Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Half Marathon Training Run [in December]

Saturday morning, December 18.


18 degrees (feels like 9).

Sounds like perfect weather for a 10 mile training run.

You may be asking "Why would anyone run ten miles in THAT?"

Well my friends, I'm running a Half Marathon, in less than a month.

Kim S. organized what I believe is Chicago's first half marathon in January last year, affectionately called the "F*cking Freezing Frozen Lake Half Marathon." The race's mascot is none other than our recently-ousted former governor, Blago.

The race proved to be a hit and it's back this January, bigger and better than ever.

Kim has formed a partnership with Universal Sole and is holding training runs from their West Lakeview location.

On this particularly frigid morning, Brian, Kim and I were the only ones who'd shown up for the training run [it turns out other faster runners had shown up earlier and started ahead of us], dressed in our tried and true winter gear. We disembarked from Universal Sole and headed east on Belmont, passing over a few patches of sidewalk with ice. The weather was keeping most indoors on a morning like this, so we weren't fighting crowds as we made our way to the lakefront.

We headed north to Montrose where we then looped and headed south. The wind whipped against us and our faces hurt - the only skin exposed to the elements. Between November and March, the City's water fountains are turned off, so we carried fluids on us. In my case, the water in the bottles of my fuel belt froze.

It was nice to have a trio. We were able to catch up on training and life in general. Anything to take our minds off what we were actually doing - although I will have to say that's a standard practice in running:

While running, discuss anything but. When doing anything else, always discuss running.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter Gear

The minimalistic nature of running is redefined with cool temperatures.

In the spring and summer months, all a runner needs is a pair of socks, shoes, shorts, tank top and hat. It's very easy to throw your gear in to a backpack and take along with you, where ever you may go, in case there's an opportunity to sneak in a run.

As the end of the year approaches, the winter gear comes out.

Add onto the tank top a long sleeve technical tee, an Underarmor-type long sleeve/longer cut piece with a pocket, and a windbreaker/waterproof shell

Switch out the shorts for a pair of running tights. Teal optional.

Add gloves to your hands and a headband on top of your hat.

Winter gear adds up to bulky pile of stuff.

More laundry, even if I'm running less.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Man in Teal Tights

Earlier this week, I went on a run at lunch. The temperature was in the mid 20's with low wind. I'd brought my cold weather gear, so I decided to head out for an easy four miler.

I ran at my average pace (10 to a 10:30) until I reached the Shedd Aquarium.

I turned around to head back and made a quick stop to tie my shoes.

As I started running again, I saw him. A man in tight teal running tights.

He was a shorter man, running rather slowly up the hill between Museum Campus and Lake Shore Drive. After taking a quick glance at his pace, I had a feeling I'd be passing him.

As I came within a few strides of him though, he picked up the pace.

I sensed that he wasn't going to be outrun by a girl even in his teal tights, so I stayed within a few strides of him. Our pace went from a ten minute mile, to a 9:30.

I remembered how, in the CARA marathon training group, we'd discussed 'speed training' in the winter so that we would all start in the 10 minute mile group next year. I guess I mind as well take advantage of this situation, right?

We passed Buckingham Fountain and he took a look back to see where I was, then turned it up again. Now we were doing around a 9:15. I considered easing off and letting him go, but at this point in my run, I had nothing to lose. So I stayed with him.

As we crossed the bridge over the river, we were doing a sub 9 minute mile.

It was tough to keep the pace for long. My breathing was labored. We were nearing my turn off point on the north side of the river - I just hoped I could stay with the teal tights until then.

When we reached my turn, we went our separate ways. I am sure teal tights thought I wimped out and quit. I guess I did, sorta. I reached my ending point and did a short walk to cool down. I was breathing hard and was walking slow. My lungs burned, but other than that, I felt great!

I walked back in to my office. Even a half hour later I could tell I'd had a challenging run.

Speed work in the mid-20s = very challenging.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Hot Chocolate 15K Run [and November Wrap Up)

The Hot Chocolate 15K Run was what I'd like to call a success.

I had recovered from the marathon and was excited to get back out and run that morning.

A group of us met up at the CARA tent before the race and walked to the start line together.

For the first time this year, the Hot Chocolate Run was held in Grant Park.

The course left something to be desired, but I've run worse courses.

For quite some time it was the Kims, Brian and I. Then it was just Kim A. and I.

Had Kim not been beside me the entire race, I would have certainly slowed down. She's faster than I am, and it's easy to forget how helpful it is to run with faster people. They give you the motivation and the push you need to challenge yourself.

We finished the race with a 9:4 pace overall. I can't even tell you how long it's been since I've done a run at that pace, and I've certainly never done a run of that distance at that pace ever.

The race ended with a backpack full of chocolate bars, followed by a trip to Ann Sathers.

The mild weather made it easy to run outside throughout most of November.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Who Would Ever Run a Marathon [Article]

Here's a great article with an interesting perspective. I got to say, this guy makes some great points! Thanks Jen for posting on facebook initially!

Who Would Ever Run a Marathon?
By Dr. Tim Maggs
May/June 2001
Washington Running Report

For anyone who's ever crossed that fine line, the one that only takes 26.2 miles to get to, and now owns the title of "marathon finisher", you've probably been asked this question many times. The insinuations in the question are that anyone who would ever consider running a marathon borders on insanity or downright lunacy. Well, do you want to know what I think?

I think...

The marathon should be a requirement for all kids graduating high school today. All kids would have to complete a marathon before graduating, or would have to work forty hours a week doing community clean up (for free) until they do complete one.

The marathon should become part of an incentive program for prisoners who want early release.

The first treatment for anyone with high blood pressure, weight problems, psychological disorders, bowel problems, upper respiratory difficulties, self-esteem issues, or anxiety disorders should not be medication or group therapy, but to complete a marathon.

If anyone is caught being a bully in life, regardless of age, we should have some legislative body we can report them to and this body has the authority to convict this individual and sentence them to run a marathon. Arrogance is bad, humility is good. Marathons promote humility.

Anyone sentenced to "community service" must run a marathon. What better community service could be achieved than to get someone in the community healthier, both mentally and physically?

More serious crimes might require two marathons in one year, a sentence that would not allow any time off from training. (Whoa, would this be an inconvenience for someone not used to working out?)

There should be a fifty percent discount on all health insurance premiums with proof of running a marathon each year.

Community leaders and politicians should be required to run a marathon each year, rather than annoying everyone by going door-to-door making promises they're unable to keep. A marathon will continually encourage "honest work" instead of more rhetoric the world doesn't need. Leading by example has always proven to be successful.

Any family owning more than one vehicle must all run a marathon in order to get registrations for every vehicle after the first one.

All police officers and fire fighters must run one marathon per year to be able to continue wearing a badge.

Anyone who isn't happy in life, can't figure out why life isn't giving back the way it should, and is looking for that bigger house, perfect soul-mate, or winning lottery ticket, join in and run a marathon. I'm sure you'll find the answer somewhere along the way.

From my vantage point, there are two causes of unhappiness and poor health---the lack of drive and discipline. With technology bringing so much excitement into every room in our house, why would anyone ever need to leave the house for fun? And the media is continually telling us to take this pill or that because "you haven't got time for the pain," but the cold truth is, it's all painful. Life hurts too much these days, and on too many fronts. The marathon solves these problems in a flinch. It reintroduces us to drive and discipline, for, as we know, there are no shortcuts to crossing that finish line. You must pay the price for a long enough period of time, or you won't cross that line.

The training phase is the backbone of this program and the direct reason for improved happiness. Our social lives improve by joining a regular group to go on our weekly runs. We talk, listen, and become the person we thought we used to be---happy and interesting. All social stigmas disappear, as we all become runners seeking the same goal. We're no longer lawyers, doctors, teachers, or housewives living according to some bogus pecking order society has created. We revolve our days around our training schedule, giving us something to look forward to at the beginning of the day and something to be proud of by the end of the day. And we all inherently know this powerful fact--we're doing something that most people will never have the guts to try. We're running a marathon. Our self-esteem goes up dramatically. In fact, isn't the scale looking a little kinder these days? Those clothes that just never seemed to fit on that Monday-morning diet plan all of a sudden fit perfectly. The big clincher in this life-altering metamorphosis a person goes through occurs on that first day that someone asks you "Have you lost weight?" There's no turning back now!

And the day we cross that finish line, the day we complete the journey we started six or eight or ten months earlier, that's the day we can't wait to start all over again on our next chapter. For what we learn is one simple fact---"Who wouldn't want to run a marathon?"

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Road Bike + Clips [Adventures in Riding]

Last week, Kim S. bought a road bike.

On Saturday before the Hot Chocolate run, Kim A, Kim S. and myself talked about riding this weekend. Kim S. said she is concerned about getting comfortable with her clips. She said everyone she's talked to has a story about falling while clipped in. Kim A. said she wouldn't mind getting one last ride in, and I agreed.

Kim S. said she had yet to ride her bike outside, but had practiced in the store.

I bring up Kim's nerves about clips because I certainly have them. Even still. Even after owning my bike for over two years. Granted, I managed to fall walking up stairs earlier this week, but even still...clips are tricky.

Clips are a godsend to riding efficiently and at the same time a curse. That is, until the act of clipping in and out becomes second nature. Some of us seem to get to that 'second nature' phase faster than others.

What happens if it takes someone awhile to get in tune with their clips?

They fall. A lot.

Here's the thing about falling off a bike - it hurts. It hurts a lot more now than it did when I was a kid. There's no way to avoid the attention you'll attract when you do fall - it's quite a sight.

Not to scare Kim, of course. I have a feeling it's taken me longer than most. She may jump right in them and go on Saturday.

Either way, here are some videos from LiveStrong to refresh my memory and get her acquainted with the process:

Getting Clipped in:

Getting Out:

Friday, November 05, 2010

Running to the Expo

Tomorrow is the Hot Chocolate 15K.

The race has grown in it's three year history. So much so, that this year the packet pick-up/expo was moved Running Away's Store to Union Station.

Packet pick-up was yesterday and today.

Since I don't often find myself anywhere near Union Station, I decided the best way to go there was to run. I needed to get a run in anyway, and Union Station's about two miles from work.

I headed out with a pair of running capris and long sleeve tech tee I had only my work I.D, Chicago Card and confirmation email.

I knew conditions were windy. What I wasn't expecting was hail, then rain on the 20 minute journey.

I entered Union Station and picked up Kim and my packets. As I verified our chips at chip check, a volunteer asked me why I was wet. I told her it was raining out. She paused and then said, "You ran here? From where?" So I told her where I'd come from. She then told me I was crazy.

That's ok. I think at some level we're all used to saying that.

The packets were too bulky to run back with, so I rode the [warm] bus back.

Four weeks ago it was 80 degrees, now it's 30 something. Really mother nature?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

3 Races in Less Than 30 Hours

Some of us focus (often for months) on training for one race. But once that race is over, what's next?

By mid-October, running season winds down as temperatures drop.

Still, there are runners who continue running in to the winter, and there's quite an alarming number of us. The Hot Chocolate 15K started in 2008 with 3,500 runners in Montrose Harbor. In 2010, the race has expanded to Grant Park, includes a 5K option and has added 26,500 entrants.

Last weekend, I ran 10 miles with Carrie and Jen as they prepared for the Monster Half Marathon. During the run, they told me our friend Sara would be doing the Half Marathon as well on Halloween.

She' also be doing two other runs - all in less than 30 hours.

At 8am on Saturday morning, Sara ran the Carrera de los Muertos (Run of the Dead) 5k in Pilsen.

At 6pm on Saturday evening, she ran Everybody PRs 6.9 mile run in west Lakeview.

At 8am on Sunday morning, she ran the Monster Half Marathon starting in Grant Park.

Sara and I talked about her multiple race weekend last night after Everybody PRs. Everybody PRs was a 6.9 mile run organized by F^3 Events and Universal Sole. About 30 runners (including Kim S, Kim A, Sara and I) participated on a course that went through Lakeview and North Center.

She said the Carrera de los Muertos was her best 5k time since 1997. She ran the race in sub 9 minute miles.

She said Everybody PRs was a little tougher, she could tell her legs were tired. After a few celebratory drinks, she headed home for a good night's sleep before this morning's Monster Half Marathon.

I'm anxious to hear how the Monster Half Marathon went for Sara, Carrie and Jen.

Running a half marathon three weeks after a marathon makes you rockstars in my book!


Monday, October 25, 2010

Continuation of the Saturday Long Run

On the morning of Saturday, October 9th, I woke up after 8am.

The first thought in my head was 'It's strange to sleep past 6 on a Saturday.'

That's certainly not normal.

Although I'd run the Chicago Marathon the next morning, October 9th was what I could have only assumed to be the first Saturday of many with something missing - No Long Run.

The following Saturday continued the 'No Long Run' tradition. Instead of getting up early and running I went kayaking in the afternoon with Tricia.

But by last Saturday, truthfully, I couldn't stand it anymore. So when Carrie asked if I'd want to go out later Saturday morning to run 10 with Jen and herself, I said yes.

We would take it easy we agreed. This run was for fun instead of training.

However, during the run, I found out that they are both participating in the Monster Half Marathon on Sunday. At first I thought it was too soon for a half marathon, but as we continued on our run and I felt ok, I started thinking about it.

We started running in mild temperatures with overcast skies. We ended the run with sheets of rain and a cool breeze.

We talked about 'Everybody PRs' Kim's 6.9 mile race which happens this Saturday evening and then discussed the Hot Chocolate 15K on November 6th.

That's when I realized...I had replaced CARA's marathon training long runs with other Saturday long runs, thanks to friends suggestions and organized races.

It goes to show that we really don't know what to do with ourselves when we're not training.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Post Race Routines and Recovery [Afternoon of 10.10.10]

Yay! I crossed the finish line.

Now starts the road to recovery as I walk through the chute and grab a banana, bagel, mylar blanket, and most importantly, beer.

A transformation happens as you walk through the few blocks of the chute - You go from being in motion to completely stiff as a board. Walking becomes, quite quickly, a difficult thing to do. Your feet are swollen, so priority #1 is to take of the running shoes you've been in since 5am and get in to a more roomy shoe or sandal. Before you make this transition however, you're going to need to sit, and that's where the problem lies.

My quads are shot. I can stand and I can sit in a chair, but can't do anything in between.

Remember the blog entry 'Curbs and Stairs' from a few weeks ago, after the 20 miler? They are by far my worst enemy now.

My walk resembles more of a shuffle. My stride has been shortened by 3/4 it's normal length. Routine movement are now difficult.

To sum up, suddenly, I'm....old.

It's weird because I have a recent amazing accomplishment of physical and mental strength, yet now, I'm weak, tired and slow.

It's easier to list the body parts that don't hurt rather than the ones that do hurt.

So what to do?

Move, slowly, to the beer tent and follow it up with a lunch.

There's no way I'm taking the two flights of stairs down to get on the red line at Jackson, so my Dad offers to drive us home. Suddenly even a small SUV is luxurious for it's easy in and out access.

Once I'm home, it's time to sleep, at least for a little while. Later on that evening the 10:30's got together to celebrate the day. After all, it's a great reason to wear the finisher's medal around town. Dave gave Kim and I old lady aliases as we walked out to the car. We feel like we're 70 anyway, so it's fitting.

The top priority Monday is an afternoon massage. It is worth it's weight in gold. I'm feeling more flexible, but stairs and transitioning from sitting to standing is still hard. I'm hovering around 65 years old on Monday.

Here's a great video from Flora, the sponsor of the London Marathon, depicting the the day after a marathon:

Tuesday it's back to work. I can't take the chance of going through the crosswalk on a flashing red because I won't make it to the other side before traffic starts moving. I'm feeling better though, just moving slow. maybe about 60.

Wednesday's a big day. Stairs are no problem and my stride's coming back. I'm still a bit achy, but around 50.

Thursday I'm easily in my 30's again. Thursday's the recommended day for a two mile recovery run. I go out for a walk instead, but I feel pretty good. I've somehow started to forget how hard the race was and start thinking about how tomorrow at lunch, I'll get out there and run. Just an easy three or something...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Spectators [A Group Project]

Race spectators - Runners love them.

We love their encouraging words and noises. Even just their presence is nice. We appreciate their travels through the CTA's tangled web of transit to get to us.

While running through a city lined with thousands (maybe close to a million) spectators, you are bound to see examples of good and bad.

Here's an attempt (with feedback from some fellow running friends) at outlining -


1. You're handing out stuff.
We are not picky. If it's edible and sounds halfway appealing, we're on it.
Special mention to anyone who hands out alcohol like the group of guys handing out beer in Pilsen in 2008 or JHo's friends at mile 24 with jello shots in 2010.

2. You have a creative sign.
You don't have to even cheer if you have a great, original sign. We'll remember it and then play 'Where's Waldo' looking for your sign as the race continues.
Some great ones we recalled -
It's OK to crap your pants.
You are ALL crazy.
Beer Up Ahead.
I Bet a Hangover Feels Worse
You are all Kenyans.

3. You Cheer.
You may be waiting for your friend to cross in front of you, but in the meantime, you're cheering for everyone in front of him. We don't care of your clap or whistle or scream. We are fine with all of it (except what is considered bad cheering).

4. You Have Good Music
Anything motivational and upbeat. It doesn't even have to be in English.

5. You Dance
If you've got a routine to entertain us as we pass by, we love it. Costumes or props make it even better. Anything goes. Good examples: The Boystown Cheerleaders and the Dragon in Chinatown. I look forward to seeing them each year.


1. You have a bad choice of words for cheering.
You mean well, and we love you for that, but your choice of words is killing us!
Examples -
At Mile 17 - "The Hard Part is Over."
At Mile 12 - "You're finished with the first half!"
At mile 22 - "The rest of this is easy."
At mile 23 - "You're in the home stretch"

2. You have a bad sign
This may be the graphic designer in me coming out, but any blown up photo of a person's head doesn't look good on a sign. The rest of us don't get it.

3. You run across the race to get to the other side of the street
We've been running for awhile and have one speed which we are trying to maintain efficiently. Everyone is moving is a one-directional sea, then suddenly, someone appears in front of you in his effort to cross the street. This really gets on our last nerve, because in most cases, they aren't even trying to get out of our way. We have to dodge these people so that we don't run in to them. Just stay on one side of the road while the race is going on, please.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

10.10.10: One Warm [Race] Day

Finally, after months of long runs, short runs, cross training, stretching, foam rollers, loads of laundry, countless bottles of water, gatorade, packets of gu and hours of sleep, the day has come - Race Day.

Goodbye taper madness. I'm standing in the corral, ready to run the 2010 Chicago Marathon!

With the exception of the ankle sprain in week 16, training was a success, so I guess I'm ready.

What's the one thing you can't control on race day? Weather.

Sunday morning was warm, even as we stood in the corral waiting to start.

My training group, for the most part, started together at 7:53. For the first 10 to 12 miles, a small group of us operated like clockwork and according to our plan - slightly slower than a 10:30, consistent miles. The north side of the race is the fun part. Your body's well rested and ready to go. There are a ton of spectators and great sideline entertainment [Hello Boystown Cheerleaders!].

It was shortly after the half marathon mark [which I checked my watch to see we had done in 2:24] that the well laid plans started to unravel. Not due to anyone's fitness level or desire, but rather due to the heat. It was now 80 degrees, and we still had a half marathon to run.

In the next few miles we'd broken in to pairs. Traveling out west towards the United Center is tough mentally. As you're running west, you can look a block south to see everyone in front of you traveling back east.

Carrie and I pushed through mile 19 together, but it was getting really tough. The sun was draining us. In the later teen miles, we took full advantage of walking through the aide stations and using the misters.

As we came up to mile 20, I needed to use the restroom and Carrie wanted to push on. I wished her luck and told her to go ahead - I would have Kim jumping in with me at 21.

Getting from 20 to 21.5 was a journey. I passed a bank's sign in Pilsen that read 87 degrees in that stretch.

Then Kim picked me out of the crowd (as she always does). She jumped in, asked if I needed anything, then called Brian. Brian jumped in with us shortly thereafter for a short while. It was so nice to have people talking to me through that part of the race!

The remaining miles few miles were the longest, hottest and toughest. This is where the race becomes a mental race - almost every muscle in your body hurts. Your body wants to stop [to at least some degree] but mentally you know you're strong enough to get to the end. So you keep pushing. You find sources of inspiration to keep you moving forward. Sometimes you have a friend besides you saying things like 'You look great. You're doing a great job.' Even though you may feel defeated at that moment.

I was lucky enough to have Kim there.

Soon we reached a sign that read 'One More Mile.' Kim said that there was no walking from this point on. I agreed with her - I needed to finish strong - even though Michigan Avenue seemed to be the longest street in the world that day.

Kim stayed with me until the corner of Roosevelt and Michigan. She ran along the other side of the the bridge and spoke words of encouragement as I used my arms to work my way up the hill. At the top of the hill was my Mom and Dave cheering me on. The next thing I knew, we were turning the corner on to Columbus to the finish line.

Crossing the finish line of a marathon is a one-of-a-kind experience. Even if you have crossed a marathon's finish line before. Some people are overcome with emotions. Others just want to grab their free beer and take off their shoes.

I have completed my third marathon. I have run the same course three times, and each time, I have had a completely unique experience. I have loved each year. The feeling never get old.

Will I do another marathon? Let's just say there was talk of another marathon between Kim and I during mile 24.

Yes, we're all crazy.

Marathon Morning

It's 4:30am on a Sunday.

I put on an outfit I'd laid out days before.

The night was somewhat restless, spent in and out of sleep and making multiple trips to the bathroom.

Must be the morning of the marathon.

I eat my regular breakfast, grab my bag, and head downtown on the El. The weather is warm, even for 5 in the morning. I leave my place with just my raceday outfit on. The train goes from nearly empty to completely packed, all full of marathoners and spectators.

I head over to Charity Village in an attempt to be part of Salute's team photo. It is completely dark out with no wind. The city looks stunning as I walk over the 12th street bridge. I reach charity village which breaks the morning's silence - with Lady Gaga's 'Bad Romance.' There are dozens of tents - big, well known charities like the American Cancer Society and much smaller ones like Friends of Prentice for Northwestern's Womens Hospital. I get to Salute's tent to find I had missed the team photo by a few minutes.

I then head to gear check to turn over my bag. I pass by a 'Last minute runner preparation' booth which has jars of vasaline, band aides, safety pins, maps, and more. It is jammed with people. I then head over to the CARA compound at the Congress Hotel. This three step process takes nearly a half hour through crowds and pure distance, and I wonder if I'll be regretting all the pre-race walking later.

Up in the CARA compound, I find the 'Mmm Mmm Good' balloon, which is Kimberley's call sign of the day. Under the balloon stands most of the Saturday 6:30am Montrose Harbor 10:30 pace team. There's a mix of emotions here, varying from excitement to pure fear. We're all, to some degree, concerned about the weather. We sit, wait, watch the sun come up and get more nervous. Then we head out.

But one quick stop along the way - portapotties. This year, CARA had a special section of portapotties just for their Marathon Training members, located just off Van Buren and Michigan. Our group arrived at the portapotties to see a three-layer security detail in place, comparing to going through airport security with the TSA. On the other side of the security line stood a line of clean portapotties with NO line. This is the sort of thing a marathoner dreams of for race day morning. We took full advantage of the situation, even sitting down for a few minutes to regroup before heading to the corral.

The 'Mmm Mmm Good' balloon meets a group of red balloons with a 4:45 finish time sign, which is Tomas, another one of our group leaders. Now we stand and wait. Kim releases the balloon now that the group is together. We are in a sea of 36,000 people. We are somewhere in the middle of the sea, just waiting for movement. Motivational music is playing loudly and there's lots of talking between members of the group.

7:30 passes. We are so far back that we do not hear the gun go off or see the elites start. Shortly thereafter though, the sea of people does start slowly moving forward. We walk til 7:53, when we finally reach the start line.

Our 10.10.10 marathon now begins.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Marathon Motivation, Expo and Charity Luncheon

Above is a preview for the documentary, 'Spirit of the Marathon.' It followed 6 people training for the Chicago Marathon in 2006 - two elite athletes, two experienced marathoners, and two first time marathoners. It is great motivation, so I made sure to watch it earlier this week.

Yesterday [Friday], Kim S, Maggie and I went to the Marathon Expo at McCormick Place. The Expo is an event within itself. Nine rows of everything you could ever want or need was available. We met Kim A. and Sara there. We found our names on the 'We Are All Marathoners' wall along side the Nike booth. After spending some time walking the isles, picking up our packets, and buying some 10.10.10 gear, we headed home.

Friday evening was a 10:30 pace group dinner in Andersonville. We had 38 people in our party, which essentially took over the entire bar area of the restaurant. We had a good pre-race carb load and all got to bed early.

Today I headed down to McCormick Place again - this time to attend a luncheon held by my charity, Salute Inc. It was a great event. We met soldiers the charity has been able to help over their seven year existence. The charity continues to grow, and this year has 110 runners as part of their Marathon Team. These 110 runners raised a total of $80,000, which is absolutely amazing. Again, I thank everyone who donated this year.

It's the stories I heard today that I'll take with me tomorrow morning as I stand in the corral waiting to start the race. It is amazing how doing something so simple as volunteering to fundraise for a charity while training for a marathon can be so rewarding. My training is different, for certain better, than in years past, due to this.

The Big Mac Meal and Other Indulgences

A question commonly pondered by runners -

"Do I run to eat?" or "Do I eat to run?"

One may quickly say "Eat to run, of course!"

But then consider the delicious meals they've enjoyed while training. After all, if you're burning off 1,000+ calories on a Saturday morning, you can have whatever you want for breakfast! Here are some I've enjoyed this season.

One of my personal favorites is the Big Mac Meal -

I want the entire meal, in it's original form - no Diet Coke, no medium fries. Give me the all-american, fully-leaded Coke and large fry. I treat myself to the meal in the last few weeks of marathon training.

Another favorite is Garrett Popcorn's Carmel Crisp -

I don't know what their secret is, but I know it involves a lot of butter, and I LOVE butter. It just so happens that a McDonald's and Garrett Popcorn Shop are located on the ground floor of my office. Lucky me! I've gotten a small bag and devoured it in one sitting a few times during training.

My favorite meal by far is breakfast. Who doesn't love french toast? Or Captain Crunch for that matter? How about combining them, and topping them off with butter and syrup -

Captain Crunch french toast has become my post long run recovery meal, washed down with chocolate milk.

Certainly there's an adult beverage to add. My favorite this summer is Goose Island's Sofie -

What more can I say. It's just delicious!

It's easy to see I run to eat.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Taper Madness

Less than five days to race day, and already, I can't focus.

Well, I can't focus on work or things to do around my condo, or anything I would normally be consumed with.


Instead, I am focusing on things like -

Checking multiple weather websites at various times in the day.
Newsflash: They haven't

My boss said he didn't feel well this morning. Am I going to catch his cold?

Reading the Marathon website and runner participant guide...again.
You never know, I could have missed something.

Varying degrees of positive and negative thoughts.
For example, "Training went really well. I can do this. [Then I think] I sprained my ankle just over a week ago, what am I doing?!?"
Scenarios like this go on and on.

Hoarding race day gear.
I've checked that my clothes and clean and that I have enough Gu.
I'm sure I'll check it all again...tomorrow.

Hazards appeared on my normal lunch time run to Buckingham Fountain.
None of them are new - cracks in the asphalt, cyclists, crosswalks - but today they are all safety issues.

Suddenly I have a quite vivid account of the last few miles of the race last year. They were hard. This experience is tough. Why am I doing this to myself again? How can anyone love inflicting pain on themselves?

Even with those thoughts, the pros still outweigh the cons, and I can' t wait.

I'm ready for you...Wednesday.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Last 5 Miles

[26M marking at the crest of the Roosevelt Street Bridge. One week after the 2009 Marathon]

The first 20 miles of a Marathon are much easier than the last 6.2.

For the Chicago Marathon's course, that's on the South Side as you travel through Pilsen, Chinatown, Bridgeport, IIT and then the South Loop.

Last year Kim agreed to jump in with me around 21 off of Archer Avenue. I asked her to bring some good stories and jokes. I may not be talking much at that point, but I'd need her to.

Her placement was key. I wanted her to be after 20 but before the busy Chinatown area so she'd be easier for me to find.

The last few miles, leading up to 21 were challenging. But mentally, I told myself I just had to get to Kim.

She picked me out of the crowd. She jumped in, asked how I was doing, and then asked me what I needed. She had her pockets filled with any thing a marathoner could need (advil, gu, gum, water). I didn't have to tell her what to bring - She knew exactly what someone needs at mile 21.

Running through Chinatown and down to Sox Park wasn't all too bad, but that changed as we turned to go east over the Ryan. I knew I still had some work to do, and this is where Kim really turned in to my coach.

Heading north felt like a warp zone. I was still moving close to my pace, but it felt so slow. Each block seemed to be a few blocks long. I started calculating how many blocks I had left. We remember being at Cermak (2200S/22nd) and thinking that Roosevelt was (0). I was out of it.

Kim continued to be encouraging, telling me stories and asking how I was feeling.

We had talked about her jumping out in the South Loop before the crowds became too thick. Around 17th she asked me what I wanted her to do. I asked her to stay with me, so she did.

As we headed further north, it dawned on me that my previous calculations were wrong. Roosevelt was 1200S or 12th, not 0. I was closer than I thought. Ok, I thought, just make it to the bridge. Once you're at the bridge, you're just about done.

It was right before the bridge at Roosevelt that Kim jumped out. The course was on the north side of the bridge and the south side was closed off. Kim jumped onto the south side of the bridge and ran along with me, just on the other side of the planter dividers.

Through all the cheering from the hundreds of people on the Roosevelt bridge, I could hear Kim saying -
"You look great. You've got this. Use your arms!"

Then I looked to the left and saw my Mom, Dad and my best friend. I thought, how lucky am I to have people I love supporting me?

I looked over to my right and saw just her head over the planters. That's when I started tearing up. How lucky was I to have a friend that was coaching me through the toughest part of the race?

I turned the corner onto Columbus and saw the finish line. I could still hear Kim cheering me on above everyone else. I crossed the finish line. A wave of emotion came over me. I had not felt that way during my first marathon.

I walked through the corrals and saw Kim at the fence. I walked up to her and thanked her. I could not have imagined doing that last leg of the race without her.

Seeing how different the last five were in 2008 and 2009, I wonder what 10.10.10 holds?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Red Light, Green Light

Training can be like driving in traffic.

You catch the green lights for awhile, then you're stuck at a red.

Yesterday I visited my doctor to get her assessment on my (k)ankle.

Me: "I twisted my ankle over the weekend while running."

[show kankle]

Me: "It doesn't hurt to walk on. It just looks bad because it's bruised. I am running the Marathon in 11 days."

[Doctor shoots a crazy look]

Dr: "Sorry, you're not running a marathon." She went on to explain how I could injure it more by continuing to run or cause a longer recovery period later on.


[Surprise, surprise; I start tearing up]

The Doctor did say she'd call to get a second option.

In the meantime, I called my Mom, who's very good at understanding sob talk.

Then I called Kim.

Kim is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to any aspect of running. She suggested I first and foremost listen to my body. I have time to still recover, and there's nothing you can do right or wrong during the taper.

Then, later in the evening, I went to see Erin, my massage therapist. Erin echoed what Kim said.

As I was driving home from the massage, the doctor called. She had spoken to an orthopedic surgeon. Turns out, the OS thinks a marathon can be pulled off while recently recovering from a sprain.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Running for a Reason

Every runner has a reason.

To lose weight. To get in better shape.

Some of us run for bigger reasons than ourselves. We use running to benefit causes we hold close to our hearts.

The above photo is of a building along the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago. Each summer, the building is transformed into the Chicago Marathon mural. One of the people featured on the building this year is William Beiersdorf. William is the founder of Salute, an Illinois-based charity benefiting active military and their families.

William, a Naval reservist, was called to active duty for more than a year the day after 9/11. While serving his country away from home, his family endured severe financial hardships. After completing his duty, William and his wife founded Team Salute to provide financial assistance to military families. William and the organization now operate a running team at the Marathon each year to raise funds and awareness for the cause.

As my brother prepares to head to Afghanistan in early 2011, [his 4th deployment while serving in the US Army, and now as an Army Reservist] I am hard pressed to find a cause that effects my family more. My brother has served in the Army for most of his adult life. I cannot think of a service for which I could be more grateful.

It is for these reasons that I am running as part of Team Salute on 10.10.10.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Big Fall

Everybody falls sometimes.

I do more than others.

I'm constantly running in to stuff. Tripping. I'm a klutz.

But Saturday's 12 mile run turned ugly at mile 11 where, somehow, I fell and twisted my ankle. Luckily no one else was injured in my massive plummet to the ground.

The entire 10:30 pace group stopped to see if I was ok. [Thanks again guys for not leaving me in the dust.]

I got back on my feet, and Sara, Tomas, Carrie and Jen walked with me.

I was so touched that they would stop and walk back with me. When I said something along those lines, the response was 'We're tired and were looking for a reason to walk!'

After running 40+ miles last week, we're all exhausted.

As for the ankle, it's turning in to quite a sight to see of purple and gray bruising.

I'm resting, icing, compressing and soaking in epsom salts.

No running til at least Saturday I've decided.

The good news is, although it's a bit stiff, I've not lost range of motion or am I in pain.

I'm hoping in time the swelling will go down and I'll be back to normal.

In case anyone's counting, the marathon's in 13 days.

Friday, September 24, 2010

You Know You're A Marathoner When...

[taken from a friend's email forward]

Your "easy" runs top the weekly mileage of 95% of the general population.

You eat like a 400 lb. man, and look like you're starving.

You miss a run and you're irritable and pissy all day and evening, as well as the next day.

Your friends gag when they catch a glimpse of your toes.

You roll your eyes when people talk about low carb diets.

"18 weeks" becomes your most important unit of time.

You start debating about Higdon.

You'd rather run a marathon than go on a "real" holiday.

You no longer think people who run marathons are crazy.

After finishing a really tough 26.2-mile run, your first thought is: "Next race, I'm going to...."

You have a pile of shoes in your closet because you feel like you have to have new running shoes every 400 miles.

Any run less than 16 miles feels like an easy workout.

You spend too much time on the Internet reading about other peoples' workouts.

You say you're going out for a short run and come back two hours later.

You think high 40s/low 50s and overcast sounds like perfect weather.

You get up earlier on weekends than you do during the work week.

You shower about 12 times a week.

Every time you see a runner when you're driving you feel like you too should be running, even if you ran 15 miles earlier in the day.

Your favorite shorts, singlet, socks and shoes cost three times as much as the clothes you got married in.

You tell your wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend that you want a marathon entry as a birthday present.

You think 40 miles is an easy week.

When you're driving somewhere and you see a distance to next town sign and automatically calculate how long it would take to run there.

You plan your vacations around your training schedule. A trip to Colorado is an opportunity to get some great hill work in. You could never imagine going on a cruise or a small Caribbean island. Trying to map out a 20 miler would be too hard.

When someone asks you how far you are planning to run, you say "I'm ONLY doing 10 today".

When your non-running friends stop calling you to hang out the night before you do your long runs.

You start planning your training for the next marathon before you finish the one your training for now.

You wear more electronics on a run than are in the dash of your car.

You tell non-runners you ran 5 miles when you really ran 15. Just so you won't have to sit through the "Wow, that's far!" conversation.

You gasp when you see someone running in everyday gym socks.

Your car smells a little sweaty from your running shoes in the back seat.

Your tan line is just above your ankles

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Curbs & Stairs

Post 20-miler, routine movements become difficult.

Meet your new worst enemies:


Suddenly, negotiating these concrete and wood obstacles are a challenge as your entire lower body is, to some degree, sore.

You find yourself planning routes ahead of time that avoid them.

Is there a ramp or an elevator near by?

You know you're sore and entitled to taking it easy while you recover.

Other people see you walking funny and think you're either injured or just plain lazy.

You think about telling people 'I ran twenty miles yesterday.' as an excuse, but you worry that they'll entire think you're gloating or crazy. So instead, you say nothing, and let people assume what they want.

During your much-slower journey to where ever you're going, you see someone else mimicking your moves. You smile or nod at each other. You think, 'Yeah, that guy gets it. He just ran twenty too.'

Ready to Run

Today marked the longest training run I'll do this season.

CARA organizes a great event - The Ready to Run 20 Miler.

The event is not a race, rather an organized training run to simulate the marathon experience. Groups of 50 people who run the same pace are formed for a wave. Many paces have multiple waves.

We started this morning at Foster Avenue Beach, heading north on the lakefront path, right around 7:30am.

We went north til about Bryn Mawr, then headed south.

The lakefront path is 18 miles long, so CARA throws in a few diversions away from the path to make up the difference.

Today I made it to 17 before the distance started to get to me. Getting to 18 was tough. Once I reached the 18 mile marker, I had to tell myself that running another 20 minutes was nothing. What's two miles, right?

The finish line was at the South Shore Cultural Center. Our pace group got together within 312's beer garden and had a few drinks to celebrate a great run.

Now we start to taper for race day!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The infamous mid-week 10 miler

This morning I headed down to the boardwalk to run along the Bay.

I headed north yesterday, so I headed south today.

The boardwalk went from sidewalk to a wider sidewalk to asphalt to a bike trail to...Sea World.

Somehow, without realizing where I was running to, I ended up in front of the entrance to Sea World.

I figured this run would be a journey being it is the longest run I'll be doing on my own, but I didn't think I'd end up at Sea World.

I've had better runs, but the weather was beautiful as San Diego so often is.

I was able to explore a bit and didn't get lost.

I think we'll call it a success.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Vacation Planning and Training

Tomorrow I'll travel to San Diego through Thursday.

Kim asked the details of my trip over lunch today.

As I began to explain my flight times and dates, she smiled and said, 'Oh, so you'll do your long run tomorrow morning in Chicago and then fly out. Do your weekday runs there, then fly back in time to rest before the 20 miler.'

Yes. Everything she had said was correct. Without realizing it, I had meticulously planned how I'd get training in while traveling.

The other two people at the table thought we were crazy.

It came to no surprise to Kim, she has done the same sort of planning while training for marathons over the years. We discussed terrain in San Diego. Ten miles could be rough through the hills, but the weather will be mild.

I used to worry about getting runs in when I traveled, even if I was just driving out to the burbs for the weekend. Now, it seems almost second nature to fit it in whenever I can.

Did I mention I have two issues of Runner's World packed in my carry-on?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Running in the Dark

I used to be an evening runner.

Then I became a lunchtime runner.

Now, this year, a morning runner.

Tonight, I went back to my roots - a 9 miler starting at 6:30 P.M.

I started late because I wanted to run with some fellow 10:30's in CARA's training group. CARA holds midweek runs on Wednesdays during Marathon Training at Montrose.

Tonight is the first time in three years I went.

I was spoiled in 2008 and 2009 - I was able to talk my friend and former co-worker Katie in to running with me. Katie was training for the Chicago Half (held in September) both years, so it was easy to talk her in to doing some mileage with me.

It also helped that our offices were right next to each other.

It also helped that she was easy to convince.

We might talk about running earlier in the day, but around 4 P.M, we'd certainly talk specifics.

Sometimes we'd start out doing just 5, then we'd turn it in to 7.

Sometimes we ran in flash floods, accompanied by tornado sirens.

Sometimes we'd be chased by Canadian Geese or attacked by nats.

Last week, I didn't get up at 5 A.M. to finish 9 miles before work. I went after work, by myself. I found myself thinking of some very strange things trying to keep my mind busy for an hour and a half. The underlying theme though was that running 9 miles alone sucks.

Which brings me to tonight. For the first time in three years training with CARA, I showed up to the mid-week run. I was happy to see some familiar faces there. The run went well. Right around North Avenue, the street lights started to come on. We were not to our turn around point yet and we'd be running home in the dark.

But somehow, even in low light, it was great. The pacing was outstanding (thank you Kim and Carl) and 9 felt great instead of a slow form of torture.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

36 Mile Week

A 36 mile week consists of -

4 Tuesday Morning
9 after work on Wednesday
5 at lunch on Thursday
18 on Saturday

A 36 mile week feels like a truck ran over you.

A 36 mile week is not scared of calories, so you eat like a beast.

A 36 mile week requires multiple packets of Gu, including Roctane for the 18 miler.

A 36 mile week puts you to bed before 10.

A 36 mile week takes your social time and converts it all to prep, recovery, or actual running time.

A 36 mile week laughs at the sight of heels.

A 36 mile week is good friends with your foam roller.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Lake Michigan: Chicago's Best Ice Bath

Last week after the 16 miler, we hydrated and stretched. Then a small group of us headed to the Lake, removed our shoes and walked in. I was the first one in, and Tomas snapped a photo of me wading towards deeper waters.

Ice baths are a common practice for runners to recover faster from a tough run by reducing muscle pain and soreness. But who wants to fill a bathtub with ice and get in? Lake Michigan seems like a more practical solution, and couldn't be more conveniently located to our training site.

After a ten minute soak, I headed home for breakfast: Captain Crunch French Toast. Then a nap.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Eating Machine


Who needs them when you're running 25+ miles a week.

Unfortunately, most of us don't have many 25+ weeks on the calendar, but while we do, we live it up.

Jen, a running friend of mine, posted she had a Molly's cupcake and gelatto for dinner one night. That's the beauty of this stage of training.

Last night I had half a package of Double Stuf Oreos with milk. They were delicious.

I have no idea how many cookies are in a package, but I know double stufs are calorie-rich individually. Yum!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jar of Fuel

Some people have a bowl of fruit on their counter.

Or a container of cookies.

Not me.

I have a jar of fuel in gummy and gel forms.

Clif Shots, Shot Blocs, Gu, Roctane, Hammer Gels

They come in a variety of flavors - coffee, mocha, mint chocolate, tri-berry, raspberry...the list goes on. I'm partial to the blueberry pomegranate and vanilla orange flavors right now.

I could tell you they are delicious as perfectly-rippened fruit or warm cookies, but they are not.

Gu serves a purpose - it is an energy food designed to be quickly and easily digestible so it can be eaten during endurance events. A person may take one to two Gu's an before their workout and one to two each hour during their workout.

That adds up to a lot of Gu.

Monday, August 09, 2010

9 Down. 9 To Go.

Last Saturday. Early Morning. Montrose Harbor.

Announcements are made.

'What week are we in?' is asked.

'Nine' is shouted.

Which means, we are halfway through the training program.

Training's flying by this year.

I can't believe I'm running 26.2 in nine weeks....

And, for the 'Shout Out' record, Kim, saw you first this week. First time in three years, I know, I know...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

You Think You're Hardcore Until You Meet an Ironman

Marathoners. They seem normal to me now. My life's surrounded by them.

Triathletes. I'm impressed with the entire process - the wet suits, tri bikes, transition logistics...

IRONMEN. Really? Regular people can complete Ironman distances (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile ride, then a 26.2 mile run)? Now I'm amazed.

It makes marathon training look easy.

To put it in to perspective, a marathon accounts for only 1/3 of a Ironman, so I suppose we could say training for a marathon is only 33% (or maybe less) of that of an Ironman.

I met Jim over four years ago. He is my best friend's fiance. He wasn't an Ironman then, but he had it on his mind.

He completed Ironman Louisville in 2008 and is preparing to do the same race again this year. I can speak of the training process only through what I see and hear from him.

It involves very long bike rides, hours in the pool, lots of running, serious eating and sleeping.

Last week he drove up to get some open water swim time in at Ohio Street Beach.

I'm too scared to get in there and try. He swam a few miles in it.

After he finished, I met him to presumably hand back his bag so he could head home. I was incorrect. He grabbed just his hat and running shoes and asked me where he could pick up the lakefront path. He had a quick 8 miler to knock out.

Jim can eat with the best of them. He holds a record for most shrimp ate at one Red Lobster location due to a bet with co-workers to which, he won. The bet involved the losers buying the winner's meal. Jim was so confident he'd win, he didn't bring any money with him.

I know people that love sleep, but Jim's a professional. A recent rehab of their bedroom includes a top-line memory foam bed, high thread count sheets, and black out curtains.

In late August, Jim will go down to Louisville to better his 2008 finishing time. His sister Jen will go with him, competing in her first Ironman.

I wish them the best of luck.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Date with a Foam Roller

This is a foam roller.

To the naked eye, it is a simple piece of equipment used for stretching. The foam roller is actually a torture device. Manufacturers of foam rollers will try to convince you with their advertising that foam rolling is fun.

See exhibit A:

No one, in the history of humans using the foam roller, has ever smiled when doing so.

Why you ask? Because the foam roller elicits pain. Pain that you were not aware you had until you rolled on it. Sometimes the pain makes you sweat from places you didn't know you could and say four letter words your Mom wouldn't be happy to hear you say.

After the 13 miler Saturday, I did not foam roll. I should have when I felt good. Instead, I've been foam rolling every night this week. My IT band is sore again.

I may be able to one-up the weather, but no one will ever one-up a foam roller.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Late Start to a 13 mile Group Run

Thunderstorms and Saturday mornings seem to go hand in hand the last few weekends.

Hence, Saturday morning at a quarter to six, I'm standing in my kitchen eating breakfast and getting text updates to if the group will go out. There is lightening, which is what would cause CARA to cancel the run.

After some back and forth with Larry and Tomas, I find out that the 6am group would be delayed til 6:30. Then, we assumed, the 6:30 group would go out later as well.

I drive down to Montrose and get out of my car at 6:43. I see NO ONE. I talk with a CARA volunteer setting up gatorade and she tells me everyone left at 6:30am.

Which means...I may be running 13 miles...ALONE.

I do some quick math and make decisions as to how I'll try to catch my group. I'll pick up my pace to 9:45 or so and I'll use the water bottles in my fuel belt instead of stopping at the aide stations.

The weather was overcast and cool which made the run rather easy. No music and running alone is rather boring. I found myself recalling ABBA songs in my head and thinking of what I needed from the grocery store.

I told myself if I could catch up to the group south of Ohio Street, I wouldn't worry about the last mile and could come back with them. If the group passed me north of Ohio, I would have to do the entire run on my own.

I was lucky. I ran in to my group right in front of Navy Pier. Classic.

The run back was great. The miles flew by.

Sometimes you have to do a bit of 'speed' training in order to catch your group, but it's always worth it. Especially when you're wrapping up a 12.25 mile run at 9:30am instead of starting a 13 mile by yourself at that time.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Forecast of Saturday at 6am: 87 degrees with a 40% chance of thunderstorms

This past Saturday didn't start out to be a picture-perfect running day.

It was absolutely pouring when I left my place at 6am. I was soaked walking out of my building and getting in to my car (distance is about 20 feet). But I was determined to run with the training group that morning.

Lake Michigan had relocated itself onto Lake Shore Drive, which made the drive south a challenge instead of a delight. The underpasses were flooded. I still found my way to our meeting place.

I pulled next to Kim's Rabbit. She wasn't in it, but I had a text from her, saying something along the lines of 'Run canceled. Go get back in bed.'

I called her to find she was in Larry's car a few spaces down. We waited for another half hour to see if we'd get the all clear to start the group run a bit later. In the end, CARA canceled the training run - but we didn't.

Kim suggested we dry out and regroup at Carbio. John joined us there. The four of us sat, talking about running and many other things, until 7:30, when it appeared that the weather was passing.

That's when we made the decision - we would still do the 12 miler. Even if the Fleet Feet aid stations were down. Even if we were the only ones out there. We were determined. Our social calendars did not allow for a Sunday morning run (who does that?) or getting up before the sun was up on Monday to get in a nearly three hour run.

So we did it. We were tough. We took the road less traveled. We ran north and then south along the path. We ran around Montrose Harbor and then along the east side of the golf course.

At the North Avenue soccer field, we talked the Gatorade people in to sharing their supply with us. We were very grateful.

In the end, we were done with the 12 mile run before noon, and we had mostly cloudy skies, a nice breeze, and just a hint of sprinkles.

Sounds like a perfect training day to me.

Music is Essential

Music is Essential.

Not just in running, but in life.

I happen to listen to upbeat, fast-paced music with a strong base line. It's great to work out to.

I listen to music during the week when I run by myself. On Saturdays the iPod stays at home.

Week 8 of training calls for two three mile runs and one six mile - that's roughly two hours of running, just during the week.

I need a good playlist, and it needs to be updated often.

No more than a few weeks goes by before I'm downloading some new stuff.

I listen to an internet radio station at work. I'll write down song names and DJs I like, then go home and try to find them on iTunes.

Although running may be an inexpensive sport, iTunes gets me every month for new downloads.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Run. Rest. Eat. Repeat.

Welcome to week 7 of training.

The first few weeks are a cakewalk. Now training's stepping it up a notch on us.

Six miles was the long run the first week. In week seven, six miles is the mid-week run.

It's about this point in the training where I notice training's starting to take over my life. Having a few drinks on a Friday night's no big deal when you're doing 5 or 6 miles in the morning...12 miles is another story.

I start to pay closer attention to getting a a good night's sleep on Friday night. Even during the week for that matter - I've been getting up at 5:30am on Wednesdays to get the mid-week longer run over with in the morning!

If you're running and sleeping more, you mind as well eat more too, right? Now we get into the enjoyable part of training. Eating.

At this point, with a few exceptions, I'm eating all the 'healthy' food I want. I'm not worrying about carbs or calories. If I have a taste for it, I have it. Granted, I'm not stopping for ice cream or going through a drive thru all too often...yet.

There will come a point in training (about a month from now) where I'll really go all out and have things I'd normally never eat - like a Big Mac.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hot Summer Days

It's July 20th - the heat of summer - and man, has it been hot.

I checked the weather on Sunday and was excited to see that we were going to avoid 90+ this week. Apparently is not as a reliable source as Tom Skilling. Skilling told me on Monday that in fact it will be in the 90's this week. Once again.

My body doesn't like the 90's much, especially not for exercising. Lunchtime workouts are out of the question. Even after work is too hot. I tried a week of running at 7:30 in the evening, but even then it's humid.

So I did something I've never done before, well, at least not on a weekday - I started working out before work. I know, there are countless people that do this everyday. I could never motivate myself to get out of bed early if I didn't have to. In the last week, the heat has done just that.

I thought about it, and if I get up at 5:30am on Saturdays, why not just do it during the week as well?

So far, I'm enjoying getting out in the morning. There's less people on the lakefront path and driving on the street. It's cooler and quieter.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shout Outs

Saturday mornings start at Montrose Harbor around 6:30. Shortly thereafter, we're heading south on the lakefront path. Inevitably, we run into other training groups along the way - CES, Team in Training, etc. We also run into cyclist and other runners.

The cyclists definitely despise us. We are herds of runners clogging up most of the path every Saturday morning. Every once in awhile, we have a not-so-friendly exchange with one of them, usually after there was a close call. Truthfully, in a bike vs. runner collision, who would be worse off?

When I'm riding I think 'you stupid runners, stay over to the right. If one of you makes a bad move, I'm flying off this bike.' When I'm running I think 'you stupid riders, give us more space. I don't want to be run over by your bike.'

I'm a getting a bit off the subject though -

Every Saturday my group heads south. We almost always pass my friend Kim.

Kim's a marathon veteran. She knows her stuff. Maybe it's with all that wisdom and experience that she's able to pick me out of a crowd every morning when she passes me and I, somehow, remain oblivious. In my defense, the problem is I'm usually talking [imagine that] to someone.

Kim will scream for me, usually multiple times. After she passes, it will finally register - 'Oh no, I just missed her' and I make an attempt to shout back.

She told me Saturday afternoon she's about to give up on the shout outs because I'm so bad at them.

Something to work on this week. It is a recovery week after all.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Running Home From Work

Week four of training. Saturday the group was scheduled to run 9 miles.

Unfortunately, I was going out of town. That's one of the tricky parts about training - life gets in the way. Sometimes it comes in the fashion of staying out too late on a Friday night when I'm up at 5:30 on Saturday. Or its that weekend plans are to not be in Chicago.

I am presented with two options.

Option A: I run 9 miles in my weekend location, which I've done before in San Diego, Ft. Myers, Miami, Indy...or

Option B: I complete my long run before vacation. Ah ha!

But when will I have time to do 9 miles?

In comes the 'need' to run home from work - and it's about 9 miles to my place.

So Thursday, I leave work around 3:30 and head north on the lakefront path. As luck would have it, the lakefront path will end before I'm done running, but it's nothing short of a beautiful commute home.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Metlife Duathlon

2010 is the year of 3rd's, including the third year I've done the MetLife 'Race Around the World' Duathlon in Tinley Park.

The race consists of a 2 mile run, 11 mile bike, and finishing leg of another 2 mile run.

The race is conveniently held the same weekend the Marathon training group does a (small) 5 mile run, so I tend to take a pass on Saturday morning's run and get ready for race day on Sunday.

Jim's parents, Tricia and my parents come to watch this race. It's great to have their support.

I go through a cycle of emotions with this race - excitement, fear. Although I've placed in the top ten of my age division the last two years, I'll still think of the short running distances and worry that I can't compete with my slower run times.

But, the key to the duathlon is the bike. Somehow I forget that.

Jim's been competing in this race for a number of years, including taking home 1st in his age division the last few years. He's the one that talked me in to signing up for the race shortly after he'd talked me in to the road bike.

Jim's all about getting to the race early. Like, three hours early. The bike racks are set up around 5:00 and sometimes he's the first one there. Getting a prime position on the bike rack (preferably an end) is ideal. For the most part, I've followed suit in getting there early(er) as well. Once you've set up your bike, you can watch as others come with their bikes and size up the competition.

In general, my thought process is something like this:
The more expensive the bike the more likely I'll be beat.
A roadbike in general = direct competition
Mountain bike? I'll be passing you soon enough.

Then the race starts - It's done in waves - Men under 40, then over. Women under 40, then over, then teams. Each with a two to three minute gap in between.

I'd say I tend to be towards the end-of-the-middle part of the pack, maintaining around a 9:15-9:30 mile.

Coming in to the transition, I can't wait to get on the bike. I tend to ride hard from the get go. I pass many on the 11 mile ride. I pass by some of the younger guys who had a 4 to 6 minute start on me. I tell myself the better lead I can get on the bike, the better off I'll be when I get off of it.

By the time I'm out of the second transition, Jim's already finished with the race - and I have a two mile run ahead of me. It takes a few minutes to get your land legs back from the bike. At this point in the race you just have to push though.

This year had was hot at the start. People were breathing hard coming up on the first mile. Coming back in to transition, I was concerned about the heat myself. I figured getting some wind on my face would help. Shortly after jumping on the bike, clouds moved in and the wind picked up. Toward the end of the ride, it looked as if the skies were going to open up any minute. I was riding harder thinking of how bad it would be to be stuck on the bike in a downpour. Luckily, I made it in to T2 and was out running for a few minutes before the storm moved in. The last mile was a complete downpour.

2008 and 2009's finishing time were within :30 of each other, right around 1:17. This year, with the crazy weather as my excuse, I came in a little more than a minute behind at 1:18:54. [13th in my age division]

Friday, June 18, 2010

Week 2 of Training

This week was another easy one.

Three runs of 3 miles each during the week, followed by a 7 miler on Saturday.

I don't know if I can thank the Nike LunarLites or the lower number on the scale, but, my pace has picked up.

My shins and calves are a bit sore, but hopefully rest and 'The Stick' will help.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bike to Work Week

I'll admit it, I'm a fair weather rider.

You won't see me out there in the cold or riding down Milwaukee.

In terms of riding my bike to work, I have it made. I ride straight south - around 9 miles - to work.

I spend the first mile going through Loyola University's campus and a brief venture down a side street parallel to Sheridan. Then I hit the beginning/end of the lakefront path. The next 8 miles is smooth sailing [well, all dependent on the wind].

I was on ride this morning approaching Fullerton when I saw people along the path cheering for me, thanking me for riding my bike to work. There was a pit stop at Fullerton, complete with coffee and Clif Bars. Apparently it's Ride Your Bike to Work week, and some people are quite excited about it.

It IS pretty cool to ride your bike to work.

Especially when you get to pick off guys on mountain bikes along the way. That never gets old.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Schedule

Training's all about the schedule. It's the road map to race day success.

It's a bit overwhelming, but at the same time I find comfort in knowing all I need to do is follow the schedule. There are identifiable stages to the schedule -

The first month or so is no problem. I can run the weekday runs at lunch and still have a bit of a life after work.

In the second month, we start getting into double digit long runs. Post-run breakfast becomes necessary, followed by a nap.

By mid-August I'm doing 5-7 miles during the week. A little too much for lunchtime, so they shift to the evening. Once we're up to 25-30 miles a week, I allow myself to eat whatever I want. Now here comes the fun part of training! This is around the time training takes over my life.

The infamous 20 miler takes place in mid-September. This is the furthest we'll run before the race. After the 20 miler, tapering begins. We run less and rest more.

Finally, in early October, we're ready to go.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

CARA Marathon Training Program


I'm dressed in my running gear and eating oatmeal. It must be training season again.

Today marks the first official 'long run' of marathon training. By 6am, I'm in my car and heading down Montrose Harbor to meet up with my 10:30 pace group friends.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the city isn't going to make all the parking along the lake metered/paybox - it might be wishful thinking.

CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association) has a huge program. There's locations in a handful of suburbs on top of the three that are in the City itself. My location is the largest. I'd venture to say there's 250-300 people in the 6:30am group. There's a 6am group as well. I've never seen them though. 6am's a little too crazy for me.

I've trained with CARA the last two years. I've made some friends in my pace group. Some of them are now the pace leaders. I'm looking forward to spending hours upon hours with them every Saturday morning til October.

The meeting area has signs with the paces - ranging from a 6:30-7 minute pace down to a 12 minute pace. A guy with a megaphone gives us all a rundown on the latest news and then calls up each pace group. Some of the faster times have beginner, intermediate and advanced levels within them.

The 10:30s are one of the last groups to leave. By 7am, we're always off and running.

Lance Armstrong is a bad ass

Lance Armstrong is such a bad ass. I'm loving the Radio Shack commercials where he's riding the trainer, giving his assistant instructions. Talk about multi-tasking!

I read a great Lance book last summer. I'm thinking it's about time to pick another one up, it will be good reading for the bus [since I already finished this month's Runner's World].

A few great Lance quotes -

"This is my body. And I can do whatever I want to it. I can push it. Study it. Tweak it. Listen to it. Everybody wants to know what I'm on. What am I on? I'm on my bike busting my ass six hours a day. What are you "on?"

“If you worried about falling off the bike, you’d never get on.”

"Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever."

"What ever your 100% looks like, give it."

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Week 1 (of 18): Welcome to Marathon Training

In honor of the first week of marathon training, and a gift card burning a hole in my pocket, I visited Fleet Feet last night.

I left spending about double what I thought I would [that's pretty standard], including a pair of Nike Lunar Glides.

I haven't ran in Nike shoes since? Early college?

My shoes are dark gray [cool, they aren't white] and bright, 1992 neon pink soles [hello hypercolor shirt]. I am excited to be able to drop the Nike+ sensor into the sole of the shoe.

I also purchased a pair of Zoot compression socks. Jim swears by them, and I don't think that guy's guided me the wrong way on gear yet. I didn't know you could pay that much for 'socks!'

I'm testing out the shoes this evening. I hope it's a happy marriage.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Relay for Life

This evening I'm participating in Relay for Life an all-night cancer walk in Glenview.

The event consists of teams. The Glenview event has 60. A total of 400 something people. We'll be taking turns walking around the track for 12 hours. It all starts at 6pm.

I've done my share of cancer walks - In 2006, my friend Katie and I did the Susan G. Komen 3-Day. In 2007, we volunteered for the Avon walk.

Relay is walking around a track. It's not about distance or speed, it's about time. One member of the team must be on the track at all times. My team consists of my cousin and a handful of her friends. I'm doubling as a team member and chaperone.

The girls are 13. They plan on staying up all night by drinking caffeine and eating sugar.

I think I'll fore-go a run today in anticipating I'll be doing a lot of walking overnight.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

60 miles to run in 4 weeks

I'd forgotten about the 'goal' function of Nike+ for awhile. Then again, I can't very well be using Nike+ unless I'm running so...Good thing I'm doing that again.

I've set a goal. 60 miles in the next 30 days.

While I was at work today, I glanced at the marathon training schedule last year for the week of the 20 miler.

In that week, last year, I ran over 40 miles.

In a week.

Good thing marathon training's a few months long. I'm going to need all the time I can get this year.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Last swim lesson (for now)

Wednesday was the last class of 'intermediate' swim lessons for the spring session.

I feel like I did relatively well - enough to try to continue the technique on my own for awhile. Maybe I'll go back to lessons in the fall.

There were six people in the intermediate class.

It seems that all of us, at some level, have a triathlon on our minds.

One girl did a triathlon last weekend in Lake Geneva. The swim was 650m.

I asked her how it went, and she said that after the halfway point, she was just trying to survive/stay above water. She talked about getting kicked and how murky the water was.

Ok, let's get this straight -

I'm thinking about signing up for a race, in which, I would get into deep, murky water with other swimmers. We then swim a far distance, kicking and running in to each other along the way.

Sounds frightening.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I met a TREK 1500D

I should have blogged this story back when it happened (April 2008). It's too good to not enter it. So here's the story of the day I met my bike.

I set up a 'date' with Jim, my best friend's boyfriend. Jim is an Ironman. He takes his training very seriously.

So when I mentioned I wanted to get a bike and wanted his input, he took over.

I was thinking of getting a hybrid.

Jim said 'If you get a hybrid, you'll want a road bike once all the road bikes are passing you.'

Tricia, Jim and I enter Village Cycle.

Like a sixth sense, Jim gravitated towards the road bikes. Before a salesman could come over to help, Jim said 'Ok, this is the deal. You can get this bike (a red TREK) or this bike (the Discovery Channel Team bike, which is the one I got).'

He then went into an explanation of why, using bike terminology I was unfamiliar with. All the salesman could do was nod his head. Apparently Jim knew his shit.

The salesman measures me. I need a 60 CM frame. I am huge! :)

Jim is amazed and nicknames me the '60 CM wonder.'

The rest of the sale involves Jim pointing to what I should get and the salesman nodding his head. I end up getting clips, bike cleats, a bike computer... the entire deal.

We go to check out and I about lose my breakfast. Jim tells me that I'm going to love it and have no regrets. So I go through with it.

I go back to Village Cycle later that day to pick up the bike with all the stuff put on it. The salesman puts the bike on a trainer and says I can take as long as I want getting familiar with it.

I decide I'm tough and I take the bike out of the store, pack it in my car and drive it home.

Now I'm home and I have the bike shoes on. I'm somehow going to get on this bike, clip myself in and ride.

Before I get out of the alley, I've run into two of my neighbor's cars, but now I'm moving.

I ride incident free down to Foster.

On my way back, I clip out and I'm sitting at the light at Ardmore and Sheridan. I start looking around at the cars passing by and lean too far to my clipped in side and fall over. An old guy driving by in a big Buick stops his car and asks me if I'm ok. Yes, I say, I'm fine.

I start riding again and get up to Kenmore and Devon. This time, I completely forget that I'm clipped in and wipe out at the red light. A Loyola student walking by asks if I'm ok. To which I reply 'Yes, I'm just learning'. I am certain she thought I meant just learning to ride a bike, but it really doesn't matter.

Point being, I now have this really dangerous machine and I'm no good at riding it.

What did Jim get me in to?

Holmes Place boyfriend/coach

I started swimming lessons. That means I have to practice swimming.

I enter the pool area of the gym in mid-February with some serious nerves.

I hadn't even looked at the pool area when I joined the gym - thinking I'd never use it. Now I was going to get in it.

Quick check of the depth - 4'. I'm safe. By 2 feet.

I swim the first session with no winesses.

The second session, on the next Friday, would be different.

The pool is three lanes. In the far lane is a middle aged woman swimming with a snorkel and a few pool noodles. In the center lane is her friend, a middle aged man. He wears oversized goggles but appears to know how to swim. Lane 3 is open, so I get in.

I start in on my very basic technique which barely involves side breathing. I can get about five strokes in before I have to stop and regroup. This goes on for a half hour.

Two weeks later, they are both in the pool again when I get there. By this time, I sort of have side breathing down, but just to my left side.

This time, the man strikes up a conversation with me. First, by asking if I was ever a model. (He certainly could tell I wasn't a swimmer, right?)

So we talk briefly. I tell him I barely know what I'm doing. I know he's watching here and there. He gives no pointers. As he's getting out of the pool he says 'you're getting it. you look a lot better than you did last time!'

And so the story continues, from February into May.

I've seen him a handful of times now and I mind as well make this guy my coach. He's watched me swimming more than anyone else. He seems to have breaststroke down, but I don't know how well his freestyle technique is. I can't say I've watched him much.

Last Friday he was there again. He asks me a again if I'm a model, to which I say no, but now I can sort of swim. He says he can tell I've been 'workin' it' in the pool. He can tell my form has gotten better and I'm bi-lateral breathing now. He gives me words of encouragement and asks what's made me 'get serious' about swimming.

So I tell him the truth - One day I want to do a triathlon.

Maybe it's because he's my sort-of-coach, but he tells me that he thinks I should sign up for one and he'll come watch me.

I think I have many more dates with the pool before that happens.