Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Illinois Half Marathon race recap

Continuing my recap of Illinois Marathon weekend and the Half I-Challenge, which began with the Illinois 5K on Friday night.

After finishing the 5K, Erin, Jason, Adam and I went to meet Anne, Bob, and two of their friends for dinner at Big Grove Tavern in downtown Champaign. I am a big fan of local-type restaurants, and this place didn't disappoint. We had a yummy meal and lively discussions about our good old student days, race and spectator strategies, and Pinky and the Brain, amongst other topics.

Words to live by, no? ;-P

Unfortunately there were no TVs in the restaurant, but Adam noticed that the bar across the street had the Blackhawks game on. He and I alternated inexpertly squinting through the windows at the distant TV. When we saw the Hawks win in overtime, I did my best to hold back my exuberance until we had exited the restaurant. Another great tiding for the weekend! =D

We headed back to Erin's parents' house. Jason, Anne, and Adam went to the kitchen to hash out their spectating scheme. Unfortunately, the half marathon was going to be challenging for them to attack as a joint spectator group. Jason was the only one that knew the course; Bob, Erin, and I were all running vastly different paces; and all three of us were in different starting corrals.

I went to go lay out all of my gear. Then I hit the sack.

The next morning, Bob, Erin, and I arrived on site bright and early, then split to find our respective corrals.

A wide range of professional pacers were available for both the full and half marathon, and I definitely wanted to take advantage. I had been going back on forth on whether or not to go with the 2:15 half marathon pacer vs the 2:12 or even the 2:10 pacer. Ultimately, after my meltdown of a 5K PR attempt from a few weeks ago, I decided to take things more conservatively. I went with the 2:15 pacer, whose name was Tom. At the race expo, I had been told that he was an extremely experienced and reliable pacer that had the accuracy of a metronome. This was comforting.

Speaking of metronomes

The corrals were crowded. Once my corral got underway, the course remained crowded. When I run races, especially longer races, I put forth a lot of focus on running the course tangents. However, this was difficult to do amidst the crowds. It took a few minutes for me to settle into my pace, especially as the course immediately turned directly into the sun. When we hit the Mile 1 marker I was happy to see that we were exactly on pace.

It had been my intention to do a 9:1 run/walk ratio during the race. Unfortunately, the crowds made it difficult to see and rejoin Pacer Tom after the breaks. After two walk breaks, I decided that walking wasn't going to work and that I would try to just run with the pace group for as long as I could. Given that I do all of my long runs with walk breaks in training, I knew this decision might come back to haunt me. But I went with it anyways.

The course ran through Campustown on Green Street, past the Illini Union and the alma mater, and into the residential neighborhoods of Urbana. This time I did get to see the alma mater along the course.

Hail to the Orange,
Hail to the Blue
Hail Alma Mater
Ever so true
We love no other
So let our motto be
Victory, Illinois,

Our spectators were of all ages and they were cheerful and energetic. It was awesome seeing so many folks decked out in Illinois gear. I tried to read as many of their signs as possible. This was one of my favorites:

I focused on running the tangents where possible and keeping up with the pace group. The miles flew by and every single mile split was spot on. I started thinking that the pace felt really easy. I had to hold myself back from speeding up. Some gentle hills along the course helped keep me grounded. It was then that I realized the extent to which I had always been starting out too fast in my half marathons. I took my first GU at around mile 4.5.

Erin's parents' house was near the Mile 6 marker, and I knew that I'd be seeing the spectator group there. It gave me something to look forward to. Sure enough, I saw Adam waving his Terrible Towel. It made it easy for me to spot him from a distance. I didn't see Jason, but I waved jauntily to Adam and to Anne as I ran past. I was feeling proud that I had easily kept up with the 2:15 pace group to that point.

Near the Mile 7 marker was the first marathon relay interchange, which brought with it a huge cheering crowd. It was awesome seeing some folks handing off. At that moment I decided that I was officially adding a marathon relay to my runner's to-do list. (Who wants to join me?!?!?)

Shortly afterwards, volunteers were handing out GU packets along the course. I grabbed two of them and kept charging ahead.

Me with one of the GU packets in hand.

As the miles ticked off without me taking any walk breaks, I started wondering when fatigue might catch up to me. I was still feeling really good. So good, in fact, that I was nearly in disbelief at myself. But Pacer Tom was keeping the mile splits dead on so I knew that everything was on target.

Around miles 8 and 9, the course ran through Meadowbrook Park. It is a beautiful and serene prairie area with bridges and grassy open fields.

Meadowbrook Park on a non-race day
Unfortunately the path was narrow and winding. Again it became hard to run the tangents and to stay with the pace group amidst the crowd. I tried to keep Pacer Tom in sight. Unfortunately I did have a few instances where I got caught in the crowd and had to put forth some small spurts to catch back up. I took a second GU at around Mile 9.5.

As we approached the Mile 10 marker, I looked down at my Garmin and was shocked to see a 1:42:XX. I've run two 10-mile races in the past, and both times I had to put forth a strong effort to achieve a 1:46 and 1:48. Too bad I couldn't include today's split as a new 10-mile PR for myself!

I was still waiting for fatigue to rear its ugly head. Mile 11 has historically always been a tough point for me. Physically I was only starting to feel tired, but mental fatigue was definitely threatening to set in. Seeing the Mile 11 marker made me think that I should have been tired. I mean, at that point I am always tired, right? And then, as self-fulfilling prophesies would have it, the fatigue did hit. Pacer Tom was starting to inch ahead of me and I began losing the steam to keep up with him. But I kept plugging away, still knowing that I'd been able to maintain my pace for most of the race.

Charging along
After covering a lot of off-campus territory, the course re-emerged onto campus. I began noticing an increasing number of students amongst the spectating crowd. I even found myself thinking that they all looked so young, and wondered if I looked that young when I was a student. (Depressing, I know.) I ran by a fraternity house blasting music and offering libations to passing runners. It made me smile.

I reached mile 12 just shy of 2:04. I started calculating what pace I needed to run the final 1.1 mile to be able to PR. I was tired, my quads and feet were starting to burn, and I was ready to be done. But I knew that I was going to be able to PR - it was just a question of by how much. When I realized this I breathed a small sigh of relief.

Adam had told me he'd be on the course around mile 12.5. I started looking for him after the Mile 12 marker. I found out afterwards he had staked out a high-visibility spot and waited there for over 30 minutes. It had only been after I texted him my finishing time that he realized that we'd both missed each other. Very mysterious! (I joked with him that maybe it was because I ran by so quickly that I was a blur!)

The full marathoners split off from the course right around mile 12.5. At that point, I looked down at my watch and told myself, "Only about five more minutes. You can do anything for five minutes. You've already finished this, just cross the line."

I was ready to start speeding up. But then, the course went through a hairpin turn in the final quarter mile, and a woman in front of me had some spectator (in jeans and sandals!) jump onto the course and start running next to her. There wasn't much room to maneuver around them so I hung back. Similarly, as we took the last few turns to enter Memorial Stadium, a few other folks were running in tandem and/or slowing down and blocking the path. I gritted my teeth, ducked around them, and high-tailed it to the finish line. It was a thrill to see myself on the stadium scoreboard as I crossed.

Not quite a race photo body spasm, but pretty close!

My official time was 2:15:21.

It took nearly three American presidential terms, but my previous half marathon PR of 2:16:37 from September 2002 has finally fallen. Hallelujah!

From L to R: Bob, Anne, Erin, and me post-race in the stands, with Anne sharing her fabulous spectator sign.
Bob and Erin also PR'd at the race, so we went 3 for 3 on successful PR attempts!
Check out Erin's race recap here.

During my time at the University of Illinois, I went through so many life milestones, grew up so much, and learned so much both inside and outside of the classroom. I think it's very appropriate that I would be able to enjoy this running accomplishment at my old campus, as well.

The race medals (!) for the 5K, half marathon, and I-Challenge

Illinois Marathon weekend was an amazing, memorable, and incredibly well-organized series of events. My thanks go out to Pacer Tom for his unbelievably accurate timing splits, which were so instrumental in helping me reach my time goal. I am also very grateful to Erin and Jason for being such great weekend hosts; and to Anne, Jason, and Adam for spectating. And as always, I am eternally grateful to Adam for joining me on this running escapade down my old college lane!

My next race: the Chicago Spring Half Marathon on May 18

Monday, April 28, 2014

Illinois 5K race recap

This past weekend I headed down to my dear alma mater for Illinois Marathon weekend.

The weekend's agenda? Run the Half I-Challenge. This consists of the Illinois 5K on Friday night, and the Illinois Half Marathon on Saturday morning. Total race schwag to be earned? Two race shirts and three medals.

Bring it on!!!

Let's talk first about pre-weekend prep and the 5K portion of the I-Challenge. I'll cover the half marathon in another post.

On Friday morning, I was up early to spend obscene amounts of time deliberating what clothing/gear to pack for the two-race weekend. The forecasted race-time temperatures ranged from low 50s to the mid-60s, and temps in the 50s are my tipping point between wearing shorts or capris. I considered bringing different pairs of running shoes to wear for the 5K and the half marathon. I also wanted to wear something in UIUC's school colors (orange and blue), but also wanted to wear outfits that didn't clash with my running shoe colors. However, some of the right-colored shirts didn't have pockets, which would then lead to the question of whether or not to wear a running belt. First world runner's problems, right?

After an embarrassing amount of time, I finally decided to keep things simple. I brought two pairs of black shorts, one pair of black capris as a backup, one pair of running shoes (my turquoise/orange Asics), a turquoise shirt, an orange shirt, and my i-Fitness belt.

I worked a half day on Friday and then went to pick Adam up from his office. We zipped through the cornfields on Interstate 57 down to Champaign-Urbana, arrived on campus, and hit the race expo at the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC). The ARC is a relatively new building, but it is right across the street from where I lived my freshman and sophomore year of college. Cue the nostalgia!

The expo was very well-organized. I rarely purchase things at race expos, but this time I did pick up a couple of items - most notably, "The Stick." (It's basically the equivalent of a rolling pin for your muscles, similar to a foam roller. More about this another time.)

Looks a little scary, no?

Erin's parents live in Urbana, and she had very graciously offered to host us there for the weekend. After the expo, we headed over to their (gorgeous!) house to get ready.

Jason dropped Erin and me off as close to the 5K starting line as possible, then he and Adam went to find parking as close to the finish line as possible. The 5K corrals were crowded and the emcee kept asking everyone to make room for other runners. There were only about five corrals. Surprisingly the first corral was for anyone with an expected finish time of 27:00 or faster. So, I relished one of the very few times in my life that I'll ever be in the first corral of a race. =) The weather was beautiful - clear, very mild breezes, and temps in the 60s.

After the starting gun went off, Erin and I set out at a pace that was a bit faster than I would have done had I been running by myself. Given that my weekend focus was on the half marathon the next morning, the 5K was by no means intended to be a PR attempt. I knew that I had to be careful not to get too ambitious if things went well. But, I felt good so I told myself to just go with the flow. Mile 1 was done in around 8:45 and actually felt surprisingly easy.

We saw Adam and Jason somewhere along the first mile. Here are a couple of pictures that they took:

In front of Assembly Hall

The 5K had started at 7:30 PM. The sun was still up when we were heading to the race. But, as you can see in the pictures, the sun was setting as the race was underway. Enroute to the race I was wearing my prescription sunglasses. I forgot to leave them in the car, and I didn't have regular glasses or contacts lenses to swap into. So I ran the race holding my sunglasses in my hand. My eyesight is reasonably good to the point where I can still function without wearing any prescription eyewear. But, unfortunately it made it more difficult for me to fully enjoy the scenery on campus while running.

The course passed by the residence hall complex that I lived in, as well as many buildings where I had attended class. We saw a bus filled with students dressed to the nines, presumably for a formal event of some sort. This included some students who were unhappy about the race blocking the streets and were being halted at the crosswalks by police officers. We ran through Green Street (aka "Campustown"), and I marveled at how much nicer it has gotten since I was a student. Somewhere along the way I bypassed an aid station and I also completely missed the Mile 2 marker.

The 5K course did not pass by the alma mater, unfortunately, but I loved seeing her decked out to support the runners.
(Photo from the Illinois Marathon Facebook page)

We saw lots of fraternities and student apartment buildings with plenty of folks hanging out on their front lawns, beer containers in hand, cheering us on. As timing would have it, the Blackhawks were playing Game 5 of their playoff series against the Blues that night. The University of Illinois attracts a lot of folks from both Chicago and St. Louis, and I saw many folks wearing items proclaiming their hockey loyalties. There were a few other runners near me wearing Blackhawks jerseys. They drew raucous "Go Blackhawks!" cheers from many of our spectators. Someone even yelled, "The Hawks are up one to nothing! The Hawks are currently up one to nothing!" as we ran by. I didn't hold back my natural reaction, which was to scream, "YEAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!" at the top of my lungs (eliciting a chuckle from Erin).

Around mile 2.25 I was starting to feel the exertion, even though I didn't really know what pace I was holding. Erin was starting to inch ahead of me and I didn't push myself to keep up with her. I hadn't looked at the course map and I didn't know what was ahead. I started focusing more on the spectators.

Somewhere in the last half mile, there was a guy wearing a Blues t-shirt along the course. A runner just ahead of me yelled "Go Blackhawks" at him, and he responded with, "Go Blues!" Not one to let that pass me by, I also yelled "Go Blackhawks!" at him when I ran past a few seconds later. He again dutifully responded, "Go Blues!" to which several folks around me starting laughing.

We made a turn into Memorial Stadium, ran through a corridor, then all of a sudden found ourselves on the field.

Taken from the Illinois Marathon Facebook page:
A view of the field from Race Operations in the press box at Memorial Stadium.

The finish line was at the 50-yard line and the runners could see themselves being broadcast on the scoreboard as they crossed. Wow! I didn't know that the 5K finished on the field so this was a very cool surprise. What an amazing experience to be running on the field amidst the stadium spotlights!

Erin and me on the field after our finish (photo by Jason)
Me with the finish line in the background (photo by Adam)

Erin and me in the stands with our medals, plus the scoreboard behind us.

Our race bibs had a QR code printed on them which you could scan with your smartphone to immediately obtain your race results. LOVE!

My final finishing time was 27:03, and thanks to running with Erin I believe my splits were pretty even. What a difference it made in overall effort and exertion. I was very happy with the results for a 5K in which I did not push myself to the max. It was a great way to kick off the weekend!

Coming up next: the Illinois Half Marathon.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

NHL Round 1 playoff predictions

I'm feeling much more laidback about the NHL playoffs and the Blackhawks in general this year. Being fan to the defending Stanley Cup champions really does take away a lot of pressure and anxiety. Yes, some may call it the "hangover" effect. But I'll still take it over the alternative! And regardless of would-be hangover or not, I really do enjoy NHL playoff traditions - most notably the playoff beard.

I also get a huge kick out of how the Blackhawks, uh, personalize the traditions.

Top: Playoff mullets by Patrick Kane (L) and Brandon Saad (R)
Bottom: Joey the Junior Reporter and Jonathan Toews sporting their "beards"

Here are my predictions for the first round of the 2014 NHL Playoffs. (Please feel free to comment or email me if you want to let me know how wrong you think I am.)


Boston Bruins vs Detroit Red Wings
This one's a doozy. Both teams are deep, talented, and loaded with experience. Boston ended the regular season on an amazing hot streak, and walked away with this year's President's Trophy. Detroit got hit with injuries this year, most notably to Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. However, Datsyuk is back and Zetterberg may also be back soon. I think Boston is favored overall, but in my opinion this series really has the potential to go either way. Plus, there are always upsets. So I'm going to go out on a limb on this one. (Sorry Samson, Peter, and any other friends who are legit Bruins fans.)

Prediction: Wings in seven

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Montreal Canadiens
I don't have a lot of in-depth knowledge about either of these teams. However, I do know two things. First, Tampa's starting goaltender, Ben Bishop, is out with an injury, and the Lightning lack goalie depth. Second, Tampa traded Marty St. Louis, the defending Art Ross winner, to the Rangers this year. It's hard to imagine that Tampa can overcome these changes during a moment of truth.

Prediction: Canadiens in five

New York Rangers vs Philadelphia Flyers
Very interesting matchup. Vezina-winning Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist vs the Philly goalie turnstile of Steve Mason and Ray Emery (former Blackhawk!). New York bringing in Marty St. Louis. Alain Vigneault's first playoff coaching stint after trading places with John Tortorella. Inconsistent performances from both teams throughout the regular season, but Philly heating it up during the second half. This is another one that could really go either way.

Prediction: Rangers in seven

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Columbus Blue Jackets
There is a lot of pressure on Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury going into these playoffs. More pressure than I can put into words, so check out Adam's blog for a really great discussion. Personally, I think the expectations of Fleury are unfair, given that the Penguins have been completely decimated by injury for much of the season. They did just get Kris Letang back, though, and are about to get Evgeni Malkin back. However, my biggest concern about the Penguins is their lack of depth. Columbus is one of the hardest-working teams I've seen and their goalie Sergei Bobrovsky won a Vezina for good reason. But in the end, this is a pretty straightforward pick for me.

Biased Prediction: Penguins sweep


Here's a fun flashback to the 2013 Blackhawks convention: A dance-off between Jonathan Toews's "Tazer Moonwalk" and Patrick Kane's "Kaner Shuffle"! (I was fortunate enough to see this dance-off live and in person!)


[pause, take a breath]

And now. Back to the predictions.


Anaheim Ducks vs Dallas Stars
The Ducks are a team with a lot of girth and they had an outstanding regular season. But, their goalie situation with Jonas Hiller/Frederick Anderson/John Gibson seems very precarious. Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau also has a history of his teams having great regular seasons but then flaming out in the playoffs. The Stars seemed to have shown significant improvement this year with the addition of Tyler Seguin. I've never seen a team look as giddily happy as the Stars did to make the post-season this year. The Stars also have a more experienced coach in Lindy Ruff. I'm going to go out on another limb with this one, too.

Prediction: Stars in seven.

Colorado Avalanche vs Minnesota Wild
The Avs have been the surprise of the year. I don't think anyone would have guessed that they would go from their doom and gloom of last year to winning the division title this year under new coach Patrick Roy. They've certainly got momentum working in their favor after finishing out the regular season on a very high note. However, they lack playoff experience. The Wild are under fire to perform given all the talent they acquired in the last few years. But, the goalie situation in Minnesota is not good and I don't have a lot of confidence in Ilya Bryzgalov.

Prediction: Avs in six

Los Angeles Kings vs San Jose Sharks
Another intriguing match-up. I just read that the Kings suffered the fewest man-games lost to injury this season. Everyone is still riding the Jonathan Quick bandwagon. The Kings are a solid, physical team. Comparatively, San Jose is a talented, scoring team but I don't think they match up well against the Kings. I think the Sharks need to play their own style of game in order to succeed, and I think it'll be tough for them to impose that style on the Kings. I also hate to say that Sharks goalie and former Blackhawk Antti Niemi has not looked sharp in recent weeks.

Prediction: Kings in six.

Chicago Blackhawks vs St. Louis Blues
Ordinarily this would have been a very difficult match-up. But the Blues have been absolutely crushed by injury in the last few weeks of the regular season. They limped to the finish line with a six-game losing streak, and they seem to have lost a lot of confidence in recent weeks. Goalie Ryan Miller was supposed to be the missing piece to the puzzle, but he doesn't have the experience in this type of situation. The Hawks have also had their fair share of injuries throughout the season, including playing the last two weeks without Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane. But the Hawks injuries came at a time that allowed them to get some recovery in time for the playoffs. The Hawks also have the edge in experience, depth, scoring, and coaching. I think the Hawks' biggest challenge is to stay "hungry" enough after winning the Cup last year.

Heavily Biased Prediction: Hawks sweep


As per usual, no blog entry of mine featuring the Blackhawks would ever be complete without a great Hawks picture. I just love this wedding picture photobombed by Patrick Sharp:

(By the way, did you see the bride's shoes? LOVE!!!)


Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Race That's Good For Life 5K recap

This morning I ran The Race That's Good For Life 5K. It was my first race in 2014.

This race is put on by Erin's running club. It has also been voted "Race of the Year" for two consecutive years by the Chicago Area Runner's Association. Given all the amazing things I'd heard about it, I was very excited to check it out this year for the first time.

Lindsay, Kelsey, and me post-race
Photo thanks to Adam

I had very high hopes for myself going into this race. Unfortunately, things didn't go nearly as well for me today as I wanted. But we'll come back to that in a moment.

Let's talk first about the race itself. I can certainly see why this race won its awards. The organization was spot-on and the logistics were really easy. Among the highlights:

  • The race site was accessible by both CTA and Metra, was just a few minutes driving-distance off of the interstate, and had ample free street parking available along all the surrounding streets. 
  • Gear check, day-of packet pickup, and all sponsor booths were held inside the Oak Park River Forest High school. No lines for anything. Weather wasn't a factor today, but if it had been it would have been nice to have the protection from the elements.
  • We were allowed to use the indoor bathrooms. INDOOR bathrooms! No lines for these, either!
  • The course was nearly completely flat, and approximated a square through a posh residential neighborhood. This made it easy to run the tangents.
  • There were separate start times for the men and women. After the first minute or so the runners spaced out nicely and there were no issues with crowdedness along the course.
  • Friendly, enthusiastic volunteers.
  • In addition to the finish line food (bananas, bagels, granola bars, pretzels and hummus), other post-race refreshments (Jimmy John's sandwich samples, brownie/cake bite samples, and portable apple sauce packets) were available inside the school's cafeteria. I'm used to either standing up or sitting on the grass at post-race parties, so I appreciated all the tables and benches in the cafeteria. Again, no lines.
  • Each woman received a carnation at the finish line.

In addition to the stellar organization, the weather was perfect. Sunny blue skies, no wind, and temperatures in the low 40s. Everything was set up for me to blow things out of the water.

My vision for the day

Now, getting into my actual performance.

From the day that I registered for this race, I had targeted it as a PR attempt. My best recent 5K time was 26:42 in September of last year, but my goal was to break my all-time PR of 25:55 from July 2001. Admittedly, I wasn't hoping just to "break" the 25:55 - I wanted to destroy it. Hit it out of the park. Smash it to smithereens. I was even thinking that maybe, just maybe I might be able to run a sub-25.

Why the crazily-lofty goals? Because of all the training improvements that I had made as described here. There were two changes in particular that I really thought would make a difference. The first was the uncomfortable weekly speedwork sessions that I'd been undergoing. All that effort had to account for something, right? The second was that I'd lost some weight. I had read this article about how much weight loss could improve pace, and accordingly I thought it was an automatic 60-second improvement staring me in the face.

I don't have a conscious idea of how this photo relates to my point here, but it just seemed appropriate.

I had also read this article and this article about pre-race shake-out runs (done in addition to pre-race warm-up), and how they could enhance race performance. I decided to give it a go. The women's race started at 9:10 AM this morning (by the way, I LOVED the later-than-typical start time). Accordingly, I was up at 6:45 AM to do an easy shake-out mile on the treadmill.

Unfortunately, I felt awful during my shake-out run. My stride didn't feel fluid, I felt like I was going much faster than the treadmill pace indicated, and I just felt sluggish in general. But, I attributed it to being so early in the morning and not having had any breakfast yet. Plus, I thought that maybe the shake-out would help work out some of the kinks that I would normally have otherwise felt during my pre-race warm-up.

Fast forward to 20 minutes prior to the race start time. I went to do a 1-mile warm-up run. At slower paces, I felt fine. But, when I tried to do a few acceleration gliders, it didn't feel great. I remember thinking that it would be a long race if I was feeling this way at that type of pace. I tried to steel myself away from thinking that way and to stay positive, but deep down I was apprehensive.

Fast forward to the race start time. When the gun went off, I set off on what I felt was a comfortably hard pace. I looked down at my Garmin a couple of times and saw that it read 7:37, which would be too fast for me. I dialed things back a bit and hit the Mile 1 marker in 7:54. After trying for so long to run a sub-8:00 mile, this was a nice win for me and I was happy. I didn't think much about the fact that I might have started too quickly. Instead, I thought that this was the payoff from all my speedwork. I told myself that if I could hold this or a reasonably similar pace for the next two miles, that I WOULD be able to achieve all my goals. Push, push, push.

Shortly afterwards, the wheels started falling off. I could feel myself slowing down. I tried to fight it but I was hating the exertion and how uncomfortable it felt. At one point I thought I had to be getting close to the Mile 2 marker, only to look down at my Garmin and see that I was only at about 1.4 miles. Ugh, not even close, and not even halfway done. Mile 2 was done in 8:49.

I wanted to stay positive. I told myself that Mile 2 was always the hardest mile for me, that all wasn't lost yet, and that if I could find a way to pick it up a little bit in the final 1.1 miles, I could still PR.

I tried to push a little harder. Then, I started getting a cramp in my right side. I wanted to ignore it but it kept nagging me and I didn't have the drive to push through it. Mentally I began spiraling into a vortex of negativity. All I could think about was that I couldn't reach my goal, that I wanted to slow down or stop, that everything hurt, how much I hated the 5K distance, how could there still be so much distance left before the finish line, why the [expletive] was I doing this. People were passing me left and right and the last mile felt like it was taking forever.

As the finish line finally came into view, I looked down at my Garmin and saw my goal time come and go. At that point, I lost what little remaining competitive drive I had left. I was resigned and still hurting from the cramps, but I tried to finish strong. 

Here's me while dying, shortly before crossing the finish line
(Photo thanks to Adam)

I didn't clock my Mile 3 split, but my official finishing time was 26:32. That comes out to an average pace of 8:56 per mile during the final 1.1 miles. Way to completely positive-split the race, eh?

Needless to say, I am unhappy and very disappointed in myself. I truly believed I could do better - much better - than I did today. I know it's just one race. But I keep thinking about how I can't believe that all of my training efforts over the past few months only netted me a 10-second improvement from last year. Ugh.

Right now I don't have any other target-able 5Ks on the calendar until this fall. That's both good and bad. I am in no hurry to experience that feeling of running at puke-speed again, and more training can only help me. But, I also want to get this bad taste out of my mouth as soon as possible.

In summary, the race itself was superb and very well-organized. I enjoyed seeing Erin (who was volunteering), Lindsay, and Kelsey there. I was very grateful to Adam for coming to spectate, and for trying to keep my spirits up after my finish. But it was not a good day for me on the course.

Back to the drawing board for me with the 5K PR. But, time to keep focusing on my next goal race - the Illinois Half Marathon on April 26. Probably with some adjusted goals.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Things I would blog about if I had the time (part trois)

During periods of peak schedule-disastrousness, I wrote this post and this post about all the things I would blog about if I had the time.

Time for part trois. Today's post is brought to you by the number three.

  1. I finally joined Instagram! My handle is Emmers712. (NOTE: I'm still trying to learn the ropes, so I've been a little sporadic with it so far.)
  2. I caved in and registered for the Soldier Field 10-Miler for the first time. This race is expensive but consistently draws rave reviews from everyone that has done it in the past. Time for me to find out for myself.
  3. I just got a discount code for the Fort2Base race (F2BSHAMROCK, good until April 11). This race is 10 nautical miles (about 11.5 miles) and it sounds AWESOME. If it weren't for the complex race logistics, I'd definitely sign up.
  4. My first race of 2014 - the Race That's Good For Life 5K - is this Sunday. I've never been a fan of the 5K distance in general, and the nerves are starting to set in.
  5. Through my company, I'll be running the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge for the first time. In my entire career, I've never worked for a company that participated in the Challenge until this year. Excited!
  6. Half marathon training has been going okay. I've been reasonably consistent, but there is definitely room for improvement. The nerves are starting to set in here, as well, in addition to a lack of confidence.
  7. Despite some long-time apprehension, I finally tried acupuncture for the first time with good results. I'm going for my second acupuncture session tonight with Vanitha.
  8. Things are not looking promising to me for the Blackhawks right now. It's quite a blow to have both Tazer and Kaner out for the rest of the regular season with injury.
  9. My nephew is going to visit UIUC next weekend as a prospective student! I'm doing what I can to sway his decision in that direction. =) Thanks go out to Shane for helping arrange a host student for his visit, too!
  10. In terms of some upcoming weekend trips, Adam and I are going to Pittsburgh next month for the Steelers Fan Blitz. I'm also hoping to leverage a business trip that Adam is scheduled to take to San Diego in June (I've already got a local race in mind for that weekend!)
  11. I still hope to do some recap of my vacation from a few weeks ago, despite the fact that so much time has already passed since then.
More to come, hopefully soon!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Michelob Ultra Chicago 13.1 Half Marathon winner

Congratulations to Pete for being the winner of the Michelob Ultra Chicago 13.1 Half Marathon giveaway!

Pete, let's get you set up with your entry - my email is

Thanks to everyone that entered! If you didn't win, there are other race entry giveaways posted here.