Thursday, July 24, 2014

CHI RNR Half Marathon Race Recap

I can finally say it: My half marathon curse is over! This has always been the most intimidating distance to me - even scarier than running a full marathon. I'm far from mastering the half marathon race distance but it feels great to finally have had a decent one.

Here's how it went down:

The night before the race I am usually in full-on running robot mode and the night before the Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon was no different. Dinner is always pasta. As plain as possible. Served with bread and a cooked vegetable, preferably spinach. Since I had a super early wake up call the following morning, dinner was at 4pm. I felt like a senior citizen! Bedtime was at 8pm and it was still light out. But, my alarm was set for 3am so early to bed it was!

Maybe I'm a complete weirdo, but I always shower before morning races. It helps me wake up, plus it loosens up my muscles a bit! After showering, it was time to get dressed and I realized a crucial packing mistake - I forgot my Oiselle Randies! This left two options: wear a different non-running-tested pair of underwear under my Distance Shorts or wear the buns I threw in my suitcase at the last minute. After a few minutes of panicking, I decided I would wear the buns (which turned out to be a fine decision - zero chafing of any type!). They look great with my Oiselle Team singlet plus they make me feel fast!

One of the best parts about CHI RNR is the number of participants. This year, there were nearly 14,000 runners in the half marathon race plus an additional 1,900+ runners doing the 5k race. Everyone is excited to be there and you kind of forget you've been up since 3am to do a race that starts at 6:30am :)

Anyhow, I waited a bit late to get into my corral and had a tough time getting through the crowd. I was a teensy bit worried I wouldn't get there in time but made it in with about 2 minutes to spare. Nothing like waiting til the last minute!

Photo from Competitor website

And soon enough, it was time to run! My plan from Coach Matt was to start the race at a conservative pace and pick things up after mile 3. The overall goal was to run 7:45-7:55 pace for the race. Although it was a humid morning, I felt really good during those first few miles. Never did I feel out of breath or as though I was working too hard.

One thing that made the early miles go by fast is there was a wheelchair participant that somehow got stuck in the middle of all the runners. He would go fast for awhile and then slow down to a crawl at any inclines. It was actually pretty dangerous because he was moving down the middle of the road and yelling to runners to get out of the way - and many couldn't hear him because they were caught up in their own race or listening to music. I was worried about getting run over at some point so when we got to a bridge, I surged for a bit and lost him.

The CHI RNR course is fantastic because you get to run through the streets of downtown Chicago with tons of spectators to cheer you on. I love it! This goes on for about the first 6 miles of the race and at that point you're pretty much halfway done!

I didn't start feeling the race until between miles 9-10. The air was getting warmer and I had to concentrate to keep my legs moving at a decent pace. I should add at this point that I didn't know my time or pace during the race. My Garmin decided to not work right before the start of the race so I was going by feel and using the clocks at the mile markers as my guide. Fortunately, I run by feel a lot and can decently estimate what type of pace I'm running.

The final 5k was when I really had to work. I knew I was on track for a PR. I didn't know by how much but knew if it was going to happen I had to keep grinding away. During rough patches in training runs, I tell myself I only have to make it to the next street light, sign, etc. and then I can slow down. I never do, but it breaks up the run a bit and gives me something to focus on other than how my legs feel. So that's what I did during the last few miles of this race. My goal was to make it to mile 12 and then pick it up to the finish. It felt so great to see the mile 12 marker ... and then the mile 13 marker. And then it was time to fly!

My results:

Time: 1:42:08 - new PR!
Pace: 7:48 min/mile
Age Group Place:30/1,481 (Top 2 percent)
Gender Place: 164/8,328 (Top 2 percent)
Overall Place: 795/13,754

This year's bling

The only part about this PR that kills me is that had I run 9 seconds faster somewhere on the course, I would have a 1:41 time. And I believe I could have done it since I know I left a bit on the course. But it's okay. I'm in the heart of marathon training right now. Maybe next year I'll do a half marathon training segment and focus on a sub 1:40 time!

My confidence in half marathon racing is restored. And I'm that much more excited for Lakefront Marathon in 10 weeks. Running, I heart you :)

My questions for you:
  • Do you shower before racing? Or, do you do any other 'weird' things before a race?
  • How do you break up a race to make the miles go by faster?
  • Where's your favorite place to eat in Chicago?

Post-race, I can't get enough of Gino's East. Deep dish. To die for!

- ST

Monday, July 14, 2014

Expect the Worst; Dream for the Best

It's race week! To get things started on a delicious note, I indulged in an ice cream sandwich for breakfast. 

Chocolate chip ice cream sandwich from Purple Door - Nom nom!

I know, I know - ice cream sandwiched between two cookies is definitely not part of a racing diet, but having that small treat made for a pretty great start to the week. And feeling happy and positive can only help me race faster, right? ;)

It's been about a month and a half since my last race and I'm so ready to go. I recently read an article about how your mindset can affect your race. Basically, it recommends runners brace themselves for the worst - pain, feeling bad, etc. - so when actually racing, the effort feels better than expected. So that's what I'm doing this week. Imagining how terrible the race is going to feel. All while dreaming of a PR time!

As for the actual work before the race, here's this week's plan:

Monday: 5 mile run + Strides; Strength Training
Tuesday: 7 mile workout, inc. race pace intervals
Wednesday: 6 mile run + Absolution
Thursday: 6 mile run + Y Kettle Bell
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 3 mile run + Strides
Sunday: Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon + 5 mile cooldown

Total: 45 miles

My questions for you:
  • How closely do you watch your diet the week of a race? 
  • What is your favorite weather for racing?
  • Any workouts this week that you can't wait to tackle?

After a tasty treat to start the week, it's time to buckle down and get serious!

- ST

Monday, July 7, 2014

Half Marathon On My Mind

In my perfect world, every weekend would be a long weekend. Isn't it amazing what a difference an extra day (or two!) off makes? I could get used to all this extra time to relax!

But all good things must come to an end eventually and today it's back to following a schedule. Here's this week's training plan:

Monday: 8 mile run + Strides
Tuesday: 10 mile workout, inc. hills + half marathon pace work
Wednesday: 6 mile runch; Y-Fuse + Absolution
Thursday: 8 mile run; Y-Blitz + Y-Kettle Bell
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 11 mile run
Sunday: 7 mile run

Total: 50 miles

So, the main thing on my mind right now is the Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon, which is in just two weeks. Although I love this race because of the fun course, fantastic crowd energy, great expo, organization, etc., half marathons and I don't get along. I've tried so hard to like them but nearly every time I've tried to race this distance, it hasn't gone well.

I think I just about died during the 2012 Chi RNR

For whatever reason, racing a marathon doesn't scare me nearly as much as racing a half marathon. I think it's all about perspective. I've never had a bad marathon. I've only completed two and I didn't race either one so both were good experiences. I've felt fatigue at the end but never the pain that comes with putting your all into the miles. And with the half marathon, I've done that and it hasn't been pretty. Last year, I even had to take a break from the distance and although I did two, I used both as training runs and ran at whatever pace felt easy and comfortable.

Taking it easy at last year's Strider Half Marathon

But ... I think this year's Chi RNR might be different. I'm feeling more confident in my running than ever before thanks to the awesome Coach Matt and Thunderdome Running, and taking down my old - as in first year of running old - half marathon PR seems possible. It's not going to feel great during the race, but it sure will feel great after if I can somehow muster up a successful half marathon. So I'm going to go for it!

Anything can happen on race day. I'm choosing to believe in the wonderful :) 

My questions for you:
  • Half marathons - love em or hate em? Why?
  • Have you ever had a race disaster? If so, what happened?
  • Have you ever suffered a blow to your running confidence? If so, how did you restore it?

- ST

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer Running Is Here!

After months of waiting, summer is finally here! A solid few days of sunny skies (with a few showers), temps in the 80s and plenty of humidity. 

While this was fine for activities such as going to Summerfest and seeing Outkast with a few fellow runner girls ...

Photo by @lauramke

It wasn't so awesome for running. Lately, MKE runners have been a little spoiled. While the rest of the city has been moaning about a chilly summer, it's been great for runching without getting too unbearably sweaty and being able to sleep in and start weekend long runs a bit later in the morning. 

But last Saturday, I quickly regretted a later start. The goal was 17 miles and to get faster throughout, finishing up the last four miles at goal marathon pace. I knew I was in for a treat when the pace for the first few miles felt tough. I somehow managed to hit all of my paces but it was a real struggle - not a single mile felt easy. By the end of the run, I was drenched in sweat, covered in salt and probably had a dazed look in my eyes. After a cooldown jog and 5 minute walk, I felt better but couldn't believe how much the run took out of me. 

It was a reminder that summer running requires a bit of planning. Here are a few things I'll be doing on future runs this summer:

  • Plan a shady route with access to water fountains.
  • Get an early start. Out the door at 5:30-6am is the way to go. 
  • Wear as little as possible. Shorts, bra and a lightweight tank, like Oiselle's Hail Mary Tank.
  • Use Body Glide on any areas prone to chafing.
  • Take an Endurolyte before heading out for longer runs.
  • Make a point of taking in fluids early and continuing to drink up throughout your run.
  • Focus on effort, not pace.
  • Refuel and rehydrate at the same time with a post-workout recovery drink, i.e. chocolate milk.
  • If it's really ghastly hot/humid, run at an indoor track.

Another idea is drinking a cold, iced beverage before a run to help lower core temperature before venturing into the heat!

My questions for you:
  • How do you get acclimated to running in the heat?
  • What is your best tip for running in the heat?
  • What did you do to enjoy the weekend's summer weather?

Stay safe in the sun, everyone!

- ST

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Power of an Extra Rest Day

When you run long enough, injuries aren't just a possibility. They are a given. But depending on how you approach them, you can reduce the amount of time you need to take off.

Case in point: Earlier this week, I did a 6x1 mile workout on the roads with a 3-mile warmup and 1-mile cooldown. The warmup felt great and I felt strong during each of the mile repeats. But when I started my cooldown, I knew something wasn't quite right. The back of my right knee felt super tight - like the muscle was about to cramp. As I ran that final mile, I thought about what might have caused the pain and decided it was doing too many hairpin turns during my mile repeats. I ran a half mile out and a half mile back for each repeat and turned the same way each time. So dumb! 

I thought I was in the clear because the pain went away when I stopped running. Even so, I spent extra time using the foam roller and stretching and iced the area when I got home. 

A runner's best friend

Fast forward to the next morning: I had a dull ache in the back of my knee again and found it difficult to straighten my leg. While most people would wonder how they might get to work, my first thought was how am I going to run 7 miles over lunch and do my evening classes at the Y? Fellow Type A runners know that missing a workout is just not an option! Even as I hobbled down my apartment steps, I told myself I'd run slow. I'd jog. I'd run/walk. But I'd still get those miles in PLUS the classes. 

This is why having a coach is so fantastic. I mentioned my problem to Coach Matt and he told me to take the day off and wait 48 hours to do my next run. He assured me that I've been consistent and have enough fitness banked to afford a rest day or two. 

I've read many articles about not running through injuries, but it's still hard to apply it to my own training. How do you know when it's just normal workout soreness or an actual problem? I don't ever want to lose out on the potential benefits of a workout, but hearing Coach Matt say that I needed to take a break made it simple. No running. No gym. 

Time to kick back in my favorite LF Sweats!

Because taking a rest day or two now is what will ultimately prevent a major breakdown later on. In the grand scheme of things, one or two extra days off in June won't cost me my goal time in October. But ignoring the issue now and having to take one or two weeks off later this summer could be devastating. 

So that's that. I'm a well-rested runner at this point. My knee is on the mend. And I'm ready to tackle the rest of the miles on my plan for this week. 

My questions for you:
  • How do you decide if you should take a rest day or run through injury/pain?
  • If you take a rest day, what do you do with your extra time?

I thought about baking treats but the last thing I need is to have a bum knee and gain five pounds ;)

- ST

Monday, June 23, 2014

Highlights + This Week's Training Schedule

In Wisconsin, we look forward to summer all year. Now that it's here - this is a bit debatable given the recent chilly temps and lack of sunny days - it's going by so fast! Just like that, June is practically done. 

Anyhow, one of my favorite things about summer are the longer days. Just a few extra hours of daylight make it that much easier to fit in more training and more fun. Last week's highlights:

A track workout. This was my first time running at Shorewood High School and it's pretty nice! I met up with the Milwaukee Running Group and ran my warmup, a few repeats and a cooldown with them. I had to do most of my workout on my own (more repeats, shorter rest) but it was nice to see friendly faces every time I circled the track.

Y-Blitz. For a long time I was a bit intimidated by this class and worried it would mess with my running. Not so much anymore. I love that I have to struggle through it because the harder I work, the stronger I'll get. 

The weekend long run. This may have been my best long run yet this year. Usually it takes me 3-4 miles to start feeling good on a long run, but on Saturday, I ran 8:40ish from the start and it felt great. As directed by Coach Matt, I picked up the pace throughout and surprised myself by averaging goal marathon pace during the last five miles!

This week's training is somewhat similar to last week's except more miles! Here's the plan:

Monday: 6 mile run + Strides; Y-Kettle Bell Intervals; Strength Training
Tuesday: 10 mile workout
Wednesday: 7 mile runch; Y-Fuse; Absolution
Thursday: 9 mile run; Y-Blitz; Y-Kettle Bell Basics
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 17 mile run
Sunday: 7 mile run

Total: 56 miles

My questions for you:
  • What run/workout are you most looking forward to this week?
  • What are your favorite moments from last week/weekend?
  • What do you love most about summer?

Hope you all have a great start to the week :)

- ST

Monday, June 16, 2014

This Year's RNS + An Upcoming Week of Training

Hey friends - I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! I had the best few days, the highlight being Rock n Sole on Saturday morning. I didn't race this one - instead, I helped my niece complete her first 5k and also cheered on my brother, Andy, as he ran his first half marathon. While it felt weird to be at a race without any intention of racing, it was so nice to help others reach their goals. I loved seeing how excited and happy both my brother and niece were to cross the finish line.

5k finishers!

Andy racing to the finish line!

After the race!
After the race fun on Saturday, I'm feeling extra motivated to dive into this week's training. Can you believe it's already hit the point where more than one workout is necessary on some days? Here's the plan for this week:

Monday: 7 mile runch + strides; Y-Kettle Bell Intervals; Strength Training
Tuesday: 9 mile workout
Wednesday: 6 mile run; Y-Fuse; Core Work
Thursday: Y-Blitz; Y-Kettle Bell Basics
Friday: 7 mile runch + strides
Saturday: 15 mile run
Sunday: 6 mile run

Total: 50 miles

My questions for you:
  • Have you ever ran with someone to help them complete a race? If so, what was your experience?
  • What was the highlight of your weekend?
  • How does your training look for this upcoming week?

Happy Monday!

- ST