Naperville Half Marathon Race Report

I have gotten away from writing these, but today was a rather strange race so I wanted to share the story on here.

Leading into this race I have been viewing it as my goal race for the fall, however with coaching being what it is, my training has been more suited for a 3 mile race on grass than a 13 mile race on the roads.  Saturday was a long day with the state XC meet.  I didn’t alter my coaching at all, I spent the race sprinting around Detweiller Park from point to point to see my guys and cheer them on.  As we stopped for Culvers on the way home I started too really reconsider how hard I will be able to go for the half the next day.  All that too say, I adjusted my aggressive race plan to something a little more conservative at the start and then see how I will as I go.

The conditions were perfect, beautiful morning, great (new) course, and solid competition.  I went out under control and quickly a pack of 4 formed.  We stuck together for about 2.5 miles then it was just down to 2 of us.  We stuck together through 6.  Mile splits (from Garmin auto-lap): 5:48, 5:34, 5:36, 5:35, 5:37, 5:35.  Right before mile 7, I put in a slight surge and started to open a gap into first place.  I felt a little separation so I decided I had to continue to press.  5:33.   I hit a bad patch during mile 8 (5:47), but was able to recover and get moving again.  I really felt great at this point.  Smooth, controlled running.  5:32, 5:25.  I hit 10 miles in 56:23 (a new 10 mile PR).  I started to do some math in my head.  “I feel really good right now, if I can run 16:35 for the last 5K, I can be under 1:13.  At this point I was really dropping the hammer.  At one point during that mile my Garmin had me at 5:15.  I was flying.  One of the lead bikes told me I had about a 250 meter lead.  I felt great…until I didn’t.  Just before the 11 mile mark something happened…

A little background, for those unfamiliar with me from 2009 to 2011 I had some really bad anxiety issues.  It was often connected to running.  I would get a racing heart (feeling like having a heart attack), my arms would go numb, and I would feel light headed like I was going to pass out.  It was a tough challenge that I faced, but ultimately with professional help was able to figure out ways to deal with it so it would not interfere with my life in the way that it had been.

An anxiety attack happened.  My legs started to feel a little heavy and like that: lighted headed, numb arms, racing heart.  The thoughts in my head “oh, no, not now.”  I almost stopped and walked, I slowed once to try to right the ship, after about a minute of slow jogging, and I thought I would try to get moving again.  I tried, no luck, still struggling.  At this point I am audible talking to myself (I am sure I looked perfectly sane, leading a race, shuffle jogging and sternly talking to myself).  My mind is racing, “You’re ok, no you’re not, lay down, give up, you have to stop, you are in trouble, talk to someone, slow down.”  I turned and looked over my shoulder, second place was right behind me.  “Oh, crap, I can’t go, I am going to lose this race, my wife and son are watching me fall apart, I can’t bare having to see people and be embarrassed that it was not a physical reason I lost, it was all mental.  I have to try to pick it up again, hopefully I will feel better.”  And I did feel better, not right away, but I started moving.  I hit mile 12, finally (6:05).  And as quickly as anxiety struck, it was gone.  I felt great again.  I was slowing picking it up, and was flying again.  I came through a gauntlet of noise with about 3/4s of a mile to go, “I got this!”  I continue to pick it up, mile 13 (5:19), and then sprint finish.  The classic high five from Naperville’s amazing Mayor Pradel.  I see the clock and have renewed drive, I can go sub 1:14.  Cross the line in first, 1:13:59.  A 15 second PR and a second consecutive Naperville Half Marathon victory.

A strange race, one that I am still not sure how I feel about.  I am glad to have the PR, I am glad to have fought off the anxiety, but I wish I could have fought it off sooner and run a faster time.

2014 Goals: Ten is the new Eight

As 2013 came to a close my running streak really drove my motivation. No races on the horizon, no specific training taking place. Looking back at my training log, after the Naperville Half I ran 4 harder efforts (one of them being a race), everything else was just easy distance running. Typically my normal mid-week easy day has been 7-8 miles, towards the end of last year I started going 9-10 on those days. That is the first thing I want to change this year. I want to maintain my consistency in training, but also bump my mileage slightly, keep workouts the same, keep long runs the same, but just adding those two miles on easy days. That alone will add 6-8 miles a week. That added mileage leads into my major goal for the year. So instead of weeks of 50-56, I will hopefully run weeks of 56-64.

Working backwards, my first focus for the year is going to be this fall. I am not sure yet what distance I want to race. It’s either going to be a full or half marathon. After Naperville I am confident that I could run faster in the half, but it has also got me thinking more about the full marathon. I had previously sworn off the marathon, because it’s the worst, and I am the worst at it. But after taking about 2 years (so far) away from the distance I have slowly forgotten my sworn hatred of the race. Whichever distance I choose, I am very much looking forward to having a huge summer, taking time to get very race specific with my training (which I didn’t really do for Naperville). I can also spend the spring continuing to build base for the distance.

As far as time goals for the race. If it is the half, I would like to run under 1:13:00. For the marathon (if I do attempt it), since my biggest problem has been my inability to focus on running for that long, my plan right now is if I just hammer it then I don’t have to focus for that long. So my goal is to try to run something in the 2:40-50 range. Just get out and get comfortable about 6:00-20 and click them off, that pace has become pretty reasonable for me in long runs (up to 15) so why not build that foundation and race at it. I think physically I can do it; it’s just a matter of mentally being able to do it. With a summer of building towards attempting that I think I can do it.

The goal race for the fall is going to be the Fox Valley Marathon/Half Marathon. That way I don’t have to decide on a full or half right away (they have a flex option with registration).

For the spring my goal race (as on now) is going to be the Shamrock Shuffle. I haven’t run this race in a few years, and I believe I can get into the elite corral, so might as well go for it. I will gear my harder sessions this spring towards speed and try to run something pretty quick at Shamrock and then maybe find a 5K and 10K to run 3 PRs this spring.

That’s the tentative plan for 2014. What do you have in store for your running in 2014?

The end of the run streak

I am not a big run streak guy.  My goal with running is to race as fast as I can, and running streak for streak’s sake don’t mix with that idea.  You need to train smart to run fast, when you need recovery you take it.  That being said after coming off a foot injury last summer the days of running started to add up, first 25, then 50 then 100, all running at least 4 miles.  And then it just continued.  I have run at least 4 miles for the last 188 days.  A total of 1,526 miles since July 2 ( an average of 8.12 per day).  I made sure to continue to train smart, if I needed a down day I would go on an easy 4 miler to recover.  My body however had not told me yet that it needs a complete day off…until today.  About a week ago my son got a flu.  I tried my best to tell myself I wasn’t getting it, but try as I did, I got it.  So after some consideration today I realized missing one run to allow my body to fully focus on fighting off illness will be better off in the long run that turning my running streak into 189 days.  In some ways I am disappointed, it was a cool thing I had going but I am also excited now to be able to focus on my upcoming goals.  The streak was good to bridge my gap of motivation from the Naperville Half through the start of spring racing season and for that I am glad, but ultimately I am now excited about getting back after to to train to run fast this spring.

2013 Year in Review

When thinking about this past year it seemed to break down into the three clearly distinct segments.  The early part of the year was all about fast running…until the middle of the year was injury plagued, and finally the later part of the year was a return to fitness.

If you remember from last year’s post of my upcoming goals, the plan was a fast 5K early summer and then a slow build to a good half marathon in the fall.  The year started off great.  I had a great late fall (’12) and started the year with a PR in the mile.  Followed up by my season debut in the 5K only 4 seconds off my PR, I thought my plans were going to pan out perfectly.  I used the late part of the track season to hone my speed.  I was ready, goal race was 3 weeks out.  I was running one of my final pace specific workouts on the track, when I ran into the worst plantar fasciitis pain I have ever dealt with.  I have had some PF issues in the past, but not like this.  It popped up out of nowhere, I could barely walk.  I hobbled off the track nervous what this would mean for my goal race.

What it did mean?  Three weeks of no running.  (Technically I ran after a week, but it was 5 minutes before I realized that was a mistake and stopped).  I was patient and waited until I was feeling pain free, and then proceeded to very slowly return to running.  The first few times out it was 15 minutes, then 20, then 30, then back to somewhat of normal running.  Four weeks back I ran a 5K (it was not a great idea) but gave me a good indication of how much fitness I had lost.  I ran over 2 minutes slower in that 5K than I did in a race two months prior.  I had some serious doubts that I would be able to reach my goal of a fast half marathon in the fall.  My goal race pace was 5 seconds faster per mile for a half than I ran for that return 5K.  Slowly but sure I got back to work.  Continued to build, get my speed and strength back, but most importantly I got consistent.  The secret is there is no secret.  Just getting the work done on a regular basis.

Naperville Half Victory

As I type this I am in the midst of my longest running streak ever.  The last day I did not run at least 4 miles was July 1st.  That consistency has been key for me to find success this fall.  I have been smart about it, I have made sure to take easy days.  Let my body recover when it needs it.

Like I said the fall goal was a fast half marathon.  I thought early in the year 72 minutes would be possible, after injury it looked like something between 73 and 75 was more realistic.  I had plans of being very specific to half marathon training to prep myself.  But plans changed a little.  Late summer I took over as the head cross country coach at a different school in the district.  A change I was very excited about.  But it meant much more of my time spent coaching, and with a little guy at home most of my running became training to run a 3 mile race on grass.  I ran most of the works with the team, and then would do a longer tempo run on the weekend.  That was my half marathon training.  Ultimately I was extremely proud of how my fall goal half marathon went.  I ran 1:14:14 and won the inaugural Naperville Half Marathon.ays as often as I need, but still have been able to log the miles.

Me and Alan Webb

And that would have been my running year…but a late addition to my running year was the USATF Club Nationals.   It was an awesome weekend.  Getting to hang with some great people, see wonderful Bend, OR, getting to run the toughest race I have ever run, and then partying Picky Style with everyone from the race (including many a pro runner).
Overall of it was a great year.  I know having consistent training the last few years has enabled me to continue to improve as a runner.  I have been able to PR year after year.  I think that the biggest take away from this year however, has been having confidence to come back from a tougher injury where I lost so much of what I had worked for.

The year by the numbers:

Races run: 11

Races won: 6

Miles run: 2,500 and counting (should end the year at about 2,600)

PRs set: 2 (mile: 4:40, half marathon 1:14:14)

I hope 2013 was a great year for you as well.  We will see you on the roads in 2014.

Naperville Half Marathon

Q with medalAs I said in my last post from mid-summer, I was coming into this race with a long build up after a long layoff due to injury.  And as I alluded to it was going to be a busy fall.  Life very much happened this fall.  I am now the head cross country coach at a school I do not teach at, we also just bought a new house (one that needs A LOT of work), and all that with a 19th month old running wild every day.  I had pretty grand plans of really specifically training for the half marathon distance; lots of over distance runs, lots of longer tempo runs and long intervals…none of that happened.  Instead I trained with the cross country team.  If my goal race was a 3 mile race on grass I would have been extremely confident…it wasn’t, I wasn’t.

Based on what I had been doing I thought going in I could run anywhere between 1:13 and 1:16.  I wanted to make sure to go out under control.  I wasn’t sure who would be running in the race.  The gun went off and within the first half mile I was alone in the front.  I made sure to stay under control.  The plan was to go out in 5:45ish for the first few miles.  I held back and felt like I was just cruising along.  My first two miles were my slowest 5:50, 5:46.  After the first two miles I settled into a nice comfortable rhythm clicking off 5:35-:42s for the rest of the race.

A couple of in race highlights.  This was the first time in a longer race I was able to acknowledge that I was simply going through a bad patch and I could relax and press through it.  I hit a tough spot at about 7.5 and then at about 9.  Both times I had to fight it, but was able to work through it and continue to press on.

The fan support on the course was incredible, the first 9 miles were constantly lined with fans cheering the whole way, Naperville came out to support this inaugural race.  But my favorite part of the course, at roughly 9.5 I came through a gauntlet of fans, through a neighborhood lined with fans (included a lady who cheered “Go, Baby, Go” to me, it was awkward), and then I hit the DuPage river trail.  The trail was EMPTY.  I literally went from being surrounded by people to being totally alone.  And it. was. awesome.  I was able to really refocus on what I was doing.  It made it feel like a great workout, I was just cruising along on a tempo run.  I hit the 10 mile mark in 56:46 (a 10 mile PR), and then the plan was to try to bring it home strong for the last 5K.  And despite a tough mile 12, I was able to close it out in 17:28 for my last 5K.  Hitting the finish line in 1:14:14, good for a (2:52) big PR.

Overall I am extremely pleased with this race.  A big PR, probably the biggest win of my running career, and just a great experience.  The fan support, the fact that is was live-streaming online and my family could watch most of the race, and that my XC guys showed up to cheer me on (right at mile 12 when I was struggling (a great pick me up).

Thanks for all the kind words and support from friends and family.

Here are the splits:

Mile Time
1 5:50
2 5:46
3 5:39
4 5:42
5 5:35
6 5:37
7 5:37
8 5:42
9 5:33
10 5:40
11 5:36
12 5:42
13 5:32
.1 :29

The Return of the Fitness

On May 14th I was pacing a workout as the track team was getting in their final preparation for the sectional track meet.  On the last lap, of the last rep of the workout I felt a sudden and stabbing pain in the bottom of my left foot.  It was unlike anything I had felt before.  I have had some PF issues in the past, but this felt different.  That night when Q woke up crying (as usual) I went to get out of bed and went to put some weight on my foot, and it could not handle any, I fell to the ground in pain.  I was unable to run for about three weeks.  I got some amazing work done by my PT, who I highly recommend, and was able to start lightly running again by the start of June.

The return to running was a strange one.  Before hurting my foot I was in arguably the best shape of my life.  I had opened the spring racing season with a 5K within 4 seconds of my PR.  I was running workouts I had never run before.  I thought I was primed for a great year.  My plans for the Naperville Half in November I was looking at running something in the 72 minute range.  Now coming back to running I was nervous that was all going to go up in smoke.  The first few weeks were nothing but easy running; it felt like I was straining to just run what used to be an easy jog pace for me.  But I kept at it, first week back 34 miles, second week back 37, third week back 43, 45 (first double digit run back), 45, 54, 55, this past week 60.  Slowly but surely I am getting back into shape.

The third week back I attempted to run a race.  I had been a part of couch to 5K type program through the church we go to, I loved getting to help new runners.  The goal race for the group was my third week back, I normally would not have run it, but I felt compelled.  It was not pretty.  I struggled my way through running almost 2 minutes slower than I had only two months prior.  Two weeks later I raced again, the Freedom Four in Glen Ellyn is a 4th of July tradition, so I felt some obligation to do so.  I was not overly optimistic about this race, considering two weeks before I had struggled for 3 miles, and this was to be 4 miles over much MUCH hillier terrain.  I was pleasantly surprised when I ran 10 seconds per mile faster for the 4 mile race than I had in the 3 mile race two weeks before.  I was getting faster, but still not even in the same ballpark as I was before.

While the first four weeks of returning to running was mostly easy running and then a few races, the last four have resulted in a build-up of mileage and some hard work I am starting to gain some confidence that I might still be able to get back into shape for the Naperville Half.  I killed my first real long run last weekend and had a great tempo effort today.  As of a month ago looking at the idea of running between 5:30-40 for 13.1 miles was daunting, now it’s becoming more realistic.  I know now I just need to keep doing things the right way and building the strength and speed again.  It’s a slow process but I have 3 plus months to do it.  (Coincidently the goal race is the day after state cross country, so the team and myself will both be shooting for the same weekend to hit one out of the park).

I am looking forward to late August for my next race, probably a 10K to really see where my fitness is at.

The next step is going to be navigating what might be one of the busier falls that I have ever had…more on that next post.

Boston Strong

I love the idea of the marathon…I hate the actual marathon itself.  After last January’s Houston marathon, which was another example of why I am clearly not a marathon runner I publicly vowed to not run a marathon for the next few years.  I planned on picking shorter races and trying to peak for them.  I have already knocked 41 seconds off my 5K PR in that time.  And hope to take even more time off this spring.  During this process I have stood strong with my avoidance of marathon running…that is until a few weeks ago.  I received an email with next year’s school calendar.  Our spring break is late and falls during the Boston marathon.  That got the ball rolling a little.  Beth, Q and I could spend 4 or 5 days in Boston.  I could actually enjoying being there this time for the marathon (unlike 2010).  Seeing that calendar I was starting to consider it…then last Monday happened.  Now I really want to run Boston.  I don’t really want to run a marathon, but I want to run Boston, next year.  Hearing Obama’s speech on Thursday, I was excited just thinking about it.  The problem is I don’t have a current BQ (Houston was too long ago).  So for me to actually run Boston I would have to run 2 marathons in a time period where I had planned on running none.  The first thought I had was that I could run one in mid December and just add a touch more volume to my half marathon training this fall (I am planning to race the Naperville Half in November) and just hope that can get me fit enough to run a BQ.  At this point I think the emotions are raw and the excitement to be in Boston next year is high, so I need to take some time to think it through, but next year’s race is not something I want to miss out on.