August Recap

My goals in August were to continue running consistently (and ideally stay pain free), increase the distance of my long runs, and do some speed work. Two out of three ain’t bad, right?

I stayed consistent with my number of runs, doing the same number of runs in August that I did in July and slightly increasing my mileage for the month. I took one or two days off each week, except for one week during which I didn’t take any rest days. I didn’t do much cross training…just one bike ride on the Paint Creek Trail with my wife and parents, and some walking on the Paint Creek Trail. I had hoped to do more cycling in August, but that didn’t happen and I don’t mind too much because I increased my running mileage a little bit.

A nice August morning on the Paint Creek Trail.

A nice August morning on the Paint Creek Trail.

I like running by this swampy area along the Clinton River Trail.

I like running by this swampy area along the Clinton River Trail.

I haven’t worked back up to doing really long runs, but I don’t feel a need to right now because I’m training for a half marathon in just under two months, not a full. I did accomplish my goal of increasing my long run distance a little bit in August. I’m keeping them in the 10- to 12-mile range for now, and plan to keep increasing the distance slightly before the half marathon. My longer runs, which are more like medium-distance runs to people like my wife who are training for full marathons, have been going pretty well and haven’t left me with very many aches and pains. I’ve been feeling a little under the weather for the past week, so my last few runs felt a little tougher than they should have, but I got through them.

A deer along the Paint Creek Trail.

A deer along the Paint Creek Trail.

Of the three main running goals I had for August, I totally failed on one – doing more speed work. I did no formal speed work; a few tempo runs were as close as I got. :/ Even though those tempo runs went well, they’re no substitute for real speed work. I ran one race in August, a 10K that went well aside from me being a little more than a minute off of my PR. I hope to get in some speed work in September, or at least more tempo runs of increasing distances. I don’t have any specific mileage goals for September; I just want to keep running consistently, bump my long run distance up a little bit more, and do more tempo runs to get used to half marathon race pace. Speaking of which, I should figure out a goal pace (or fairly narrow pace range) soon for the half marathon so I can target my remaining training accordingly…

August by the numbers:
Number of runs: 29
Mileage: 175.6 miles
Total time: 23:54:39
Average distance: 6.06 miles
Median distance: 5.37 miles

Posted in General, Life, Racing, Running | 4 Comments

AdvoKate 10K Recap

Like we usually do for shorter local races, we waited until the last minute to decide whether or not to run the AdvoKate Charity Run & Walk 10K on August 3. This is the seventh year for this race which, according to the race website, “was established to honor the memory of 6-year-old Kate Hrischuk of Rochester, MI, who lost her courageous battle with an intrinsic brain stem glioma in early 2007” and benefits the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It supports a great cause and isn’t very far from us, so we really wanted to run this one. In fact, it’s close enough that we were able to jog to the race as a warm up and walk home afterward. This one has been on our radar for a few years, but this is the first year we’ve run it because we’ve had race day conflicts in previous years or we didn’t want to race in extremely hot weather. I found about this race a few years ago when I was out running on the trail that makes up part of the course and saw a water station. I looked up the race (and learned the story behind its origin) when I got home that day and have wanted to run it since. While I’m thrilled we were finally able to run AdvoKate this year, I’m bummed we weren’t able to do the Kayla O’Mara Memorial Road Race, which is another great race for an excellent cause scheduled on the same day. That one’s farther away though, and we were staying close to home this weekend.

Janet picked up our packets at the Runnin’ Gear store the night before the race, so we didn’t have to worry about getting to the race location, Rochester Municipal Park, early to register before the race. This also helped make it possible for us to jog to the race as a warm up because we didn’t have to worry about carrying race packets or t-shirts. Speaking of t-shirts, the race shirt this year is a bright cotton shirt (short sleeves); there was an option to upgrade to a technical shirt for an additional fee, but we opted to just stick with the cotton. We also got Gatorade towels, which will come in handy at the gym, or for running or biking when we’re away from home. We got to the race about 10-15 minutes before the start, which was plenty of time to find the start line and get situated. We were happy to see our friend Bruce at the start line. He’s a great runner and very passionate about the sport. He’s a seasoned marathoner who runs a lot of miles, does some very difficult workouts, and shares his passion for running by coaching other runners. I’m always glad to catch up with him and learn from him.

The front of the race shirt.

The front of the race shirt.

The back of the race shirt.

The back of the race shirt.

Janet had 8 miles on her marathon schedule, so she planned to do a 1.8-mile warm up and then the 6.2-mile race to get in her miles for the day. She was aiming to do it as a marathon pace run, so she was planning to run hard but not race it. I haven’t run a 10K since last December and this was only my third race of the year, so I wasn’t sure what to aim for or expect. I decided to set a goal based on average pace and try for a sub-7:00/mile average. The first 2 miles have some rolling hills, including an incline shortly after the start. But once we hit the 2-mile mark we were done with the hills and only had to deal with the slight incline heading heading north on the Paint Creek Trail until the turnaround at the 3.7-mile mark. While the incline on the trail isn’t noticeable to the naked eye, it can definitely have a subtle impact on runners. The flip side of that is that the southbound portion on the trail, from the 3.7-mile mark until just after the 6-mile mark, should feel a little easier. “Should” being the key word…

This was part of the trail portion of the AdvoKate 10K course. I took this photo after the race; the trail was much busier during the race.

This was part of the trail portion of the AdvoKate 10K course. I took this photo after the race; the trail was much busier during the race.

There were a few race announcements, including a very heartfelt thank you from Kate’s father, and then it was time to start. There’s also a 5K run/walk, and the 5K and 10K start at the same time and in the same location, sharing the course until just after the 2-mile mark. According to the online results, there were 258 participants in the 10K and 347 in the 5K, for a total of 605 participants. We were able to find a spot near the start line, hoping to avoid most of the normal beginning-of-the-race congestion. There were kids lined up all the way across the very front of the start line, 2-3 deep in some spots, so I wasn’t sure how much of a madhouse it would be trying to navigate the first several hundred meters. Luckily I didn’t have any serious issues with being cut off, and I wasn’t bumped into or tripped. After a few hundred meters on the roads, it started to thin out a little bit and I settled into a rhythm. I ended up just behind Bruce as we approached the first noticeable hill. I planned/expected to run about 7:10-7:15 for the first mile, knowing there were some hills on the first couple of miles, but I ended up running a 7:02. It felt pretty comfortable, but the second mile is basically a bunch of rolling hills so I expected to slow down a little bit after the first mile. If you expect to slow down, you usually will, and I ran a 7:07 on the second mile. I figured that if I wasn’t too wiped out by the time we finished the hills and turned onto the Paint Creek Trail, I might be able to start dropping my pace on the final 4 miles. It didn’t work out that way, though, as I felt OK for the most part but just wasn’t able to dial it up. I remained maybe 20-40 meters behind Bruce and another runner, and it seemed like the pace was pretty steady, but we all must have been in a little bit of a lull or something because we were slowing down on the third and fourth miles. I felt like I maintained my effort on those miles, but my pace got a little worse. The turnaround on the trail at about the 3.7-mile mark was a welcome sight, as the course was slightly downhill after that point.

Runners waiting for the start of the race.

Runners waiting for the start of the race.

We were happy to get a spot near the front of the crowd...there were a lot of people behind us.

We were happy to get a spot near the front of the crowd…there were a lot of people behind us.

I hoped to really pick it up after the turnaround if I was feeling OK, but I didn’t make up as much ground as I hoped. I did improve my pace, but it was a pretty gradual improvement. I felt pretty good, but I just didn’t feel like I had much of a boost in me at that point. Sometimes I wonder if I subconsciously run conservatively until I’m close to the end of a race to avoid bonking. However, I often feel after a race that I could/should have picked it up a bit more throughout (hindsight is 20/20). Of course I usually don’t feel like that’s an option during the race. I did go sub-7:00 for the last two miles – 6:59 and 6:36 – and was glad that I finished strong. I always like finishing with my fastest mile, but if I finish at a much faster pace than I’ve run the previous miles, I probably should have been running faster throughout the race. Just after the 6-mile mark, the race turned off of the trail and into the park where we ran on sidewalks to the finish line. I tried to pick it up shortly before the 6-mile mark, and felt like I had a good kick. My Garmin showed a 5:03 pace for the last 0.14 and my official time was 42:49…the kick was enough to get me under a 7:00/mile average for the race. I’ll be all set if I can just figure out how to sustain that 5:03 pace for the full 6.2 miles, haha.

Very glad I finally ran AdvoKate!

Very glad I finally ran AdvoKate!

I didn't get a finish line photo until the race was almost finished and things had thinned out. There was a lot of support near the finish line though.

I didn’t get a finish line photo until the race was almost done and things had thinned out. But there was a lot of support near the finish line throughout the race!

It was a great day for running. This is the park at which the race started and finished.

It was a great day for running. This is the park at which the race started and finished.

Another photo from the park.

Another photo from the park.

Janet finished a few minutes behind me, and she ran a very consistent race though it was about 30 seconds per mile faster than her planned pace. You can read her race recap here. There was a good selection of snacks at the park’s pavilion after the race, including donut holes, bagels, bananas, mini muffins, Clif granola bars, water, and sports drinks. It was great to finally meet a couple of Twitter friends after this race, both of whom also ran the 10K – Laura, who was running her second 10K of the week, and Patrick, who’s training for a marathon. We also saw our friend Sandie after the race and were able to chat with her and catch up some more with Bruce. I got to talk with Kate’s father for a couple of minutes after the race, and he’s a very nice guy.

When we checked the results, we saw that I won my age group and Janet finished second in hers. We didn’t know if there were age group awards, so we stuck around for a while. We would have stayed anyway because there was a raffle using bib tags – there were some cool prizes, and we had to be present to win. We didn’t win any of the raffle prizes, but it was fun sticking around for the drawing. It turns out that there weren’t any age group awards, but we didn’t mind at all because it means the race organizers can donate more of the proceeds to St. Jude’s.

This was a very well-organized race for a great cause, and I had a lot of fun running it. I really like the course, including the hills on the first two miles, and fortunately the non-race traffic on the Paint Creek Trail portion of the course was pretty aware of and considerate to the runners. It can be a crapshoot when you have a race on a public trail or path, but I had no problems on the trail portion of the course. The only issue I noticed is that the course was a little short (6.14 miles per my Garmin instead of 6.20 miles). Because of construction, there were a couple of places where the course deviated slightly from normal, and it could very well be attributable to the construction and/or an unintentional change in tangents like a construction-forced early cutover at a turn, or maybe just a spot along the trail where the Garmin got a little confused. It was only 0.06 miles short though, which didn’t bother me at all. I highly recommend this race, and would definitely like to run it again.

Mile-by-mile from my Garmin.

Mile-by-mile from my Garmin.

Results:
Chip time: 42:49
Garmin time: 42:48 (6.14 miles)
Pace (per Garmin): 6:58/mile
Overall: 8/259
Gender: 7/100
Age group: 1/10
Slowest mile (per Garmin): 7:13 (mile 3)
Fastest mile (per Garmin): 6:36 (mile 6)

Posted in General, Racing, Reviews, Running | 1 Comment

July Recap

After dealing with lingering injuries and a busy work schedule at the beginning of the year, I’ve finally been able to steadily increase my mileage over the last few months. After running fairly consistently in June, I tried to be even more consistent in July, and I feel like I was pretty successful. My mileage still isn’t quite as high as I’d like, especially for my long runs, but it’s the highest monthly total I’ve run in a while. I’ve noticed that doing some doubles (two runs a day) throughout the month really helps boost my mileage, but it’s important for me to be mindful of the types of runs I’m doing on those days so I don’t open myself up for injuries.

A few of the sights we saw while running in Cleveland on vacation.

A few of the sights we saw while running in Cleveland on vacation in early July.

A nice view on one of my many trail runs during July.

A nice view on one of my many trail runs during July.

Another nice view on one of my July runs.

Another nice view on one of my July runs.

My two primary goals for August are to do longer long runs and more speed work. I ran six days a week in July with a few doubles and bike rides mixed in, and I hope to continue the six-day schedule while adding a little more cycling into the mix. I’ve been feeling healthy for the most part, so I hope I can continue taking one day off each week while increasing my long run distance and doing more speed work. I’m not necessarily aiming for a specific weekly or monthly mileage number; I just hope to run as much as I can any given week or month and be fairly consistent.

I did go to the track a couple times during July.

I did go to the track a couple times during July.

I did go to the track a couple times during July.

I like this track…it almost makes me feel fast. Almost.

I also hope to do a race or two in August, though I don’t feel like I’m in race shape yet (to me, race shape generally means being able to approach PR pace). I might run one this weekend, but I still have a couple days to decide…

Although we had some pretty hot weather in July, we also had some very nice days with milder temperatures.

July by the numbers:
Number of runs: 29
Mileage: 169.5 miles
Total time: 22:40:56
Average distance: 5.84 miles
Median distance: 5.50 miles

Questions:
How was your running in July? Were you happy with your mileage, quality of running, race results, etc.?

Do you run doubles? If so, how often and what kinds of runs do you do for doubles?

Posted in General, Injuries, Racing, Running | 4 Comments

Mackinaw Memorial Bridge Race Recap

We had decided to run this 5.05-mile race a while back, well before I struggled through the Fifth Third River Bank Run 25K. Regardless of how the River Bank Run went, I wasn’t going to miss this race. We ran it in 2011 and had a blast that day despite the rain and generally blah conditions. It’s a very unique opportunity to run the Mackinac Bridge, and one of only a few times during the year that runners (or walkers) are allowed on the bridge. The race is held on the Saturday immediately before Memorial Day, so the long weekend is an even better excuse to head up there, run the race, and enjoy the beauty of northern Michigan.

The Mackinac Bridge

The Mackinac Bridge looking north from Mackinaw City

The Mackinac Bridge looking south from St. Ignace

The Mackinac Bridge looking south near the starting area in St. Ignace

We headed up to Mackinaw City the day before the race (yes, the name of the city is spelled differently than the names of the bridge and island). The packet pick up/race headquarters is in the Mackinaw City Recreation Center; this location has plenty of space for the packet pick up as there isn’t an expo for this race. Mackinaw City, where the race finishes, is on the south end of the approximately five-mile-long bridge. It’s also where the runners catch a bus to the starting line in St. Ignace on the north end of the bridge. Packet pick up was well organized, and it was a quick and easy process. The race packet included the bib, race shirt (a nice dark blue cotton t-shirt), a drawstring backpack, and a few other miscellaneous items. We headed out for some dinner – pasties turned out to be a pretty good night-before-a-race meal – then walked over near the Mackinac Bridge for a few minutes before heading back to our hotel room to rest. We kept our time by the bridge short because there were a LOT of disgusting gnats or similar flying bugs swarming all over everything near the water. We weren’t looking forward to dealing with that when we ran the next morning.

The front of the race shirt

The front of the race shirt

The back of the race shirt

The back of the race shirt

The finisher's medal

The participants’ medal

Race day alarms always seem to go off early, and this one was no exception. We were staying less than a mile from the race headquarters, and it worked out well for us to get in a warm up jog and avoid driving and parking. An added bonus is that it gave us a few extra minutes of sleep. The race had a rolling start, with buses leaving regularly from about 5:30 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. to drop runners off at the starting area. The starting area for this race is pretty unique among races I’ve run, as it has a standalone timing mat that you can cross whenever you want once you arrive at the starting area. The race starts in a park that has a small building with bathrooms, and there are also bathrooms available at the race headquarters before boarding the buses. I always appreciate having enough bathrooms available before a race, and it’s even better when there are actual bathrooms instead of just porta potties.

We didn’t have to wait long for a bus to the starting area, and the trip to the north side of the bridge was quick and uneventful. The bridge, which is part of the I-75 freeway, has two lanes in each direction. To minimize traffic disruptions, runners get the outside southbound lane; the other three lanes are open to traffic like normal (the race has no impact on northbound traffic). We wanted to start the race on the earlier side, and we didn’t see any lanes blocked off or any runners as we were being bussed across the bridge, so we were wondering what was going on. But as we approached the end of the bridge, we saw crews blocking off the running lane just ahead of the first runners. They don’t mess around with unnecessarily blocking off lanes hours before the race! Fortunately for us, there wasn’t much traffic on the bridge that early in the morning anyway.

Heading up the incline toward the first of the two towers on the bridge

Heading up the incline toward the first of the two towers on the bridge

When we got to the starting area, I took a few pictures then used the bathroom. I can’t emphasize enough how nice it is to have a rolling start with real bathrooms on the premises. The weather was great for running…a little on the cool side, but clear and not very windy. I didn’t have a specific pace or goal time in mind. The race is 5.05 miles even though the race website claims it’s 5.6 miles. The trickiest part of this race for me is that most of the first half is up a steady incline. It’s not as bad as it looks though, and I approached it the same way I did when I ran it a couple years ago. Just try to attack the hill with a steady effort and avoid running too fast or too slow. Once I got started, I felt pretty comfortable. As I expected, the second mile (the only mile that is completely uphill) was my slowest. My wife and I ran together until about the four-mile mark. We improved our pace after the second mile, and I was able to pick it up a little over the last mile or so. One thing I didn’t think about while running, but realized after the race, is that I didn’t notice any of those annoying flying bugs during the run. I have no idea why there were so many of them around the bridge the night before the race, but none during the race. Whatever the reason, I’m not complaining.

Almost to the first tower...and the end of the incline

Almost to the first tower…and the end of the incline

The finish line is about a half mile off the bridge in Mackinaw City. After exiting the bridge following the downhill portion, I was able to maintain my pace as the route wound along a few Mackinaw City streets. I didn’t have quite as much of a kick as I would like at the end of a race of this distance, but I won’t complain at all considering I haven’t done much speed work this year. One of the many unique things about this race is that the rolling start makes it very difficult to know how you’ve placed until everyone has finished and the results are posted. Another unique thing is that I didn’t get passed by anybody who started after me, yet I didn’t qualify for an award in my age group (the top three in each age group got awards). How many times have you not been passed in a race, yet only finished fifth in your age group?! I didn’t take home an age group award, but my wife did as she won her age group and was the second female overall! One of our favorite non-running aspects of this race when we participated in 2011 was the hot breakfast provided after the race. There’s plenty of food, and it’s buffet style so you can grab whatever you want and as much as you want. After we ate, we had a while to wait for the award ceremony. Once my wife received her award, we did a cool down jog back to our hotel.

A very pleasant surprise during this race was virtually no hamstring pain. Fingers crossed that the nagging pain in now behind me! If so, I’ll have to credit finally going to see a chiropractor after many years of lower back pain and who knows what other problems stemming from the “jammed up” spot in my lower back. I started to notice a difference shortly after I started treatment in early May, with greatly reduced hamstring pain. So far, so good as the majority of my runs are pain free now (knock on wood).

At the finish line

At the finish line

This photo doesn't begin to do justice to the hot breakfast

This photo doesn’t begin to do justice to the hot breakfast buffet, but I was too hungry to take many photos.

I’m pretty happy with how I ran considering it’s only my second race this year and my first short race of the year. I’m still not close to the shape I was in when I was setting PRs in 2011, but I’m finally running almost completely pain free and ran a big negative split in this race. It didn’t hurt to have most of the second half of the course be on a decline, haha. I’m not sure yet what my next shorter race will be, but I’m looking forward to running at least a couple of 5Ks and/or 10Ks this summer. I highly recommend this race; it’s a great opportunity to run a very unique and picturesque course. We didn’t run it last year because we ran Bayshore In Traverse City, but it will definitely be in our rotation for the future.

Results:
Chip time: 35:24
Garmin time: 35:24 (5.05 miles)
Pace (per Garmin): 7:01/mile
Overall: 27/716
Gender: 26/339
Age group: 5/48
Slowest mile (per Garmin): 7:26 (mile 2)
Fastest mile (per Garmin): 6:33 (mile 5)

Posted in Injuries, Racing, Reviews, Running | 2 Comments

Fifth Third River Bank Run 25K Recap

I waited until May to run my first race of the year. I didn’t plan it that way, but with my lingering hamstring/glute/hip flexor injury, my hectic work schedule from January until April, and various other stuff going on, I just didn’t sign up for any races earlier in the year. That’s probably for the best, as I was undertrained for the first four months of the year and probably would’ve been frustrated with any race results if I even made it through a race without tweaking anything.

No easing into racing with a couple of 5Ks or a 10K this year…I started with the Fifth Third River Bank Run 25K in Grand Rapids, MI. This race is pretty well known in Michigan and beyond, as it is an established race that also serves as the USA 25K National Championships. I’ve been interested in running this race the last couple of years, but it conflicted with the Borgess Half Marathon so this was my first year doing the River Bank Run. I lived in the Grand Rapids area for several years and I really like it there, so I was looking forward to running this one.

My training was pretty rough, as I hadn’t run 10 miles at a time since January and had to cut a few runs short leading up to the race due to hamstring pain. Even worse, I tweaked my good hamstring just a couple weeks before the race. I had the option to drop down to the 5K or 10K if I needed to, but I really wanted to run the 25K. I babied my good hamstring, and it felt much better after just a few days. Because I hadn’t done any long runs in the months leading up to this race and felt like I had no stamina for a race of this distance, I decided to test myself in the weeks leading up to the race to determine whether I should try the 25K or drop down to the 5K or 10K. I didn’t do any long runs, but I did run 10 out of 11 days during a period ending the week before the race, and then I ran a few more times the week of the race. I didn’t do any long or really intense runs, just enough to test myself on tired legs without adding extra risk of injury. It was more more mileage than I had been running, but in the form of fairly easy runs. I felt like I held up pretty well, so I decided to try the 25K as originally planned even though I had no idea what to expect for speed or pacing.

We headed to Grand Rapids the day before the race, and stayed at a hotel right next to the starting line (and only a block away from the finish line). Traffic getting to the hotel was pretty hectic, but we didn’t care because once we parked and got checked in we had an easy walk to the race expo and could settle in to relax. I’d much rather deal with traffic the evening before the race than the morning of the race! The expo was in an exhibition hall and was pretty big. There were a lot of vendors there as well as booths for various charitable organizations that had runners participating in the race, including my alma mater’s “Laker for a Lifetime” program and the Paws With a Cause Assistance Dog organization (just to name a couple of the many great organizations that were represented). We spent a decent amount of time at the expo and enjoyed seeing the different things the vendors had to offer. The race shirt is a gray, short-sleeved technical shirt. The shirt is nicer than the screwy white balance in the photos below makes it appear, and it’s one I’ve worn several times since the race.

The expo

The expo

Another photo of the expo

Another photo of the expo

A panorama of the race expo

A panorama of the race expo (click for larger version – huge file size)

Another panorama of the race expo

Another panorama of the race expo (click for larger version – huge file size)

The front of the race shirt

The front of the race shirt

The back of the race shirt

The back of the race shirt

I slept like crap before the race and woke up with a little bit of back pain. Not what I wanted, especially because I had just started going to a chiropractor a week or so before the race and had already felt a lot of improvement. Reemerging back pain was the last thing I wanted to worry about on race morning…I already had enough nervousness about my hamstring and my lack of training. Luckily it loosened up after I had been awake for a while. I don’t like to eat before running, but I do try to eat something before longer races so I woke up early to eat a banana and some other small snacks. I also packed two Hammer gels to carry during the race. WOOD TV 8 in Grand Rapids did an awesome job with race day coverage, and they broadcast their morning news from a set near the start line that we could see from our hotel room. One of their meteorologists, Laura Velasquez, is an avid runner who ran the 25K. Not only did she run the race, but she drove the course early in the morning, broadcasting from several points along the way before returning downtown in time for the start. There were 5K and 10K races that started before the 25K (I’m not sure why they don’t start the longer race first), and we were able to see the starts of those races from our hotel room and see the 5K finish on TV.

The 10K start as seen from our hotel room window. Note all the oncoming runners reflected in the building in the right side of the photo.

The 10K start as seen from our hotel room window. Note all the oncoming runners reflected in the building in the right side of the photo.

Not feeling ready to run as we entered the start corral

Not feeling ready to run as we entered the start corral

The 25K started at 8:20 a.m., and because we were staying so close to the start line, we didn’t leave our hotel room until about 8:12. We saw Clint Verran, a professional runner who lives near us, has competed at the elite level for more than a decade, and is a charter member of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. After we wished Clint luck (he finished 16th overall with a 5:07/mile pace), we made our way to the start corral. It was extremely easy to get into the corral – by far the easiest of any race I’ve run that has corrals – and we had no problem getting a spot near our desired pace group. My wife was aiming for an 8:00-8:05/mile pace, so I decided to run with her for a while to see how I felt. We started out conservatively and had no problems staying in that range for the first four miles. We slowed it down to 8:07/mile for miles 5 and 6, then picked it up to sub-8:00 for the next several miles. I took a Hammer gel around the 9-mile mark (almost 15K), and when I slowed down a little bit at that point to get water from an aid station, I realized that it was getting more difficult to catch up to my wife.

Even though my pace was improving, she was pulling ahead and I realized that she was dropping her pace big time. By the 11.5-mile mark, she had moved out of my view and I was very happy for her. I kept plugging along, but my pace started creeping up by mile 12. My hamstring started to bug me a little bit between miles 8 and 9, but it wasn’t too bad, and certainly not as bad as I thought it would be. My calves really started to bother me after mile 11, and they felt totally trashed over the last few miles of the race. There were a couple of hills on the second half of the course, but they weren’t too bad and didn’t slow me down. I think my calves just started to hurt due to a lack of training. I wore my Brooks Launch for this race, making sure to avoid shoes with a low heel drop. But after a while, I don’t think it mattered what shoes I was wearing because my legs just weren’t used to that distance and effort.

My favorite sign along the course

My favorite sign along the course

I was getting pretty bummed out as I realized my pace was slowing and I wasn’t going to be picking it back up. I was just trying to maintain a steady pace, but it ended up just getting steadily slower from miles 12 to 15. I passed the 13.1-mile mark (half marathon distance) in a little under 1:45:00, which is several minutes slower than my half marathon PR but probably in line with what I should have expected to run based on my training. It’s difficult for me to lower expectations for a race though, as my instinct is to compare everything to PR pace even when that isn’t very realistic. I think the fact that I was slowing down bothered me more than my actual time or pace at this point. Although I didn’t have a specific goal for this race (except to finish, haha), I was hoping to run between 7:55-8:10/mile, and I was in that range. But I was fading by the 13-mile mark, and I just wanted to hold on until the finish.

I kept going, tried to ignore my calves as much as I could, and looked forward to returning to downtown Grand Rapids for the final mile. I was really happy when I passed Grand Valley State University’s downtown campus, and I tried to pick it up a little bit for the last mile. I even tried a bit of a kick when I turned onto Ottawa Avenue toward the finish line, but that only lasted for a couple of blocks and I couldn’t quite keep up that pace for the final two blocks. I was thrilled to finally cross the finish line, thus ending the most suffering I’ve felt during a race since I ran the Bayshore Marathon last year. My wife was waiting for me, and I found out she had finished about three minutes earlier and ran the 15.5-mile course about 15 seconds/mile faster than her half marathon (13.1 mile) PR pace. So awesome! I was very happy to finish, but part of me was disappointed in my time, pace, and slowing down so much over the last few miles. All things considered, I can’t complain about this race, and I’m very glad I decided to try the full 25K.

After receiving my finisher’s medal, my wife and I grabbed a few snacks and headed to the post-race party, where participants were able to redeem a ticket for a free beer. The snacks weren’t too bad, though I’m never very hungry right after a race and am more interested in getting fluids than food. We didn’t stick around long, as we had to get back to our hotel so we wouldn’t miss the check out time (no late check out for runners this time because the hotel had a conference or something later that day and needed to turn the rooms around quickly).

RBR 10

The front of the finisher’s medal

The back of the finisher's medal

The back of the finisher’s medal

The post-race party

The post-race party

This was probably the most well-organized race I’ve run. I was very impressed with all aspects of it – the online registration, the packet pick up and expo, the organization of the start and finish areas, and the post-race party. Everyone we encountered who was connected to the race was friendly and supportive. I like the course, and even though there are a few spots that aren’t the most scenic, I found the course to be very scenic overall. I’ll admit I’m biased toward the Grand Rapids area, but I think that I’d also find it to be scenic even if I was totally objective. It’s easier than the half marathon courses I’ve run, but it also has a few challenging spots, mostly on the second half of the course. There was severe flooding in Grand Rapids a few weeks before the race, and there was some doubt as to whether the course would have to be adjusted. However, Mother Nature and some awesome volunteers made sure that the normal course was clear and no alternate course was necessary. There were some spots near the river where I could tell there had been water and mud on the road, but it had been cleared for runners by race day and had no impact on the race. The crowd support was pretty good. There were some stretches in the first few miles that didn’t have many spectators, but that was probably due to the logistics of trying to navigate closed roads and a narrow riverside road that normally has limited traffic anyway. The last several miles – when I need the support the most – had some very enthusiastic crowds. There were several cheer stations set up by various groups including a high school band, a cheer squad, and a university alumni group, as well as some music along the course. All very much appreciated by this runner!

I highly recommend this race if you’re interested in running a 25K (approximately 15.5 miles) and can make the trek to West Michigan in early May. You’ll be part of a first-class event with great organization, you’ll be a part of the USATF 25K National Championships, and you’ll get to run a great course in a great city. I’m looking forward to running it again, and I will do much better next time.

Results:
Chip time: 2:06:22 (gun time: 2:07:17)
Garmin time: 2:06:25 (15.68 miles)
Pace (per Garmin): 8:06/mile
Overall: 1428/5377
Gender: 1115/2856
Age group: 183/422
Slowest mile (per Garmin): 8:45 (mile 15)
Fastest mile (per Garmin): 7:49 (mile 11)

Posted in Injuries, Racing, Reviews, Running | 7 Comments

Back At It

Well, my training has been almost as sporadic as my blog updates….which isn’t a good thing. I have been running the last few months, though not nearly as much (or as fast) as I’d like. Some of my reduced training has been due to work being very busy and hectic for much of the last few months, though that’s not a good excuse because I can always find a half hour or an hour to run if I’m motivated enough.

A sunrise view like this is good motivation for me to run early in the spring and summer.

Another motivator to run more often.

Scenery like this motivates me to run more frequently.

I’ve gotten back to it over the last few weeks, and am still planning to run the Fifth Third River Bank Run 25K this weekend. I’m nowhere near race shape, and I really don’t know what to expect because my mileage has been down this year and I haven’t run more than nine miles at a time since late February. (By the way, my definition of “race shape” is being in a position to run PR pace.) But I’ll be at the starting line this weekend with some sort of decided-at-the-last-minute “A” goal, as well as my “B” goal of just finishing the race. Whatever my “A” goal ends up being, it won’t be anywhere near my half marathon PR pace. I thought about switching to the 5K or 10K, but I really want to run the 25K and my hamstrings have been holding up well enough over the last few weeks…knock on wood. My wife, on the other hand, has been training very well recently with consistent strength, tempo, and long runs. I think she’s prepared to challenge her half marathon PR pace, and hopefully she can beat that pace for the entire 15.5 miles.

The Clinton River Trail - one of the great trails in metro Detroit.

The Clinton River Trail – one of the great trails in metro Detroit.

I’ve been debating trying a different (for me) approach to this race, and alternating a couple of faster miles with a slower mile throughout the race. “Faster” being relative, of course. That seems to work well when I do intervals and will run, for example, 8 x 800 meters with a 200-meter recovery jog between each 800 rep, or 4 x 1 mile with an 800-meter recovery jog. So why not apply it to a race and run a few miles at a faster pace followed by a mile at a slower pace, and so on? I’ve never tried this in a race, and I don’t know if I would be able to keep it up for more than 15 miles. I’ve never had a problem slowing down during a race…but that has always been unintentional. Will I be able to slow down 30-60 seconds per mile for one out of every two to four miles then pick up the pace again? Will I just get sucked into a slower pace regardless, especially once I get past the 15K mark? Or do I jog the whole thing and just aim to finish regardless of my pace? I’m not sure yet how I’m going to approach this one, and based on my last couple of runs, running many “faster miles” might not be happening anyway.

I love running back roads. They're usually very peaceful, and they help me mentally prepare for races.

I love running on back roads. They’re usually very peaceful, their surfaces are more forgiving than concrete, and they help me mentally prepare for races.

Regardless of my pace and how I approach running this one, I’m really looking forward to it. I lived in the Grand Rapids area for several years, and I always enjoy getting back over there. This will be my first race in that area, and I’m excited to run along the river and a little bit downtown. That area had some severe flooding in late April, but fortunately the water has receded quite a bit since then and the race course didn’t have to be altered.

Questions:
Have you ever tried a totally new strategy for the first time in a race (without practicing it first)?

Do you always set goals for races? If so, how do you approach your goal setting if you know you’ll be well off of your PR pace?

Posted in General, Injuries, Racing, Running | 3 Comments

Plugging Along

Not too much has been new with me on the running front. I’ve just been plugging along and logging miles when I can. This winter hasn’t been quite as nice as last winter (nice meaning warmer and less snowy), but it hasn’t been nearly bad as a Michigan winter can be, so I’ve been able to do almost all of my running outside. That’s a good thing because I have a really bad mental block on treadmills…bad enough that I’m happy to just get through two or three consecutive miles on a treadmill.

My training has been pretty inconsistent recently. I’ve been working long hours, and I have to run either before sunrise or after sunset. That’s no excuse to not get out there more often, but there have been a few times when I’ve just decided to get a little extra sleep before work or relax after getting home from work. Of course I usually kick myself later for choosing to not run. I’ve been running fairly regularly, just not as many days or miles as I would run during the non-busy work season (and when there are more daylight hours). My hamstring had been feeling pretty good the last several weeks, but over the last week or so I’ve noticed some pain and discomfort. It got pretty bad at times during my run yesterday, to the point where I thought it might cramp, but luckily it didn’t. My longish runs have felt like struggles recently, though my shorter runs have gone fairly well. My longish run paces haven’t been too horrible, but the runs have felt like they require much more effort than they should. I think part of it is a result of running fewer miles in general over the last several months, and part of it is mental. I think both issues will be resolved with more mileage and some solid, consistent training. Oh yeah, and some speed work.

A view from one of my recent runs.

A view from one of my recent runs. Cloudy and dreary, but scenic.

I haven’t raced since early December, and I’m not sure when I’ll run my next 5K or 10K. I do know where and when I’m planning to run my next longer race though…the Fifth Third River Bank Run in May. I might run a 5K and/or 10K between now and then, but any 5Ks or 10Ks will probably be last-minute decisions. I’ve heard great things about the River Bank Run, and I’m looking forward to running my first 25K as well as my first race in Grand Rapids. I’ve also heard that the course is challenging and has some hills, and I’m looking forward to running that course. We’re not running at Borgess or Bayshore this year, but we might run the Mackinaw Memorial Bridge Race this year. We ran it a couple years ago and had a lot of fun despite the cold and rainy conditions. The bridge is about five miles long and the race site says it’s about a five-degree incline for the first half of the race. The site also says the race is 5.6 miles long, but it was about a half mile shorter than that when we ran it. Regardless, it’s a very cool event and it’s pretty awesome to run on a scenic suspension bridge that’s only open to foot traffic a few times a year! Maybe the weather will be nicer this year so I can get a photo or two on the bridge.

A cool shirt I bought when I registered for the Fifth Third River Bank Run 25K.

The Mackinac Bridge (photo courtesy of Janet Reid Boltz – http://www.reidphotography.com).

I don’t know if I’ll be following a formal training plan for the River Bank Run, but chances are I won’t be doing anything formal because I haven’t really thought much about a training plan yet. Regardless of whether I train formally or informally, I need to step up my training pretty soon. I probably won’t be doing much speed or interval work, at least not until my work schedule eases up a bit in April, but I definitely need to get in more mileage which should help me work past my recent struggles on longish runs.

As always, thanks for reading, and please don’t forget that Faster Than a Turtle is on Facebook (“likes” are always much appreciated)!

I hope your running has been going well…

Questions:
Have you decided on any late winter or spring races yet? If so, which ones and at what distances?

How far in advance do you set your race schedule, or do you tend to sign up at the last minute?

Posted in General, Injuries, Racing, Running | 2 Comments