Monday, October 15, 2012

Chicago Marathon - A 12 minute PR!

Boy this race sure seemed to show up in a hurry.  When I started training last spring it seemed like I had forever to get ready.  Next thing I knew it was October and I was ready to run my first Chicago Marathon.  I found myself arriving in Chicago likely a little under trained due to the latest Ragbrai incident, but still with a goal of running a 3:05, which would qualify me for Boston.

My parents and I rolled into town Friday. Saturday, all I had to do was hit up the expo. The rest of the day was spent watching football in order to stay off my feet. I woke up at 5:30 on race day to down some breakfast then rocked out to some tunes while letting that digest. The hotel was just a couple of blocks to the start so that helped a ton. We got there with plenty of time to spare, but I chatted with my parents until about 10 minutes before the corrals closed. This was a mistake as there were lots of people heading in at that time and it took 10 minutes to get to the actual corral. I barely had time to try and move up and probably started back a little further than I wanted to. Oh well. Before I knew it we were ready to go.

Ooh baby, marathon #4! I was ready to run and the people of Chicago were ready to cheer. The start of the race was nuts with all of the spectators lining the route. There were a couple of times I found myself smiling in awe at the sight of it. When I wasn't smiling, I was working my way around people, although it was tough in the packed streets. As a result my first 5k was a little slower than I wanted it to be. Things started to thin out a bit after that and I settled in near a 7:00 pace. For all the fans that were on the course I was disappointed in the originality of the signage. Laughed a bit at the the "Don't poop you pants" sign but that was about it. Thankfully the bowels were cooperating.

I took stock of how I felt at this point. The pace felt easy. The heart rate wasn't up and I wasn't breathing too heavily. The weather was great and I felt quite comfortable in my lightest singlet and shorts, even though I was sweating quite a bit. If I could run in 40 degree weather all the time I would a happy man. I made a brief mental note of all the old injuries that kind of cropped back up after forcing too many miles in September after my bone healing hiatus.

Achilles....that feels good. Right hip.....nothing there. Left shin.....good as gold. Shin splints had reappeared the last week of taper out of nowhere so I was particularly worried about that. I had to take a few extra rest days, but as I got going it felt great. All good, all right, let's run.

The pace felt easy, even in to the slight wind as we headed north. I was shooting for 7:00 miles so as I passed each mile marker the math was nice and easy. After the slow start I saw my times dropping. I was slowly catching the pace groups that started ahead of me. By the time I passed the 3:10 group I knew I was right where I needed to be. I stuck to my nutrition plan for the most part: Gu and salt tab every 45 minutes, but by the time I was nearing the halfway point I was already starting to feel some soreness in the ol legs. That did not bode well.

There were lots of spectators around that halfway mark so that was exciting. Crossed the checkpoint at 1:32:02 so I was right on track at that point and really not too far off my PR at that distance. At that point I started taking in some Gatorade at each aid station to help stave off the cramps, but it didn't do a lot to slow them down. I was in pretty much "go hard or go home" mode from the outset so the goal was just to survive as long as I could at the pace I was at. Whether that was 15 miles or 26.2 miles so be it. The cramps started slowly getting worse, but thankfully slowly enough that I managed to get in a few more miles at seven minute pace.

My first two marathons I started blowing up around mile 18-20 so when I got past those miles I was relieved. Mile 21 came and I was hurting, but I was so focused on mentally exceeding those efforts that I was able to ignore the pain. MCM last year was the first marathon where I didn't have to walk and knowing that I kept myself going. There is no backtracking, only progress. So while I was probably cramping the worst I ever have in a marathon, I was still running, and I was still holding out on the hope that a BQ was in the cards.

But I was starting to breath heavy and the legs were so hard to turnover that I knew I was starting to lose some time. I was keeping a good eye on the pace and when I started losing ground to some of the people I had been running with the last 10 or so miles with I knew things were in danger. I knew this was a possibility from the start so instead I started concentrating on how I could still set a huge PR if I just kept on running. I thought back to all of those ungodly early morning runs and running one armed in a sling. I didn't want all that hard work to go to waste so I kept pushing.

At mile 23 I remember thinking if I could crank out 3 sub 7 miles it just might still be doable, but the legs were having nothing of it. I was running hard, because I wanted it so badly, ignoring the pain, but the body just wasn't cooperating. I was resigned to running the fastest pace I could and seeing how things would play out. It was kind of a blur running up Michigan Ave. The 3:10 pace group passed me, but I knew if I stayed in contact I'd still run a sub-3:10. Then, before I knew it the turn on to Roosevelt came and I knew the end was quite close. I pushed hard up that stupid final incline and then rounded the corner. There's the finish! I staggered across the finish line in a time I was quite proud of, 3:08:43, but just short of a BQ.

Split Time Of Day Time Diff min/mile miles/h
05K 07:54:50AM 00:22:21  22:21 07:12 8.35
10K 08:16:39AM 00:44:09  21:48 07:02 8.55
15K 08:38:11AM 01:05:41  21:32 06:56 8.66
20K 08:59:44AM 01:27:14  21:33 06:57 8.65
HALF 09:04:32AM 01:32:02  04:48  07:03 8.52
25K 09:21:30AM 01:49:01  16:59 07:00 8.58
30K 09:43:26AM 02:10:57 21:56 07:04 8.50
35K 10:06:12AM 02:33:42 22:45 07:20 8.19
40K 10:30:53AM 02:58:24 24:42 07:57 7.55
Finish 10:41:13AM 03:08:43 10:19 07:35 7.92

Time: 3:08:43
Overall Rank: 1429/37314
Age Group Rank: 289/3502

After running that hard walking takes a little getting used to. I stumbled around a bit then found some food and drink and then BEER! It seemed like a crazy long walk to the post race party/meetup area. Waited around for my parents who were on Roosevelt but failed to see me come in. Facebook updates let them know I finished. We sat at the park for a bit while my dad and I enjoyed a few post race beers.

Overall I thought this was a fantastic race! It was extremely organized, and had tons of volunteers and spectators. The course was crazy flat as advertised and should have been prime for BQing. Although I didn't quite manage to BQ (Dang lower standards!), I was still extremely pleased with the result. A 12 minute PR is nothing to sneeze at and once I shape up race goals for next year I know I will easily put up a qualifying time. I'll just have to make sure to avoid broken bones in the meantime.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pre-Chicago Marathon Update

Okay, it's been awhile since I stopped by here and a lot has happened since then.  Here's the short short version for those who don't want to read on.  After Dam to Dam the official marathon training plan started.  I ran a lot in June.  I ran even more in July.  Did a couple of local races.  Went on RAGBRAI.  Got drunk and wrecked my bike and broke my collarbone.  Got depressed while I took some time off to heal.  Got better and ran a lot in September.  Now I'm ready to go run a marathon.

Whew.  Okay now for the long extended version.  Let's cover the good stuff first.  After Dam to Dam I took about a week off to recover and get ready to start an 18 week focused plan that would get me to the start line of Chicago.  The plan would be a bit of a departure from what I had been doing up to that point.  Essentially that spring I had gotten my legs to the point of tolerating 50 mile weeks.  The plan would add even more miles, along with focused speed work and marathon pace long runs.  I was excited to get started.

The first few weeks went well.  I had a great week while vacationing in Holland, Michigan.  I love the variety of running somewhere new.  It didn't hurt that there were trails galore there.  I was able to sleep in, go knock a workout off, then either relax by the pool or go hack around the golf course.  By the next workout I was nice and recovered and able to get a good run in.  Coming back to Iowa though was a bit of a wake up call.  Back to work and back to being on my feet all day.  Not to mention this was about the time that we started hitting our streak of 90+ degree days.  It compounded together to give me a streak of poor workouts.  I knew I needed to change something and that meant waking up early while it was cool(er) out before work.  Now I'm usually at work by 6 or 7 in the morning so early morning runs started sometime between 3 and 5 depending on how far I had to go.  Waking up early was never easy, but it was a necessity, and something about running 15 miles in the wee hours of the morning before most people wake up just makes you feel good about yourself.  Speed work was a little difficult in the dark, but the workouts definitely got better from there on out.  I was seeing improvement from week to week and completing my key workouts with success.

My next race rolled around on the fourth of July.  It was a 5k held at the park I do a lot of my running at so I couldn't pass it up.  Plus I wanted to see what kind of 5k speed I had because I wasn't particularly training for that.  I got left in the dust by a couple of high school kids, but still managed a respectable 19:50 finish for a 6:23/mile pace.  Not bad.

Midnight Madness, Ames's annual 5k/10k race was just around the corner a week and a half later.  I've run this race a few times, but this year I was crazy enough to run both the 5k and the 10k race.  The 5k was up first and I took it a little conservatively knowing I had to run another race shortly after.  Surprisingly I finished in 19:40 for a 6:19/mile pace and a finish of 99/1634 people and 4/62 in my age group.  I wasn't really too keen on running another race at that point, but 40 minutes later I was at the start line for the 10k.  That races started okay, but I couldn't a fast pace and faded hard the last half.  I managed a finish in 41:56 for a 6:44/mile pace and a finish of 58/488 overall and 5/32 in my age group.  They kept track of combined times so when compared to other insanos that did the double I was 18/145 overall and 2nd in my age group (out of 11).  All in all a pretty successful night of running.  I'm not sure if I would ever do the double again because that hurt.  I think I would prefer to just go run a half marathon.

Little recovery time was needed after that I was back to training.  Soon enough the week of RAGBRAI crept up on me.  I squeezed in one last long run the morning of departure (21 miles at 4:30 in the morning) before meeting up with the Butt Ice bike team to take me to the start at Sioux Center.  The original arrangement was for me to ride with my friend's dad in their gear truck.  I was looking forward to napping and recovering after the workout.  Instead, they had extra room on their team bus and they invited me aboard.  When you get on a bus with a bar in the back and four or five coolers full of beer in the middle it's hard to not get a little sauced on a five hour bus ride.  My hosts were nice and made sure I always had a beer in my hands so by the time we rolled into town I was pretty well obliterated.

Details get a little fuzzy here, but I know I called my friends I was to be riding with to come and pick me up and take me to camp.  They laughed at me while I struggled to put up my tent and it was at that point that my drunk ass should've just crawled into said tent and called it a night.  Instead we decided to go ride and find some food.  At some point I got separated from our group and in an attempt to pull a u-turn I hit some gravel and laid the bike down, landing on my shoulder hard.  I was bleeding a bit from road rash so I found my way to the medical center (thankfully close by).  They cleaned up the scrapes, but my drunken machismo was talking for me and I played off how hurt the shoulder was so no x-rays at the time.  I finally made it back to my tent later and promptly passed out only to wake up to one stiff and sore shoulder.

I was getting sharp pains with certain motions and it generally just hurt like hell so I opted to drive the van for our group.  Driving wasn't too bad.  I got to meet the guys halfway through the day and then go find a campsite and sit around and drink beer while I waited for them all to get in.  After drinking all night I would talk big and say I was going to ride the next day, but by morning the alcohol numbed pain would have returned.  So I drove all week and only rode a little bit one night to test it out (even with beer painkillers it hurt a lot). When I got back to Ames I schedule a doctor's appointment right away.  It had been 5 days with little reduction in pain and still swollen as hell.  I was about 95% sure I had a broken collarbone at that point, but just needed to confirm it.  One quick x-ray later and yup, I was right.

It was small hairline fracture that ran pretty much perpendicular along the end of the scapula.  It was a little hard to believe that small little crack caused that much pain.  The good thing was no surgery and no chances of it healing incorrectly. The doc said six weeks in a sling and no running. Yeah right.  After a small protest she got on the phone to an orthopedist and came back with a much better number: 3 weeks no running.  Okay, I thought, 2 weeks it is.To be honest, those two weeks were not a whole lot of fun.  I was down on myself for doing something so stupid and generally just irritated at all of the training I was missing out on.  Eventually I got to the point where I knew it was pointless to keep dwelling on what happened and instead look to the future and focus on what I could do to maximize my return on training and give myself a shot at my goal of qualifying for Boston.

So two weeks after the crash I went for my first test run in my sling.  I made it four miles.  The shoulder didn't hurt too much, but I was cramping badly in one of my quads and calf.  Having that arm stuck by my side was really screwing with my form.  It's funny how you take for granted how much your arms are used for balance and propulsion.  Turns out my shoulder got really sore in the days after that run so I decided the doctor might be right and waited another week before attempting another one.  I kept the runs short at first and made sure I took a rest day in between each one.  Eventually I lost the sling while running and I quickly found out how weak my shoulder had gotten during all those weeks in the sling.  After four or five miles of running it would cramp up so bad I would have to stop and rest.

At that point I was 5 weeks post break, out of the sling completely, and starting to regain a bit of range of motion.  The cramping got better and I was able to stretch the runs out a little longer.  Once September hit I was pretty much back on a regular schedule.  In hindsight I may have ramped up the mileage a little too quickly.  A few of my old nagging injuries have cropped back up in the last few weeks, but hopefully the reduced workload of the taper will wipe those away.  Aside from that it was a good month.  I ran around 230 miles, including one long run of 20 miles and some successful speed sessions that have gone a long way to restoring some of my confidence.

I know I didn't just lose a month of training.  I basically lost two months as this month September was used to get me back to where I was in July fitness-wise.  Will that be enough for me to run a Boston qualifying time? I don't know, but I at least feel that I've done the best I can given the circumstances.  If anything it's taken a bit of the pressure off of myself.  I'll show up on race day and run as hard as I can and see what happens.  I'm hoping I'll be pleasantly surprised like I was at Ironman in 2010 when injuries wiped out my last month of training. If not, it's still looking to be a fun weekend in Chicago.