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

Friday, July 31, 2009

RockNRoll Chicago Half Marathon time!


My finishers medal from the 2008 Chicago Distance Classic (02:01:54)
Click to enlarge

This will be #4 of 5 half-marathons I'll be doing this year. The Rock N' Roll Chicago Half Marathon (formerly the Chicago Distance Classic) kicks off at 6:30 a.m. this Sunday, Aug. 2 with a field of over 14,000 runners! I'm excited about the new course, which looks to avoid the teeny, tiny parts of the lakefront path that clogged up the run last year. This course goes into downtown- kinda like a mini Chicago marathon course. I like it.

I'm due for 18 miles total this weekend, so I'll probably head out early for 5 miles on Saturday, to compliment the 13.1 miles on Sunday. My personal best in the half-marathon is 01:56:18 which I clocked at the North Shore half-marathon back in June. My time in this race last year was 02:01:54, which is a nice improvement if I may say. I don't plan on besting my time on Sunday, but I don't really have a reason to hold back either. If I feel great, I'll go for a PR.

My training for Chicago has been going well. I'm back to some normalcy in my runs after a rather scattered training schedule through June and early July. I've started running my longer runs in my new Brooks Defyance 1's. The newish Defyance 2 model of the same shoe haven't agreed with me very well, so I'm using them for runs of 5 miles and under. The Defyance 1's are such a dream to run in, and I can go forever in them. I just hope I can get another pair before they're out of circulation.

The start time for Sunday is a super early 6:30 a.m., which will be nice since the forecast temps are already in the middle 80's. You can follow the race live, online at beginning at 6:30. If you're interested in tracking my progress during the actual race, you can sign up for Runner Tracking via TXT msg at My bib # is 8109 for the name "Jesse Mendoza".

If you'd like to come out to cheer on the runners, I am in corral #8 and will be near the 1:50 (8:32 pace) pace group sign. The Start and Finish line are on Columbus Dr. in Grant Park. A complete course map is here. A FAQ for race day can be found here.

For more info, including details on all the free Rock N Roll music during the race, visit

Wish me luck!

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Getting past the fear

One of the goals I set for myself this season, is to not be afraid to push my limits. My "limit" this time last year was a fairly easy running pace of about 9:30 minutes-per-mile, which is what I trained for all last year. That's about what I averaged during last year's Chicago marathon.

Coming out of a 25 year layoff from running last year, I really didn't know what to expect. I didn't know how fast I could go, or how good my endurance was going to be. As the year went on, I got a little better, but I was still afraid to push the envelope for fear of getting hurt, or worse. During the winter, I joined a running program at a local Chicago Fleet Feet to train for a February half-marathon. I credit this group for teaching me about pace. I had to keep up, or else I would lag behind- that's the bottom line.

So, when I set a goal to train for Chicago again, I told myself I would push myself a little more in 2009. I know I can go faster, and I really, really want to get revenge on my marathon finish time of 04:54. One way I'm doing this, is practicing negative-splits in most of my longer runs. To my surprise, I've gotten quite comfortable sustaining an 8:30 pace, and it's what I'm shooting for. This is nearly a full minute ahead of where I was last year.

A negative-split is when you run the 2nd half of the course faster than the first. It also helps to build up my strength, and confidence, knowing that I can hit these speeds during longer runs. The 7 mile run in the chart below is a good example. This would have to be one of my better runs to date- I felt strong, 100%, and felt that I could do more!

One of my bigger tests will be my longest run to date at 16 miles, which I'm doing on July 25. We'll see how it goes!


(Click to enlarge)

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Life gets in the way sometimes

Well, I'm in week #4 of my Chicago Marathon training- only 12 more weeks to go! I'm off to somewhat of a shaky start, as my weekly mileage has been somewhat scattered. I should say my weekday runs have been kind of scattered too, so I've been concentrating on my long runs on the weekends to make up for it.

I spent quite a bit of time with work issues last week, and that threw everything off- from my running schedule, eating, rest... I didn't run for over 5 days straight until this past weekend, where I did 4 miles on Saturday, and 10 on Sunday to complete the 14 miles I had on my schedule for the long run.

Life will get in the way sometimes, I guess. Still, I feel strong, and I have no injuries holding me back, which was quite a contrast from the winter season. The bruise I suffered during my hill runs at Devil's lake the last weekend of June is still slightly sore, but doesn't bother me as much any more. Feeling 100% feels really good.

I'm back on track this week. Although it's a cut-back week, with only 20 miles total, I'll be putting in a little extra since I slacked off last week. Saturday the 25th will be my longest run since last year's marathon at 16 miles. It just goes up from there.

With that, I leave you with a picture I shot during my 10 mile run on Sunday on the Des Plaine's River Trail somewhere between Libertyville and Vernon Hills, IL.

10 mile run on Des Plaines River Trail

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Running in Chicago again

Running in Chicago again
Originally uploaded by automatic_man2

If there's one thing I look forward to the most during those long winters, it's the long training runs in the city on hot summer days.

Taken near mile 9 of a 12 mile run just outside of the Shedd Aquarium.

Jesse M.

-- Sent from my Palm Pre

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Running in the heat

I was reading a post over at my running friend Alex's blog at in which she offers a few hot weather running tips, and thought I'd offer up a few of my own for those of you taking on a fall marathon.

I'm surely no expert on this subject, and some of these tips may not work for everyone, but a lot of it is just common sense. As a newbie runner taking on my first marathon in Chicago last year, I had to train through some ridiculous heat last summer and learned a few lessons along the way.

I actually thrive running in hot weather, but will admit that my regiment to prepare for a run on a hot summer day is pretty strict. If my routine is not followed closely, I can pretty much bet I'll run into trouble. Fortunately, I've yet to experience any problems during a warm weather run, even though I can recall days when I considered myself stupid for getting out there to begin with. As long as the preparation is there, I can count on a very satisfying run in the sun.

The amazing body:
I fully agree with Alex's assessment that the human body can do amazing things when taught to adapt to extreme conditions such as running in hot weather. Knowing the symptoms of heat exhaustion and over exertion is key along with knowing what to do should you find yourself in a situation where something just doesn't feel right. There's nothing wrong with stopping what you're doing. Have proper ID and emergency contact information on you along with a little cash for a cab ride if necessary. A cell phone helps too.

Adapting early on:
My fall marathon training programs usually start near the end of June, and hopefully by that time I've already run a few miles in warmer-than-usual conditions. My runs of between 4 to 8 miles will start in the middle of the day, or early afternoon when the sun is at its hottest. I'll throw on a long sleeve on temps between 60F and 70F if necessary. The rule that you should expect to be at least 20 degrees warmer during a run than the outside temperature is an important one. This will become of even more importance when the outside temps are nearing 90F. Dress accordingly.

Hydrate, and re-hydrate:
I can't stress enough how important it is to make sure you're properly hydrated before taking on a run in the heat. It took me quite a while to find the best combination that works the best for me the day before a run. There is always the danger of hydrating too much and disrupting the balance of electrolytes in your system, so I like to munch on salty foods like pretzels late in the day.

Before last year's marathon, I started using Zym Electrolyte Drink tablets in 8 oz. of cold water with my breakfast at least one hour before my run, then another tablet immediately after. Besides helping to stabilize my electrolyte levels, I found it also helps in recovering nicely without cramping or muscle soreness.

Finding relief during a run:
My timing of hydrating during my run was a tricky one to master and is just as important. I found that most larger races set their relief stations every 2.5 or 3 miles, which for me can vary between every 20 to 30 minutes. Of course you may not find many relief stations during a training run, so I use a 4-bottle hydration system by Fuel Belt. Yes it's clunky, and yes it will take a while to get used to, but after a while, you won't know its there, and be thankful that it is. Just like in races, I've trained my body to drink every 20 to 30 minutes, and even closer to 15 minutes if temperatures are nearing 100F. Again, this is easier to master if you're properly hydrated to begin with.

For runs of 10 miles and over, I'll setup my Fuel Belt with two 8 oz. bottles with a Gatorade/water mix (70/30% respectively), and two bottles with straight water that I can drink with Power Gels . Straight Gatorade is much too sugary and causes me rather severe cramping- even worse if taken with Gels. I don't like all that fluid sloshing around in my stomach during runs, and the every 20 to 30 minute rule works well so my body can properly absorb what's already there.

Other tips:
- Wear sunscreen! Not only is heat dangerous, but the sun will cause you to burn if you're out there for a long time.

- Hat and sunglasses. The hat keeps my head cool, and even better when I can pour some cool water on my hat when available. Be careful not to get water on your shoes or risk blisters! I prefer my sunglasses to be polarized to mitigate that deceiving "mirage" effect you see ahead of your route. My overall vision through polarized lenses is much better, I think.

- Wear the proper clothing. Spend money on some good technical clothing designed for working out that will draw sweat away from your body. Avoid clothing that is too tight and with exposed stitching that can cause chafing in sensitive areas. I learned this one the hard way.

- No cotton! If you want to carry around all that sweat, then go ahead. The no cotton rule also applies to socks. Keep your shoes as dry as possible. I like to cover my toes and the back of my heel with Body Glide to keep the blistering to a minimum.

-Start early or start late. This may work for you if you have the time, but if I'm targeting a race, I like to run as close to the start time if possible in training so I know what to expect during those hours.

-Cool down gracefully. Don't immediately jump in a lake or throw ice water over you immediately after a hot run since you may go into shock! Grab some fluids, take a walk, find some shade, and let your body do it's thing. Then jump in the lake!

Again, some of these may not apply to you, but a lot is just common sense. Training for an endurance event isn't just about training your body to reach the finish line, but to practice what works and what doesn't so you have the best race day experience possible- and have fun!

After all, that's what it's all about, isn't it?

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