Chicago Training – Day 1

So after a bit of a what some might call a vacation (actually, I think everyone would call it a vacation, and an amazing vacation at that!),

<<Side Note – Ev and I went to Greece (not Grease) and got to leave all responsibilities behind!  Pretty much every stress-maker was left in Eastern Daylight Time, and everything that is amazing was waiting for us in Greece.  Except for a comprehensible language.  Greek is impossible!  But the trip was amazing and I got another reprieve from running.>>

I’m back and re-energized to run.  Today was the first day of training for the Chicago Marathon!  I haven’t run very much since the Country Music Marathon for a number of reasons:

1) Basking in glory of beating Colin 😛 ;
b) Travel (see above about vacation);
3) Still basking in glory.  

I was also ever-so-slighly under the weather this weekend (excuse alert!), so hopping right back into training wasn’t going to necessarily be like riding a bike.  Maybe more like hog-tying a pig.  Actually it was nothing like hog-tying a pig.  It was like running.

It was harder than I wanted, but I got ‘er done.  The surprisingly hard part were the 20-second sprints.  At the 44-minute mark I would sprint for 20 seconds and then recover (run normal pace) for 40 seconds, and repeat ten times.  My heart rate shot up and I felt drained.  Here’s where I’ll hold onto that excuse for dear life.  I blame it on not feeling 100%, the humidity, and the economic crisis.  All told, it wasn’t terrible, and I’m looking forward to all 800 or so training miles lying in front of me for Chicago.

The details:


Distance: 7.68
Time: 1:04:44
Pace: 8:25 min/mile
Average HR 167 bpm (185 bpm max)

Running Just to Run? Not This Time

99.9% of the time, I run just to run.  Training or racing, the reason I put on my shoes is to run.  Every so often though, the stars align and I find myself running with a purpose.  Saturday, for example, I decided to take the subway up to return a book in College Park and then run home.  Why?  Because 1) I needed to run, 2) I needed to go to College Park, and 3) I needed to get home.  So after a productive morning (read: caught up on LOST) I geared up, grabbed Groundswell, and started over to the metro.  To keep with the theme I got a little warm-up in by running the half mile to the green line.  Conveniently, while waiting for the train (7 minutes!?!? boo Saturday schedule!), bam, I had a book to read.

After the long metro ride I got in another 1.25 miles from the metro station to campus.  More than anything it was nice getting a change of scenery.  At this point I could tell things were heating up.  If you’re a die-hard follower of this blog (thanks!) you’ve probably picked up on a theme: the weather is my nemesis (although my true nemesis is Major League Baseball, but that’s neither here nor there).  I dropped off the book and was on my way again.  This is where the run actually started.

I’ve run from College Park back home once before, only getting mildly lost (despite the fact that there are literally zero turns).  There are rolling hills the whole way, which always seem more up than down.  The hills are accentuated by the 85 degree weather.  Things started off well, but my heart rate drifted skyward quickly and never seemed to come back down to Earth.  Holding steady in the mid 170s bpm I had to take a few breaks to, well, catch my breath.  I passed a few street festivals (only moderately tempted to stop) and enjoyed the new sights and sounds (and smells of some awesome looking BBQ at those festivals).  Interestingly (and maybe I should’ve taken a hint) but I didn’t see a single runner during the entire 8.5 miles.

I must say, it’s on the verge of cruel to watch the street numbers go down, block by block, for 5 miles.  43rd St, 42nd St, 41st St… until you get to First St.  But wait!  Then there’s North Capitol, and then First St. again!  And then back up until I reach the end.  Like watching the seconds tick by, only now it’s 85 degrees, your legs hurt, and each second is actually about a tenth of a mile.  Not ideal.  Overall it was a good run.  I got to see new things while crossing something off my to-do list.  Maybe I can turn my running into a useful mode of transportation a little more often.  A boy can dream.

The details:


Distance: 10.32 miles (total for the trip)
Time: 1:23:43 (total for the trip)
Pace: 8:06 min/mile
Average HR 166 bpm (181 bpm max)

Hey Me, I Beat You

For the first time in a long time (ever?) I did the same exact route on back-to-back runs with the sole intention of seeing how two separate days would compare.  The beauty of this is, no matter what happens, I win!

Of course it would be nice to do better the second time, so that I can show improvement and feel like I’m progressing.  In hindsight, though, I’m not sure how much progress would be made between Monday and Wednesday… but it was too late!  I already threw down the gauntlet… to myself!  Bring it on!

So on Monday I ran straight up Mass Ave until it hits Wisconsin (Avenue, not state.  Side Note: Did you know that the Wisconsin state motto is “Forward”?  Weak.  Here’s the reasoning: “Reflecting Wisconsin’s continuous drive to be a national leader, the state adopted “Forward” as the official state motto in 1851.”  What is Wisconsin a national leader of exactly?  Any thoughts should be left in the comments.)  From my apartment to the turn around point the elevation rises about 10,000 feet.  That’s why DC is known as 2-Mile High city (suck it Denver!).  Ok, actually it’s about 300 feet.  But it feels like 10,000 feet.  The major incline really takes place over the course of a mile.  Mental math: That’s almost a 5.7% incline! (thank you Google for your mental math).  Anyway, what you’ve all been waiting for!  The results…

Day Monday 5/11/09 Wednesday 5/13/09
Distance 5.33 miles 5.33 miles
Time 43:10 42:30
Pace 8:04 min/mile 7:58 min/mile
Average HR 160 bpm 162 bpm

Hooray!  I win!  Unfortunately I don’t get a medal (see sidebar to the right for other medals) but I do get the satisfaction that I beat the best (me)!  Anyway, what it really means is I pushed harder today than Monday, as seen by my heartrate and my perceived exertion.  But logic won’t take away the sweet taste of victory.  We’ll see how this compares when I try the same route again later on down the road.  Is that a challenge?  It is!  I better check myself before I wreck myself.  That’s enough smack talk for now.  Good day.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Run Angry

Things were shaping up nicely on Saturday.  There was an actual gameplan, not just waiting to see what presented itself (usually sitting on the couch watching tv presents itself).  But not this Saturday!  We walked up 14th St to some shops then swung by the farmer’s market on 14 & U.  Got some bread, an apple, you know, a relaxing little Saturday.  Ev then had to go into work (sucks!), so we parted ways when the bus came.  

While walking back I decided to swing by The Bike Rack to possibly buy a cycling jersey.  I’ve been getting geared up to ride my bike for the first time in awhile now that the weather was improving and finished up a big research paper.  They didn’t have much in stock, and nothing in my size, so I left empty-handed with a new plan: Head home, change into cycling gear (minus jersey), ride out to lunch, return some books, swing by City Sports for a jersey, and then go for a longer ride.  Brilliant plan!

1) Go home: check.
I changed and headed down to the third floor of the parking garage (better known as P3 by my elevator) to grab my bike.  Walked over to where it should have been, and that’s when the plan went straight to hell.   I stood there for a second staring at the bike rack thinking if it could have been on another floor.  Then I noticed there was a gap in the row of bikes.  At the bottom of that gap there was a bike lock and the wire that loops through the frame and wheels was cut.  I continued to stare, confounded by the situation.  I bent down and even checked if my lock key fit the lock… yep.  DAMMIT!

At this point the rest of the great plan is shot.  Sparing the details, I end up back in my apartment and decide to run off some steam.  I didn’t care if I was supposed to run easy on Sunday; I didn’t care if it was 87 degrees outside; I didn’t care if the person who took my bike got hit by a bus.  (Actually, I did care.  I very much would have liked that to happen)

I started out pretty quick for the first mile (7:37 min/mile) and decided to push it harder.  The 1 mile mark is where I generally have to make the decision where the rest of my run is going to take me.  I wasn’t sure how long the total would be, but I chose to head down into Virginia, across a few bridges, and end up at Eastern Market.  It could have been 5 miles, it could have been 12.  I figured I’d just run until I got there and see what my Garmin said.

The second mile was 7:16 min/mile.  That’s when the heat started to get to me and the wheels began to fall off.  Using the anger and adrenaline to keep going, I got to mile 3 and had to stop.  My heartrate was approaching the stratosphere (metaphor for really high) and I couldn’t hold the pace.  The sun sucked any energy reserves out of me and I struggled through the rest of the run, which ended up totaling 8 miles even.

Turns out that running on emotions can lead to running on fumes.  I was completely drained afterwards, so it did its job of releasing some steam.  At this point I’ve filed a police report, submitted a claim with my insurance, and waiting to talk to my building management.  Hopefully there will be better news in the days (ha! probably months) to come.  In hindsight Ev pointed out that it’s replaceable and not the end of the world.  At the time, though… ohhhh boy.  

Thanks for letting me vent.

Ever decide to run simply because you were sad / angry / happy?  Let me hear about it in the comments!  It’ll make me feel better.


Distance: 8.00 miles
Time: 1:04:34
Pace: 8:04 min/mile
Average Heartrate: 171 bpm

Bored of *not* Running

Last night while getting caught up on some (debatably) quality TV, I realized that I was getting bored of not running.  In reality I think I’m just getting antsy from stored up energy while still “recovering” from the race, but I got that urge like I had to go run “right now!”.  I didn’t, of course, because it was 10 at night and thoroughly enjoying The Office and sitting on the couch drinking wine with Ev.  Tough to beat.

To runners, this sounds like a good problem to have.  Who doesn’t want to be motivated, right?  To non-runners, I should be committed.  Who wants to run when you can sleep in or watch TV… or not run?

Well, just as the sun rises (both literally and figuratively), I predictably hopped the fence into the non-runners camp when my alarm went off at 6am.  The bed can be very convincing when you voluntarily decide to make an early departure.  It took some doing, but I pulled myself out of that heavenly cocoon of endless warmth and security and got out there.  I wanted this run to be really easy, like a walk in the park (only running.. in the park).  It was ok, but not as easy as I hoped.  I think I’m still getting over that non-swine-flu cold I mentioned last time.  My heart rate was a little higher than I would have liked, just wasn’t feeling it.  But I got to run and release some of that antsy-ness (not to be confused with ants in the pants, which I still have plenty of).

Who knows, maybe after a few more early mornings I’ll be over running and ready to sleep in.  But for now I’m looking forward to the next one…



Distance: 5.32 miles
Time: 44:46
Pace: 8:25 min/mile
Average Heart Rate: 157 bpm

And we’re back

Back to running, that is.  After 11 days and one bout with a non-swine-flu cold (which I defeated with Manny Pacquiao power, but without the big pay-per-view deal), I finally laced up the shoes for the first time since the Country Music Marathon (despite my best efforts.  Apparently I set my alarm for 6PM, but woke up on my own at 6:45am anyway.  I imagine there was a subconscious fight to the death cage match between the part of me that wanted to run versus the part that wanted to continue being lazy and sleeping in.  Running-me FTW!) 

It was an “easy” 4 miles to get the legs moving again.  Notice easy is in quotes?  That’s not a typo.  The weather was great (55*, cloudy, light fog) but my legs were tight, breathing was hard (I guess my lungs were beaten worse than Ricky Hatton by that non-swine-flu), and I almost got run down by two cyclists.  Both times I could hear them coming up behind me (I pictured something like this), and then at the last second comes the fog horn (read: handlebar bell and polite “on your left”).  Immediately after: WHOOSH! and they fly by, passing at light speed with reckless abandon.  None too please… none. too. pleased.

I’m really looking forward to getting back into a groove, waking up too early to run in a circle, and then writing about it for pretty much only you to read.  (Thanks for reading!)  Next on the horizon is the Chicago Marathon in October, but training doesn’t start for a few weeks.

Also, as promised, I must mention that I fueled up for this run at a little Thai place called Thai Tanic… clever.  Not to be confused with the horrible maritime disaster of 1912.  But delcious!


And the details (deets, as the kids might say, always talking in abbrev’s):

Distance: 4 miles
Time: 34:27
Pace: 8:37 min/mile
Average Heart Rate: 150

What a (HOT) Marathon

Well, the 10th Country Music Marathon in Nashville was hot.  Let’s get that out of the way.  Race temperature at the start were in the upper 60s and in the low to mid 80s at the finish.  After training all winter, there wasn’t much anyone could do to be ready for those temps (save training in Dubai, and that wasn’t exactly an option.  Best I could have done was the United Arab Emirates Embassy four metro stops away… but I digress).  To be clear, it was hot and it affected everyone.

Having run the half marathon here twice before I knew what the starting area would offer.  We got there early because the anticipated traffic was nonexistent.  Lots of free food and drink for the runners, which was nice.  Dropped off our gear bag around 6:20am, got into the (long) bathroom line, and made our way to Corral #3 (out of 32!  32 corrals of 1000 people each!)  That means we started towards the front of the pack.  The race uses a wave start, meaning each corral goes out, one at a time, with a short break between each, in an effort to prevent crowding on the course.  One of the most amazing images is standing towards the front and looking back down the street and seeing a sea of people, filling in from curb to curb going at least 6 blocks back.  Amazing.

I had the goal of finishing under 3 hours 30 minutes, but realized that wasn’t realistic about two steps into the race.  Colin and I decided to dial it back about 15 seconds per mile for the first 6 miles, just to get acclimated and see where it would take us.  We averaged 8:12 min/mi, so I consider that a success (although our pace was all over the map).  One change to the course was the extended distance downtown by the, er, honky-tonk bars, if you will.  It definitely showed off more of what makes Nashville unique (+1), but it also showed off some more hills (-1).

By mile 9 Colin’s shirt was a thing of the past and the sun was out in full force (or so we thought).  Around mile 11 we saw the best spectators at the race (note: may be biased).  Evelyn, Barrett, Robert and Jenelle were cheering for us right after the half marathoners split off.  At this point Colin and I agreed we were feeling strong holding our 8:00 min/mi pace (that changed quickly).  Also at this point Barrett joined us on his mountain bike and kept us company.  Throughout the rest of the race he’d ride ahead to fill water bottles and give a lot of moral support, but we’ll get into that a little later.

Apparently when the half marathoners split off, they take all the shade with them.  From mile 12 through 20, the marathon course is completely exposed to the sun.  I mean completely. We did a pretty good job holding our pace but it definitely got harder.  We saw the support team again around mile 19, which served as a (small) boost until…  At mile 20 I opted to walk the water stop and Colin kept going.  He said he was cramping up and decided to run as far as he could with the fear that walking would cause his muscles to seize up (like Vince’s car engine…).  From then on he was in my sights and I slowly chipped away at his lead.  Barrett bounced back and forth between us giving updates on how the other was feeling.

I think I caught back up to Colin around mile 21.  Neither of us were looking good; it was a matter of just finishing the next 5 miles.  Running through Shelby Bottoms Park offered much-appreciated shade and the crowd support picked up after the nonexistent crowds in Metro Park.  The problem here is that the course is out and back from mile 22 until nearly the end, meaning I was watching people running towards me who were like 3 miles ahead.  A bit demoralizing to think of how much was still ahead.  By far the award for “Worst Idea Ever.  In the History of the World.” goes to the photographer who thought it was a good idea to park himself at the top of a hill at mile 23.  He might as well have been taking pictures of a trainwreck.. it was ugly.

Around mile 24 I saw the clock approaching 3:30:00, so my new goal was to hold it together and just finish as fast as possible.  I made friends with another runner around mile 25.5 when we were both struggling to jog.  She yelled at me not to stop and walk and we motivated each other to get to the finish.  As I rounded the final turn and saw the finish I felt a surge of energy and was moving at Olympic sprinter speed.  Like Usain Bolt fast.  As I crossed the finish line my body all but gave out.  It definitely took 15 minutes to travel through the finisher area and meet back up with the amazing support team.

The rest is history.  My finishing time was 3:47:12, which was pretty good considering the heat.  Got my medal, met up with everyone, and headed out to Baja Burrito for some epic refueling.

Finish Time: 3:47:12
Overall Place: 324 / 4146
Overall Men: 259 / 2341
Overall 18 – 24: 28 / 217

5k: 25:21
10k: 51:01
10m: 1:21:50
Half: 1:47:09
20m: 2:46:15