This is my life. Sometimes shown through the eye of my camera phone, and sometimes not. I'll talk running, gadgets, music, and whatever else I stumble on to

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Goodbye Long Runs... for now

Lindsay running in Chicago 2008

This is Lindsay. She's a running rock star.

She also hates my guts. Well, at least she did for the second half of our 13 mile run this past Saturday :0)

This was her first training run in Chicago, and it was my last long run before the Chicago marathon in two weeks. It turned out to be a beautiful day, but since we got a late start, the heat of the sun started to take its toll on us. We could have used more of that refreshing lake breeze, too.

So as she started to fade a bit after our turnaround at the 6.5 mile mark, I yelled at her to keep moving! She told me a few times she couldn't continue on, but I wanted nothing of it! Poor Lindsay. I think my brief stint as an assistant cross country coach during high school kind of showed itself.

In the end, we both finished all 13 miles. I thought for a minute I may have ruined our chances of running together ever again, but a high five at the finish as she said, "I couldn't of done it without you," was an encouraging sign :)

I know we all need a bit of encouragement to pull through the really tough miles. As a mostly solo runner myself, I didn't get much of that during my training, so it was nice to help a friend finish strong.

After our run we headed to Millennium Park to check out WiredNextfest:

WiredNextfest Chicago

This is just one example of the crazy contraptions that will be "transforming our world" in the near future. From personal transports, to robotic wonders, it was neat to see the different types of innovations already taking shape.

So that's it. My training is done for the most part. It's mostly just maintenance runs for the next two weeks until Oct. 12.

Here's what's ahead:

Mon: 5 miles
Wed: 5 miles
Thur: Cross train
Sat: 8 miles

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Of phantom pain and early taper madness

I had to stop 5 miles into an 8 mile run yesterday after feeling a "pop" in my left calf muscle. The only way I can describe it would be like snapping a stretched rubber band. I felt it from the knee down to my heel.

I stopped dead in my tracks and stretched it out for a few minutes. I was able to jog the half mile back to my car, and I wasn't limping at all. I quickly massaged the area and it felt like I had a charlie horse in there. It scared the crap out of me.

Later in the evening, I put ice on it and massaged the area for a bit and it felt better. I woke up this morning with a little soreness, but I think it's OK. I'm staying positive about it all.

All of this training is taking its toll, I think, and I'll be glad to be gearing things down come Sunday. I may just take a queue from Alex and get one of these deep tissue massage deals she talks about in her blog, however unpleasant she makes it sound :-)

Speaking of this Saturday, I'll be joined on my 13 mile run on the Chicago lakefront by fellow running-blogger Lindsay, who is training to run the St. Jude Memphis Marathon in Memphis, TN on Dec. 6. I've been following her blog for quite a while now, and am looking forward to finally meeting her in person! She will be coming up from Dekalb, IL. for her first run along Chicago's beautiful lakefront. It will be nice to share the last long run in my marathon training with a friend!

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Follow up on the 20 Mile Monster

I wanted to take a few minutes to look back at my post titled, "Thoughts on conquering my 20 mile monster," just to see how I did.

My run went so well that I wanted to make sure I document everything I did leading up to the run so that I can duplicate it the week leading up to the marathon. I'm sure a little luck was involved on Sunday, or perhaps divine intervention? Whatever it was, lets hope it sticks with me come Oct. 12.

These notes are mostly for my own use, but feel free to read along with me!

On clothing:
No problems whatsoever here. I elected not to bring my iPod so that I can hear what's going on around me. The mental game was what I was afraid of- no music to pull me through the tough parts. A conversation with a friend during the run helped on this one...

On the night before:
I planned a bit more than I should of for Saturday, and was kept pretty busy all day. I did, however, manage to finish early, get my things together, and got a good seven hours of sleep. Sleep is good. Set the alarm for at least three hours before the start.

On nutrition:
Oatmeal-check, bagel-check, banana-check. I took a Cliff Bar with me on the road to nibble on, but I felt pretty full- too full in fact that I had to potty more than once. The REALLY tricky part is making sure I eat at least two hours before so that I don't end up puking it during the run. I also didn't want to be hungry at the start either. Two hours was perfect.

On pacing with the group:
I got to the event a good hour before my start time, but the potty lines were LONG, and I wasted quite a bit of time there. I missed my 9:00 minute mile pace group. Started with the 9:30's. No harm done. Get to the event at least an hour early or more. Find a thicket of bushes instead :-)

On nutrition during the run:
Hydration belt with two bottles Gatorade/water mix, two bottles with all water to take down the Power Gels. Hydrate at each water stop (about 3 miles apart) with Gatorade early until the bottles are empty, walk for 60 seconds at each stop. Power Gels with water every 5 miles, and walk 60 seconds. For later stops, take the Gatorade cup, and a water cup. Drink both. DO NOT drink straight Gatorade (stomach cramps). Four to five gels is plenty.

The two Gatorade/water bottles go in the holders at the front of my belt, the two all-water bottles go behind me. This part is important, people. Trust me on this one.

On preventing the cramps:
Two words- Pretzel Sticks. I bought a bag of these three days before the run and munched on them while increasing my water intake. I'm no scientist on this one, but I think it kept my sodium levels steady. An electrolyte tablet with 16oz. of water one hour before the run also helps. No cramps before, during, or after. This one is super critical and will be the most difficult to master, I think.

Final thoughts:
Rest is important. I can't stress enough how seven to eight hours of sleep in the week leading up to the long run really helps. Three days of rest with some light duty training and a strict stretching regiment is also critical. If I can duplicate what I did here in the week leading up to the marathon, I should be in good shape.

Crossing fingers.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

20 mile run: The sweetest revenge of all

20 mile run 9-21-08

Distance: 20 miles
Where: Nike Ready to Run 20 Miler, Chicago
Time: 03:07:25 new PB (old 03:22:51)

I never thought I'd say this about my 20 mile run, but it seemed almost... effortless.

What more can I say? A near perfect run!

Everything just clicked today. Due to a rather long potty line, I missed running with my pace group by one wave, and settled in with the 9:30 minute group. I stuck with them for about six miles and then felt strong enough to run ahead, staying just over my marathon pace.

I took three rest days to stretch and ice a sore right knee leading up to today, and it made all the difference. Absolutely no pain in the knee, and the cramps that haunted me after mile 16 during my first 20 miler stayed away. As a matter of fact, I didn't cramp at all, and felt amazing when it was all over. Believe me when I say the "runner's high" is real. I was so there, and I think I still am!

I've always made fun of people who are able to chat with each other deep into long runs, until I met Nicky at about mile seven. I ended up pacing with her for the next 13 miles, which made all the difference in keeping my mind off of the overall distance. She's a grad student and a three time marathoner, so there were no shortage of stories to tell. Her and I ended up with personal best times in the end. Finding people to chat with during the run will by part of my strategy for Chicago, as it really does help pass the time.

Overall, I couldn't find anything wrong with this run. Achieving a personal best time over my previous 20 mile run was bitter sweet, and I'm still up in the clouds about it.

My mileage comes down from here on in with three weeks left. Here's what on my plate this week:

Mon: 7 miles
Wed: 8 miles speed work
Thur: 2 miles
Sat: 12 miles

Bring on Chicago!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thoughts on conquering my 20 mile monster

This coming Sunday, I will doing my last 20 mile training run in preparation for the marathon now only 25 days away.

My last 20 mile run went rather well despite experiencing some severe, but short lived, cramping in my calves after mile 17.

I put together a few thoughts on what went well, what didn't, and what I'm going to do different this time around.

On clothing:
For this Sunday, I'm going to wear exactly what I plan on wearing for the marathon- Nike Dri-Fit top, shorts, and socks. All of the Nike branded clothing has worked well for me. The only issue I have to take care of is making sure I wear these. Believe me folks, chafing in this area is NOT FUN.

On the night before:
Get everything else out of the way early. Relax as much as possible. Pasta two hours before bedtime does the trick. Get everything I need together. Go to bed early. Set 2 alarms for 4 a.m.

On nutrition:
Must eat two hours before the 6:44 a.m. start. Oatmeal, banana, half a bagel, vitamin water or O'juice. Then a Clif Bar with water an hour before (optional). If I'm good with this meal on Sunday, it's what I'll eat come Oct. 12.

On Pacing with the group:
I will be in the 9 minute-per-mile pace group. This means I should finish the marathon in 4 hours. I hope to keep this up for the entire 20 as its the pace I feel most comfortable in.

On nutrition during the run:
Not much change here. Drink Gatorade/water mix every 3 miles. Take a PowerGel with water every 6 miles. There will be food available (probably banana's) after mile 19 in the marathon. I may need it.

On preventing the cramps:
Because my last 20 mile run landed on one of the warmer days of the year, I got nervous about making sure I hydrated myself with water in the days leading up to the run. I think this lowered my electrolyte levels (sodium, etc.) enough leading up to my run that I ran out after 16 miles. I'll have to find the right balance of fluids and electrolytes this time around. This will be tricky!!

Final thoughts:

This long distance running stuff is serious business. The tiniest thing can make or break a long run- a leaky hydration bottle, a pebble in your shoe, a shoelace that's too tight or too loose... I have to prepare for everything, and make the best of what can go wrong.

Whatever lessons I learn this time around are going to be tested at the marathon.

There will be no turning back, and no do-overs.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Iron Foot

I had a clothes iron fall on my right foot today.

Thankfully, it wasn't hot, and didn't take a direct hit. Still, it was a hard enough hit to put a scare in me.

Dumb, dumb, dumb. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I'm such an idiot.

Only 26 days until the marathon and I nearly flatten my big toe with an iron.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Treadmills are not my friend

For fear of starting my long run today and ending up drowning in ditch somewhere, I hopped on the treadmill.

For 9 miles and all of 1 hour and 34 minutes.

It's kind of like watching paint dry, except you're burning close to 1000 calories while doing it.

I looove running the roads, and don't look forward to running treadmills. Come to think of it, I haven't been on one since last winter. You see, the conditions outside have to be extremely bad for me to hop on one. Today was no exception, since the deluge of heavy rain kept me from running outside.

I regretted not going out on my way to the gym, but I soon realized I had made the right choice after seeing flooding all along my route. I would have been miserable indeed. Don't get me wrong, I love running in extreme conditions, but I just wasn't in the mood to get soaked.

Alas, the treadmill run wasn't so bad. I never thought I could be on that thing for an hour and a half. I have a much higher respect for people that can be on that thing for 10 or 20 miles! The most I've run on the 'mill is five miles, and that was very early on in my training.

Something tells me it won't be the last time, since winter is right around the corner.

I better start making peace with the 'mill while I'm ahead!

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Friday, September 12, 2008

My marathon training: What's left to do

Only 30 days left until the Chicago Marathon.

Here's what's left to do:

9/8 to 9/14: I've logged 114 miles of running the three weeks prior to this one, so this is a "recovery" week. It's a chance for my body to fix anything that's broken, and to prepare for what's ahead. I'll only log 23 easy miles through Saturday. I'll stock up on any supplies I need, but not try anything new that I haven't tried in training.

9/15 to 9/21: Back to the grind as this is the last week for big miles. This week I'll log 37 miles culminating in my last 20 mile run on Sunday as part of the Nike Ready to Run 20 Miler event. This is it. It's downhill from here.

9/22 to 9/28: Only 27 miles on the schedule this week with my longest run at 12 miles on Saturday. This week I'll dial in my nutrition needs for the race and prepare my body to run in cooler weather by running later in the day with little sun. I'll also run in the rain as much as possible. Best to be prepared for anything.

9/29 to 10/5: The "Taper" begins in earnest. It's a time to let my body heal itself, but still keep the leg muscles fresh with smaller runs. No big efforts this week. I'll be sure to eat well and begin to sleep 7 to 8 hours a day. Little running means the nerves take over. It's a nice time to do other things I've been missing out on like fishing and taking care of personal things. Easy does it.

10/6 to 10/11: The final week. Only 12 easy miles to do. My biggest run will be 5 miles on Wednesday. I'll be stretching a lot, eating well, and sleeping well (try to anyway). I'll be watching the weather like a hawk to make sure I'll have the right clothes for race day. On Saturday, I will relax and prepare everything I need for Sunday. No running for three days leading up to the race. Hopefully spend time with friends and family this week to help calm my nerves.

10/12: Race day. 26.2 miles of the biggest event of my life. I don't know what to expect, but I promise to do my very best.

Coming soon- plan to come cheer on the runners? I'll write up some tips on how you can enjoy this incredible event along with the 45,000 other runners. I was there last year and was brought to tears by the sheer determination of the finishers.

Hopefully, you will be inspired too.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

16 Mile run: Revenge is sweet


16 Mile run
Total time: 02:32:39 PB (old 02:48:45)
Chicago Lakefront

I came into this 16 miler with a mission- to seek revenge on the crummy 16 miler I ran back on 8/23 in the extreme heat and humidity that nearly killed me!

The weather was cooler this time around and it was a beautiful morning to get out there. My strategy was to take one minute walk breaks every 5K to take in fluids early on, and then run through the 2nd half at my marathon pace. This is pretty close to my strategy for the Chicago Marathon in Oct.

It worked.

I beat my old time by nearly 15 minutes and I felt great the whole way through, especially during the second half. I started to cramp along my left quad near the end, but I was able to control it and finished strong.

A unique problem I've been running into on my longer runs as of late is that I'm coated with salt all over my skin when I'm finished. I've heard of this happening to runners, and it's only started happening to me within the past month on warmer days. For now it's more of an annoyance and it isn't causing a problem. I'll have to experiment with my electrolyte intake from here on in.

I really needed this one. It has boosted my confidence leading up to October, now with less than a month to go!

This coming week is a recovery week:

Mon: 9 miles easy
Tues: Cross train
Wed: 9 miles
Thur: 2 miles
Fri: Rest
Sat: 9 miles

I also decided to sign up for the CARA Nike Ready to Run 20 Miler on Sept. 21 to celebrate my last 20 mile run before Chicago. It will be a nice change of pace to train with a group in a controlled environment.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

20 mile run: With every fiber of my being

20 mile run splits

Miles: 20
Total time: 03:22:51
Date: 8/30/08
Where: Chicago lakefront

I'll have to admit I came into this 20 miler with a little bit of a cocky attitude about it. Hell, I've already plowed through a nice finish in a 13.1 mile half-marathon, and battled a 16 mile run the weekend before. What's another measly four miles? I can run four miles with my eyes closed.

Well, let me tell you straight out, I was brought safely, yet very painfully, back to earth after this run. To run twenty miles is NOT a force to be reckoned with. This thing chewed me up and spit me out and lay me there to suffer.

Lets do a play by play, shall we?

The start:

I made the decision to drive to my start point near Irving Park Rd. and Lake Shore Drive instead of the usual public transport. I did this so that I can have a "support vehicle" waiting for me at the finish with a cooler full of fluids, food, and air conditioning. Good call.

Mile 1:

Right off the bat, two of my hydration bottles were seriously leaking near where the top screws on to the bottle. I fought for almost 10 minutes trying to remedy this to no avail. I got so pissed I considered emailing the company the next day to complain. I ended up dumping my special concoction of water and electrolyte mix that I would pay for later (read on..)

It wasn't until a couple of hours into my run that I figured out what may have gone wrong: Because I brought a cooler with me, I left my 8oz bottles in there to keep them cold. I never do this. I'm no scientist, but I'm sure that plastic shrinks when it gets cold. That would explain why the top never sealed tightly around the bottle hence spilling the liquid as I ran. Doh!! Makes sense.

Mile 2 to 8:

These were fairly uneventful and at a nice, easy pace. Maybe a little faster than I should have been going. I hadn't stop to walk at all up to this point, and as I look back, I probably should of taken a few breaks considering what was ahead.

Mile 9 to 11:

My first walk break to take some water and a Power Gel. Mile 10 is my turnaround point near E. 63rd. St. on the southern half of the bike path. I take a minute to look at the Chicago skyline and it struck me just how far I was from my start. This was a scary feeling.

Half-marathon mile 13.1

At 2hrs. and 15mins. I was about 15 minutes slower than my half-marathon time. This is pretty close to where I want to be. I also had my first pee break during my run. Never did that before.

Miles 14 to 16

It's almost noon and I've been running for 3 hours now. It's gotten hot. Very hot. My Gatorade is gone and I'm running on water and Power Gels. I can tell I'm a bit hungry now. I walk for a minute and start to feel a bit light headed. I run for 7 minutes and walk for 3.

Mile 17

I start to fall apart here. I start to get intense cramps in both of my calves and it's hard to walk, let alone run. The water/electrolyte mix that I should have been taking up to this point to stave off the cramps lay on the ground at Mile 1. I hadn't taken a gel for 6 miles, so I take one down which keeps the cramps away. I begin to run again. Easy does it.

Mile 18-20

I'm starting to feel very fatigued, but the cramps have stayed away. The finish is in sight and I keep a good pace on my last mile.

The end was something amazing. I'd done it. I suffered, but I finished. It's hard to explain the feeling, but it was heavenly. I'm finding it very difficult to walk now and I battle through more cramping in my legs which left me sore for two days!

It was quite the experience, and I gained a bigger respect for the distance of the marathon and what it takes to finish. I have one more 20 miler near the end of the month and hope to apply what I learned here for a stronger finish.

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