just supposed to get comfortable running for 40 minutes and/or 3 miles. Which is where I'm at. (I ran 4 miles in Vicksburg, but it was in the form of run 2 miles - stop at the Highway 61 Coffeehouse for an Italian soda and conversation - run 2 miles back.
I'll put a copy of this Nike+ widget on the sidebar, so you can always see how many miles I'm up to.
After encouraging words both here and in person, I've signed up for the Chicago Marathon. I'm not signing up for any of the formal training and/or charitygroups, but I will be relying on some friends to get me through the weekend long runs on the training program I'll be using. My goal right now is to get up to a comfortable three miles so I can do the first run on the chart in June. To that end I've bought some new shoes and run 2 miles of intervals* three times. I am old, and slow, and can't breathe. Oh, and my knees hurt. I can't wait for October!
* Intervals is a fancy way of saying "run until I get out of breath, and then walk until I can breathe again".