I do dumb things. Not all the time, but when it comes to running I can make some terrible choices. This week I decided to race a local half-marathon, two weeks away from Ironman Chattanooga. Typically this would be a time to reduce mileage and intensity and coast into the “A” race feeling good and raring to go. My Ironman plan called for a 2-hour run for Sunday, and even though I had already decided that racing would be a bad idea, I went ahead and signed up for it anyway. This race benefits the local high school foundation and so I didn’t mind contributing to that cause. I figured that I would push comfortably hard, and if I sensed that I was overdoing it or possibly straining myself too much, I would dial it back and coast it home. Ha! On with the race!
I woke up to an absolutely beautiful day, temps in the mid-50’s with low humidity and hardly any noticeable wind. Perfect running day. I met up with my son Ben and did some pre-race chatting with him and then got ready.
The first three miles of this race are basically flat, and I felt awesome. I was floating along and at the 3-mile mark, I noticed my watch had a 22-minute split, which I felt would have been a pretty good 5K time! It wasn’t long until we hit the hills of the nature preserve.
The course is on my typical training route so I knew what to expect. I planned to take it easy up the hills and take advantage of the downhills. My first mistake was taking a gel right around the 4-mile mark, which was the beginning of one of the big climbs. I struggled to breathe as I was trying to swallow that junk. A little of it seemed to lodge in the back of my throat which caused me some irritation that lasted the duration of the race. It wasn’t killing me, but it certainly was annoying.
It was also about this time that I realized that I was once again the caboose of the front pack of racers. All the speedsters were ahead of me and I was bringing up the rear. Not a soul behind me that I could see. So I focused on keeping up with the group of three runners right ahead of me and tried to keep a steady pace.
Around mile seven I started to catch the group of three that had been ahead of me, but they then started to pull away. It was still way too early for me to start any sort of kick, so I just tried to keep them in sight. Around 9.5-miles into it I caught one of them and started working on the rest. By mile ten I found myself pacing behind another runner wearing an Ironman visor and I ran with him to see how he was feeling. I had just taken my last of three gels and the energy was starting to come back. I said to him lets get that guy ahead of us but he couldn’t go with me, so I started reeling in Mr. Pink Shoes. As I was working on that guy I could hear what I thought was the Ironman visor guy catching up with me, but when he passed me it was another guy that had caught me and was pulling ahead. I told him to “go get it” and he put some space on me. As we came to the big hill going over Route 45, I pulled him back in and we both passed Mr. Pink Shoes guy. I used the downhill after cresting the bridge to kick hard with about a half-mile or so to go and it seemed neither of those two guys had any kick left. I crossed the finish pretty much with no one in front of me and no one right behind me. I’ll take that.
Ben finishing in 2nd place
Repping FNRC and bringing it home
So, did the decision to race this close to an Ironman kill me? No. It was still not in my best interest to run it, but I’m glad I trusted my instincts and ran the race. Racing may not be the main reason I run, but it’s up there.
I could make this an easy, two paragraph wrap-up, but why make it easy on myself?
Race day morning a coworker who works out at a local fitness club advised that a man had died while working out at her club the day before. Knowing that I have a history of running she was quizzing me about why I thought he had died. I could only speculate, but I figured that he probably had cardiac arrest related to heart disease and was triggered by exertion he was unprepared for. She wanted to be assured that she wasn’t going to code out as well, so I dug up several articles about deaths at fitness clubs and found that the majority of exercise-related deaths are due to exactly what I had thought, they were not fit and had a history of heart disease. But exercise in moderation is one of the best ways of preventing such deaths. Her fears were soothed and said she won’t worry about dying on the treadmill.
But the conversation kind of stoked my fears a little. My father died of heart disease at the age of 52. He was a smoker, my mom fried a lot of our meals, and did no exercise whatsoever. I took note of that at the age of 15 and have tried to live my life without such outside bad habits, and I started running in my early 20’s. But I often find myself running short, high-intensity races at high heart rates which make me feel like I’m maxing myself out and wonder if I’m going to blow up my heart. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened, and I am aware of the warning signs. But it’s always kind of in the back of my mind. As I stood on the starting line the thought of blowing up wasn’t even on my mind. It was time to beat as many as I could. Enough of the doom and gloom, on with the race report.
For a race that celebrates the first day of summer with a Wednesday night 5K, it was anything but summer-like. Air temp was about 63 degrees and it was drizzling. I debated as to whether I should race in a singlet or not but decided to do so. I joined the local running club group photo and then did my warm up.
The course was changed this year, pretty much running it in reverse from previous years I have run this race. I didn’t mind the change, except sometimes when you are seeing things you normally see in the latter parts of the race early on it kind of messes with me for some reason. I put that behind me and tried to settle in without going out too fast, but as usual, I failed.
There’s a guy that runs this race pushing his handicapped wife in a racing stroller and in the past he has kicked my butt. It’s always humbling when he beats me, and I marvel at his strength and ability. He quickly jumped ahead of me and I decided to jump in behind him. On the flats, he would put a pace or two on me, but when we hit the little rises in the road I would pull him back in. As much as I try to hold back early in a race and run negative splits, I never do because I can’t turn off the competitive aspect of it. I feared that he was making the same mistake that I was, heading out too strong, and we were going to pay for it later.
A little before the first mile I passed him and then worried about him the rest of the way. I went through the first mile split in 6:42 according to my watch, and decided to pull back just a touch as we headed up the road and onward to the bike trail. I was passed by another runner that had recently had a kidney transplant and said to him that it was me usually chasing him down. He laughed and I asked how his health was and was said he was great and thanked me for asking. Then he pulled away.
I went through the second mile split at 6:53 and was satisfied with that. A girl passed me and I said “go get it” and she encouraged me to grab on and go with her, but I told her I was waiting for another 1/2 mile before kicking. I mistakenly thought the course would continue on the path a little longer, but we turned off and hit the streets again. After a couple of turns, we made it to the ending straight to the finish. I glanced back at the trail and could see the stroller pushing runner not far back. A quick look at my watch showed that I had about a 1/4 mile left so I kicked hard up the hill back to the finish and was all alone. My watch showed 21:25, which is always quicker than the official time at this race. I’m not sure why that happens, but the official time is always slower than my watch. I was maybe five steps back from the starting line at the start, so there’s not much of a time difference there.
I cooled down and then went and joined some others from the running club to cheer on the rest of the runners. After a while, I got a little cold and went and changed into some dry clothes and waited for the results. Glad to hear my name called for 2nd in my age group. There’s lots of great competition at this race and to get an A/G medal is special. I had a pretty good race.
I can wrap up 2018 in a couple words: overtrained and rainy. In 2018 I turned 55 years old and it certainly feels like it. The work I did in the three prior years while maintaining a three plus year run everyday running streak turned me into a pretty good runner and triathlete until it became too much. By the beginning of 2018 I was starting to feel beat up and it only got worse. By the time I made it to the starting line of my first Boston Marathon in April I wasn’t sure I could even finish it, but I did, in the rain, the first of many 2018 events run in rainy conditions. The day after running Boston, I ended my running streak and spent the rest of 2018 trying to recover and rebuild. There was a little bit of success there, but I am still searching to recapture the ability to get the personal bests that were happening consistently in 2016.
2018 just wasn’t my year for running. I was in a groove the past five years or so, claiming at each year end that I had just had the best running year ever. But not this year. It seems like I have plateaued, hit a wall, or just plain have gotten old. I’m not sure about the excuse of being old, as I have set plenty of personal bests the last few years in both marathons and Ironman and qualifying for and running my first Boston Marathon. I think I may have just pushed a little too hard toward the end of 2017 and into 2018 that I need to reset myself. It’s hard for me because although my body reminds me daily that I’m in my mid-fifties, my brain still acts like a twenty-something. The brain is writing checks that my body cannot cash any more. I think I need to put my training on some sort of budget, but my brain has already declared that I’m doing two more marathons next year. Dumb brain. Anyway, I did try to dial it back into a rebuild this year, dropping my 3 year running streak and taking more rest days, as well as not trying to set a personal best on every damn training run (thanks a lot, Strava).
30 YEARS – WOW! One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about as I run is that I have been doing it for 30 years now. I started experimenting with running in my teens and college days, but I didn’t start keeping track of my miles until 1989, when I started to see myself going farther and getting faster and wanted to see how I improved over time. I just kept writing it down. Now I log it with an app, which has taken some of the fun out of it because I used to write down comments and notes about my run when I logged it by hand, but I do not do so as much now. I used to hand write this yearly wrap up as well, but I think I enjoy sharing it on this blog page more. I can add photos and leave and share memories that I can look back on easily. Some day I will get around to writing about the years and miles of running I have accumulated, but for now I will just keep on running and enjoying the miles.
2018 – RUNNING REVIEW
Here’s a monthly wrap up of my running miles and milestones.
Total Runs: 31
Average Weekly Miles: 35.5
Total Hours: 20.4
Total Miles: 142
Nothing much of note in this month. Training for the Boston Marathon had begun. I do remember it being super cold and occasional runs in the snow.
Total Runs: 28
Average Weekly Miles: 29
Total Hours: 17
Total Miles: 116
Still training for Boston in the cold.
Total Runs: 31
Average Weekly Miles: 40
Total Hours: 23.4
Total Miles: 159
The plan upped the mileage this month preparing for my date with Boston. I did my one long run on 3/23, an 18 miler. I had no intention on doing any longer runs. I was pretty sore and had no energy.
Total Runs: 23
Average Weekly Miles: 27.5
Total Hours: 16.3
Total Miles: 110
Yay! I ran my first Boston Marathon! It was quite an experience that I will never forget. I beat Galen Rupp! Okay, he dropped out and I didn’t, but technically I think that still qualifies as a win. (The link to my race reports will be at the bottom of this post.)
Immediately after finishing the Boston Marathon I kept the promise to myself that I would drop my running streak. I needed to recover from 3 plus years of running at least a mile every day. It was a good challenge, but it had worn out it’s welcome. Here’s the wrap up of the running streak: RIP Running Streak
Total Runs: 17
Average Weekly Miles: 25
Total Hours: 14.75
Total Miles: 100
Recovery from Boston was pretty quick and I started enjoying some milder running weather. I was kind of surprised that I hit 100 miles this month.
Total Runs: 18
Average Weekly Miles: 23
Total Hours: 13.3
Total Miles: 93
I jumped back into the 5K race season with a decent but slower than usual finish time, but still nabbed a first place age group award in the getting old division at the Frankfort Short Run on a Long Day 5K. As nice of a finish that is, I had my first ever Did Not Start to a race I had signed up for. The weather on race day morning of the Batavia Triathlon was threatening enough for me not to waste my time driving up there, thinking it would be canceled. I took a gamble and lost, as the race was delayed and shortened, but it’s a punch to the gut when you drop out when others committed to it and got it done.
Total Runs: 17
Average Weekly Miles: 33
Total Hours: 19.7
Total Miles: 135
The corral seeding came out for the Chicago Marathon and they put me in the E corral, which is weird because the time I used to qualify for the race should have put me in the D corral from the start. So, I applied to move up to the D corral based on that previous qualifying time and hatched a plan to move up to the C corral by trying to run a qualifier in a half marathon. So on 7/21 I toed the line in Hoffman Estates and attempted to run a sub-1:35 half marathon. I was kind of shooting for the stars, and missed it by about 4 minutes, but it was a pretty good time for a rainy half marathon in July. I was happy to be in the D corral.
I also did the Manteno Tri at the end of this month, with Kari doing the duathlon. We both did well, placing 2nd in our age groups. Fun race.
Total Runs: 20
Average Weekly Miles: 39.5
Total Hours: 23.4
Total Miles: 158
Marathon training was ramping up again. I did the Chicago Triathlon with my Gunner mates and our side kicks. That was a hot race. First time that I HAD to walk a portion of a running race as the temp was into the 90’s.
Total Runs: 19
Average Weekly Miles: 42
Total Hours: 24.2
Total Miles: 167
Highlight of this month was running the Frankfort/New Lenox Running Club’s 20 mile training run. I did surprisingly well and built a lot of confidence on a mid-September Saturday. Since it’s not a race, here’s the link to that report: The Dreaded 20 Mile Training Run
Total Runs: 17
Average Weekly Miles: 25
Total Hours: 15
Total Miles: 102
I gave my best to the 2018 Chicago Marathon but it just wasn’t my year. I held on and was on pace for the first half and slowly lost it from there. The highlight of the race was running with my son Ben, who was running his first. And boy did he, finishing in 2:47. Impressive! I dialed it way back after the marathon.
Total Runs: 13
Average Weekly Miles: 21
Total Hours: 12
Total Miles: 83
I really went into recovery mode in November and I think it paid off. I find that my feet and calves were no longer killing me like they were in 2017. I did start adding some bike spinning on non-running days.
Total Runs: 15
Average Weekly Miles: 20
Total Hours: 12
Total Miles: 82
2018 RUNNING TOTALS
Total Runs: 249
Average Weekly Miles: 27.8
Total Hours: 211.5
Total Miles: 1447
LIFETIME RUNNING TOTALS
Total Lifetime Runs: 4589 – 153 runs per year average
Total Lifetime Hours: 3335 – 111 hours per year average
Total Lifetime Miles: 24995 (Really?! Missed it by 5 miles!) – 833 miles per year average
This was a dial back year of sorts for triathlon. I signed up for three and only started two as I chickened out for the Batavia Tri. But the year was pretty much dedicated to doing the Boston and Chicago marathons. I was thinking that 2019 would be a bigger year for tri’s but I’ve already signed up for two more marathons! I am definitely planning on another Ironman in the next year or two. Swim and bike totals were way down from 2017.
SWIM TOTALS: Total Swims: 11 / Total Distance: 14,475 yards
I was really planning to take it easy in 2019, seeing that I didn’t re-qualify for Boston, but that just made me mad. Ben and Emily qualified for Boston 2020 and now I wasn’t content to be a spectator, which I was just fine with in October. But I thought it over and decided to give it one more shot at qualifying. I looked around and found the Spring BQ 26.2 in Batavia, IL in early April 2019. Fortunately, I met the qualifying standard to get into this race and I look forward to running it. It’s an 8 lapper on a bike path, and they treat you like an elite with a table for your own sports drink and nutrition – cool! I hope to dial it in, lock it down and run sub-3:35 for another BQ and join Ben and Emily in Boston. But if it doesn’t happen, I’ll once again be glad to be a spectator in Boston.
Speaking of dialing it in, I’m going to utilize Don Fink’s Mastering the Marathon plan for us older athletes. It’s geared to the over 40 runners, which I certainly qualify. There’s more recovery and I can swap some runs in the plan for running related activities, in my case cycling. This will hopefully still prepare me to do well at the marathon as well as allow me to gear up for the triathlon season.
Regardless of how I do in the spring marathon, I plan on taking it easy for Chicago. The only way I push hard is if my buddy Jeff wants to run it together, but I don’t think I can keep up with him. I’m thinking I might put that race away for a while even though I have legacy status to maintain. Running it every other year would maintain my legacy status. I might focus on 70.3’s and Ironman for a while instead.
Of course I still plan on running my favorite local 5K’s and the triathlons I like to do. I’m already signed up for the Batavia Tri and will definitely sign up for Manteno again. It’s a fun race.
For my 19th time, I hereby do declare I WILL NEVER RUN ANOTHER MARATHON AGAIN! This time I MEAN IT!
This Chicago Marathon will definitely go down as one of my most memorable. The race was my third long distance race this year that was run in the rain. It brought back memories of Boston last April, cool temps, wind and rain. This was a light version of Boston though. The temperature was near 60 degrees instead of 40, and the rain wasn’t pouring. The wind was only noticeable when running certain directions, and only briefly. Thankfully, Boston taught me how to manage crappy running weather, but you can never be fully prepared. And it turns out I’m not sure I was fully prepared for this one.
I was looking forward to running Chicago, as my son was going to be running it as his first marathon. Notice I didn’t say that we would be running it together. He’s fast, I’m not. Well, not as fast as he is anyway. But I looked forward to sharing that experience together.
Here’s the lowdown on how the Chicago Marathon went for me.
After finishing the Boston Marathon I needed to give my body a break. I was beat. I showed up at Boston way overtrained and worn out. The day after Boston I ended my three year running streak of running at least a mile everyday, and told myself I had to get myself right again.
After a trip to the doctor, I learned what I was kind of assuming, that I had thyroid issues. Blood tests confirmed it, and now I’m taking a synthetic thyroid medication for the rest of my life. I had thought that it might change things for me metabolically, but my doctor buddy said not to expect miracles. He was right. I really struggled to lose the ten pounds I had gained over the winter and spring. Eventually, I did drop a few pounds, but nothing like what I had expected. One positive was that I wasn’t as tired as I had been before, so that is a plus.
In mid-June I began following the same 16-week advanced training plan that I usually use. I also had been doing some triathlon related training, hoping to throw in a couple of races before the longer mileage weeks started to kick in. I ended up doing a sprint triathlon in June and the Chicago Triathlon in August.
I was a little nervous about the training after struggling with the Boston training and the race itself, but it actually went pretty well. The highlight for me was the 20 mile training run I did three weeks out from the race. I was able to hold my 8 min/mile pace fairly easily through that run and it really gave me a confidence boost. You can read about it here: The Dreaded 20 Mile Training Run
I took Friday off and headed to Chicago to attend the expo with Ben and his girl friend Emily. Every year that I had gone to the expo I would see proud Boston finishers parading around in their Boston Marathon jackets and be somewhat envious. This year, even though I didn’t really need a jacket, I decided I was going to peacock the hell out my one Boston Marathon finish and sport that damn jacket at the expo. I wasn’t alone. I saw numerous Boston 2018 celebration jackets.
We ended up getting there around midday, and man was it crazy! I had never seen it so crowded before.
Ben and I got our bibs and started the trek through the expo. We ended up spending money on mostly disappointing official Nike marathon gear and other odds and ends. We caught a glimpse of Deena Kastor and then decided to get out of there. The expo can be overwhelming after awhile.
Saturday, we all met downtown in the late afternoon and met at our hotel, the Chicago Palmer House Hilton. The hotel lobby was impressive, the rooms not so much. It’s location to the race start area was ideal, but a little bit of a hike from the finish. The Chicago Hilton is a better option for being closer to the finish, but I didn’t book it fast enough and had to settle for the Palmer House. I will say there were better dining options nearby, and I opted for the Corner Bakery and got some loaded baked potato soup and bread for an evening carb load. I had already eaten some pasta at home around 1 pm, so I think I had enough carb loading for the day.
Ben and I talked some race day strategy and I laid out my options for what to wear in the race. I had already kind of chosen the outfit, but I had brought some options in case I changed my mind.
Sleep went well except for a weird moment in the middle of the night where I found myself sweating like crazy. I got up, used the bathroom, and went back to sleep. The alarm finally went off, and I got myself ready for the day.
Ben met me at the room and after some last minute assurances, we decided it was time to head to the corrals.
We were advised to go into the corrals by entering into a specific gate based on our corral assignments, but I wasn’t having any of that. The first and closest gate was at Jackson and we got in line. Just as we were getting near the inspection point this Chinese guy cuts in front of us. Then he couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t let him carry in his sling bag because only the clear plastic gear bag was allowed. Fortunately, they let him put it into his gear bag, which he should have done in the first place. Off to a great start, but we weren’t done with him yet. As you pass security, there are event photographers ready to take your pre-race photo, so Ben and I decided to do so. Just after the guy takes our picture, we realize the guy photobombed us.
I’m smiling in the photo, but I was laughing right after it when I realized he was in the photo too! Here’s one without Mr. E10796:
Ben and I got to the split where Corrals A and B went one way and C through E went another. I told him that I loved him and that I was proud of him and that I don’t tell him that enough. We hugged and I headed straight to the toilets.
Once in the corral I found it pretty empty as I was there pretty early. So I headed to the front of it to the rope that separates the C corral from D and just hung out. I used my portable urinal (my nearly empty Gatorade bottle) under my plastic bag three times before the race started which surprised me, as I had used the port-o-lets twice before getting into my corral. Nerves I guess. After the anthem the start horn blew and I pulled the plastic garbage bag off and tossed the bag and bottle over the fence, and we started the 7 minute shuffle to the start line. Ben said he crossed the line within 10 seconds. It took me 7:18 to cross it. I gave him a head start.
Start to 5K: Overall Time: 0:25:12 / Ave. Pace 8:07 min/mile
I started off well and felt pretty strong, although my first split was about 8:15 min/mile which surprised me a little. It is hard to concentrate on pace right at the start because we are still packed tight a little, and you spend more time getting through the field than thinking about pace. It was in that first half mile that my Garmin lost track of me as we were under Randolph Street and Wacker Drive and put my split a couple of tenths off at each subsequent mile marker. Ben was going to hit his lap button every mile, but I’m done with that business. I had decided I was warm enough without my homemade tube sock arm warmers and stuck them in my shorts in case I needed them again.
Our Cheer Crew was amazing. Kari and Rebecca, along with our friends Jeff and Jill were there, plus Emily and a couple of Ben’s running buddies from Loras College braved the wet day to cheer us on. Although I had told Kari to stick with Ben, I saw Jeff and Jill up through the half way point, and then Jeff at a few other spots. Seeing everyone was always a big pick-me-up.
5K to 10K: Overall time: 0:49:03 / 5K Split: 0:24:31 / Ave. Pace 7:54 min/mile
It was raining pretty steady now but I wasn’t cold really. I managed to get my pace under 8 minute miles and was feeling good. Nothing out of the ordinary through here, just still going north.
10K to 15K: Overall time: 1:14:29 / 5K Split: 0:24:27 / Ave. Pace 7:59 min/mile
Miles 6 through 9 really had nothing remarkable about them. Right about the 10K mark the 3:25 pace group went by me and I took note of that. I usually see an Elvis impersonator through this stretch, but I’m guessing that he wasn’t into the rain this year. I did start to sense I was getting a blister on my left pinky toe from my shoes being soaked. That was a little surprising because I had lubed up my toes very well. Kept my average pace near 8 min/miles.
15K to 20K: Overall time: 1:39:55 / 5K Split: 0:25:26 / Ave. Pace 8:11 min/mile
As I neared the halfway point, I started to tell I was slowing a little. The effort was getting harder even though I was on top of my nutrition plan. I felt okay, but that would change as I passed the halfway point.
Halfway: Overall Time: 1:45:42 / Ave. Pace 8:29 min/mile
I hit the halfway and felt not so great. I was only 45 seconds over my intended split of 1:45:00 for the half, but I knew that I was losing it. My average pace dropped from 8 to 8:30 min/mile and I really didn’t see how I was going to maintain it.
Halfway to 25K: Overall Time: 2:06:32 / Split: 0:20:51 / Ave. Pace 8:36 min/mile
At the 14 mile area I saw Jeff and Jill and said I wasn’t feeling good any longer. It seemed like I was being drained of my energy. We had just passed a couple little inclines downtown, but I don’t think that was a factor. I was starting to realize that this was going to be a get to the finish line in one piece marathon for me. My time goal of 3:30 was slipping away.
25K to 30K: Overall Time: 2:34:01 / 5K Split: 0:27:30 / Ave. Pace 8:51 min/mile
I generally call this section the Dead Zone and it was no different this year. It’s mainly just runners along this portion as it is the farthest west part of the course. I will say though, that I expected the rain to drive away the crowds this year and in reality, the course was pretty populated with cheering fans. My time is creeping closer to the 9 min/mile average.
30K to 35K: Overall Time: 3:03:47 / 5K Split: 0:29:46 / Ave. Pace 9:35 min/mile
Running through Pilsen and Chinatown are highlights of the race usually, but not this time. I just wanted to get past the 20 mile mark and know I had 10K to go. It was in this section that the 3:30 pace group passed me by like I was standing still. I was resigned that my goal of finishing 3:30 was gone, and I also knew that being sub-3:35 for a Boston Marathon qualifier was pretty much out the door. I was a just finisher now.
35K to 40K: Overall Time: 3:37:22 / 5K Split: 0:33:35 / Ave. Pace 10:49 min/mile
Hello 3:35 pace group. Goodbye 3:35 pace group. I was walking the aid stations now and willing myself to keep moving forward. In 2016 I was passing these zombies, this year I was one of the un-dead. Along this section I did get a pick-me-up though – I saw the guy that is always at Ironman Wisconsin on Old Sauk Pass wearing the orange afro-wig. He was cheering us on here as well. I stopped and said hello to him because we spent some time with him on that course cheering for Jeff and his sister Jan.
40K to the Finish: Overall time: 3:52:07 / Split 0:14:46 / Ave. Pace 10:50 min/mile
I saw Kari and Rebecca waiting for me after the 25 mile mark and I stopped to say hello. Not much longer and I would be done.
I started to press forward and make it up Roosevelt Road and head to the finish. As I was climbing Mount Roosevelt as we marathoners call it, a volunteer said to “Fight up the hill!” I told her I was a lover not a fighter. She laughed and then I heard her yell, “then Love up that hill!”
As I headed toward the finish I heard my name get called out from the stands. I turned to look and saw Calvin Jordan, a fellow runner from New Lenox that I had met this fall. I made a beeline over to him and said hello. I think he thought I was nuts not sprinting for the finish, but I was glad to end the run with a friendly face and hello.
The goal for me was to take advantage of a 10 minute Boston qualifying cushion that I would receive just by turning 55 years old. But in September, the BAA decided to reduce the qualifying times by 5 minutes. So I went from needing a 3:40 marathon to 3:35, which didn’t seem to be out of the possibility for me seeing that I had ran a 3:25 in 2016. But this just wasn’t my year. I wanted to join Ben and Emily in Boston in 2020, but instead of being in the field, I will happily go to be a spectator.
I think my main issue this year was volume, and essentially too much of it for a guy in his mid-fifties. When I finished Boston in April, my body was beat. Everything hurt. So I dropped the 3+ year running streak I had and worked on rebuilding myself. I was really feeling pretty good again come summer, and when I did my 20 mile training run in late September, I held that 8 min/mile pace well. Just wasn’t my year this year.
But I must say I’m very proud of my 3:52:07 finish. Being sub-4 hours is always pretty cool.
Ben made me very proud. He crushed his first marathon in 2:47:11! After the race he seemed like it was just another day of running to him! Not tired at all. The next day I went out and got my Chicago Tribune and saw that he was in the banner photo at the top!
We wrapped up race day back at the Corner Bakery with some hot soup and then headed for home.
Preparing for a marathon means following a plan, a plan that takes you up in mileage over several weeks (16 for me) and gets you ready to tackle 26.2 miles. This is Week 13 of 16 for me, and it was time to do the dreaded 20 mile training run.
This year I decided to join in with the local Frankfort/New Lenox Running Club that I have been following and run their 20 mile training run. This club really did a great job putting on this event. The route was run on my local trail, had awesome volunteers, plentiful aid stations with anything you could have needed, and even a local team of specialized volunteers called CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) aiding with traffic at several street crossings.
We started at the still sleepy hour of 6 am in downtown Frankfort, Illinois after a group photo in the dark that surprisingly turned out well.
I don’t know why I get nervous before long runs like this, especially when I am doing them alone. This was just billed as a training run, not a race. But regardless, I still was a little nervous. As soon as the photo was taken, I hit the trail.
I was in a pack of about 12 people at the start, but by the time I got 100 feet into it I was in second place. Not that I was racing it!
The trail was in great shape for the early morning run. Most of the brush clearing that the forest preserve does in the summer/fall seemed to have been all cleaned up, and the trail was not yet overrun with cyclists getting in their weekend miles.
I could see a couple of runners ahead of me and I could tell that they were pulling away from me through the first two miles. The girl was moving super fast. They caught another runner and the male dropped back and ran with her. It wasn’t long before I caught them and realized it was a guy from the group named Pat that had also run the Boston Marathon in April. He ran with me for the next two miles to the 4 mile turn around point. We had a great conversation about Boston, running and triathlon. He decided to drop out at the turn around and told me he was heading to the 14 mile aid station and would see me there.
It was now just me and the super fast girl ahead of me, when around mile 6 I was passed by another guy from the group whose name I learned was Gavin. Gavin killed it. He was moving too. There’s some good runners in this club.
I got back to the 8 mile aid station, which was our starting point and filled up my water bottle. I think they were slightly surprised to see runners already returning from the first out and back. It was awesome to have the aid stations. I probably could have left my water bottle at home, but I like to be able to drink when I wanted it.
Around the 10 mile mark I couldn’t take my sweat soaked shirt anymore and I took it off and wrung the sweat out of it. It could have easily been a cup or more of sweat. The day started cool enough, and there was plenty of shade when the sun finally made an appearance, but it was humid and I was sweating. I kept up with my run plan of taking a salt capsule every hour and it kept me in good shape.
Soon after turning around at the 14 mile mark, I could see that another runner Dan Doyle had made up some time on me. He was closing the gap and finally caught me at Wolf Road when I stopped one final time to top off my water bottle. We ran the remaining 3 or 4 miles together. He was planning to do an extra two miles but he said that he was starting to feel like he was going to cramp up. He ended up doing an additional mile. He’s looking to get a Boston Marathon qualifier in Chicago, and I think he has a real solid chance at that. You never know with the Boston Marathon numbers game.
I wasn’t planning on writing such a long report for a 20 mile training run, but I haven’t posted anything about my marathon training so far. I was a little concerned about how I was going to fare, seeing that Boston was a terrible run for me and that I came to the conclusion that I was way overtrained. After Boston I dropped the 3+ year running streak I had and took some time off to let my body heal. Missing out on those recovery days after hard efforts was killing me. I think I trained pretty well through the summer to get to this point. It’s kind of hard to know sometimes, as the hotter summer temps produce slower times even though I was putting in hard efforts. What was clear about this run was this: performance on race day is so different than when you are just out there working on a training run. Even though this highly supported 20 miler was not a race, it had a vibe of one, and it allowed me to see where I stood. The previous weeks’ 18 mile run was done on a much cooler day and I seemed to struggle to eventually finish with an 8:15 average pace. Today I averaged 8:05 on a much warmer day and felt strong at that 20 mile mark finish line. A great weather day in October for the Chicago Marathon will hopefully make for another 3:30 or 3:25 finish for me. This run certainly was a confidence builder. I don’t think I have much to dread anymore.
One last shout out to FNRC for hosting this run and doing such a great job. The cold drinks and popsicle at the finish line was the best ever!
RESULTS: 1:38:53 – 53rd OVERALL, 7th in Age Group M 50-54
I signed up for this race last week in hopes of improving my corral seeding at the 2018 Chicago Marathon (CM) this coming fall. Otherwise, I avoid summer half marathons like the plague! Too hot, muggy and miserable! But I was on a mission.
Although I have legacy status for the CM which guarantees my entry, I ended up getting into the race based on a qualifying time from the 2016 CM race. At the CM, they seed you into corrals, which are now separated into three waves. Being in the first wave is pretty awesome, as you are with the faster runners who finish under 3 hours and 45 minutes, and generally with those that will be running the same pace as you. In 2016 I was seeded in the B corral, which was like being an elite for me. When the word got out that we had been assigned corrals for this years race, I found that I had been moved to the E corral. Talk about a blow to my ego! Still in the first wave though, which is really the goal. Being in the first wave is preferred because there will be less people, less congestion, and no fear of the supplies of water, or Gatorade, or gels, or whatever running out. But even so, my qualifying time of 3:25:08 should have put me in the D corral to begin with by their own time standards.
I sent an email requesting to be moved to the D corral, and it was approved. But I thought I would give it a shot at trying to get into the C corral, which would require me to run either a <3:20:01 marathon, or a <1:35:01 half marathon. Since there’s no way I’m attempting to run a marathon in July, I found this local half marathon race in relatively nearby Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
Amita Health/Fit America Half Marathon Race Recap
Of course it was raining. Since running the in pouring rain at the Boston Marathon in April, it seems like every race I sign up for is going to have rain. I even skipped a triathlon in June because of the storms that morning. But today it wasn’t too bad, just misty, and that only lasted for about 30 minutes.
I took my spot in the start corral area and found my pacer. This guy and everyone around him all looked young, tall and thin and more than capable of being sub 1:35. I tapped his shoulder and asked him what the 6.55 mile (halfway) split would be, just to see if he did his homework. He did the math right there and I was satisfied. He also had a pace chart on his wrist. He did ask me if that was what I was intending to run, with sort of doubt in his expression, which always makes me chuckle when people doubt me. I may look old, fat and slow, but there is nothing more pleasing than surprising them with my effort. I said I was shooting for the stars today, hoping I would be able to hang until at least halfway.
Someone with a mic started a countdown: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3… and on 3 the guy with the airhorn started blaring the thing. We all laughed and off we went.
(Note: I’m a newer user of Strava and I find the data and info from it interesting. I added screenshots of each mile split for reference and to help me recall things that happened during the race.)
MILE 1 – (7:13 Split) – I was afraid that 7:15 per mile was going to feel like 5K race pace to me, because I don’t normally train at that pace (usually I’m running 8:40 or so in training!), but our pack settled in behind our pacer. I actually felt pretty good.
MILE 2 – (7:12 Split) –By this mile my heart rate was in Z4 and I started to feel the intensity of the pace. But still I felt good, hanging with the group and feeling and looking like I belonged.
MILE 3 – (7:09 Split) – This split time is a little surprising, because Mr. Pacer was pretty spot on with his pace. There was only a handful of times when the group slowed going uphill, but we all picked it back up to 7:15 pretty easily. There were warnings of puddles to avoid, and I mentioned to the girl running next to me that Boston was all puddles, and she said she had run it too! Conversations were happening in the group and I sensed the group was feeling good.
MILE 4 – (7:16 Split) – This is where it all fell apart for me. I hit a wall and I hit it hard! Who hits the proverbial wall 4 miles into a half marathon?! Me, that’s who. I think the problem was I grabbed an energy gel at 30 minutes and started ingesting it. Between that and a water stop, my heart rate soared and I could feel myself starting to struggle. We were also starting to hit more of the hillier sections of the first half, and that was adding to my issue. The group wasn’t too far ahead, but I didn’t think I could keep pace any longer. I figured that the halfway point might be where I would falter. I was a little surprised that it was hitting me now.
MILE 5 – (7:22 Split) – Okay, a little relief from the energy gel. It usually takes about 5-10 minutes to get absorbed and it was starting to give me a boost. I worked on trying to pull myself back up to the group. We hit a turn around at this point and Mr. Pacer offered a thumbs up. But the hills were starting to take their toll on me.
MILE 6 – (7:33 Split) – Running alone again. Every race, every time. This middle mile of the race is like all middle miles of most any race. It’s the point where I find myself running alone. Although it was becoming splintered a little, the 7:15 pace group was a good football field or two ahead of me now, and there was no sign of anyone behind me. This happens all the time to me. The official timer had a split mat at 10K and I hit it at 45:51, which was still looking pretty good for me, but I had another half of the race to go.
MILE 7 – (7:44 Split) – I don’t remember much about this mile other than it was the straightest of the miles. Just doing the work at my new, more comfortable pace.
MILE 8 – (7:47 Split) – This is the mile I had originally planned to start a finishing push. You can see by the slower split time that it didn’t happen. Interesting mile though. I started eating my last energy gel, just kind of taking a small amount each time. I wanted to make sure it lasted a little longer.
MILE 9 – (7:37 Split) – I was starting to feel energized again. A young college kid passed me wearing a UW Stevens Point shirt and he had the look of a classic cross country runner. Tall, thin and running easily. I figured he must be just pacing through a training day and not racing at all, because there was no way I should have been leading that kid through 8 miles. But I was wrong. I saw him and his mother at the finish and I asked him if he was just taking it easy, and he claimed it was his first half marathon and he didn’t run at UWSP. Shame. He definitely looked like he should have been in the top 10 today. Looks can be deceiving.
MILE 10 – (7:59 Split) – As I passed the 9 mile mark I noticed the ball of my foot was getting sore, and I guessed that I was starting to get a blister. That was a little surprising, because I had lubed up my feet pretty good with Body Glide. My feet were soaked however. This was my slowest split and I’m not sure why. There was a turn around, but I didn’t mess around there. With only 5K to go at the 10 mile mark, I started to push again. I was slowly starting to catch people. I think I overtook 3 other runners in this mile.
MILE 11 – (7:43 Split) – I wanted to keep pushing but the path started getting hilly and curvy again. Hoping to push a little more but save enough for a strong last mile kick. Definitely could feel that blister forming on my right foot.
MILE 12 – (7:41 Split) – Just after passing the 11 mile marker you come to a turn where there is a water station, but I almost made a wrong turn there. That’s the fear for me when I get stuck in no-man’s land. Fortunately I chose correctly, grabbed some water and kept going.
MILE 13 and End – (7:29 Split) – I finally got out of the forest preserve and back on the road heading back to the finish. I had been looking over my shoulder and could see a guy in a blue singlet pulling me in. I’m pretty sure he was in the early 7:15 pace group with me. He caught me with a little less than a half mile to go. I latched on and we paced together until we were handed American flags about 200 meters from the finish. I was with him at that point and encouraged him to push. He did and was able to beat me to the line. I crossed the line waving that flag, relieved to be under 1:40 and to be done. He congratulated me on a good finish, and I him.
Overall I was pretty happy with my sub 1:40 time of 1:38:53. I was hoping for that sub 1:35, and I was optimistic about it for the most part, but I really would have needed a perfect day and course to get that. Corral D, here I come!
The course was more challenging than I expected. It had about 650 feet of elevation gain which is notable. Rolling hills, but nothing too terrible. The course is all paved, some on road but most on bike trail. There were five switchbacks and a lot of turns. I would rate it challenging, but still capable of producing a good finish time. The race organization was outstanding. The volunteers were plentiful and were awesome. The medal seemed a little cheaper than other races I have been at that this race organization hosts, but I still liked it. I signed up late and paid about $70. I highly recommend this race and most races hosted by All Community Events.
To sum up this race in one word: strange. Of all the 5K’s I have done, this one always has a weird vibe to it. The anxiety is different for me here. I’m always a little more amped up for this race for some reason. Today was no different. There’s usually some good competition here, especially for a Wednesday night race.
First of all, this was my first hard effort in a race since running the Boston Marathon, a race I did not do very well at. Oh sure, Boston had some extreme conditions, but I never really felt prepared for it and it seems that I had struggled with effort since. My expectation was that I was not going to be able to run my typical sub-21 minute 5K.
Then there’s the club vibe at this race. The competitive aspect seems high for these clubs. I follow the Frankfort/New Lenox Running Club online and have interacted with a few of the members, and tonight I decided to sport the club singlet and represent. Although I tried to interact with them pre-race, I just kind of felt like an outsider. That’s mostly on me, as I don’t really run with them much, mainly because they schedule their runs in the evenings when I’m doing dinner with the family, or early on Saturday morning when I would rather take my time getting up and around. But I do value associating with them online. The Tinley Track & Trail club is always competitive at this race, and I noticed a few other clubs this year as well.
I did my typical slow warm-up, a few quick up-tempo strides and then got in line at the start. Ben and Emily joined in on the fun this year, and I positioned myself behind them. The guy with the bullhorn started the race, not from the middle of the road this year for a change, and off we sped. We weren’t a 1/4 mile into it when an 8 year old kid went in front of me from right to left. He had his arms raised, flexing his muscles for some reason and we clipped feet and down he went. Immediate dread filled me and I stopped to see if he was okay. I hadn’t even got turned around and he was already up and running. Must not have affected him much, because he finished in 32nd place. Yes, the 8 year old kid that I accidently tripped when he cut me off almost beat me.
Back to running again I found that I was pegging the heart rate into the red, in my typical fashion. Not sure why I can’t hold back at the beginning of this race, but I go out too hard every time. At one point I glanced at my watch and it said I was running sub-6 minute pace per mile. Oops. I dialed it back and hoped I could salvage a couple of miles around 7 min pace.
I saw Todd Street spectating somewhere near the 2.25 mile mark and said hello. After that I was all about trying not to get passed, but it was happening with regularity. I saw a couple grey haired guys pass me and I had the feeling that I wasn’t going to finish in the money. With about a half mile to go we crested a hill and I used the downhill to make a final push. The last 100 yards or so is uphill slightly, and I pushed as hard as I could while still checking my shoulder for the guy I passed. I was able to hold him off. I could see the clock and saw that I wasn’t going to break 21 minutes, which deflated me a little, but I was more worried about place than time at that point.
I found Ben at the end and he said he had won the race. Very proud of him. He’s finished this race in 2nd way too many times. Nice that he got the trophy this year, even if it is the most annoyingly big 5K 1st place trophy ever. Emily did well too, grabbing 1st in her age group and 3rd overall for the females.
So I finished in 30th place, 14 places later than last year’s 16th place. There were less faster old guys this year and a lot more kids. There were 7 men in their 50’s in the top 30 last year, and this year there was just two. Last year I finished in 20:45; this year more than a half minute slower. It is a little bit of a head scratcher for me, as it seems that I am still feeling the effects of being over-trained the past year, or old age is just catching up with me. I’m not really training to race 5K’s, but I do like to push myself and race them. I just don’t like getting slower as the years pass.
I was reviewing the race on Strava and saw this really cool Flyby feature that shows other Strava using runners in the race and how we ran. Fun to watch. I hope the link works. Click on the orange start button to make it work. Strava Flyby of the 5K