October 15, 2010

Chicago Marathon race report

So as most of you now know, this was an interesting race for me.  I was in really really good shape and ripping off the fastest training runs and workouts I've done since college.  As I enjoy doing late summer, early fall marathons, I signed up for Chicago with the intentions  of seeing how fast my PR could get down to on a pancake flat course.  As alluded to in the previous posts, my PR at this distance was a 2:53 from Boston a few years back and I was excited to see how far I could drop it.  Sunday would not be the day to do so...
I arrived in Chicago with high hopes and fully tapered for 2 weeks.  Life stresses aside, I was focused and had given up caffeine and alcohol for over 3 weeks now and wanted to see how that would affect my performance.  Spoiler alert...I'm never doing that again.  The expo was fun (the pic above is of a giant wall they had at the expo with everyone's names listed on it) and the fact that the Kona Ironman World Championships were streaming live in our hotel room via laptop, helped to keep me off of my feet and otherwise occupied for Saturday.

The weather forecast kept creeping up and up for Chicago in the days leading up to the marathon and even though the race started at 7:30am CST, I was planning on it being a reasonable temperature and maybe chilly.  So, I purchased a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt from a Goodwill store on the way to the Buffalo airport and had an extra pair of arm warmers on that were too small for me and good to wear and throw away.  I walked out of the hotel on race morning with a coffee, bagel and water bottle to get to the race start and instantly, I was warm.  That should've been a good indication of what was to come.  I walked about 2 blocks and ditched the pants and sweatshirt in a dumpster.  Not a good idea to have those on today. I made my way to my corral race morning and saw Tim Dwyer before the race and we chatted a bit.  I took off my arm warmers before the race even started too.  But being in corral A, right behind the elites has it's perks as we got to see them all warming up and heading to the start line.  But after the national anthem and some intros the race was on. 
It took me a whole 3 seconds to cross the starting line, which was pretty cool seeing as how there were 45k runners in the race and there were craploads of people out cheering for us all.  It was kind of intense, and I was trying to get amped up for it, but I checked my HR monitor a few minutes before the gun went off and it read 68.  I honestly don't know if I was excited to race.  I was nervous, just not sure I wanted to get out there and suffer.  I knew the paces that I wanted to hit to have a PR day and I was planning on ripping thru the half in about 1:22-1:23 (6:15-6:19/mile pace) I saw Kim and her friend Megan at mile 3 and was already looking for them when I passed by (not a good sign) I felt okay, just the pace was fast and I don't know if I was ready for it that particular day.  At 3 miles I was about 30 seconds ahead of where I needed to be for my predicted 6:15pace.  Not that big of a deal, but I'll get into why that matters later. 
At mile 5 you head thru a park type place with a few turns and I was chatting with some folks around me and I made mention to the guy in the blue singlet and white sunglasses above that I'd just like it to be mile 20 and still be travelling at this same pace (another good indication that this really just wasn't my day).  The pace was high and I hit 5 miles in about 30:45 (still 30 seconds ahead of what I should have been goin, but at least I was being consistent now) I had no idea if I could hold this pace for the entire marathon, I just wanted to get to the half on schedule and maybe that would give me some sort of mental boost?

At around mile 8, I started to get some pain in the forefront of my right foot...I was getting a blister, not cool.  By the time I had gotten to mile 12, it had burst and it was painful every footfall.  I was coping and trying to block the pain and just keep it moving.  I saw Kim and Megan again at about mile 13 and struggled out a smile (later Kim would tell me that I looked like absolute shit) and I slogged thru the halfway mark in about 1:22:4X so I was at least right on pace.  (I had lost that 30 second buffer though) At this point, I don't know what happened to me, I suddenly got really hot (so much so that I took off my hat) and couldn't get my heart rate down to normal.  It was seriously thru thr roof and I felt like I was exerting WAY more than I should have been for this point in the race.  My 1:22 half marathon that I had just run felt similar to the 1:17:10 I ran in Buffalo earlier this year, only I had another half to go!
I'm not proud of this, but I did what I had to at this point in the race.  Legs were burning and I was watching my race fall apart.  I got to the next aid station and I grabbed water and gatorade and started briskly walking thru it. For the remainder of the race, between miles 13 and 20, I walked a total of 3 times for about 30-45 seconds a piece, just to clear the HR and get it down to a reasonable number.  This made me slump into a pretty bad patch thru this section.  We ran thru a neighborhood that looked very similar to the brownstones of NYC and then we went thru Chinatown and I just wasn't excited about any of it.  At least in the NYC marathon, I was stoked to be heading thru areas and burroughs that I had never been to. For Chicago, I was struggling and uninspired.  (I know this sounds like a lot of excuses, but it was freaking hot out)
I was drinking and eating enough (ate 3 gels and numerous cups of gatorade during the marathon) so I know nutrition wasn't off, I think the heat just got to me that day.  I had put so many self imposed expectations on myself that I tend to crumble under those stressors (anyone reading remember me swimming my senior year in HS and the 20 year old backstroke school record that I missed by 0.03 seconds?...'nuff said!)  So, miles 13-20 were rough, but I was done walking and definitely NOT giving up.  I hit the 20 mark in God knows what time, but in calculating in my head, I thought I might be able to sneak under 3 hours if I just keep on running and moving and NOT walking.   
I slently made a vow to NOT walk the last 10k (6.2 miles) and luckily, I kept that promise to myself.  I was tempted every aid station to hoof it thru, but I kept on slugging along.  I hit the 23 mile mark and started to come around.  It was still a long way to the finish, but I knew I could keep running.  At mile 25 you round a corner and see the finish line in the FAR distance.  It never seemed like it would come.  Finally I hit thru mile 26 at around that 3hr mark and it took me 7:25 to run the last mile.  Mile 26 comes at a little hill and I looked over to see Kim and Megan in the crowd to the left and I just kinda shrugged my shoulders at them.  I didn't really know what else to do but finish it up and call it a day. 

Hitting the line, it just felt good to stop.  I was trashed and drank copious amounts of liquid post race as I waited to find Brian and Liz (they must've walked by me or I left before they got in) I grabbed a Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat ale and a weird thing happened, my left shoulder siezed up....I'm talking, couldn't swing it without feeling like a knife was slicing thru it.  It was so strange, but I didn't want to tell anyone about it for fear that they might take me to a hospital again (flashback - IMLP 2009) so I just had the massage team work on it and it loosened up.  I just think I wrenched something over swinging my arms to get my legs moving during the race (my legs did not react...)
My total time was a 3:02:43 and everyone I spoke with said their times were about 15-20 minutes slower than anticipated due to the temps being in the mid 80's at 10:30am when we finished.  Sunday just wasn't the day to go after a PR, simple as that.  I'm not salty with my time, I know it was a valiant effort for so hot of a day, I just know I was in shape to run a best time.  I know I can do better.  It's kind of like the feeling I have after IMLP 2009 when I crashed.  I had worked REALLY hard that year and now for the second time, I still have nothing to show from it. I know I can run faster than 2:53 and can rip off a faster IM than a 10:27...I just have to go ahead and get it done.  I know there are a lot of cheesy photos in this post, but if you want to view the entire album of suffering, they can be found here.
We toured the Goose Island Brewery in Lincoln Park after the race before heading to the airport and I HIGHLY recommend this to anyone heading to Chicago.  It was gourmet food in a bar setting with beers that tasted so complex and different that I was genuinely surprised and pleased.  I guess that started off my rest period for me to get re-charged and taking at a MINIMUM of 2 weeks off will be much needed. I need to rekindle my fire and get myself amped up for bigger fish to fry next year.  I've got some new toys coming in and stuff to announce in the near future, so check back often. But until then, train and rest hard my friends.  Recover well, cheers.

October 1, 2010

Chicago Marathon goals

So with the big running race of my season being about a solid week away and things being pretty jittery around here, I just thought I would drop a blog entry down about the specific goals that I have for the upcoming Chicago Marathon
Normally I throw a bunch of little smaller goals with increasing difficulty down here just as a motivator to myself and to let folks know what I think I might be able to do. I haven’t truly flat out raced a stand alone marathon since 2008 and there were some hiccups there as well. (well the last marathon I ran was NYC marathon in 2009, but I was coming back from the crash and was only on like 8 weeks of run training at that point.) The last marathon that I truly raced my heart out was my PR, Boston back in 2008.

So I have been doing some massive training and done some things a little different this marathon than I have for others. I was out on the last little track workout last night and realized it might not be enough (or it just might be “Taper City Blues” right now…but we’ll see) I’ve given up caffeine and that’s been a real difficulty for me. For some reason, even though I enjoy my coffee regularly, it’s been really hard to give up. I’ve never COMPLETELY given up caffeine for a race, just kind of cut back. Last week I had 2 half cups of coffee at the office and a Mountain Dew (my Achilles heel) on lunch. This week – NADA. I’m still finding that I’m dropping the ball mentally on a few things, like sending emails without attachments, but I know that the benefits of going chemical free for this race will be good. The other day at my office, I brewed coffee for everyone just to get the smell in my nostrils. (I swear I felt like a crack addict) I only have about a cup or two a day, but it was enough to make it hard to kick the habit. I won’t keep it up after the marathon I’m sure, but I just wanted to see what racing like this would do.
But anyway, past the ridiculousness of me, I wanted to get some solid goals down on paper (well, kinda…) for this race. The number one thing I want to do is really leave it all out on the course. I mean completely be spent by the time I get to the finish line and know that I couldn’t have run faster. I have the tendency to “front run” in local races and take it out way too hard, but this one I’m going to try and negative split. But we’ll see. My previous PR for a marathon is a 2:53 that I ran in Boston in 2008 and I’d like to drop 10 minutes off of that. At least get under 2:50. And I think I have the fitness to as well. I ran the Buffalo Half Marathon in 1:17:10 earlier this year and if you double that, add a few minutes for fatigue, you might be around that sub 2:45 mark. But only time will tell, so as it stands, here are my goals:

1. Run a SOLID HARD and well run race

2. PR in the marathon distance (sub 2:53)

3. Beat Diane Matthews PR (my buddy Brian’s sister who ran a 2:48:10 at Chicago)

4. Run a sub 2:45 marathon

I earlier thought that I might be able to swing a LOW 2:4X marathon and possibly dip under the 2:40 barrier, but I think I would have needed to do more than just Yasso 800’s for speed work. I’ve done some solid 20-22 milers at sub 6:40/mile pace, so let’s hope that the training I’ve done leads me to the marathon that I know I’m capable of.

My plan is to run the first half in about 1:22-1:23 and that works out to 6:15/mile-6:19/mile split thru the half. I’d love to negative split that as the Buffalo Half I averaged 5:53’s for the half marathon, so adding 20 seconds per mile should be a cake walk. (but we’ll see)

Now the only thing left to do is put my feet up and relax and know that the work is all done, I just have to let the taper kick in and do my thing on race day. I’ve been getting serious sleep lately and averaging about 9-9.5 hours a night, which I know can only help repair my body (I wonder if it is from the caffeine deprivation?) :o) But yes, bib #’s are up and I’ve snagged the ultra low #963 (I know, under 1,000 for a marathon that boasts 45,000 participants!!!!) if anyone cares and I’ll be touching down in the Windy City on Friday and heading right to the expo.

So the work is done for me, is it done for you? I’m getting off of my feet and relaxing and letting taper town kick in, but I’ll see you out on the roads and until then, taper hard friends. Cheers.