Saturday, September 12, 2015

Last Chance BQ.2 - Chicagoland Marathon

It was nice to have a very uneventful trip to the race with the flight, rental pick-up and commute over to the hotel going off without a hitch. We were checked in, grabbed dinner and in bed by 9.

We slept in a bit on Friday before having breakfast and heading over to the packet pick-up. Geneva is a quaint little town that looks like the definition of small-town Midwest America.

The packet was pretty sparse with only a bib, shirt, lip balm and a couple gel packs but I'm not into all the extra junk anyway so I really didn't care. After that we went back to the hotel and futzed around until it was time to head out to run.

The race organizers had a couple course previews scheduled to familiarize us with the course, especially the construction we would be encountering along the route, as well as introduce us to the pacers that would be helping us to reach our goal.

There was about 30 runners that showed up and it was a good chance to meet some of the people who shared the same dream. I also had a chance to meet Clare who I know from conversing on Twitter. It's always nice to meet social media friends in real life.

Joe, the pace group leader, was a boisterous dude that led us along the path. You could tell we were all antsy to get it on  as the pace was  creeping up and Joe had to slow us down. Still it was nice to run after a few days off and a good 30 minute effort. It was also nice to know what the course was like beforehand and the biggest observation was that it wasn't quite as "pancake flat" as it was promoted to be but that was alright; it would be good for the muscles. Christine even got in some miles so she was quite happy too. When we were done, it was back to the hotel to get changed and head out for an early dinner. With the plan being to be up at 3, I wanted to be in bed by 9, so after mixing up my UCAN pouches, getting my gear laid out and having a couple of glasses of wine to calm my nerves, it was off to sleep.

3 am came soon enough and this was it; the moment I have trained for for the last 6+ months. After a breakfast of eggs and hash browns and a stop off for a Dunkin Donuts it was time to get dressed and taped up. Although the PF has been feeling about 90% I still wanted to give it some added support. I also taped up a blister that had healed but hadn't completely peeled.

Getting to the race and parking was a breeze so I had plenty of time to stretch and find a secluded tree. Why wait in line when you don't have to? It was a near perfect morning with temperatures in the high 40s as the sun was coming up. The only thing that would have been better was less wind but I wasn't going to complain.

It was now a few minutes until the gun so I got to the start and settled in with the 3:25 pace group which turned out to be about 20 or so runners.

This was the moment all 300 of us had all trained for and when the gun sounded, we were off.

There was some slight congestion for the first half mile or so given that we were on a walking path. Still, since we were lined up in true pace groups, it thinned out pretty quickly. As we got going, the group was a little too tight and spread across which caused some jostling when we came upon people who were also out taking advantage of the cool, late summer morning. I decided I would be better served by just hanging out in the rear of the pack. This would also allow me to use them as a wind block when we made the turn north and into the headwind.

Christine and Lisa
The first of the eight 3.2 mile loops were right about on the 7:42 pace at 24:26 and as I tossed my gloves to her, Christine handed me a pack of 20 ENERGYbits. I quickly swallowed them and washed them down with my bottle I had grabbed off my designated table.

Our group had gotten into a good rhythm for loop 2 with a few of us dropping back on the inclines and then taking advantage of the down slopes to fall back into the pack.

At the mid-loop water station this time around, things got a little fouled up when there weren't enough people handing water and although I wasn't taking any it still caused somewhat of a bottleneck which slowed the group. Despite this slight delay we were cruising right along and completed this loop in 25:12. As I passed her, Christine handed me a UCAN pouch and I quickly consumed it's contents.

When it came time to grab my bottle at the table, I whiffed and knocked it to the ground. Not wanting to stop, I just kept running only to have one of the volunteers chase me down, bottle in hand. This slowed me a bit but I caught back up with the group in short order.

Again when we got to the mid-loop station there wasn't enough hands causing the runner ahead of me to come to a dead  stop and I ran into him as I reached for a cup. Neither one of us were happy about this but he started screaming at  the volunteers. As we ran on he must have told me half a dozen times he was yelling at them, not me. I wasn't going to let it get me worked up either way.

As we concluded the third loop in 25:09, things were looking pretty good and we were on pace for a BQ. Since my hands had started to get cold, I yelled to Christine as she handed me another pack of bits to give me my gloves on the next time around. She was also now joined by another Twitter friend and runner Lisa who lives in the area and came to root me on.

This time past the water table, I made a clean grab and go. Things were still ok but I could feel my legs letting me know they were there. Not really anything to worry about, so I thought since I was keeping up with the group and wasn't having any problems.

Congrat on the BQ Clare
Then, about the 10 mile mark, the first sign of trouble arose; I started to feel a slight bit of nausea on one of the small hills on the course. The feeling passed quickly enough and I was still at a good pace to not give it much of a second thought. Just a minor adversity that I had overcome. Unfortunately this was the beginning of the end as I could feel my legs beginning to go and I was also to lose touch with the group. There was another bit of nausea as well. Even so, I had concluded this loop in 26:03 and was still on pace to BQ at the halfway point. I figured if I could just take a little breather until I got my legs back under me I would be fine. I just needed to keep the group in sight.

On the fourth pass by Christine I grabbed my gloves but decided to forgo the UCAN for the time being. My stomach was still feeling unsettled and I didn't want to exacerbate the problem any further. Over the next couple miles I could feel it all slipping away as my pace kept dropping and by the time I was done with loop 5 in 28:55 I knew that a BQ had eluded me on this day. Now it was just a matter of finishing.

Crossing the finish line at 4:04:58
It didn't take long before my legs told me they needed a break so at the 17 mile mark I stepped off the course to collect myself. No sooner than I had stopped that a couple of Race Guards came up from behind to see if I was ok. They asked me some questions to feel out how I was doing and I told them I was ok, I just needed a breather. After a minute or so they were satisfied that I could continue and they went on their way as I walked for a little while.

When I felt a little better I got back to running and tried to keep a good pace to try to salvage a finish somewhere in the 3:40s but my body decided against that and pushed back.We continued this argument for a while but it was no use as I did all I could do to maintain a 10 minute mile pace. I closed loop 6 out in 36:43 and as I got my UCAN from Christine, I let her and Lisa know that I was cooked but I could see in her eyes that she knew I was done but as I left I could hear her yelling for me to press on. As much as I wanted to quit, I didn't wasn't going to let that happen now.

At this point I was not only dealing with intermittent nausea but my PF was beginning to flare especially when I was walking. My TFL wasn't feeling all that great either but it was minor. I just had to do what I had to to finish the race whether it was walking or shuffling. 

Pretty much at this point I was being lapped by most pace groups and the most discouraging part of it all was that I was coming toward the line for the final loop, I was being passed by some of the runners in my original group. I was happy for them but disappointed as I saw them getting their finisher's medal with the crowd cheering while I still had a lap to go.

The last lap was the worst. I pretty much had nothing but still had an outside chance at a sub-4 hour race. This wasn't an ideal outcome but provided for some motivation and I was able to pick up my pace somewhat while walking less. I would also cheer on runners as they passed and was happy to see Clare was on a BQ pace as she went by me around mile 23 (she not only got the BQ but 1st in her AG as well).

As the finish approached, I saw that the thoughts of a sub-4 were out the window but baring a complete catastrophe, I was going to at least PR. Some times you have to appreciate the small victories and come back to fight another day. For now I had to be content with a finishing time of 4:04:58 which was a 16+ minute PR.

In all it was a great experience and my thanks goes out to the race organizers, volunteers and pacers for putting on an event that would give us the best chance of acheiving our goal of a BQ.  A big thank you also goes out to Christine and Lisa for cheering me on, it meant a lot. Finally congratulations to all the runners that got their BQ and for those that didn't, there is always the next race.

So there you have it friends. I didn't get the job done today so that just means another attempt some time in the late winter after a period of rest and assessment over where I went wrong of which the most glaring deficiency is the lack of long runs in the last 3 months. This also means that you're in for more of my whiny, poorly written posts as I try for a BQ for 2017.

Monday, September 7, 2015

September 7

And then there was one.

After spending the day yesterday doing more tear down on our 1969 Cougar restoration project and having a few too many glasses of wine last night I was in less than prime condition for today's run. Luckily for me it was still in the low 80s and cloudy by the time I hit the road just after 9 so the running gods were not going to make me pay too dearly for my transgressions it seemed.

With a good warmup mile down I was cruising right along when a dog came running at me out of it's yard. It looked to be older and not coming at me so much with bad intentand It really didn't take much to ourtun it. Also, between the owner yelling for it and another runner coming in the opposite direction, it lost interest in me quickly.

Now that that excitment was over, I was able to get back in my groove and continue on. Mile 2 was completed in 7:50 which was much faster than I wanted it to be so I backed off on my pace.

Mile 3 was pretty much where I wanted to be at 8:24 with mile 4 a bit slower at 8:55 due to it being a slight uphill. I had also lost focus a bit and that was continuing into mile 5 until a distracted driver decided to honk at me for being on the shoulder as she was drifting too close to the edge of the road. This pissed me off and gave me a surge of adreniline to finish with a strong 8:32 before cooling down for a mile.

So this is it and with this 6 mile effort my training cycle that began in March has come to it's conclusion. I'll be getting in an easy 3 on Friday that is a course preview but that doesn't count for much. Stats-wise I logged 777 miles along with just shy of 16 hours on the elliptical. Aside from the PF issue I've been dealing with; and it has been much improved since I gave it some rest, and a minor niggle in the TFL that hasn't presented itself in quite a while, I'm probably healthier going into a race than I have ever been.

I also feel like I'm better off in the diet and fueling departments. Although I haven't done a re-test of my vitamin D level since June, I've been supplementing with 10,000IU daily so I'm pretty sure I'm good. I'm also glat to have found UCAn and along with ENERGYbits, I should be good to go on race day.

I'd also like to thank everyone for the support you all have given me over the past 6+ months. It means a lot to me and has really kept me going.

We shall see how it all pans out soon enough. If you want see how it goes, you can sign up for updates or just get the results (my bib # is 32506). The race starts at 6:30am CST so you'll know by 10 how I did.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

September 5

It's always tough to get out of bed after a restless night's sleep so the plan for a 6 am start went out the window when I was still in bed at 10 to. Lucky for me it was a coolish and cloudy morning so hopefully I wasn't going to pay for it too much. Since I didn't want to press my luck I didn't dawdle and was out by just after 7.

The plan for the day was to get in a moderately paced run for somewhere in the 90 minute to 2 hour range or 10-13 miles. Don't need to do anything foolish so close to race day.

The warmup mile went well, nothing special, and by the time I completed it, I was up to speed and ready to roll. My pace on the next 2 miles was actually a bit faster than I would have liked in the lower 9s so I scaled it back somewhat. Also, with miles 4 and 5 being slightly uphill I knew that was going to slow me down as well.

To be honest I really wasn't much into the run. It was going well enough and I felt alright but I was just kind of bored with it. I've been here before so close to race day and it almost seems normal for me. I've been in this training cycle for 6 month now and I'm ready for it to be over.

If there is anything I had going for me at this point was that I was still feeling good and was consistent with miles 6, 7 and 8 all coming in at 9:31. I was also happy with the way fueling went and that there were no hiccups.

When I got near the 9 mile mark, I had a decision to make, do I keep going or do I cut it at 10 miles. It wasn't long before that decision was made for we when the sun began to poke out from behind the clouds. It may have been a convenient excuse but there is no sense pushing for glory this late in the game, especially when heading into an uphill section. 10 miles it was going to be.

So pretty much that is it, Tomorrow is a scheduled rest day but the wine is egging me into a few fast miles tomorrow.We'll see if I even want to get up. Regardless of whether I run tomorrow or not, Monday will be my final training run before race day.

Week ending September 5th - 30.3 miles

Thursday, September 3, 2015

September 3

There are those time when the running gods kindly look down upon you and grant you that much need run. Tonight was one of those runs. Granted, it wasn't without it's challenges which just made it all the better.

The plan called for an hour run and I was hoping for 6 miles but would be happy with 5. A dust storm had rolled in and even though there was very little actual dust, the winds we still blowing around 20 mph out of the south. Fortunately that massive headwind was going to be on fresh legs with a tailwind on the way back.

When I hit the road tonight I made sure I had my Mission Multi-Cool so I had something to cover my mouth and nose. It's not fun trying to run with a mouthful of grit.

The warmup went well enough considering and with the next mile having somewhat of a wind block I kicked it into gear. I felt strong and since the fast was over I was properly fueled which I could tell was making a big difference. I noticed this even more as I headed back into the teeth of the wind and felt like I was getting even stronger and my time even bore this out.

Now it was time to have fun.

When I hit the turnaround that strong wind was at my back and I felt like I was running downhill and for the next 2 miles I let it rip while staying under control. While a lot of this speed had to do with the wind,  I still had the energy to keep it up and when I hit the 5 mile mark I gave it on last quarter mile sprint before I dialed it back for the cool down mile.

This was the run that I really needed. Between the tough fasting runs, the achy PF and the heat, I feel like things are now falling into place. And speaking of falling into place, what does the weather look like for next Saturday? I don't think you could ask for better than that. Well actually you can because it's looking now like it may be cloudy and a bit cooler.

So things are looking up and with a rest day tomorrow before a final 10-13 miler on Saturday, it won't be long now.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

September 1

With the calendar flipping into September, there is the reality that race day is just about here and other than doing something stupid, I'm as trained as I'm going to be. This is where faith in my plan will either get me to the finish or lead me to crash and burn. Honestly, I'm ok with whatever the outcome is; good or bad.

The plan for tonight was to do another hard 1 hour run to see if I could improve over Sunday's effort. The rest day served me well although I my calves were still a little achy from shaking the rust off after 2 weeks on the elliptical.Happily though the PF felt really good and that was a nice boost. The warmup was ok tonight but my HR was high for whatever reason but since I was aiming for 8:40s that was of little concern.

By the time I hit the first split I was already in the 160s and nailed mile 2 in 8:40 on the button. Although I had fueled with a serving on UCAN as well as some ENERGYbits, I'm still fasting and on top of that missed lunch today so I wasn't exactly properly nourished.

It was at this point on the last run that I began to run out of gas so I was pleasantly surprised that I was still able to finish mile 3 in 8:53. It was here though that my body started to push back as a mild but long uphill stretch occurs.

I was still able to maintain my pace but now my HR was approaching 180 bpm. This comes as not much of a surprise given that is was in the mid-90s although there was some light clouds to filter the setting sun. Conveniently enough one of my shoes came untied at this point and with my momentum broke I decided to walk a bit to take the HR down.

After a short walk and getting down into the 140s it was back at it, now on a flat, if not slightly downhill section. My hope here was that I could push hard for the next mile and a half before the final cool down mile.

While I wasn't as fast as I would have liked, I was still able to maintain a pace around 9 which given the heat and fasting is ok in my book. More importantly the PF, a momentary twinge aside, felt rather good.

So another run is done and another day closer to the big event. I'm glad that I'm in a good place right now and happy to find out that there will be a few Tweeple in the race as well. The fast will also be ending tomorrow and with 13 pounds lost in the last 15 days, I'm a lean mean running machine.