Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Runner to Runner Wave or Nod

This afternoon I went on a run. It was 44 degrees.

I saw a dozen or so runners along the path. About half of them gave a wave or nodded. I returned the greeting.

Are runners more friendly during the holidays? Or does the seasonably-mild weather bring it out? Hardly anyone waves along the lakefront path in the summer. Maybe that's because we're too busy trying to contend with all the runner and bike traffic, or we're too focused on training or something else.

I started paying attention to the wave last year as I committed to winter training.

If I have it right, I think the logic goes something like this:

As the weather progressively gets colder, fewer runners venture outside. Now that there's less people, we're more likely to greet the ones we see.

Therefore, at a certain degree Fahrenheit you're left with two types of runners - the hard cores and the crazies.

How do you tell the difference between the hard core and a crazy? Two ways - Gear and speed.

The hard core people wave on the premise that we're all out there to get our training in, regardless of the weather. They are thinking motivational thoughts like 'Live Strong' or 'Dig Deep.'

The crazy people wave to acknowledge the basis of their craziness. They occasionally ask themselves, 'Why the hell am I doing this?' and consider visiting their gym's treadmill for their next run.

The wave or nod can be used interchangeably. However, if you are nodded at, you should nod back (and vice versa). If you throw a wave after you've been handed a nod, it's like missing on a high five.

Waving and nodding seems to be more common in the City.

Along the North Shore, the wave is sometimes followed with a 'Good Morning' which can be quite pleasant. Though I usually don't get a reply in. Then I feel bad I didn't verbally greet the friendly runner. Also on the North Shore, drivers will back up if they are in the right of way of the sidewalk to let a runner through. Amazing! But that's another blog post.

On the rare occasion that I come in contact with another runner in the southwest burbs, I think they must be in shock or don't know of the wave. Maybe we should start the trend?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Soldier Field 10

Dear Soldier Field 10,

We need to have a talk.

As you know, we have a sorted history.

In 2007, I'd signed up and trained with your official training program. I made it to 8 of 12 weeks before coming down with my first running injury. I was not able to run that year. It was the only time I missed a race.

The next two years, I was out of town Memorial Day weekend.

In 2010, after working through an injury all winter, I decided, due to our history of course, that you couldn't be my comeback race.

Tricia and I volunteered with Salute and handed out finisher's medals. Though I wasn't running, you still got the upper hand when you possessed my brand new cell phone to land in to a toilet at the stadium.

Now we're nearing the end of 2011. Nearly five years.

So I made a decision. I signed up again. This time, I will run you.

And so will some of my friends. The stars have aligned.

And there's nothing you can do about it.

Red Bull Trail Daze

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Now it's December.

Racing season has officially ended. Well, maybe.

Red Bull Trail Daze was held on December 10th at 10am in Pulaski Woods in Palos.

After learning a few friends had signed up, I decided to as well.

Race morning was chilly. The alley was slippery. I scrapped a light layer of ice off the windshield.

Then I headed to Palos, where it wasn't getting any warmer.

On the drive down, I thought about the race format. All runners would start as one group and run the first quarter or so mile together. Then each runner would have to choose a trail - easy, medium or hard. The easy trail would be a longer distance. The hard trail, the shortest. The goal was that you'd finish around the same time regardless of what path you chose.

Since this was my first attempt at a trail run, and, because I am so prone to falling on flat pavement, I'd choose the easy trail, of course. Then again, if I wanted easy, I could have just done a quick run from my place and I'd be home and out of the cold already. So maybe I'll do medium.

I went back and forth between the two until arriving at the start line with Kim, Jen and Sara. After some discussion, Sara and Jen planned on doing the medium. Kim, who ran Trail Daze last year, was going to go for the gold.

We were all bundled up in layers of running gear. I was never happier than I bought a pair of fleece lined running tights at Universal Sole a few weeks ago! As the race started, it quickly became hard to recognize runners, and I lost Jen and Sara. Kim was right in front of me. As we approached the split in the path, I decided to go with Kim.

After a short stretch of what I thought was somewhat challenging terrain, we met the real trail. The trail was narrow, pitched, slick, full of tree roots, down branches and trees. If that wasn't enough, some loose rocks and hills were added in to the mix.

The question now wasn't if I was going to fall, it was when. And after I fell the first time, which I was bound to do, would I fall again?

Kim was a good lead as we trekked through with a small steady group. Then we hit oncoming traffic. Our path was a partial out and back. We gave way to the faster runners and tried our best to keep our footing.

Just as we were wondering where the turn around was, we saw a very steep hill. We were to climb the hill and then come straight down it. On the way up, we looked for steady footing. At the top, we feared falling down before we had a chance to brace ourselves. On the way down, we grabbed for branches and tree trunks to slow down. Somehow we made it. It was one of a few truly challenging areas of the path.

Not to discount the trail's overall rating of hard. By the end of the 4 mile trail, I felt as if I'd gone twice as far due to the terrain. I was also mentally worn out from all the decision making that went with the run to keep the best forward momentum.

First Trail Daze = success
Number of falls = 2
Injuries = One bruised shin
Post run breakfast = french toast

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Drink 3 _____, Get a PR

There's a strange phenomenon in the air.

It goes something like this:

Drink three alcoholic drinks.
Get less sleep than you normally would.
Run a PR the next morning.

It all started by accident. It was the day before the Fort 2 Base Run. I had babysat my godson during the day.  Afterwards, his parents and I went out to lunch at their favorite Mexican restaurant. As with any great Mexican restaurant, there were margaritas.

That evening, I went to bed later than planned. I'd be up at 4am to pick up friends and then head to Great Lakes Naval Station for the race.

I remember thinking on the car ride there - What am I thinking running this race? I'm on five hours of sleep and had drinks yesterday. The outcome of the race, as I'd blogged about back in September, was great.

In that 12.5 mile race, I had beat my PR for an 8K and 10K distances and set a PR for a 12.5 mile. Then again, that's an unusual distance as it was in Nautical Miles. I had held a 9:39 pace.

Without much thought, I found myself in the same situation, the night before the Hot Chocolate 15K. I babysat my godson and had a few drinks with his parents when they got home, then went to bed later than planned.

Hot Chocolate 2011 was a PR. 9:41 pace.

Now I'm noticing a pattern. At brunch, I mention this to Brian and Sara. Brian, who'd also set a PR that day, had a few drinks the night before as well. Sara agreed we may be on to something.

Brian and I were now part of the test group of the experiment. We'd need to run another race to gather more data, of course.

The next weekend was The Chicago Perfect 10 Miler. Again using the tried and true three drinks. Another PR. 9:40 pace.

The following weekend was the beginning of turkey trot season. Brian and I checked in with each other the night before - not to figure out race logistics, but to make sure we were both having drinks.

The next day we completed the lincolnwood turkey trot 10k. A PR for us both. 9:13 pace.

Now two and a half weeks later, Brian and Sara have continued with the study. Last weekend, Sara set a half marathon PR in New Mexico and Brian in Vegas. Congrats guys!

Fluke? I think not.