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Wednesday
Jun132012

Ramping up with Marathon Training

Now that the long list of 11 races in the first half of 2012 are behind me, I can now start to focus upon my next major challenge: the Chicago Marathon! I am both excited and nervous about this race. Having completed the AVON Marathon Walk, I have a sense of the distance, and some confidence in having been able to successfully speed-walk for 26.2 miles.

However, running the entire distance will involve a different training regimen, a new mental discipline, and a few new challenges I haven't even thought of yet. So I decided that it would be a good thing to partner with someone who has tons of experience with the Marathon, and who has the ability to impart that knowledge and experience to a newbie like me.

So I decided to join the Road Runners Club of America chapter in my hometown. The chapter is sponsored by the Healthbridge Health Club out here, and for an annual fee, you get the benefits of membership which includes their Marathon Training Program.

The trainer for that program is Cari Setzler, who was the instructor for the Natural Running course I took a few months ago to help with my running form and my transition to minimalist running shoes. That course was very good, and I found Cari to be an awesome teacher and motivator. So I am very excited about her leading this training program.

The program started last Sunday but unfortunately, I had to miss it because of the North Shore Half Marathon race I entered. So my first experience will be next Sunday. The program includes three runs per week, with presentations on numerous topics like nutrition, strength training, strategies, etc. More importantly, they work with each person to develop a personalized training program to prepare them for the event for which they are training. And the coaches are available throughout the program to provide support and suggestions to help you improve and succeed.

Runs are scheduled for Thursdays (Track Workouts), Saturdays (Short Runs), and Sundays (Long Runs). The Long Runs are fully supported with water/Gatorade stations, aid, etc. And after the run, they provide food, and you can cool off in the outdoor pool at Healthbridge.

I look forward to having some structure around my training for the Marathon. It gives me some comfort to know I have someone I can turn to for advice and encouragement, who will kick me in the butt if I am not doing the work I need to be doing. My only worry is the month of July, because I have about 17 days of that month allocated to conferences. Getting my training done when I am out of town in hotels will be a challenge. Let the fun begin!

Yesterday, I found a new race that I signed up for. It is the Fox Valley Fall Final 20, a 20-Mile race that is advertized as being the perfect race for your last Long Training Run (20 miles) before the Chicago Marathon. The race is supposed to be flat and fast (and runs along the Fox River) and is scheduled for September 16, which happens to be the date in my Training Plan for my 20-mile Long Slow Run. So I figured if I was running 20 miles anyway, why not get a cool medal and technical shirt for the effort (not to mention good course support for water, aid, etc)! This will be the perfect end of my marathon training because after the 16th, it will be 'taper time'!

Sunday
Jun102012

Race Report: North Shore Half Marathon

This race was definitely not my best. In fact, it was pretty brutal. I finished in 3:04:26 at a 14:00/mm pace -- the slowest running race I have completed since I started running last April. The best thing I can say for this race was that I finished, and have an awesome performance track jacket and finishers medal to show for the effort. I have to say that I feel like I "earned" this medal.

Special thanks goes out to my buddy Mike Rice who stuck with me the entire race, urging me along and keeping me thinking positively. He was my pacer Angel this morning and I cannot thank him enough. Just goes to show how important it is to have running partners and a team backing you up. Sometimes, running is NOT an individual sport. In fact, we ran into another friend, Courtney, from our WISH racing team while on the course! She finished before us, and was there to cheer us on near the Finish Line too! It was so cool to see her there!

So why was this race so difficult for me? Well, several factors were in play:

  1. I was tired. I thought I had sufficiently recovered from walking the 39.3 miles of the AVON event last weekend. After the first 5K (33:27 split time), it was clear to me that this was NOT the case. My legs felt heavy and I just felt like I had no energy at all.
  2. High temperatures. The race started with the temperature around 73. By the 10K mark, the temperature had risen to 90. I have not done any run training in the heat yet so I was not prepared for that (and, I did not want to end up dehydrated and in an emergency vehicle). So we took the race very slowly, drank often, and I really paid close attention to my heart rate.
  3. Neck and Shoulder Pain. After the AVON Walk, I have spent the last week dealing with neck and shoulder pain that started around Mile 22 during the Marathon on June 2nd. It has improved but was still there. And it started really bothering me after Mile 10.
  4. Pre-race ritual interrupted. I overslept this morning and woke up at 4:45am -- 15 minutes before I had to pick up Mike! So I jumped out of bed, got my running gear on (thank goodness I had laid everything out the night before), and threw everything in the car. I got Mike at 5:10am. So my usual pre-race process did not take place, including no pre-race meal (I ended up eating a banana and a bagel in the car on the drive down).
Mike and I decided to run a 4/1 run-walk interval in order to conserve energy and better handle the heat. It worked out pretty well for the first 5.5 miles. After that, I was really running out of gas so our intervals morphed into 3/2 for a while until we reached Mile 9.5. At that point, I was just too hot and too tired (and my heart rate was in Zone 4) to run. So Mike let me just walk. And for the next two miles -- all the way through the hottest, non-shaded section of the course -- we walked.

I felt pretty bad about it. I did not want Mike to lag behind with me. But he was pretty adamant about staying together for the race, and he wouldn't run ahead. So we walked, we talked, we enjoyed the amazing houses in this wealthy neighborhood, and we stayed hydrated. All told, we walked about 5.5 miles of the entire course.

I thought that the race was well managed, especially given the heat concerns. They had plenty of water and Gatorade, and they had misting stations and sponge stations on the course which were awesome! Race staff would drive by regularly in trucks asking the runners if they were OK or if they needed any assistance. I thought they were being very pro-active about the health of the runners. Mike and I did hear some sirens here and there, so we are sure a few people did succumb to the heat. But we did not witness anyone having difficulties.

One of the cool things that happened during the race was TONS of positive comments about our WISH singlets! There must have been over 50 people who came up to us to say how they loved our shirt and the motto on the back. Everyone agreed that it was 'perfect'. Mike and I kept encouraging people to find us on the web and join WISH! We needed business cards!

In fact, after the race, a woman we had seen earlier came over and asked if she could show her husband our shirts. She said she just kept looking at our shirts throughout the race saying "I can do this!" as she got courage from our motto.

Like I said, it was the hottest and slowest race I have ever run. But I had the courage to stick it out and finish the race (we both ran the last .20 miles to cross the Finish Line (no way was I walking across that time mat!). Mike said it was mental toughness that I was out there and continuing to move forward. I didn't feel all that mentally 'tough' but I will take his word for it.

I am just glad I finished upright with no problems. The best thing post-race was blasting the A/C in my car to FULL while we drank G2 and Muscle Milk. It wasn't a pretty race, but it is "in the books"!

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