Tag Archives: Chicago Marathon

Chicago Marathon 2.0

IMG_4493.jpgSomewhere between mile 19 and mile 20, a runner just in front of me took a few steps to the side of the road, stopped to walk and muttered, “fudge,” only he didn’t say fudge.

My thought as I ran past was, “I feel ya brother.”

About 15 minutes later, I took a few steps to the side of the road, stopped to walk and muttered, “fudge,” only I didn’t say fudge.

For 21 miles of the Chicago Marathon, I was on pace to shatter my PR and finally, FINALLY, break that elusive 3:47 goal I have been chasing for the last 6 years. The race really started to hurt a long time before that, but it wasn’t until I finished mile 21 that I really started to feel all the aches and pains in my old body and started to crash and burn.

My fifth attempt at the marathon taught me a lot, but more than anything it taught me what I had already learned in my previous four marathons: These things are hard. For a broken old fart like me, they are really hard.

But more importantly, I learned that there is still a little bit of fight in this old broken down body of mine, I just wish I had figured that out a few miles earlier.

I had a handful of goals for the Chicago Marathon, the most important race of the year for me. 3:47 was at the top of that list. Setting a personal best was next, followed by feeling good about myself. Lastly, I didn’t want to finish the race saying, “I never want to run a marathon again.”

I definitely accomplished one of those goals and definitely didn’t accomplish another. The other two, well, the jury is still out.

IMG_4498.jpgI didn’t finish in 3:47, but I did PR. My time of 3:49:45 is 27 seconds faster than I ran at the Maine Marathon in 2016. It is also 7 minutes, 10 seconds faster than I ran at the Chicago Marathon in 2014.

There was a lot of time Sunday where I felt pretty good about myself, and a there was some time when I felt disappointed in myself. So that one is a mixed bag.

As far as wanting to run another marathon … well, that is very much up in the air at this point.

My race plan Sunday morning was to start with the 3:50 pace group and see how I felt. I’d run with them for a little bit and if I felt like I could run faster, I would leave the group. If I felt like I needed to stick with them, I’d stick with them. I didn’t really consider what would happen if I felt like I couldn’t keep up with the 3:50 group.

I ran the first mile or so of the race with the pace group, trying to settle into whatever pace the two pace-setters were setting. I also had to pee because the lines for the porta-pottys before the race were absurd and I didn’t feel like finding a bush and relieving myself in front of 45,000 other people (no one else seemed to concerned about that, though … people were peeing everywhere), so I at some point early I wanted to leave the group and get a bit of a lead on them, so when I found a porta-potty, I wouldn’t fall too far behind.

I found the bathroom just after the 5K mark and took my chance. When I got back on course, I caught right up to the pace group and tacked onto the back. The group, however, was all jammed together and there was no room to run, so after half a mile or so I pulled out around the group and went on my own.

It was soon after leaving the group that I made a choice. My GPS was pretty useless, so I didn’t know at any given time what pace I was running. I manually kept my laps, so I knew what I was running in mile in. I was mostly between 8:35 and 8:40 pace so I decided to keep running how I felt and go for it. I made a choice that this was a day to go push it and actually see what I was capable of. I didn’t know if that would blow up in my face, but I was determined to give it a try.

And regardless of what happened, regardless of the fact that the last 10K of the race was a pretty terrific struggle, I do not regret that decision. Not one bit. Yes, I told myself before the race I would be OK if I didn’t leave it all out there and ended the race feeling like I had run a good race but wasn’t totally destroyed. Once I got into the race though, I decided that wasn’t good enough. I wanted to race. I wanted to push myself. I wanted go for it.

That was a great decision until about mile 22. I clicked off a bunch of 8:30 miles-8:40 miles until mile 10, when I made a second bathroom break. I quickly got back on track and threw in some really good splits.

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These are not the right miles because I missed one of my splits. This is actually mile 11 to mile 21.

I was on a roll despite a left hamstring that hasn’t felt quite right in the last two weeks and started barking around mile 5, and my arthritic right knee, which started to hurt at the half.

But when I crossed the mile 21 point, it all started to catch up to me. My knee was really bothering me and my legs were starting to get heavy. I slowed to 9:02 in mile 22.

I don’t regret much of what I did on Sunday, but looking back, there are two things – or two miles – I do regret. I let the pain and suffering get into my head in mile 23 and I stepped off the side of the course to walk for a little bit. I was hurt. I was suffering. I felt defeated. I was ready to quit.

I sulked my way through a 9:54 mile and forgot all about that 3:47 goals, I was nervous I wasn’t going to finish. I was having flashbacks of that awful final 10K at Sugarloaf and convinced I would never run another marathon.

Somehow, I sucked it up and ran an 8:33 mile, but then I quit again, running mile 25 in 10:02.

But then I got a little pissed off and challenged myself. I was upset that I had pretty much cost myself that 3:47 by quitting on myself — TWICE — but after a little math I realized that I still had a chance to PR. I had 1.2 miles to go, if I couldn’t run 1.2 miles, well, what I was doing out here anyway?

I ran through the wall of sound created by the crowds lining both sides of the street, fighting the urge to walk because I knew if I walked, my PR was still going to be that 3:50:12 I ran at the Maine Marathon. At this point, that was unacceptable.

I made the turn into Grant Park and up one of the few hills on the course, and just before turning to run the final 200 meters of the course, looked to my right and saw the 3:50 pace leaders. Sweet, I thought, I’m definitely going to break 3:50. Then I heard the 3:50 pacers shouting at their group and was glad I made the decision a long time ago to leave them. I’m not sure I could have taken 3 hours and 50 minutes of pace leaders yelling at me.

So I took off, wanting to get away from the yellers and wanting to finish as far until 3:50 as I could at that point. I pounded my fist into my chest a couple of times and let out a yell as I crossed the finish line, much different than the curse words I spewed at the 2014 Chicago Marathon.

I was glad to be done. I was glad to PR. I was glad to be able to push myself through this after the shitshow at Sugarloaf and after the two months I was unable to run shortly after that. I was also grateful that the strained hip flexor that put me on the shelf for two weeks this summer didn’t completely derail me.

Chicago was a win. I wanted a little more, but I cannot be upset with a marathon finish and a marathon PR. It was two years ago, almost to the day, that I had to skip my leg of the MDI Marathon relay because of my cranky old knees. I didn’t know when I’d be able to run again, much less if I’d ever be able to run another marathon.

So yeah, Sunday was a big win.

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When everything hurts, a reminder why

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I’m not really a Cubs fan, this hat is a reminder of why I’m out here.

Last week, my adductor and hammy were sore.

Sunday during my long run, my hip got tired and tight.

Yesterday when I started my recovery jog, my left knee was screaming at me.

Sometimes my left foot hurts, sometimes it doesn’t.

Ah, marathon training when you are old and broken is a lot of fun.

I kid, sort of. I actually am enjoying training for the Chicago Marathon. I like pushing my body to see what I can get out of it. I feel better when I’m able to get out and run miles. I look forward to doing the work, chasing a goal, trying to get the best out of myself.

That is not to say it is easy. I feel like I’m constantly fighting one injury or another. My knees (specifically my left knee). My hip. My adductor/hammy. Something always hurts. Usually more than one thing hurts.

And I’m at the point in training, running nearly 50 miles a week (which isn’t a ton to some people but is huge mileage for me, especially after spending 2018 just trying to get to a point where I could run on a regular basis) with a workout and a long run, that I’m tired and hungry pretty much all the time.

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Just out here training for Chicago, and everything hurts.

It’s hard not to get discouraged. As I limped around the office last night, my left knee sore and barking with every step, I wondered if I am really capable of getting through the next 38 days of training for the Chicago Marathon. I questioned whether or not I’ll be able to make it through those 26.2 miles at the type of effort I hope to put in on Oct. 13 without pushing my body to the point of no return. I really want Chicago to go well. I really don’t want to be limping somewhere in the middle of the Windy City with another 13 miles to the finish line.

My answer to this is to remember why I’m doing this. I choose to go through this and I want to do this for all of those reasons I mentioned above. The aches and pains are the price I pay for training for a marathon in a 45-year-old body broken down by years of not taking care of myself. A body broken and bruised by the occasional burst of activity on the baseball field or basketball court or football field (touch football only) in my 30s, between long bouts of sitting on my ass eating Doritos, donuts and pounding PBR.

I don’t want to sound like it’s all gloom and doom or that everything is awesome. Neither is exactly the case. It’s somewhere in between those two things. I hurt. My body hurts. But I ran 17 miles on Sunday morning and that was glorious. Kind of painful, but glorious nonetheless.

So when my left knee is really bothering me (like it is this morning) or my hip gets kind of sore, or I just don’t want to go for a run, I’ll remind myself of why I’m doing this. I’ll tell myself to get out of bed and do my physical therapy, to stretch and to roll. I’ve done better this training block doing the little things to stay healthy but I can always do more.

Things are going to hurt, that is probably unavoidable for me at this point. However, if I continue to be smart and do the work I need to do, I can push myself to be better, to chase goals, and to enjoy what I am doing.

This is what I choose to do. I want to do this.

And sometimes, that is going to hurt.

10 weeks to Chicago

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An hour and 50 minutes on Sunday isn’t much, but it was a win nonetheless.

I glanced at my watch as I passed a couple while jogging up the short hill on the Back Cove Path approaching Tukey’s Bridge. I was about 55 minutes into my run, moving at about a 9:15 per mile pace. Taking the shortest route home, I had about 3.5 miles or about 35 minutes to go.

Is that enough for today?

Do I want to try for a little more?

Ah, I feel OK, just run to Baxter Boulevard and make a decision from there.

My run Sunday was a bit of a test. It wasn’t a workout and it wasn’t really a long run, it was just about spending some time on my feet and seeing where I am as the Chicago Marathon quickly approaches.

45 minutes after glancing at my watch, an hour and 50 minutes after I left the house to grab a few miles, I walked back into my apartment, feeling better. Satisfied. Optimistic.

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Saturday’s stats. 15 minutes up, 6×2 minutes kind of hard with a 3 minute recovery, 18 minutes down.

10 weeks out from race day, I figured out Sunday I’m not where I was two months ago, but I’m not where I was two weeks ago either. I’m not 100 percent healthy, I’ve definitely lost some fitness, but if I keep doing the right things, don’t ramp shit up too quickly, maybe, just maybe, I’ll be OK on Oct. 13.

That doctor’s appointment I had last week went all right, though the doctor thought I should probably be feeling a little better than I am six weeks after my initial exam. She’s not worried about me running and her goal is to make sure I’m ready to race at Chicago, which is encouraging, but she did want to dive a little further into what is going on in my hip/adductor. For now, that means more physical therapy and possible a deeper dive if we feel like that is necessary.

More than anything, I just want some reassurance that I’m not going to completely screw myself up if I keep running and training and trying to run a good race in Chicago. I’ve been encouraged by the last two weeks of training. I haven’t run a ton of miles and my workouts haven’t been super hard, but after running just 3 miles over a two weeks span and 10 miles the week after that, the 33 I ran this past week feels like 100.

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Not where I want to be, but a step in the right direction.

But there is definitely doubt. After that appointment Thursday, I slogged through an uncomfortable 5-miler. My hammy was tired, my adductor was tight, my hip hurt. As much as I am trying to focus on having a positive mental attitude, that run was a little soul crushing. I was questioning myself for all 50 minutes of that run. I convinced myself that Chicago was not going to happen. I was too injured to run the type of mileage I need and if I tried to run the race, I’d end up hurt, limping and catching a ride to the finish line.

I took a rest day Friday, then bounced back with a little speed session Saturday and a little more than 11 miles on Sunday. I still felt some shit during those runs, but it was much calmer than it was Thursday evening. I felt tired and winded sooner during that speed session than I would have two months ago, but it felt mostly good to crank it up, even just a little bit. I never ran hard on Sunday, and I took a short walk break every 20 minutes, but to jog for an hour and 50 minutes was a victory.

To quiet those negative voices in my head for a little bit was definitely a win.

I wish I had a bit more time to get completely healthy and to train for Chicago, but I don’t, so I just have to deal with it the best I can. My goals, which were going to be hard to reach anyway, may be out of reach, but I’m not giving up on anything just yet. I have 10 weeks to get ready, I’ll try to stay positive, be smart and do the work.

At this point, that is all I can do.

 

 

Taking steps forward

IMG_4150I’m sitting in bed, watching TV and preparing for a doctor’s appointment this afternoon. It’s been about a month and a half since I first saw the doctor about my hip/adductor and today is, hopefully, my final follow up.

I’m not 100 percent yet, and I’m still slowly working my way back to running the type of miles and the type of workouts I need to to prepare for Chicago. I definitely feel better and I’m running more, but my hip still barks at me and my adductor/hammy still gets sore.

I’m not expecting anything too much from today’s appointment. It’s just a follow-up, a check-in, to make sure everything is heading in the right direction. I’m confident that things are heading in the right direction, even if I’m not getting better as quickly as I would like.

IMG_4158Last night was a step in the right direction. In the heat and humidity, I ran 5 miles, getting progressively faster for the first 30 minutes. I slowly worked my way down to a 7:38 per mile pace for the last five minutes. My hip took a bit of time to not feel stiff, but once it did, I didn’t really feel restricted. My adductor and hamstring felt pretty good, only feeling a little bit tired as the intensity picked up.

I made sure to cut the workout short while I still felt good. One of the mistakes I made earlier this year that led to this injury getting a little worse than I would have liked is running my workouts too hard. Steady state runs on Wednesday were all a little too fast and a little too long. Interval workouts were a little too hard and I always ran the extra rep. Recovery runs weren’t really recovery runs. Easy miles were a little faster than easy.

Basically, I got into my own head. When I feel good and I feel like I have to push as hard as I can. Well, it caught up to me. I wore down and a little tweak, a little niggle turned into something that hurt all the time because I pushed too hard.

In other words, I wasn’t smart enough to stay completely healthy.

That is the biggest thing I’ve learned from this setback: Don’t go over that edge. Push hard, train hard, yes, but I need to learn my limits. All the great workouts don’t mean shit if I get hurt and can’t run. It especially doesn’t mean shit if I get hurt and can’t race.

I’m making steps to get back to where I want to be. It’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of smarts. I can’t slack off on physical therapy or stretching or rolling. I have to listen to my body. I have to recover on recovery days and run easy on easy days. I have to push, but not push myself to a place of getting injured.

Today is another step forward. And that is where my focus needs to be, just keep taking steps forward.

Take it slow

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5 miles on Sunday in the blistering heat isn’t the 14-16 I thought I’d be running right now, but it is where I’m at. I’m trying to play it smart, so I can get to Chicago in one piece.

When I’m not running as much as I would like with my goal marathon quickly approaching, I have a lot of time to think about that marathon. Lately, I’ve spent some time thinking about my goals for the Chicago Marathon and what this down time means for them.

Sunday, my brain went into hyperdrive when the training plan for the FleetFeet marathon class popped into my email. I browsed through the 12 weeks of training, set up for the Maine Marathon which is a week before Chicago, and the wheels started turning.

For months, before I tweak my hip flexor/adductor/hamstring, my goal for Chicago has been to finish in 3 hours, 40 minutes. When that schedule popped into my email on Sunday night, I thought about that goal, wondering if I had time to get myself back together and fit enough to chase it.

I did the math in my head:

• 11 weeks (turns out I was wrong and I’m 12 weeks out) to get myself 100 percent healthy.

• I need to run 8:23 per mile to finish in 3:40.

• How many miles can I run right now, and how long will it be before I’m running those 2 1/2-3 hour long runs?

Monday and Tuesday, a few more emails reminded me to pump the brakes and slow down. 

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Saturday was super hot, too, and 4 miles was more than enough.

I had three physical therapy sessions after seeing the doctor about my hip, which focused on stretching and rolling to get my hip/adductor/hamstring to calm down a bit. The last session was two weeks ago, after which I was told to start running, but to take it easy. I was told I didn’t necessarily need to come back for more PT, but to keep them updated.

Monday morning I sent an email to the two people I worked with at PT with an update. I told them I ran 22 miles last week, that I was feeling better, but things were still a little sore. The response from both of them was: You are on the right track, but TAKE IT SLOW.

Of course, they are right, I just have to convince myself that it is OK to take it slow. Every time I start to think about my goals for Chicago, and how little I’m running right now, and how I’m not doing the work I think I need to to get ready to run my goal, I stop and read those emails. I’m remind that, yes, I need to run to get ready to run Chicago, but if I am not healthy, I won’t be able to run the race at all, so … TAKE IT SLOW.

It’s frustrating, after three great months of training, that I can’t just keep going, keep hammering miles and workouts. That’s not where I am right now, though. Things are starting to feel better, but if I’m not smart about it, the shit is really going to hit the fan and I won’t even be lining up in Grant Park on Oct. 13.

The solution to all of this is to try not to think about those lofty goals I set for myself. Yes, I still want to run 3:40 but is that realistic? I don’t know. Will I finally be able to erase that 3:47 off the chalkboard in my bedroom, which has been written on that chalkboard as my marathon goal for more than five years? I don’t know.

What I do know, is I can’t worry about that right now. I can’t let those numbers cloud my judgment and make me rush into stuff I’m not ready for. I remind myself of those three awesome months of training before I broke myself. I tell msyelf I haven’t lost all of that fitness. I remind myself that if I make this injury worse, instead of letting it heal, I can forget chasing any goals, I won’t be racing at all on Oct. 13.

I’m trying to convince myself that in order to have the opportunity to chase my big dreams in Chicago, I need to be smart and make it to Chicago. That training plan will be my guide, but I won’t be married to it. I’ll listen to my body, the aches and the pains, and try not to push myself to the point of break down.

I’ll remind myself to TAKE IT SLOW.

Slowly getting back on track

My plan for training for the Chicago Marathon didn’t look anything like this.

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I figured at this point in training, with 11 1/2 weeks before the race, I’d be regularly running more than 40 miles a week, working my way up to 50 miles a week, and running double digits every Sunday.

Well, that isn’t exactly happening right now. That strained hip flexor which flared up my adductor/hamstring put a crimp in those plans.

The good news is, I’m on the mend and slowly starting to build back up. I had a run assessment at physical therapy last Wednesday and was told to start running again. Every other day to start, take it slow, don’t run very far, and see how it feels.

Thankfully, it is starting to feel better. My hip is still sore and my adductor still gets tired, but I’ve been consistent with my stretching and rolling, and it is helping. I had a sports massage Monday, which also helped. I ran 5 miles Tuesday and felt pretty comfortable, then ran with the FleetFeet marathon class on Wednesday, doing a six moderate hill reps in the middle of a 4-mile run. I was worried that was a mistake – too much too soon – but I feel OK today, so I’m not fretting.

5304a023-ce24-4231-bb8b-f430e1e449a2I still have a long way to go, I’m definitely not out of the woods yet, but this is progress. I know ramping up my mileage and jumping back into speed work too quickly will put me back on the shelf and I don’t have time for that, so I’m taking it slow. I rode the elliptical today instead of running and will probably take another full rest day this week (Saturday is supposed to be surface of the sun hot, so it might be a good morning to spend at the movie theatre).

What does this mean for my goals for Chicago? I have no idea. The way I figure it, I have 11 1/2 weeks to figure that out. Can I get healthy and fit enough to run that 3:40 or 3:47 I was planning on? I have no idea. At this point, I need to make sure I can get to the starting line in one piece, able to run the race. I’ll figure out a goal when I start running more.

Every time I think about where I’m at and where I want to be, I keep reminding myself that before this hiccup I had four months of pretty decent training and I have two months to get my shit back together. As long as I don’t lose all that fitness I built from February to May, and as long as I can get healthy enough to get back to decent marathon training in August and September, I should be OK.

I have a lot of work ahead of me, but that is what I wanted. That is what I signed up for. It’s no time to be lazy, no time to slack off. I’m not giving up on my lofty goals for Chicago just because I broke myself and needed a few weeks top put myself back together.

A moment of doubt

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4th of July, training to slay the beast, but rolling and stretching and doing PT and NOT RUNNING.

Last week I said I wasn’t freaking out about being injured or how it is going to impact my training for the Chicago Marathon. I’ve reminded myself not to freak out because of all the reasons I stated last week.

On Wednesday, I had a bit of a meltdown.

I had my second physical therapy session Wednesday morning. I went in thinking I would get the OK to do a little running over the next few days, so I could start working my way back to training. After an hour of soft tissue massage, stretching, core work, rolling, all that jazz, I was told to not rush into running. I could try this weekend, once, but I need to take it easy and let this thing calm down a bit. In other words, don’t be a dumbass and make this worse by running.

I spent the rest of the day spiraling into a well of doubt and despair. Driving around Portland running errands, walking the Eastern Prom while everyone else in my running class was crushing a workout, I was telling myself a story I didn’t want to hear, asking questions I didn’t want to answer.

• When am I going to feel better again?

• When will I get to run again?

• Am I going to have enough time to get fit enough to reach my goal at Chicago.

• Am I even going to be able to run Chicago?

The answer to those questions, that’s the story I was telling myself.

• Probably never.

• Not pain free, buddy.

• No.

• Doubtful.

I know, I know. This is not the right frame of mind to be in. This is an obstacle and I have to find a way to deal with it and be better because of it, but that is not where my head was at Wednesday.

I have talked myself down a bit in the hours since that meltdown. I’ve talked with some friends and my coaches, and I realize that all is not lost. There is no reason to donate all my running shoes or cancel my flight and hotel for Chicago.

It’s just frustrating, after such a good build in February, March, April and May, to be on the shelf. I was well on the road to running that 3:47 I’ve been chasing for so long and that 3:40 I really think I’m capable of. Are those goals still realistic now that I haven’t run for nine days? Well, I don’t know.

What I do know is I can’t get those nine days back. I can’t travel back in time and not be injured. This is where I am right now, so I need to deal with it and do whatever I can to try to get ready for Chicago. If it works out and I run a killer race, awesome, but I can’t control that either. What I can control is stretch and roll every day, do my physical therapy every day, and listen to the medical professionals who are trying to get me right and keep me right.

And I can control not letting this send me slinking off to a dark room to hide out and drown my sorrows in green tea (sober life is the best life) and potato chips.