Friday, October 25, 2013

2013 Season Recap

Another year of racing is in the books and as I reflect back I am thankful that I have the opportunity to do what I do.  2013 was a very humbling year to say the least.  Coming off about 3 consecutive years of setting personal records, winning races, and consistently having podium finishes in my age group I had some setbacks this year and sub par performances.  This year was my last year in my current age group (30-34) which is the age group I have been in ever since I started this crazy ride of running and racing triathlons.  I am looking forward to entering my new age group (35-39) next year and excited about the challenge this super competitive age group offers. 
Two great things happened in 2013.  The first was that I finished my first marathon and the second was I finally raced at USA Triathlon National Championships (Olympic distance). 
I take a lot of pride in knowing that I completed a marathon even though the race didn’t go as planned.  My 4 hour and 19 minute time over 26.2 miles was well above my intended target.  It was the most challenging physical event I have ever subjected myself to.  I learned a lot in those 4 months of training leading up to the marathon.  The last 6.2 miles were frontier miles I have never experienced before.  It was 6.2 miles that seemed like 62 miles but the experience and knowledge I gained in those miles will definitely help me in the future.  I look forward to running another marathon over the next few years.   Find my race report here.
USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship was another race I have been dreaming about doing for a long time and I finally got to do it in 2013.  See my race report here.  I didn’t have a great race but it wasn’t terrible either.  My mindset going into this big race was to just enjoy the event, enjoy the atmosphere, and enjoy the overall experience.  I was able to do all of that at Nationals.  This was a very humbling race too as the best amateur triathletes in the country were present and were bad fast.  One of the big takeaways from this event was that I discovered, seeing it firsthand, how fast I really need to be.  The good thing is I can get there and now I have the motivation to achieve it.
In between those two big races I did some 5k’s and some triathlons (both sprint and Olympic distances).  No spectacular finishes except my last triathlon in October where I finished 10th overall.  One of my goals was to run a 5k under 19 minutes but I could never get there in 2013.  I struggled to find speed all year.  I really thought that after the marathon was over in late April I could take a week off then just get right into gaining my short distance speed back.  Boy, was I wrong!  I was trying to accomplish too many goals that were not necessarily in line with each other.  This experience has helped me refocus my game plan and goals going into 2014 and beyond.  Another big change in 2013 was the time I spent with my kids and their athletic activities.  I was very involved in helping coach them in the spring and summer.  A lot of practices and ballgames nearly 5 nights a week.  Training took a backseat during this time.  I still trained but it was in the mornings….when I was able to get up =).  This is the first year, more so than any prior years, that I had to really balance family life with training because there was a lot of demand for my time.  My family is way more important than any race or event so the decision was actually pretty easy, but I did miss a lot of key workouts.  In years past I got so caught up in my training and racing that I took a lot of things for granted inadvertently lost sight of the things that mean so much to me.  The best experience I gained in 2013 that I can take into the coming years is that I have to train differently so that I don’t lose focus on what’s most important, my kids and family.
A lot of “proud dad” moments happened with both of my kids in 2013.  The two that standout and are relative to this blog are that they both completed their first triathlon.  They also joined in the fun at Nationals by running in the kids fun run race.  Not only did they step out of their comfort zone and try something new they also performed really well. 
After going through somewhat of a learning experience, or transition year, in 2013 I feel better equipped going into 2014 with goals that are more in line with my main objective.
My main objective for 2014 is to qualify for Team USA at Nationals in August 2014.  To give myself the best chance at this I will need to focus on getting faster on the bike, improving my swim time a little, and getting my sprint running speed back.  Sounds easy, right?  Well, in fact it is.  To be a faster swimmer, biker, and runner all you have to do is swim, bike, and run faster.  To achieve this success I am using the off season to rest, build strength, and maintain run and swim base.  Main focus at the turn of the new year will be building a strong bike base.  Then my races leading up to August will be ones that are similar to the distance of Nationals so a lot of 5k’s, 10k’s, and sprint triathlons.   There will be no half marathon or marathon in 2014.  All of this should put me in the best position to have the most success while maintaining the right balance between training and family.
Looking beyond 2014 and into 2015 I have ideas on what I want to do.  If I qualify for Team USA I will participate at Age Group World Championships and that will be my focus.  However, my plan B if I don’t get on the team will be to run a successful marathon and do either a half ironman or full ironman in 2015.  That’s further down the road and will have to see how it all works out.
A lot of lows with a few highs sums up my 2013 racing season.  It happens and it’s part of the fabric that makes us who we are and makes us better.  I hope I can take the hard lessons learned and use them as motivation and reminders in 2014.
Train.  Race.  Repeat

Friday, August 30, 2013

Race Report: 2013 USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals (Olympic)

This is my report from the biggest and most competitive triathlon I have ever participated in.  It was an awesome and humbling experience.  This report is a long read.  I am trying to write this report for the group that likes to read about my experience and for those planning on doing the 2014 race and looking for any insight. 

Here is a quick summary of my time and rankings from the Olympic distance race (0.93 mile swim, 24.85 mile bike, and 6.2 mile run):

Total Time:  2:34:55
Age Group Placing:  171/183 (whew not dead last)
Male Placing:  1229/1546
Overall:  1694/2677

The 2013 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship in Milwaukee, WI was a race to remember.  I have qualified in each of the past 3 years but was unable to attend due to the race being in Vermont.  However, in 2013 the race moved to Milwaukee and opened the door for me to finally participate in this race as it was within driving distance. 

Coming off a spring and summer with some mediocre training my goal for this race was to enjoy the experience and not finish last in my age group.  Those two goals were accomplished.  I spent most of the winter training for my first marathon which I ran at the end of April.  My mentality was that I could do the marathon, take a week or two off, then get right into triathlon training in preparation of this event.  That was not how it worked out.  The marathon training and the marathon itself took more out of me than I realized.  I felt behind in my triathlon training all spring and summer.  Trying to catch up on key bike building months that were missed and trying to switch running gears from marathon pace to sprint pace.  I have battled myself in trying to find my bike and run speed from a year ago.

Last fall I wanted to have a 2hrs 15 minute time at Nationals (Olympic distance).  In June I realized that time was almost an unattainable goal this year and came to grips with my new goal of just enjoying the race and the USAT experience together.

Leading Up To The Race
The family and I made the 4 hour voyage to Milwaukee Thursday night and stayed at a downtown hotel.  Friday was mostly spent getting my packet, checking my bike in, checking out the city, and watching my kids do the Kids Fun Run.  It was a pretty relaxing day but the nerves started to kick in as the day went on.  By the way, my kids rocked their fun run and they definitely had a blast.  The coolest part for them was being able to run down the red carpet and finish at the same place I would the next day.  Plus a free t shirt and a finisher medal are cool for them too!  Chrissie Wellington started the kids race off with a pep talk which I thought was cool of her to do.

Packet pick up was really easy once we found it.  The signage to get athletes to the right area seemed a little lacking.  Once we found it the process was seamless and just like any other race.  SWAG included the event t shirt, USAT socks, an event drawstring bag, event running hat, and the standard fliers you see at other races.  After that was done I we walked around the expo, got some water bottles, a couple more event shirts, and even some free compression socks.  Honestly, I was expecting this expo to be a lot bigger.  I have seen better expos at smaller events.

Bike check in was really easy.  This is the first time I have left my bike overnight in transition.  My bike spent the night with about 3,000 of it's closest friends.  I didn't leave anything but the bike.  For peace of mind I would bring my watch, water bottles, shoes, etc when I came to the race the next morning.  After I got the bike racked I rehearsed my transitions. 

With the bike checked in and the kids fun run done it was time to head back to the hotel to chill and get dinner.  Friday night was pretty laid back.  Got to watch my kids enjoy the pool and hung out with my family.  Before bed I put my race tats on and got everything I needed for the race tightly packed in the clear plastic bag USAT gave us.  Then it was off to bed.  I didn’t get much sleep  but that’s typical for me on the night before a race.

My hotel was about a mile from transition but my dad offered to drive me down to transition that morning.  I think I probably got down there around 6am.  Once I got transition all setup I checked my clear bag and basically hung out until my swim started.  My wave didn’t go off until 9:30, but the race had a 15 minute delay and now my wave went off at 9:45.  I had a lot of free time so I watched some of the other waves on their swim start and watched some of the athletes at the bike mount line.  I even got to see my family and hang out with them for a little while.  The weather was perfect but sitting out in the sun for 2+ hours anxiously waiting for my race to start probably took more energy out of me than I realized.

By the way the weather was absolutely perfect.  During my race the temperature was in the low 70's and the humidity was very low as well.  The wind was generally light.  By the time I got to the run there was good cloud cover.  Couldn't have asked for a more perfect day to race. 


Swim start for my age group Men 30-34

The swim took place in a lagoon at Discovery World.  The water temp was a perfect 69 degrees and I wore my wetsuit.  My open water swimming is a little sub par because I can’t swim straight and usually have a hard time sighting.  I was excited about this swim because all the buoys were on your right and I am a right side breather which made the entire swim better for me.  I started in the middle of the pack at the start with the goal of trying to hang with that part of my age group for as long as I could.  I held on until around the first pass under the walk bridge then I slowed a little and settled in for the remainder of the swim.  There were a few other guys in my age group that were swimming at the same pace and we traded off on drafting each other. 

Different view of swim start.  Everyone starts in the water.

I was initially concerned about congestion through the, what seemed to be very tight space, canal under a walk bridge.  I got to watch a few other age groups before me go through it and to me it seemed like there was plenty of space.  During my swim I didn’t notice congestion being a problem.  Well, maybe that’s because I was slow and not too many people around me.  The exit ramp from the lake was steep and slick.  Thankfully the ramp was lined with volunteers that basically pulled us up the ramp.

Overall, the swim was what I expected.  I can swim this distance a lot faster in a pool obviously, but I was able to improve 4 minutes from my last 1500 meter open water swim.

Transition 1

Coming out of the water.  I couldn't wait to
get this wetsuit off.

T1 seemed liked it took forever and it did.  As soon as I was out of the water I had my wetsuit halfway off and was on my way to find my bike.  I rehearsed, like I do at every race, going through each transition so I don’t get lost or confused as to where my rack is.  I was able to find my bike pretty easily.  The problem I had was getting my wetsuit completely off.  I eventually had to sit down to get them off my ankles and lost valuable seconds in the process.  With the wetsuit off it was time to grab the bike.


This image was taken as I was making
the first pass over the Hoan Bridge.
 I really enjoyed the bike course.  It was generally flat.  There was a decent climb at the first turnaround around mile 3 and of course the steady climb over Hoan Bridge.  The roads really seemed to be in good shape.  I don’t remember dodging potholes or debris.  For an event this big I really didn’t see any congestion on the bike course.  I was always around a lot of the athletes on the bike course but we all had enough space. 

On the flats I was able to hammer and put out some good speed but I really slowed down and lost time on the first incline at the 3 mile turnaround and also the first trip over the bridge.  On the second pass over the bridge heading back into transition I felt I got over it fast and stronger.  I believe on the first two climbs I didn’t push as hard as I should because I was probably trying to conserve a little energy.  I am generally pretty good on climbs and can make up time on a lot of people.  However, this is where my lackluster bike training this spring and summer finally caught up to me.
I didn’t go as fast as I wanted.  I averaged 21.2 mph and was hoping to average between 22-23mph. 
It was a fun and fast bike course.

Transition 2

Transition 2 was uneventful.  No problem dismounting or finding my bike.  Racked the bike, put my running shoes on, and headed out for the 10k run.


I didn’t know what to expect on the run because my runs this summer in triathlons and stand alone races has been inconsistent and slower.  In my last 10k triathlon run my run sucked and was a slow 8:21/mi pace.  I really wanted to average about a 7:30/mi pace at this event but I ended up with a 7:54/mi pace.  An improvement from the last race but still slow for me. 

The run course was flat and scenic along Lake Michigan and up and down Lincoln Memorial Drive.  For me the water and ice stations were placed perfectly.  The volunteers did a great job in keeping athletes on course and were really energetic. 

The Finish

Most of my finish photos are me looking
down at my watch.  Wanted to make sure
this one was halfway decent.

As I got closer to the finish line the crowd was getting bigger.  My adrenaline started to kick in and my pace picked up.  I was almost there.  The finish line I have been dreaming about crossing was just up the road.  But wait, that dude ahead of me is in my age group.  So I kicked it in and passed him.  As I went under the Mason Street Bridge I could see the red carpet finish line through the sea of people lining a path to it.  It was everything I imagined it would be.  As I hit the red carpet I did a quick check around me to make sure I had enough space between me and the other finishers so they wouldn’t photo bomb my finish photo.  Yes, that ran through my head.  I may not have had my best race but damn it I am going to get a good finisher photo.  I crossed the finish line and got my medal.  Somehow I missed getting my medal from Chrissie Wellington.  Maybe I did, who knows, as I was a little dazed at that time. 

I did it!  I finished the race I have been wanting to do for 3 years.  I competed against the best in the country and had a blast getting my butt kicked.  It was an amazing and humbling experience.


In the end I had a really great time and really enjoyed the experience of competing in an event of this size with tons of talented athletes.  Milwaukee was great city to host this event.  I am starting to like these triathlons in urban settings.  I've done a couple of them and it is much more enjoyable when your scenery is something besides corn fields.  I have never visited Milwaukee before this and it is a pretty cool town.  From the hotel, to the food, to the race venue everything seemed convenient.  Parking wasn’t an issue for us the entire weekend.  My wife and kids easily found a parking garage close to transition even arriving later than most people. 

My only recommendation is the clear plastic bags.  I understand and appreciated the emphasis on safety post Boston Marathon.  I wish the USAT issued clear plastic bag could have been a little bigger and a little stronger. 

Awesome event in a great city with energetic volunteers.  What more could you ask for.

I want to go back next year.  Except this time I want to do the sprint distance and qualify for Team USA.  The sprint distance is my bread and butter and I am looking forward to getting my speed back.

Train.  Race.  Repeat.

Here are some other photos from the event:

Looking towards the swim start.  Taken Friday morning.

The dock you walk down to get to swim start.

The Finish Line the day before

Transition before any bikes

Very close to the end

The final push

On my way up Hoan Bridge

On my way up Hoan Bridge

Doing my best to finish strong

View of the finish line, expo, and transition area from the
elevated walkway from the Art Museum to a parking garage.

My younger brother and I before the swim

My parents and I

The orange shirts are the volunteers pulling swimmers out
of the water and up the slick ramp.  This was a great swim
course for spectators.  As you can see the spectators had
a lot of spots to view the swim.

This may be a view from the parking garage.  Looking east
towards the Art Museum and the finish line

View looking towards the exit ramp you take up to Hoan Bridge

Almost there!

View from the walk bridge that went over the swim course

View from the walk bridge that went over the swim course

The very steep and slick swim exit ramp.  Thankful for the line
of volunteers that pulled us up!



Coming into Transition 2

Coming into Transition 2

Bike and Run exit from transition

View from the stands at the finish line

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Up Next - Triathlon Age Group National Championship

In just about 3 weeks I will be participating in the 2013 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship race.  This will be the largest event USA Triathlon has ever hosted and possibly the most competitive field they have ever seen.  It has been on my "must do" list of races and it's just about here.  I don't know how it will all shake out but here is my take on it.

What Is It?

Each year USA Triathlon hosts this championship race for basically the top 10% of triathletes in various age groups across the country.  In order to race at this event you you qualify by winning your age group or by finishing in the top 10% of your age group at a sanctioned race.  Last fall I did that at 3 different events.

The race itself is an Olympic distance event which will consist of a 1500 meter swim in Lake Michigan, a 24.85 mile bike, and a 6.21 mile run in downtown Milwaukee, WI.

What's At Stake?

At this race there are two things up for grabs.  To be a national champion in your age group and qualify for the 2014 International Triathlon Union Short Course Triathlon World Championship (Team USA).

The Reality For Me

I am going to give it everything I have.  No question.  The reality is my likely hood of being a national champ or qualifying for team USA is somewhat thin.  But hey, I've got a horse in the race and anything can happen.

To me, this is a race I have been wanting to do for a long time.  A race where only the best show up.  A race where I can see how I stack up against the best in the county.  A race that will provide me with valuable experience and memories.  Not everyone gets this opportunity and I plan to go hard and enjoy it. 

My goal is to get a personal record time at this distance and not finish dead last in my age group.  2013 has been somewhat of an off year for me.  I have struggled to find speed.  I did an Olympic distance race a week ago with a mediocre performance.  My bike was good but the swim and the run were awful to say the least.  It was good to do that race as it woke me up and refocused my mentality. 

It will also be fun just to participate in a race with a field of this size.  Being the fierce competitor that I am I relish in this opportunity.  I have had friends and acquaintances who have participated in various State and National championships in various sports.  Some of which won it all.  I always thought to myself, "man, that would be awesome to compete on a stage like that".

Now is my chance.  I don't know what will happen on race day but I anticipate it to be a nerve racking, exciting, and humbling experience.

More to come...

Train.  Race.  Repeat.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Race Report: 2013 Tri Shark Triathlon Gone Du

The weather this spring in the Midwest has been cool and wet.  Recent heavy rains have resulted in a lot of runoff going into lakes and rivers.  This excessive inflow of water resulted in the lake being stirred up and caused bacteria levels to rise.  As a result, the race director cancelled the swim for the safety of the participants.  I was a little upset that the swim was cancelled because I really wanted the open water swim practice.  However, I think the race director made the right call and did an excellent job making this event great even with countless last minute issues. So the triathlon was switched to a duathlon which consisted of a 2 mile run, 13 mile bike, and a 5k run.  

My results are as follows:
Overall: 35th/489
Age Group: 12th/47
Run 1 Time: 12:41 (6:21/mi avg)
Bike Time: 37:42 (20.7mph avg)
Run 2 Time: 21:46 (7:01/avg)

For this being my first multi sport event of the year coupled with limited bike training rides I was pleased with the results.  I wanted to place in the top 5 of my age group.  Some days you have it and some days you don’t.

Run 1
The swim was now a fast 2 mile run.  I have only done one other duathlon so I really don’t know how to pace the first run or what the right strategy is.  Knowing myself I figured I would go out too fast and I did.  The first half mile or so I was running a 5:45 pace.  I did slow down a little because I knew I couldn’t keep that pace over 2 miles.  I felt really good on this two mile run.  Running fast and felt fresh.  I was a little surprised in how fast I ran it.  The last half mile was really congested.  You had all the runners spread out and the really fast runners and elites starting the bike.  All on the same road.  Bikers were weaving in and out of runners.  It was really dangerous and pretty scary.  

Transition 1
It was an uneventful T1 and it went smoothly.

Air Temp:  66 degrees
Winds:  South 15-20 w/ stronger gusts

I got on my bike pretty well.  By the time I was on the bike course the volunteers had already realized the dangerous situation of the mass amount of runners and bikers trying to share the same road.  They created, on the fly, 3 lanes with cones.  One for runners going out, one for runners coming back, and a lane just for bikes.  This was a great improvise and believe it worked out well.  After about a half mile I was able to settle in a good cadence and hammer.  

The first two miles were fast averaging 22 to 23 mph.  Mile 3 was the beginning of about a 4 mile stretch that was against the strong winds.  On this 4 mile stretch was averaging about 16-19mph.  This is where my lack of bike training finally caught up to me.  I just didn’t have the bike legs to have a consistent speed against the wind.  A little more training and I could have gone faster.  What kept me focused was the fact that the return back to transition would be fast with the wind.  

Mile 7 had a cross wind but was able to finally get up to speed.  Mile 8 was my fastest mile in which I averaged 33.8mph with a little help from the wind.  The remaining miles were indeed fast as I averaged in between 20-26mph.  It felt good to be flying.  The mile I did really fast was fun and was able to get up to 37mph.  I felt like Lance Armstrong on PED’s. The lack of bike training and the winds affected my bike time but I’ll take a 20.7mph for my first race of the year. 

Transition 2
T2 was also uneventful although I was a little slow getting my bike shoes off and running shoes on.

Run 2
After a really fast Run 1 and an exhausting bike performance I wasn’t sure how the last leg of this race would go.  It was a 5k run and my Garmin said it was 3.14 miles and I averaged 6:56.  This is a good time but I have ran faster in my brick training runs.  I had a pretty consistent pace throughout this run.  The wind also presented a little challenge as it did on the bike but I was able to power through it.  The beginning of mile 2 I sped up and was running hard.  It wasn’t until about the last half mile or so that I looked back and didn’t see anyone else gaining on me.  In fact, I didn’t see anyone.  At this point I backed off and coasted to the finish because I knew I could not improve or hurt my position.  Run 2 was disappointing as I was hoping to run it at around a 6:40/mi pace.  

Not my best race but pretty happy with the outcome.  I definitely know what I need to work on to get better this summer in preparation for Nationals.  

The race director, volunteers, and police/ems did an outstanding job once again.  After the race the participants were treated with all kinds of water, pop, and food.   The food was really good too.  Pulled pork, Avanti’s sandwiches, pizza, cookies, and tons more.  I didn’t stick around for the awards as I knew I wasn’t getting one.  However, the trophies did look pretty sweet.  I was able to do this race with 3 of my friends that I train with.  They all had good races too.  It is fun when you know some of the other competitors at these events.  

Hopefully, the Tri won’t go Du in 2014.

Train.  Race.  Repeat.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Race Report - 2013 Illinois Marathon

I have purposely waited a little longer than usual to write this race report.  I wanted the pain of running the marathon to wear off and then spend some time reflecting on the high and lows of training and the race itself.

A Quick Summary
My first marathon did not go as planned.  It was a very humbling experience that I do not regret ever doing.  The day after the race I was disappointed in myself.  I am now happy with my marathon experience.  Towards the end of the race I kept telling myself, “never again, NEVER AGAIN”.  I am proud that I suffered through the pain and agony to finish.  As I sit here today I am looking forward to doing another marathon.  This will not be my last.  I would like to thank my wife and family for cooperating with my long and hectic training schedule.  I would also like to thank my family and friends for the encouragement and support along the way.  The journey of a marathon is more than just the training the running the race.
Pre Marathon
Marathon weekend started off great.  Friday morning my daughter had her State gymnastic meet.  It was awesome to watch her compete at State and to see her execute her best meet.  She hit a stretch where she had two meets that weren’t her best.  Her hard work, concentration, getting everything out of practice time, and using our living room furniture to perfect her routines paid off.  She is a fierce competitor like her parents and it is a thrill to watch her develop.

After the meet I drove back to Champaign to participate in the Illinois 5k on Friday night.  Part of marathon weekend is the option to do the I-Challenge which is basically run the 5k Friday night then run the 10k, half marathon, or marathon Saturday morning.  This is my third year doing the I-Challenge, but my first I-Challenge doing the full marathon.  The goal of the 5k was run it at marathon pace or slightly over.  As it turned out I ended up pacing a friend.  Her goal pace and my anticipated pace were going to be similar so it was a win-win for everyone.  She crushed her previous 5K personal record and it was neat to help someone do that.  My 5K time was 25:15.


Time: 4:19:00 (goal was 3:30:00)

Well the day had finally arrived.  After 4 months of training and countless miles of running it all came down to just one day and 26.2 miles.  I did the same pre run routine that I had been doing before every long run in training.  Got to the race about 45 minutes prior to the start which enabled me to get a decent warm-up in as well as get my stretching in.  After that it was a couple of porta potty visits to relieve the nerves then headed to the start line.

A lot of excitement was in the air on this race day.  The temperature was perfect and the wind was ideal.  There was a lot of Boston tributes before the race.  A moment of silence then the singing of Sweet Caroline really reminded us all to never forget how life is so short and to enjoy the mile you are in.  There were countless runners wearing Boston Marathon colors and other Boston apparel.  Even saw Abe Lincoln running with a Boston flag.

I’m feeling good.  Got everything planned out.  From gels to pace targets it was all just down to execution.  

It was hard to slow myself down in the first couple of miles of the race with all the excitement and adrenaline, but I was able hold back a little.  The first 5 miles went as planned.  The plan was to average an 8:12 pace and I ended up doing a 8:07 pace.  I didn’t feel I was pushing the pace too hard but I just felt comfortable.

Miles 6 through 10 were also good.  The plan was to run at a 8:06 pace and I ended up at a 8:02 pace.  This part of the course is probably the “hilliest” of first half of the race and was happy to get through it rather comfortably.

After mile 10 a lot of mind games started raging in my head.  At this point in the race you are still running with the half marathoners who are making their final push to the finish.  As the halfway point got closer and closer I was excited and still feeling pretty good.  I ran 13.1 miles in 1:46:38 which was right at my target.    After the halfway point my pace started to slow a bit.  I wanted to run miles 10-15 at a 8:00 pace and ended up doing 8:22.  

At mile 16 I realized that my goal time would not be reached and I was ok with it.  Thinking I could still get in under 3:45.  Mile 16 is where I started to slowly diminish.  By now my pace is in the upper 8:00 minute and low 9:00 minute pace.  As I got closer to the 20 mile mark my pace had dropped to 9:52.  The race was getting harder and harder.  Even though I had slowed down considerably I was ok with it.  It was becoming a race of will power and the need to just finish.  My mile 20 time was only off 10 minutes of what I projected.  If I could have only maintained my pace for the rest of the race.

In my training I never ran over 20 miles.  I didn’t know what to expect in the last 6.2 miles except to expect the unexpected.  To this point the race was 20 miles of hope and now it’s down to 6.2 miles of reality.  And reality it was.  With each mile my pace got slower and slower, my muscles hurt more and more, and my stride became shorter and shorter.  At each mile I kept calculating what my pace needed to be in order to finish in under 4 hours.  At the end of mile 23 I could barely lift my legs and my run became more of a slow shuffle.  About mile 23.5 I decided to walk and do a walk/jog to the finish.  I didn’t want to do that but after almost tripping over my feet while shuffling  I decided it was time to suck up the ego, not kill myself, and get to the finish.  

It seemed like I did more walking than jogging but at this point it was just a matter of finishing.  I could only jog for maybe a quarter mile or so before I had to walk again.  Trust me, I was giving it everything I had, it wasn’t that I was quitting it was just what I had to do to finish.  I gathered up enough energy to jog the last half mile to the finish.  I wasn’t fast and it wasn’t pretty.

I crossed the finish line, grabbed my marathon and I Challenge medals, went to the end zone and laid face first on the ground.  At this point, in all the pain, I realized I have done something unimaginable…..I finished my first marathon! 

There is a lot of strategy and planning that goes into running a marathon.  I now have a better understanding on what went wrong and what I need to do to make it better with the help of my experienced marathon friends.  I am looking forward to learning from my mistakes and have a better marathon next year.  That’s right, I will run this race again.

Train.  Race.  Repeat.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Race Report: Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon 2013

On April 6, 2013 I ran the Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon in Springfield, IL.  This was a race that I signed up for in 2012 so I would have a race under my belt for the marathon at the end of April.

The goal of this marathon was to enjoy it and run at my marathon pace.  Since I have been training for a marathon my speed is a little slower than in the past so I knew there would be no personal record today.  My goal was to run it under 1:45 and I came in at 1:44.

Overall - 159/1475
Age Group - 25/101
All Men - 131/1639

This is a really well ran race and a unique one too.  The route takes you back in history by running by the Old State Capitol, Abe Lincoln's home, Lincoln's tomb, other historical sites.

The race started by the Lincoln Presidential Museum with Abe Lincoln greeting all of the runners and wishing us well then the race was officially started with a musket volley from the 114th Volunteer Regiment.

The conditions were pretty good, except for the wind, with  temperatures in the low 50's.

The first half of the course was pretty flat.  My goal was to do the first 2 miles at an 8 minute pace then settle into a 7:40-7:45 mile pace until we got the hilliest part of the course.  Well, I started a little quicker doing the first 2 miles at a 7:40 pace but I did not feel I was pushing too hard.

A mental defeat was realized about mile 2 when I noticed that my bottle holding my Hammer gel popped out of its holster.  The race had Gu gel but my stomach cannot tolerate that brand which is why I use Hammer products.  I usually take a gel about every 5 miles.  Time would tell if this would affect my effort level.

There were a few small hills in the first part of the race nothing too steep or too long.  The first big hill was just after mile 7.  You could see this hill as you were running down the preceding hill that led up to it.  I powered up the hill at a pretty good pace but was a little gassed at the top but kept on with my pace.

The first 8 miles I was feeling pretty good averaging a 7:40 pace then came mile 9.  Mile 9 took runners into Oak Creek Cemetery where Lincoln's tomb is.  You go  down a pretty good hill to then run up a good long hill by the tomb.  Although I struggled to get up hill somewhat I did take a moment to relish in the American history I was in.  I have never been there, and even though I was running through it, it was still pretty neat.

At this point, the two previous hills were starting to catch up to me because my pace slowed down.  Then around mile 10 the route took you through Lincoln Park where it was up and down with at least three good hills if I remember right.  This is where my pace fell apart.  I just could not power up the hills like I had hoped.  I kept thinking to myself it would have been nice if  I had my gels to consume and give me a little energy boost.  Wasn't the case today.  There is one last steep hill coming out of Lincoln Park and at the top, on the pavement, read, "Last Hill".  Thank God.  But by this point I was literally out of gas.  I ran mile 12 at a 8:49 pace which is slow for me.  As we got closer to the finish I didn't even have enough for the final kick.

My marathon pace is between 7:45 and 8:00.  I always kept an eye on my pace knowing at a 8:00 pace in today's race would get me my 1:45 goal time. At mile 12 I realized that the only way I could not get my goal time was if I stopped and walked.  Since this was not my "A" race and there was no chance at a PR I just backed off and coasted the last mile or so.

Overall, I was happy with my race and had a great time running this event.  The volunteers do a great job.  All of the intersections were closely manned with volunteers and there were plenty of water stations.  The volunteers were also very encouraging.  My legs were definitely sore from the hills.  The next day my previously injured hamstring was bothering me but thankfully it started to feel better by Monday.

If running through history isn't enough for you, you can also get your picture taken with Abe Lincoln, and you get one of the best medals I have ever seen....a giant penny!

I recommend this race to anyone.

Now, I got a few more weeks to go before my first "A" race in 2013.  The Illinois Marathon.

Train.   Race.  Repeat.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Let's Get This 26.2 Mile Party Started

It has been awhile since I have written on here.  Since my last race back in November 2012 the road has been a little interesting.

During that 5k in November I tied my personal best time.  It was a great way to head into the off season in preparation for my first marathon in April 2013.  However, the day after the race my hamstring was really sore.  I did the normal RICE method and nothing seemed to help.  After a couple of weeks of being stubborn I finally went to get a free consult at a local athletic rehab center.  They told me I pulled my hammy and that Astym would be the best treatment for the injury.  I agreed because my wife had success with Astym on her past injuries.  The only problem was that I had to get a referral from my doctor.  Well since I haven't seen my doctor in over 7 years I was no longer a patient of his and he couldn't see patients until mid January 2013.  That would not work at all because marathon training started January 7th.  Needless to say I found a doctor with an immediate opening to get me the referral I needed for physical therapy.  

Therapy consisted of about two sessions per week for about 4 weeks.  The main treatment was Astym along with strength and conditioning.  The best part about Astym treatment is that you are encouraged to run after treatments.  Score!  At this point my marathon training plan would remain intact and I proceeded with caution.

By the time I started my 16 week marathon training program I was on the tail end of my physical therapy.  The first couple of weeks of training were rough because I lost some of my base after the hammy injury and was a little timid and babied the hammy.  Once I got over that mental hurdle  my runs started getting better.

Weeks 1 through 8 were nothing unusual because the distances I ran during those weeks were nothing I have never done before while training for a half marathon.  It wasn't until week 9 (16 mile run) that I realized how crucial my diet is before these long runs.  I am learning what nutrition works and what does not work in the days leading up to a long run as well as during the run.  GI issues are absolutely the worst thing that can happen during any kind of run.  I can typically run through soreness and pain, but any GI issues will bring me to my knees.  

My best week of running was in week 11.  That was spring break and our family went to SW Florida for a week.  It was nice to run without having to wear all kinds of cold weather gear and was nice to run on very flat roads.  The change of "venue" was mentally refreshing.

I am currently in week 13 of 16 and I am up to 18 miles.  Back in January I signed up for a half marathon on April 6th, 2013.  The date of this half marathon didn't jive that well with my marathon schedule but I found a way to do it.  So, this weekend I've got my first race of the year.  I am looking forward to race day even if I am just classifying as an assisted training run.  I have a goal time for this half marathon of 1:45 which is tad slower than my anticipated marathon pace.  I really am going to try and stick to that plan and not get too competitive.

Once that race is over I have one more long run which will be a 20 miler.  I am looking forward to the taper after that.

Marathon race day is fast approaching and this is the first time I have really sat here and reflected on my journey thus far.  The mental battles that I have had to overcome, the good runs, the bad runs, the bone chilling temperatures, and the soreness have all been apart of the ride.  The biggest thing is the time commitment it takes to pull this off and the sacrifice it takes.  Thankfully, my wife is very tolerant and understanding of my goal to finish this marathon.  Anyone that has trained for a marathon or Ironman can tell you that support of your family is crucial and I appreciate my wife and kids having patience with me.

It's an exciting time of year.  The start of the racing season, temperatures getting warmer, days are getting longer, and my daughter will compete in her first State gymnastics meet.  As a parent it is very rewarding to see your children succeed.  Speaking of her State meet, it's the same weekend as the Illinois Marathon.  Let's just hope her session is not on that Saturday morning.
I don't know how the next 4 weeks will transpire or what curve balls will come my way. All I can do is enjoy the journey one day at a time and be thankful for being able to do what I am doing.

Train.  Race.  Repeat.