Monday, March 25, 2013

Dood. (Chitown Half Marathon Race Recap)

What: Chitown Half Marathon
Where: Downtown Chicago, IL (northside)
When: March 24th, 2013
Weather: Upper-20s, cloudy, wind from the East
Finish Time: 1:28:20 (23rd out of 1,063)

I have to start off this post by thanking my wife Leslie. After the race finished yesterday the first person I saw was her and giving her a hug and sharing in that moment of triumph with her was super awesome. Our soon-to-be daughter was also there for that hug as well, still just a 'bun in the oven' but she was there too. It was a special family moment. Thank you Leslie for listening to me drivel on endlessly about running - for encouraging me and for celebrating with me. I am such a lucky man.

Can you tell the race went great? Oh man - it went EXACTLY how I hoped it would. I managed to sleep pretty well the night before and it wasn't that early of a morning (6:20am) which was nice. I had my typical race morning breakfast of a banana, a cup of coffee and a couple of granola bars (and 1/2 a CLIF bar in the car on the way). I was definitely nervous. Leslie talked me down in the car on the way there. When we got there Leslie dropped me off and I meandered my way over to the start area. After scoping things out I went on a short warm-up run and that little run actually made me question myself a little bit because it was a slow pace and yet I felt like I was struggling a bit. After dropping my stuff off at the gear check I made my way to the starting line. In retrospect I probably should have waited a few more minutes before dropping my stuff off because I ended up waiting, in the cold and wind, at the starting line for a good 15 minutes. Oops.

This race, like many other half marathons, had a few pace groups and luckily for me, they had a pace group for my goal pace (1:30:00, 6:52/mile). After the gun went off I settled in with that pace group. I figured I would see how it went at that pace for a little while knowing that if I couldn't keep up, I would have to re-think my goal. I settled into a nice rhythm and in retrospect, the decision to stick in that group probably saved me some energy because I was able to draft behind some of the runners in that group instead of facing the winds along the lake on my own. The first few miles clicked off and I was feeling really good.

Eventually I decided to go out ahead of the group -- not too long after that I came up on fellow DailyMiler Britt K and we chatted for a bit. It's always so cool to meet someone from DM, especially during a race (great job Britt!). After that meeting - the crowd really started to thin out and I just kinda dropped into a zone. I don't really even remember much of a scenery - I was just focused on holding a consistent pace and not getting ahead of myself. That's pretty much how the entire middle section of the race went for me. There were a few windier sections on the course that were difficult, but I knew they wouldn't last long and they didn't.

By the time I got to mile 10 I was over a minute ahead of "schedule". I had been holding back the pace for a little bit and knowing I only had a 5K left, I decided to go for it. The last few miles, while difficult, really went by fast. I saw another fellow DMer Erin with her daughter cheering us on and that gave me a boost of energy. A few times during the last 5K I thought to myself, "eh, you've got this, why not coast a little bit?" but then I would think about how much training I put into this race or the fact that this was going to be my last race for awhile and then push the pace faster.

After I crossed the finish line (and before I saw Leslie) I let out what was pretty much a scream. There might have been some colorful language involved :) I was so pumped - I thought going into the race that I could run sub-1:30 but to run 1:28:20 - that was beyond what I thought I was capable of right now. The rest of the day was great - we spent some time at Leslie's brother's house eating and hanging out and I received a lot of encouragement through DailyMile which is always awesome.

I'm really excited for what lies ahead - both in running and in life. On the running side, I feel like I've turned a corner of sorts which is really exciting. On the life side, we have the birth of our first child coming up very soon and Leslie and I can't wait to meet her. Running might have to take a back-seat for awhile, but I've got a nice PR to bask in for awhile and I'll be back soon!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

What a Difference a Year Makes

On Twitter yesterday, I happened to see Dathan Ritzenhein tweet about being excited to head to New York City for this weekend's NYC Half Marathon. I instantly jumped on the memories train thinking back to last year when my wife and two of our best friends all ran the NYC Half and what an experience the whole thing was. It made me realize how much things can change in one year.

Last year at this time I was doubting whether I would even be able to toe the starting line of the half marathon. I was in the midst of a nearly two-month battle with ITBS and had told my mom a week before the NYC Half that it "would be a miracle" if I was able to complete the race. I hadn't been able to run more than 2-3 miles in almost two months and the longest run I'd ever done in my life up till that point was 12 miles. So, not only was I out of shape, but I was fixing to go farther than I'd ever gone before. Miraculously, my knee did start feeling better that week (thanks to a serendipitous change of shoes) and I ran in and completed the half marathon. Things have gotten better and better since then.

I started getting back into post-injury regular running again at the beginning of April 2012. I started out really small...a few miles here and there, nothing fast. I didn't run on back-to-back days until mid-April and didn't pass 15 miles/week until the end of April. I started training for the Chicago Marathon in May and my mileage increased slowly from there. I didn't cross the 30 miles/week threshold until mid-June. Things got better quickly from there - in August I ran 207 miles, book-ended by 170+ mile months in July and September. Only 7 months after not being able to complete a 2-mile run, I completed the Chicago Marathon, in a respectable time even.

I've continued to run regularly since the Marathon and I'm gearing up for another half marathon here on March 24th. By the time that race gets here, I'll have run 1,400 miles since the NYC Half last year. This isn't an "oh look at me" post, I say all of this to make the point about how much can change in one year. There were times last February and March where I thought my knee would never get better. It was so frustrating. But they did get better - and I've gone on to achieve things I could only imagine a year ago. Over the past few days, I've felt stronger and faster than I've ever felt before. It's a 180-degree difference from last year.

There have been other life things that are completely different now than they were a year ago too. We're a month away from bringing our first child into this world whereas a year ago we were still wondering if we were ready to take the plunge into parenthood. Now, ready or not, it's coming - and we're so excited. I think this upcoming race will be special for me in the sense that I may not be able to dedicate as much of my time to running after our daughter is born. I have no idea what this world will look like post-baby, but I'm willing to give up running so many miles if life requires that. So this may be the last race, for awhile, in which I was able to put all the necessary training in. I hope that's not the case, but I'm treating like it will be - and I plan on leaving everything I've got out on that course. I'm determined to achieve my goal of a sub-1:30 half marathon.

I'm sure the next year will bring a lot of changes too - I have no doubts about that. I'm excited to see what they are!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Interview with Myself

The title sounds pretentious, I know. Actually, I have to give credit to another blog for this idea; fellow DailyMiler Erin did this exact same thing on her blog and I'm stealing the questions. I think she stole it from someone else anyway so it's cool, right? Feel free to steal it for your blog if you want. I had some fun with it and it was an easy blog post to make.

1.  How did you get into running?
Hmm. It’s tough to say how I started - my dad ran triathlons when my brother, sister and I were young so we always had him as an example (and a running partner early on). I think when I was in 6th grade or so I started running - I joined the middle-school track & cross-country teams and ran with them for a couple of years. The cross-country races were never that long and I have no idea what my times were, I honestly don’t remember. I stopped running towards the end of middle-school/early high-school because I got more involved in other things. I briefly picked up running again in college, just more as a workout activity more than anything. Then again, after college, I started working out at lunch regularly and running off and on.
Things didn’t really get serious in the running department until the fall of 2010 - I was playing softball on a rec-league team and managed to break my arm. After surgery to fix the damage I was pretty much without the use of my left arm for 6 weeks and that’s when I started running regularly again. I entered a 5K the following spring it has sort of progressed from there. At first I said I would never run a marathon and had no interest in running one and then I went and did the Chicago Marathon last fall. Running has really become a big part of my life in the past 2+ years.

2.  Do you have a bucket list? If so, what’s #1 on it?
I would love a) go on a European tour and b) go see Machu Picchu in Chile. Running-wise, I don’t really have anything that I would consider to be “bucket list”. I’ve gotten to do a lot of cool things with running already. I would love to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but I’m not gonna kill myself to do it. More than anything, I would like to continue to be able to keep running as a part of my lifestyle…both now and well into the future. I always admire those 50, 60, 70 and 80-year-olds I see out there, still running and enjoying the sport. I wanna be like that.

3.  What has been your favorite race?
I loved running the NYC Half Marathon last year. The ironic thing was that prior to the week of the race, I didn’t think I was going to be able to run it. I had a nasty bout of IT-Band Syndrome in the two months leading up to the race and then miraculously it cleared up the week of the race and I was able to run it. My time wasn’t all that good, but it was such a cool experience to run through Central Park and Times Square, I’ll never forget it. Unfortunately, I’ll also never forget the guy who took a shit, with his butt facing us runners, up on a hill around mile 4 or so. Everyone was groaning and yelling at the guy. I also remember crossing the finish line and being so grateful for being able to run the race, for being able to complete it - it was an awesome feeling. It was also my first half-marathon.

4.  What motivates you to keep going?
Always wanting to get better. I know there will come a day, because of age or whatever, where I simply won’t be able to improve on my PRs. Fortunately, that time is not now and so I’m hell-bent on taking advantage of my prime years to set lofty goals and achieve them. I’m so grateful to have this body that God gave me; a body that works well and seems to be able to perform at a higher level than most people. Using my talents in running is one way that I worship the God that created me.

5.  What is one habit you have that you wish you could break?
I’m a nail-biter and I hate it.

6. If you could have ANY job in the world—what would you do?
Probably detective - hope to do it someday.

7. What’s your favorite piece of gear?
It’s probably a tie between my Garmin 305 and my Saucony shoes.

8. What is your go-to pre-race meal?
On race morning I usually keep it really simple. A cup of coffee, a banana and maybe a PB&J or Clif Bar. The night-before meal could be anything.

9. Do you take supplements? If so, what?

10. What do you love about running?
I don’t get to do it very often, but I love running with other people. There’s something about going on a run with someone else that’s special. I also love the sense of accomplishment after a great workout or race. Secretly, I love being in the gym, seeing all the muscle-heads flexing and thinking to myself, “I could waste you in a 5K.”

11. What is your next BIG race?
Next big race is the Chitown Half on March 24th. Training hasn’t gone exactly as I had hoped, but it’s been solid and I’m feeling confident. My goal is to break 1:30:00. This will be my third half-marathon and I think if the weather conditions cooperate, I can do it. Training has been going well and according to my other recent race times, McMillans says that I should be able to do it.