Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Taking a break from running...

After I finished the Chicago Marathon on 10/10/10 I felt pretty good.  The last 6 miles were really tough for me due to the heat.  I sit here today, looking back, wondering if I hit the infamous wall too (likely).  Temps were in the mid 80s for my last 6 miles and it took everything I had to push through the last 6 miles and finish with a time of 3:56 (a PR by two minutes).  As I was running those last 6 miles and feeling like complete sh*t, I was still thinking about running the New York City Marathon on 11/7/10.  When I finished the NYC Marathon last year, I vowed to myself that I would make it annual tradition. 

So, I told myself I would take off as much time as needed after the Chicago Marathon to rest my body to run the NYC marathon.  I felt OK on the Monday after Chicago, felt a little more sore on Tuesday (I am always the most sore two days after an intense workout), and on Wednesday my right knee was killing me.  I knew that it was my IT band, as it hurt a lot to roll it out, a tell-tale sign that my IT band was tight.  At this point, I didn't think that I would be able to run for weeks, let alone the NYC Marathon.  I heavily iced my knee on Wednesday and Thursday, stretched it out with resistance rubber bands, and rolled it out.  By Friday, the pain was completely gone.  I felt good enough to run easy on Saturday and Sunday (4 and 5 miles respectively) and I was on track to run NYC.  I took Monday off and ran 5 miles on Tuesday.  As I was running, while my knees felt fine, I felt some twinges in my right leg, the same place that an May 2010 MRI revealed that I had a "thickening of the bone".  The doctors said that I either (1) may have had a stress fracture in the past or (2) may be about to get one.  Thankfully, it didn't bother me at all during my Chicago Marathon training, as I followed a much easier training schedule with a lot of cross training.  I saw my physical therapist (AL, she just did the Kona Ironman in 10:30) and she said that I may be having "stress reaction". 

When I had the pain during my Tuesday run, I decided then and there that I was not going to run the New York City marathon.  My ultimate goal is Ironman Canada on 8/28/11, and I decided that I would likely hurt myself more by training for and then running NYC.  I thought it would be a tough decision but it actually wasn't, it was a huge relief.  I could relax, not get up early every morning, and take a break.  A week later, I'm thrilled with my decision (although sad I won't run NYC, now I can go out and cheer for all of my friends).  I haven't run for 8 days in a row and I may take 2-3 weeks off before running again.  I'll listen to my body.

Having said all of this, by yesterday, I felt bloated and missed exercising.   I decided to buy a bike trainer for the winter to get some baseline winter Ironman training and yesterday purchased a Cycleops fluid 2 trainer.  I love it!  See the pictures below.  The trainer is awesome.  I put the real rear wheel of my bike on the trainer and put the front wheel on a stabilizing plastic tray.  I already had a Garmin bike cadence accessory hooked up to my bike, so my Garmin 405 bike gets all of my stats while I ride on the trainer - my speed, distance, cadence, heart rate, time, lap time, etc.  It is totally awesome!  Plus, I get to set the trainer up in my living room directly in front of my 42" plasma screen and watch sports while riding.  I have a long cord for headphones and a fan to keep me cool (or as cool as one can be riding in a NYC apartment that is 80+ degrees).

I'll start running eventually, but for now I'm enjoying my trainer.  For my first ride yesterday, I made the rear wheel too tight and found it extremely hard.  I loosened up the back wheel a bit and it felt a little easier.  I got a great workout in.  Any and all advice is appreciated from my friends that use a bike trainer too!

Here are some pictures......

Check out this view....totally sweet!!! (if you look closely you can see my 2 year old daughter Kaiya in the background)

took this shot while riding the bike last night...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chicago Marathon 2010 Race Report - 10/10/10

General Commentary

7:30 A.M. race start, I crossed the line at 7:35 A.M, having started in seeded corral D
Abundant sunshine, 60 degrees and 74% humidity at the start of the race with a mid 80s forecast for later in the day.  A fellow runner was right on when he said "a perfect day, unless you are a marathon runner"
Temperature was in the mid 80s around mile 18 with abundant sunshine

Race goal - finish under 4 hours, don't get hurt, slow down if too hot
Race plan - run 10/10/10 on 10/10/10 - goal was to run easy for the first 10 miles, run a little faster for the next 10 miles, and then finish strong for the last 10k
Stretch goal - sub 3:50

Race Commentary

Mile 1 - 9:10 per mile - Streets very wide, lots of room to run, tons of fans out at 7:30 A.M!  Awesome! Half of the first mile runs through an open tunnel, and it was hot in that tunnel!! I thought "I'm going to struggle if it is this warm during the race"

Mile 2 - 9:00 - Feel good, knees feel great.  Loving the crowd, I am very surprised at how many people are out watching the race so early, cowbells and all.  The crowd energy was really awesome (and much cleaner than the New York City streets!)  I had my music off for most of the first 2 miles.  Ran by the Chicago Theater, which had "Yo Gabba Gabba" in town.  We just saw Yo Gabba Gabba at Radio City in NYC last weekend.

Mile 3 - 9:05

Mile 4 - 8:40 - feel good, although for the first time I could tell that it was very humid, because I already felt hot at this point and was soaked.  My pace for this mile feels a little harder than it should.

Mile 5 - 8:50 - enter Lincoln Park area.  Beautiful area.  Lot of trees.  Good mix of sun and shade.  Lots of people out.

Mile 6 - 8:45 - Run along Lakeshore drive.  Tons of fans, great area

Mile 7 - 8:40 - Wrigleyville.  Awesome area.  Lots of shade to stay cool.  Feels like the temperature is rising.

Mile 8 - 8:16 - my fastest mile thus far.  feel good and strong.  Plan to run this mile hard and take the next mile easy.  Still a lot of shade.

Mile 9 -  8:44

Mile 10 - 8:47 - I slow down a little bit to look for my friend TC.  I didn't see him but he got 3 pictures of me as I ran by (I'm in the neon shirt).  Thanks TC!

Mile 11- 8:57 - More sun now, less shade, and the temperature is noticeably warmer.  Starting to feel hot.  Somewhere around this point I heard announcements over the PA system on the course saying that the alert level had been raised by one notch to Yellow "Moderate Conditions" - "less than ideal conditions, slow down, be prepared for worsening conditions".  A few times during the first 10 miles of the race, I saw the alert level at green "good conditions, enjoy the event, be alert".  I was surprised it was at the lowest level - if I was feeling hot I assumed others were too.  I remember thinking to myself  "if it keeps warming up this fast, people are going to get hurt".  I thought that the race was extremely well run and thought that it was really cool that they had an active alert system (likely the result of the hot weather in 2007, when it was so hot that they stopped the Chicago Marathon halfway through due to hot conditions.  Last year, it was 36 degrees for the race).  Later in the day the alert level was raised the highest possible level before stopping the race - High "Potentially Dangerous Conditions" (slow down, observe course rules, follow event instruction, consider stopping).

Mile 12 - 8:12  - starting to push a little but still feel good.  Volunteers were handing out green sponges soaked with cold water, which was refreshing.  I took a few sponges and soaked my head, arms, back, and even legs with cold water (and picked up a second sponge 100 yards later and did the exact same thing a second time).  This helped to cool me down for a mile and I was able to run a strong mile as a result (in fact, I was sub 8 for most of this mile, only slowing down to get some water at the end of the mile).  This race had plenty of fluids.  There was water and Gatorade every mile, which I slowed down to pick up from volunteers, who also did an awesome job.   I alternated between water and Gatorade every mile, taking 2 sips each mile.  I started pouring a cup of water on my head every other mile starting at mile 5.

Mile 13 - 8:28 - still feeling good, back in the Chicago loop, on Adams Street.  Tons of shade due to the tall buildings.  At this point I feel like I have executed my race plan flawlessly, particularly given the conditions.

Half Marathon Split - 1:55:31 -  Right on my game plan, now it's time to push.

Mile 14- 8:06  - feel good, still in the shade, feel hot but manageable.  feel like I can hold this pace in the shade.  My Garmin 405 watch says "battery low".  WHAT?  Last time this happened, the watch died within minutes.  I turned on the stopwatch on my iPhone while running just in case.  Luckily, the watch didn't die during the race.

Mile 15 - 8:06 - feel strong, still in the shade

Mile 16 - 8:36 - the shade has left the building in favor of abundant sunshine.  Hot, hot, hot sunshine.  Noticeable difference in my effort level in the sun.  Average heart rate for my first 16 miles was 158.  Perfect.

Mile 17 -8:44 - still nothing but sunshine.  For the first time during the race, I feel tired.  Just like that, I went from feeling strong to feeling completely exhausted.  I looked around and everybody else around me was struggling too.  For most of the race, I ran around the 3:50 pace group.  Not because I was trying to, but because their pace was my pace.  They were struggling to.  My heart rate was hovering around 170 at this point.  Actually pretty good given the conditions.  Average heart rate would sit around 170 for the remainder of the race.  My heart rate jumped from the low 160s to the low 170s once I was consistenly in the sun. I actually felt a few PVCs in my heart during this mile (i.e., extra beats, something I get when my heart is beating too slow, hardly ever when I run).

Mile 18 - 8:48 - still able to run a sub 9 minute mile, but by the end of this mile I felt dead tired.  Going all out to run a sub 9 minute mile.  Starting to see the carnage on the roads.  I saw at least 10-15 people down on the ground - a  mix between people looking horrible, hurt, cramped, or in two cases, passed out.  I saw a few people collapse right in front of me (both holding their leg in agony).  Scary stuff.

Mile 19 - 9:07 - took everything I had to run this pace.  Everything.  I realize at this point that I will run around a 3:55 - 3:56 marathon if I keep running sub 10 minute miles.  I feel like complete crap.  I consider walking but figure that I will feel like complete crap either way, so I might as well push for a sub 4 hour marathon and be proud of myself while feeling like complete crap.  I never felt light headed or in peril (like I did during the Wisconsin marathon).  Tons and tons of people are walking.  I feel ok to be running but it is taking everything I have to do it.  I do everything I can to find shade, even if for 20 feet.

Mile 20 - 9:15 - Giving it everything I have.  Completely dreading running 6.2 more miles at this point.

Mile 21 - 9:32 -  At this point, I know I'm done.  there is no way that I can recover to sub 9 minute miles.  I decide to slow down.  It feels like I am running 15 minute miles.  I can feel my body, but barely.  My right knee/IT band is a little sore, but it isn't hampering me.  I said to myself "just keep pushing and you'll break 4 hours".

Mile 22 - 9:51 - somebody gives me one of those green sponges.  It helps.  I start to wonder if I'm going to break 4 hours. Only 4.2 miles to go, I think.  I'm counting the miles.  Each mile marker seems 100 miles away and 9 minutes feels like an hour.  I think to myself "man, running a marathon is hard!!!" 

Mile 23 - 9:31 - somebody gives me an ice cold soaked white towel, which I soak myself with and carry with me the entire mile, squeezing out a few cold drops every 50 meters or so.  At the end of the mile, it was bone dry.   There is still carnage all over the place and tons of people are walking.  Tons of people have cramps.  A bunch of people are limping.  I'm happy to still be running, no matter what the pace.  "a great day, except if you are marathon runner", I think to myself.  Only 3.2 miles to go.

Mile 24 - 9:34 - south Michigan avenue.  The other runners around are struggling just like me.  there are more people in the crowd during this mile and tons of people are cheering.  this pumps me up, keeps me going.  Only 2.2 miles left to go.  I think I can make it without walking, although I can't wait to stop running!  A kid gives me a cup of ice.  This saved me!  I carried it for the entire mile, chewing on the ice and wetting my lips.   It cooled me down just a little bit

Mile 25 - 9:35 - More people, tons of cheering.  I want to be done now.  I dread running the last 2.2 miles but push myself.

Mile 26- 9:43 - I'm almost done but struggling big time.  I have absolutely nothing left in the tank.  My mind tells my legs to keep moving.  At the end of this mile, there is a sharp uphill.  I think to myself "what kind of a person would put this kind of hill 400 meters away from the end of the marathon????".  It took EVERYTHING I had to run up that hill, EVERYTHING.  I didn't walk but I was close.

Final 200 meters - 8:48 pace - When I got to the top of the hill and turned the corner to approach the finish line, I saw a sign that said 200 meters to go.  YES!!!!!  I can do it!  I ran hard for the last 200 meters, crossed the finish line and pumped my fist.  I did it.  While I wanted to break 3:50, it just wasn't in the cards today.  I gave it everything I had.  I had absolutely nothing more to give.

Final Time (26.2 miles) - 3:56:34 (a 9:01 per mile pace).  A PR by 2 minutes.  I'll take it!!!!!! 

To see the Garmin file and map with my splits, click here

Overall, I really enjoyed this race.  It was well run (except for the seeded coral area which had a line of at least 500 people to get into the seeded corral 5 minutes before the cutoff time of 7:15 A.M.  This caused panic and nearly a riot.  Many runners refused to wait in line after not moving for at least 10 minutes and started jumping the fence.  The security guards were grabbing a few of these runners and said that they were kicked out of the marathon.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  While I didn't jump the fence, I wanted to but thought for sure I would hurt myself doing it.)  Also, we were surprised that the seeded corral baggage check was farther away from the seeded corral than the open baggage check area.   The Chicago Marathon should consider moving the seeded corral baggage check closer to the seeded corral next year).

I'm still thinking that I will run the New York City marathon on 11/7/10 too....

I took a few pictures before the race.  I just didn't have the energy to take them during the race.  I also took a couple of short videos as I was approaching the start line.  Here they are....

Video taken as I approached the start line. The race started a minute before I started shooting the video

At 5:40 A.M. on Michigan Avenue.  Was up at 4:15 A.M. to drive into the city with my friend RFL

The medal....

At the expo with my friend RFL

Minutes before the race in the Corral D

Another Shot as the race started...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chicago Marathon Update - Tracking Information

The marathon is only 2 days away (Sunday 10/10/10).  I arrived in this afternoon in Chicago and drove up to Kenosha to stay with my mom (where I grew up).  I had dinner with my friend TM, which was great. 

I tapered this week, only running 3 days - Tuesday (3 miles), Wednesday (4 miles), and Thursday (2 miles).  I decided to take today and tomorrow off to rest.   All week, I felt sore during my taper, which is normal as my body was repairing the damage done from 16 weeks of marathon training.  The soreness shows that my body is healing, that my muscles are repairing themselves.  On top of that, I have been "carb loading" all week, so I feel heavy and slow.  Overall, I feel ready ready to go.  My right knee is a little sore, but I don't think it will slow me down.  I caught a cold earlier in the week (and had some wheezing in my lungs) plus I had a mild Crohn's flare-up this week, but I feel good now.   

The forecast for the start of the race (7:30 A.M. Central Time) is for it to be sunny and around 60-63 degrees, with the high going up to the low 80s.  Hopefully it will stay in the 60s and low 70s while I run and humidity will stay low.  Ideally, I was hoping for temps in the 50s.

Chicago Marathon 2010 Tracker

If you would like to track me during the marathon, you can do so at:


Just type in Balcom or my bib number (8779) and you can sign up to get text messages that will be texted to you during my race at various points (and this will also include my average pace per mile).  I haven't figured out how one can sign up for email updates or how one can follow me on the computer. If anybody figures that out, let me know.

Something that made me laugh...

On my way to Chicago I read something in the USA Today that made me laugh out loud.  I am a big Chicago Bulls fan and was a huge Michael Jordan fan.  The article is called "Be Like Mike in NBA 2K11".  The article asks "How would Michael Jordan have fared had he played in the NBA in the era of no hand checking and zone defense?"  "It would have been feast or famine" said Jordan.  "The current game is less physical and the rules have changed, obviously.  Based on these rules, if I had to play with my style of play, I'm pretty sure I would have fouled out, or I would have been at the free-throw line pretty often and I could have scored 100 points".

Cool Asics New York Marathon Ads

The other day, I saw a couple of cool posters in the subway.  Asics ads for the upcoming New York City Marathon.  I have included them below.  I think it is very cool that the woman in the picture is wearing headphones while running.  Most refreshing, as I love listening to music when I run.  Let the debating begin....

Look closely to see her headphones on....

Monday, October 4, 2010

Week 16 Chicago Marathon Training plus a Rabies Advisory in Central Park?

Rabies Advisory in Central Park? 

Central Park is my favorite place in the world. What other large city has a hilly, 6 mile race track in the middle their city? Sometimes when I run in Central Park, I see a raccoon, skunk, or other little critter. Once earlier this year I saw a raccoon so big that I at first thought it was a little dog. I froze in my tracks... it froze...my heart starting beating super fast....I suspect the same for the raccoon....then it thought about what to do.....I was still frozen....and then it scampered into the North Woods of the park. Today as we were walking around Central Park, we saw the rabies advisory sign above. I did some searching online and found a bunch of articles saying that 3 rabid raccoons were found in Central Park in 2009 and that 20 animals tested positive for rabies throughout New York City .  What I find peculiar about this is that this is the first I've heard of it.  Maybe I live under a rock?  My kids, 4 and 2, go to a school on Central Park West and go to Central Park to play everyday (definitely lucky kids).  I am in Central Park almost every day and I go with my family to Central Park every weekend. Despite all of this, today was the first day I saw one of these signs or heard of a rabies advisory, nearly 10 months after the rabies alert came out.  I guess it took them a while to get the word out, because surely I would have seen those signs somewhere or heard about it somehow.  I really would have panicked had I known that the big dog-like raccoon I was near might have been rabid.

Now for my Chicago Marathon Week 16 Summary
I just finished week 16 of my Chicago Marathon training.  Only 1 week until the race (10/10/10).  I'm in heavy taper mode this week.  I'm running 3 miles on Tuesday, 4 on Wednesday, and 3 on Thursday.  Then I will take off Friday (travel day to Chicago) and Saturday.  Hopefully I'll be fresh for race day.  The forecast looks dry, with a temperatures projected to be in the low 70s.  Uh oh.  The low the night before is projected to be in the mid 50s, so hopefully with a 7:30 A.M. race start time, so hopefully it will be cool at the start.  Of course we all know that weather projections a week out are worthless, but all marathon runners look at repeatedly to get the latest updates.

I had a good week of training for week 16.  I ran 5 times, 27 miles (5.2, 6, 5, 3, and 8 miles).  I feel good, although my right knee/IT band started hurting yesterday and I caught a cold on Friday too.  My 3rd marathon taper and my third cold during the marathon taper.  Oh well.  I also got my New York Road Runners volunteer event done this week by volunteering for the 1.7 mile Norway Run (my friend JS came in second overall with a 5:01 per mile pace - he is awesome!) and the 13.1 mile Grete's Gallop half marathon.  Since I have run 9 races and volunteered for 1 race in 2010, I now have automatic entry into the 2011 New York City Marathon.  Totally sweet!!!!!!!!

Over the last week, I listened to my body and ran easy, letting my body dictate my speed.  What's funny is that all of my easy runs have gotten much faster over the last few weeks.  3 of my 5 runs were done at a sub 8 minute pace (5.2 miles at 7:58 pace, 6.04 miles at 7:49 pace, and 8 miles at a 7:42 pace).  My other 2 runs were 5 miles at an 8:25 per mile pace (in Washington DC, where I stopped to take a lot of pictures) with a moving average of 8:02 per mile and a very easy 3 miles at 8:39 pace.  No question that my fitness level is at its peak right now. 

For my 8 mile run today, I went out very easy because I was feeling crappy because of my cold.  A half mile into my run in Central Park I looked down at my watch and it showed a pace in the low 8s.  It felt very easy to me, so I held the pace.  After I was warmed up (usually takes 3-5 miles), I felt even better and started to push a little.  I still felt great, so I pushed miles 3 and 4, took the pedal off for miles 5 and 6, still felt great, so I pushed miles 7 and 8, finishing mile 8 at a 6:37 per mile pace.  A great and confidence building final run before tapering.  My splits in order were (click here for the Garmin File)

mile 1 - 8:11
mile 2 - 8:00
mile 3 - 7:44
mile 4 - 7:22
mile 5 - 8:08
mile 6 - 8:00
mile 7 - 7:32
mile 8 - 6:37

Overall - 7:42 per mile

I'm excited to go home for the weekend.  I arrive in Chicago on Friday, will go to Kenosha on Friday to stay with my mom Friday night (which I'm really looking forward to), then will go to my friend RL's house in Highland Park on Saturday.  We will go to the marathon expo on Saturday, I will stay at his house Saturday night, then we will drive to the race Sunday morning (one of RL's friends is also running the marathon and will come with us).  I will come back to NYC on Sunday night.

Recently, a guy that I met doing my first triathlon sent me some pictures from the event, and here is the one of me that I liked...