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

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Soaking in Saint Louis: Race Report

Finishing the Go! St. Louis half-marathon

Race: Go! St. Louis half-marathon
Date: 4-19-09
Place: St. Louis, MO
Finish: 02:06:51 (PR 01:59:22)

Well, I'm finally dry after spending the weekend in beautiful Saint Louis, MO for my 2nd race of the year and my 3rd half-marathon. This one was chock full of new adventures and challenges I've never experienced in my life. I was extremely happy to make it through and am on my way to another great racing season.

I know these can get long, so I did my best to break it down to 10 points.

For those who care, my official Garmin stats are near the end.

1. I would rather drive than fly.

The drive down to St. Louis from the burbs of Chicago was fairly uneventful. I very much prefer to drive when I travel. You can just see so much more and I can stop to stretch whenever I like. This would be my 2nd out-of-state race. The nice thing about driving to races, is that I can pack ALL of my running gear instead of cramming it in on one measly carry on bag. I think the toughest part of a race isn't just finishing, but what to wear! More on that in the next bullet...

2. What to wear?

It's raining here. Lots and lots of rain. Fortunately, the temps are holding near 60F and the wind isn't that strong. Sadly, I have zero experience in running a race in full-on rain, but I'm about to get it. I decided to wear shorts and my Under Armour long-sleeve thermal under my singlet. My decision to wear thicker running socks was a good one, since I think they protected my feet from blisters. My Brooks Defyance shoes performed wonderfully and kept the water from pooling at my feet, I think. A hat was also important to keep the rain out of my eyes. I was spot on with my clothing choice. I was comfortable the whole time, if not completely soaked.

3. The rain, why won't it stop?

I did my best to stay as dry as possible before the start. Fortunately, I had a disposable parka in my truck, so I wore it. It rained, and rained, and rained. Still, there were A LOT of runners around and the race was going to be huge. The rain stopped near miles 10 and 12, but it kept up again until the finish.

4. The starting line.

The race was very well organized considering the number of runners participating. My only complaint with the start was that I didn't see any indication of WHERE the actual start line was- no banner or anything. Next thing I knew, I was crossing over the timing mats and had to quickly hit the start on my Garmin. Yikes! That was close.

5. I'm not a run/walker.

Due to my ongoing recovery from my knee troubles, I decided to do an 8x2 run/walk the first 9 miles, and then run through what was left if my knee gave me the go. I can tell you right now, at least in races, I am NOT a run/walker. I'm a patient guy, but I did not like to walk and see so may people pass me by. I clued into a couple of people who passed me and made it a point to catch up to them when my two minutes were up. The strategy worked, and I ended up with a nice time just seven minutes beyond my half-marathon PR.

6. The hills.

Long and sloping hills were the talk of the day. Big ones too. I'm no stranger to long, sloping climbs because there are many where I train near home. I don't notice them until I start to labor in my breathing, and then I know I'm on a sloping hill. I managed to run all of them, but gently as to not put too much strain on the knee. No sweat.

7. Mile 9: Hello, knee? You still with me?

Mile 9 came up, and I had already reached the turnaround in the route that leads back to the finish. The knee was doing wonderfully, and I put it in high gear and stayed there. My shoes felt heavy when I walked, but once I started running, I was doing sub-nine minute miles. I was all smiles until the end!

8. All systems go.

Miles 10 through 13 felt effortless, and the rain was more annoying than anything else. The last, big hill nearing the finish line looked daunting, but I put my head down and plowed forward. The knee was feeling great, and I cranked to the finish.

9. The finish.

Official time was 02:06:51. Not too shabby for a run/walker! They funneled the finishing runners through narrow gates that really caused a backlog of soaking humanity, but the full, grocery size bags of pretzels and chocolate chip cookies for the runners made up for it :)

10. Wrap up.

I loved this race. Despite the soaking rain, it was the most fun I've had, and the support from the crowds was wonderful. Saint Louis knows how to put on a race. I just wish I could have seen more of that skyline if it wasn't for all of the low clouds. My only other regret is that I wish I could have done the full marathon that I originally signed up for, but I think I played my cards right, and can safely say that my knee is 100% healed!!

Lastly, I was glad to see my friend Lindsay near the finish of her 2nd full marathon! Congrats on the PR Lindsay! I got so excited to see her, that I forgot to take a picture. I'm sure she'll have her report up soon, so hop on over there to see it when it's up.

Seeing other people doing amazing things at these distances is so inspiring, it's why I love to be a part of it.

Go! St. Louis half-marathon stats 4-19-09
Garmin stats for Saint Louis half-marathon

And now to concentrate on Chicago this fall, but in the meantime, I'll have to lineup more races in between!

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Go! St. Louis half-marathon preparation

Go! St. Louis half-marathon race bib 4/19/09

I'm back in my hotel room after a rather uneventful drive into St. Louis, MO for the Go! St. Louis half-marathon. I did manage to bump down to the half marathon, after originally signing up for the full. I'm just not going to risk further injuring the knee. I really don't want to go through 8 more weeks of rehab! The half-marathon field is full at nearly 10,000 runners.

I met up with my friend Lindsay at the race expo, where I picked up some new sport sunglasses, after losing my last pair somewhere in Chicago over the winter. It was a nice expo, despite the soaking rain outside. As I sit in my room, I can already hear the thunder as storms approach. Later, we met up for dinner at a great restaurant near the race start and talked about what else? Running! She is doing her 2nd full marathon, and I wish her the best!

I'm planning for rain during the race, and will run no matter what. Of course, I hope it doesn't rain, but hopefully I'll be prepared for it. Fortunately, the start is a 15 minute walk from my hotel. When I'm finished, I'll come back to the room to wash up, and then head back to the race to hopefully see Lindsay finish.

I can't wait to get started!

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

The countdown to St. Louis begins

I think I'm as ready as I'll ever be.

Three days from now I'll be running the Go! St. Louis half-marathon in St. Louis, Mo. I originally registered to run the full, but due to my recent battles with a bum right knee, and the fact that I'm way under trained to run 26.2, I'll be downgrading to the half. Even if the field for the half is full, I don't think they'll mind me taking the detour for 13.1 miles instead of 26- the first half of the route splits in different directions anyway.

Speaking of my bum knee, it has felt much, much better. I'm coming off of six and seven mile training runs since Saturday that I ran all the way through without walking. What a relief! I experienced no pain whatsoever. It was definitely a confidence booster and I think I'm just about 100%.

I think for the half, I'll be run/walking the first 6 or 7 miles, and then running the rest to the finish. I'm no longer shooting for a PR, but just going to have fun with it. There's no need to risk further injury to the knee. I won't be in a rush!

I'll be driving down early Saturday morning, getting to the expo Saturday afternoon, and then getting to the starting line on Sunday by 7 a.m. If you'd like to follow my adventures, just jump over to my Twitter page, or check back here for some updates.

Wish me luck!

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Gaining the confidence to run long

Wednesday was a great day.

I spent all day thinking about my run. Not because I thought I wasn't going to finish, but because it would be the longest I've run in almost 8 weeks due to my right knee injury. I'd been doing 30 to 45 minutes of a 4x1 run/walk combination for almost two weeks (4 minutes run, 1 minute walk). For this run, I extended it to a 8x2 for one hour and the run would be just over my half-marathon pace (9 minutes per mile).

Half of my route was pavement, and the other half was a gravel trail to relieve some of the pounding on the knee. It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the upper 50's, and I got to wear shorts!! I was a little worried about the rigorous lower body weight work out I did the day before, but even that one was pain free. I pounded the knee for two hours with reps upon reps of 50 to 100 pounds of weights, but the knee held up wonderfully.

Well, I did it. One hour and 6 miles later I had finished with no pain in the knee whatsoever. I even ran the last mile all the way through at half-marathon pace (8:45 per mile). And the coolest thing ever? I had gas to do even more, but I refrained from doing so for fear of taking it too far.

I was ecstatic. All I said afterwards was thank you, thank you, thank you to the Lord above (a little praying never hurts!). This was a milestone run and it's boosted my confidence 110%. I just can't wait to start my runs of 10 miles and over- it's when I'm most at peace.

So that's it. While friends are winding down their training for our St. Louis race next weekend, I still have a lot of work to do to catch up.

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

On the road to recovery

Well, I'm happy to report that I wound up with zero pain in my right knee after a week totaling 10 miles! Woohoo! I know that's small potatoes, and WAY under where I need to be for my race in a couple of weeks, but it's a milestone considering what I've been through.

I was able to string a 3.5 mile run and a 5 mile run back to back on Friday and Saturday. I still kept to the 4 to 1 minute run/walk routine I've been doing all week. I get sooo tempted to just run all the way through, but I have to hold myself back and be patient. I was a little sore on Saturday after wards, but nothing like the pain I've felt in the past.

I think I'm going to stick with the 4x1 run/walk again this coming week and attempt a longer run all the way through on near the weekend. I'm going to continue my weight training, and stretching routines all week.

I've been bothered by some back issues since I've been laid off. I don't know if it's because I'm sleeping weird, or doing too much sitting. It's probably a combination of both. I do know that when I run, the back pains go away, so I'm hoping it's just a product of me not being as active as I have been.

Whatever it is, I'm putting my name in for one heck of a good massage after St. Louis.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Things are looking up

This week Monday I actually got off my ass and gave the knee a nice and easy test run/walk on the treadmill for the first time in over three weeks. I just couldn't take not being active anymore. I'm very happy to report that everything went well, and I felt no pain after 3 miles. I did a set of 4 minutes run/1 minute walk for 40 minutes followed by stretching. To be honest, this workout felt so effortless, and the legs felt so good, that I couldn't keep the grin off of my face.

The right knee felt strong. I actually have a bit of scarring on the skin near the right knee cap from all of the icing I've put it through. On Wednesday, I did a quick 20 minute run, followed by a rigorous weight routine on the legs and core. Again, no knee pain whatsoever.

I can't begin to tell you how important it is for me to get better. Running is such an important part of my life that I can't imagine not doing it. Having two pain free workouts in a row was such a relief. Still, I'm being extra careful.

This weekend I'm going to attempt five miles of a run/walk. The St. Louis marathon is less than three weeks away, but I'm no longer concerned with finishing it. My focus is now going to be the Chicago Marathon in October. I'm going to ease back into running full speed, and I can't wait to jump into a race 100% healthy.

All I can do now is pray that I'll come out of this better than ever before.

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