Tag Archives: Racing

Not Going for a PR.

The Chicago racing season opens tomorrow with the Shamrock Shuffle.  The first race of spring!  I’m totally ready, all my gear laid out, timing chip tied onto my shoes, bib number and pins set out; keys, wallet, phone near the door.  I’m raring to go.

I love the Shuffle.  Thirty thousand joyous Chicago runners, casting off their winter’s torpor and cold weather running gear to welcome spring to…


Weather forecast for March 29, 2009: snow starting around midnight and continuing well past the 9:30am starting gun, temperature at race start a balmy 33 degrees (Fahrenheit), winds of up to 25 mph driving the snow into the runners’ faces.

On the upside, the race course should be a little less crowded than usual.

My time last year was a little under 36 minutes, and while my big goal is hanging on to my preferred starting position for next year, I’d really like to beat that time.  I think that’s doable if I…

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!  Yeah, no chance of a personal record in snow shoes.


Summer Sunday Stats #6B: The Last Summer Sunday.

This is the second part of a two-part Summer Sunday Stats post.  This post will make more sense if you read Summer Sunday Stats #6A first.

Today’s Chicago Half Marathon was the last meatspace race I’ve registered for this year, but I have one more virtual race to go:  The 3rd annual World Wide Half Marathon, part of the Phedippidations World Wide Festival of Races.  It’s self-timed, and the course isn’t USATF-certified, but the race directors do a great job building the excitement and even put together a e-goody-bag, and Steve prepares a special episode of Phedippidations with people cheering, which is great to listen to.  The race is October 11 and 12; each runner decides when and where to run his or her race, then post results to the website.  It’s a lot of fun, and there’s still time to register for the half marathon, 10K, or 5K races.

Moving off the running:

Words of Meet the Larssons written this week:  3,770 (92,948 total).  That’s more like it.  I managed — for the week, anyway — to stick to my pledge not to work on any other writing projects until the first draft of MTL is finished.  The draft will need a lot of work, but I think I’m on track to make my self-imposed Halloween deadline.

Other news:  We introduced the kids to Go Fish! yesterday, and Unfocused Girl to Clue, both of which went over big.  We were looking for something to do together on a rainy afternoon other than watch a movie; we’ve tried card games and board games before (Candyland, Hi-Ho-Cherry-O, a couple of others) without success, but it looks like the kids have finally gotten old enough to handle games with rules, which is great.

What a disaster of a weekend, weather-wise.  Even here in the city, not far from our house, the Chicago River has flooded hundreds of homes and streets with waist-high water.  Unfocused Girl’s school is closed tomorrow, thankfully just because of flooding in the streets and not in the school itself.  We’ve been lucky to have had only a trickle of water in the basement, back by the mechanicals.  Anything I can clean up with a few towels qualifies as a minor problem.

Finally, I came across a couple of interesting writing blogs this week, which I’ve added to the “On Writing” section of my blogroll on the sidebar.  Chicago-area mystery writer J.A. Konrath writes A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, which focuses on marketing yourself (and your book) and the business side of being a writer.  Scott William Carter, whose own first novel is coming out soon, writes The First Book, with interviews of authors whose first novels are about to be or have recently been published.  If you’re a wannabe novelist looking for inspiration, you might want to check these out.

There’s more I meant to put into this post, but I’m exhausted and I’ve forgotten what it was.  If I remember it and I have the energy, I’ll post an epilogue.

Summer Sunday Stats #6A: Lessons From My 14+ Mile Half Marathon.

The final Sunday of summer deserves special treatment, so today’s post will be divided into two parts.

Miles run:  13.1 in just a few seconds over my goal time of 1:45:00 for today’s Chicago Half Marathon, plus well over a mile from where I parked my car to the starting line.  First lesson for the day:  don’t leave late for races.  Especially when it’s raining.  Especially when the race starts in a neighborhood with absolutely no decent parking. The gun was scheduled to go off at 7:30am; I parked my car at 7:25am at University Avenue and 61st Street (and the only reason the space was open was because it was zoned parking; I want to thank the Chicago PD for not being aggressive about ticketing during the race).  According to Google Maps, that’s a mile and a half from the starting line.

The northern edge of what’s left of Hurricane Ike reached Chicago today, although it’s impossible to tell the difference between yesterday’s unending rain (not from Ike) and today’s unending rain (all about Ike).  The Chicago Half Marathon website made it clear that the race would be on rain or shine, although they would almost certainly have canceled it if there were a lightning storm.  I went down to the race Expo yesterday and picked up my race packet; it wasn’t a big Expo as these things go — I didn’t see any of the local running stores represented, which was odd — so I didn’t stay long. I threw the running clothes I wanted to wear for the race into the laundry before bed, and didn’t give it much more thought than that.

I got up at 5:30, but dawdled over breakfast and didn’t get out of the house until 6:45.  Still raining.  I did two things right:  I grabbed towels to put on the seat of my car after the race, to keep it from getting soaked (and smelly), and I grabbed a sweatshirt to put on after the race so I wouldn’t freeze.  I didn’t forget anything I would bring to an ordinary race — watch, Cliff Shots, hat — but I didn’t make any other preparations for the weather.

Here are all of the things I did wrong, in the order that they mattered:

  1. I left half an hour too late (6:45 departure for a 7:30 start).  The race start is around 17 miles from my house, and parking in Hyde Park on the morning of the race is very, very, very difficult.
  2. I took I-55 from the Kennedy Expressway to Lake Shore Drive, since that’s the most direct route to Hyde Park.  If I had thought it through, I would have remembered that in previous years, the traffic was pretty bad on LSD going into Hyde Park, but I didn’t.  Luckily, I realized in time that it was all of the southbound Drive, not just the ramp, that was backed up, and was able to get off and take the Drive the other way and get back onto the Kennedy, to the Ryan, and then took 55th Street into Hyde Park.
  3. I ran to the lakefront and realized that the starting line had moved; after years of starting by the Museum of Science and Industry at 57th Street, the race started this year at 63rd Street.  Had I read the materials I received at the Expo, or checked the course map on the website, or read the big “New Start Location” paragraph on the “Half-Marathon Information” page, I would have realized it.  Lucky for me, the confusion caused by the rain and the new start affected a lot of people and the race gun went off around 12 minutes late.  Even so, I didn’t have time to wait in line for the port-o-potty; I had to insult a bush.
  4. Because I was so late, I joined the pack approaching the starting line towards the back.  It took more than four miles for the pack to thin out, and it slowed me down considerably.
  5. I forgot to pack dry shoes and socks, so the drive home was kind of unpleasant.

But eventually, it did open up, and I came within a few seconds of my goal time.  I’m pretty happy with that, considering I was soaking wet before the race ever started, and my shoes were completely waterlogged.  The only real problem was one that those of you who are male and who run for long distances have undoubtedly faced.  Just a moment:

NOTE TO FEMALE READERS:  You can skip the rest of this entry.  Really.  You’re not missing anything.

Okay, so here it is: bloody nipples.

Normally, this isn’t a problem for me on runs of less than 15 or 16 miles, but it starts much faster in the rain when my shirt gets wet; if I’d been thinking, I would have put on band-aids before the run, so that I wouldn’t need to be wearing them now.  Which I am.

The rest of this week’s Summer Sunday Stats later.

Summer Vacation Stats, Part 2.

Freshhell reminded me about They Might Be Giants’ “813 Mile Car Trip.” Here it is, in all its puppetoliciousness:

We sang that song a lot during our drive.

Our Tae Kwon Do yellow belt test is over. I passed outright — it’s the third time I’ve earned my yellow belt in TKD in the last 15 years, so I would have had no excuse for failing. Our instructor wants Unfocused Girl to redo self defense technique number 3 in the first class of the next session; a lot of the white belt kids have to redo even more of the test, so that isn’t bad. She knows the technique; to the extent she flubbed it during the test, I think it was just a combination of nerves and a partner (a kid from a different class) who didn’t know what he was doing. She’ll nail it at the next class and get her yellow belt, too. I think this is the first time she’s really had to work hard over time to achieve something, and she did a great job.

Back to the stats:

Number of years in a row the Atlantic Ocean has tried to take my son on our last day at the beach: 2. This year, I carried junior out into the water about up to my waist, past what had been, for most of the previous 11 days, past the break point. I misjudged it, and we were right where the waves curl over and start to crash down. I saw a big one coming, started back to the sand, and held Junior up to keep his head above water. Big mistake. When the wave came, I was already off balance, and got knocked over, and I lost my grip on Junior. It only took me a few seconds to find him in floating in the water and grab him, but it really shook me up. He handled it well, though, and wanted to go back in soon after.

And yes, Unfocused Junior was able to play in the sand and go into the water, even with his cast. We used a terrific cast cover, and while it meant he couldn’t use his right hand for much, he still had a lot of beachy fun. It also forced us to try a few things in the area other than the beach, so that he wasn’t wearing the cover every day, which was neat.

And finally, the running.

Miles run during vacation: 38, including five training runs of 6.1, 6.64, 5.23, 7.71, and 6.11 miles, respectively, and two 5K races (3.1 miles each). My goal here was to do well enough in one of the 5Ks to win an age group medal; these are small races, and it isn’t as though any of us are truly elite runners, so I thought I had a shot. In the first race (the first Sunday of our vacation, after we’d been there a week), last summer I was seventh in my age group; this year I came in fourth. There was a rainstorm during the race which slowed everybody down, so while my time was a little slower than last year’s, I don’t think it helped or hurt my relative showing.

In the second race, the morning of the day we left the beach, I used some strategery. It was a combined 5K and 10K; last year, I ran the 10K. These races are part of a series; for the people who are at the beach all summer, there is one race each weekend for eleven weeks, and the people who run them all are ranked for the whole series. If you’re competing in the series, you have to run the 10K, and of the three guys in my age group who finished ahead of me in the first race, two of them were definitely competing in the series.

I, of course, ran the 5K. My plan worked, and even though I came in one second slower than my 5K PR, I won my age group, the first time I’ve ever won any kind of athletic competition. Apparently, the secret is finding a race that the really fast people aren’t running. I didn’t get any better; I just arranged it so my competition was worse. I’m not complaining, and a win is a win and I feel pretty damn good about it, but I can’t pretend it’s because all of the sudden I got so much better.

Yes, I’m bragging. Sorry; I’m still a little giddy. I wore the medal (over the race t-shirt) for the first 200 or so miles on the drive home before I put it away. Next year, Unfocused Girl wants to run one of the 5Ks with me; we’ll have to work on her endurance, but it’ll be a lot of fun. Meantime, the local running store at the beach is sponsoring a marathon on the Saturday before Thanksgiving…

Gotta Speed It Up.

I ran a nice little four-mile race last Saturday at the beach – under 300 finishers, which is a big change from just about any race in or near Chicago. I came in sixth for my age group, at what was for me a respectable but not great pace.

The guy who came in third, though, was only 43 seconds faster than me — less than 11 seconds per mile.

I’m registered for two more races in the same series in August, and I am virtually certain I can knock 11 seconds per mile off my pace by August. I want an age-group medal, damn it, even if it’s for third place.

Except for one year warming the bench on my seventh grade soccer team, I never participated in organized sports as a kid, so I admit to some unfulfilled trophy lust. I have some hope of improving my chances for age group medals as I get older; I didn’t start running until my mid-twenties, so my knees should stay functional longer than some of these fast guys who’ve been running since their days on the high school track team.

That’s probably just a fantasy, though. I spent several years running — including training for and completing three Chicago Marathons — while 50 pounds heavier than I am now, which may have caused a little extra wear and tear on the joints. My knees certainly don’t feel particularly fresh, that’s for sure.

On another topic, I did not, in fact, get any writing done while traveling last week. The work part of the trip sucked up most of my time, leaving me essentially the weekend to spend time on the beach with the Mrs. and kids and visit with our friends. Tuesday and Wednesday were simply crazy at work — Wednesday featured an especially delightful 350-mile round trip drive to a 30-minute hearing. But today I grabbed my MacBook as I ran out the door and wrote about 400 words on the train to and from work. More this weekend, for sure.

It’s time to admit that I will not be finished with the first draft by June 30. I need to think hard about what a realistic revised deadline would be. An easy choice would be October 31, so that I’m finished in time to start something new for NaNoWriMo, but I think that gives me too much time. I’m inclined to try to finish it by the end of Labor Day weekend, which would give me the whole summer (including some real vacation time in August). At my original pace of 5,000 words per week, that would take me to 125,000-130,000 words total, which is probably where Meet the Larssons is headed (for the first draft, anyway), although I haven’t kept that pace for the last couple of months. I’ll give it a week to see how I’m doing before I set another firm (or firm-ish) deadline, but I have to get my pace up or MTL will end up gathering dust unfinished.

Lessons Learned from Liveblogging the Slumber Party, Spring Sunday Stats, and More.

The slumber party itself was a learning experience, but it went so smoothly that I think what we learned is that we’d rather have a handful of kids over for 16 hours than a houseful of kids for 2 hours.

Liveblogging it was a learning experience of a different kind. For example, I already knew that the unreliable internet service we get from Comcast makes me crazy, but I hadn’t really considered how much time it causes me to waste until the fourth time I rebooted the cable modem while writing Part 3.

Another lesson learned is that it is better to decide to liveblog something in advance, so you can be sure you know what you’re doing, instead of making a snap decision based on an offhand suggestion. The whole thing started when, as we were cleaning up from dinner, Mrs. Unfocused said, “Hey, you should liveblog this.” It wasn’t really a problem until — again — Part 3, when I realized that I had no idea how to insert pictures into my post using the new WordPress.com interface. The old system was very easy & intuitive; the new one is, to put it mildly, a ginormous pain in the ass. It would have helped to try it out beforehand.

Another lesson: As far as I’m concerned, Unfocused Girl should have all of her birthday parties in June. The problem with February parties is that the kids for some reason refuse to play outside when it’s below zero.

We all spent today exhausted and occasionally cranky, but it was worth it. I had a very nice, if low-key, Father’s Day and received the perfect gift: The Simpsons Movie. I welcome any excuse to let my inner Homer come out to play, so I’m looking forward to watching it soon.

Spring Sunday Stats:

Weather: Thunderstorm in the morning, hot and sunny by 11:45 when I went out for the run. I tried a new sunscreen today, Bullfrog Quik Gel, but still got burned on my face and neck, so that’s out. I used Bullfrog’s spray on my arms instead of the Quik Gel, and that worked better, so I may hang onto that until it runs out.

Miles run: 9.67, in 1:32:33. Let’s face it: I was tired, and it was hot, with the sun right overhead. My butt was kicked before I got to the end of the block. I ran the first half in 43:37, and the second half in 48:56. I didn’t have high expectations, having skipped my long run last week and generally neglected my training all spring. I got out Thursday morning for an early run, though, then I did treadmill intervals at the gym on Friday, so I’m hoping not to completely embarrass myself this coming Saturday at the Classic Catering 4 Miler, one of the Seven Sisters and Four Brothers races in Dewey Beach, Delaware. In addition to the 4 Miler, I registered for the JD Shuckers 5K and the Highway One Group 10K, August 10 and 16, respectively.

I’m also registered for the Third Annual Phedippidations World Wide Half Marathon, which will be held around the world on October 11-12, 2008. I ran the first one in 2006, but had to miss the 2007 race. I may not get to run any “official” half marathon this year, so the Phedip WWHM is even more important. Steve Runner of Phedippidations and the race directors do a great job organizing the race, down to the race bibs and virtual goody bags. They added a 5K last year, and this year they’ve added a 10K, so if you’re looking for a flexible, DIY race that lets you compete with fellow runners all over the world, you should take a look.

Words written of Meet the Larssons: That, unsurprisingly, would be none. Yesterday was a complete washout, of course, and today I spent a fair amount of time on client work. I didn’t expect to accomplish anything on the novel this weekend, and at least I didn’t disappoint myself. I’ll get something done on it tomorrow, though, and then maybe more on the plane on Tuesday.

Skipping the Solider Field 10-Miler.

The Solider Field 10-Miler started half an hour ago, and I’m not there.  A couple of days ago, I made the decision to skip it.

First, last Saturday everyone was dragging, so we blew off Family Tae Kwon Do.  Unfocused GIrl is hoping to test for her yellow belt at the end of this session, and missing two classes in a row would almost guarantee that she wouldn’t be ready.

Second, I’m not ready for the race.  I could have run it anyway and treated it as a training run, but I wouldn’t have been racing, so what’s the point of blowing up our Saturday morning routine?  I’ll run 10 miles tomorrow, and find a Sunday race.  The North Shore Half Marathon is coming up in a few weeks, and I may run that.  I ran it last year; it’s a very nice course.

Spring Sunday Stats, #2

The kids are in the tub, so I only have a few minutes to post before someone starts crying or splashing (or spitting water onto someone else’s butt — sorry for the interruption).

Weather: Sunny and cool (around 55 at 11am when I went out for a run). Gusts blowing west from the lake down Irving Park Road like a wind tunnel.

Miles run: 9.74, in 1:30:31. That’s slow for me, even these days, and I’m not sure why. I got a lot of sleep, had a decent breakfast, and felt pretty good, but I just didn’t have any speed in me today. The Solider Field 10-Miler is next Saturday, and I am not anticipating a PR. I’m hoping to do better than I did today, though.

What I played on my iPod during my run: I Should Be Writing #90, Geek Fu Action Grip Morning Show Lite After Dark #12, and Phedippidations #140 — yes, it was a Mostly Mur run.

Words written on Meet the Larssons: 2,220! That takes me over 75K, to 75,945 words. For the first weekend in quite a while, I took a significant chuck of time and sat my butt in front of the MacBook and just wrote. For about two hours, I turned off my internet connection, shut down Mail and Firefox and any application other than Scrivener and iTunes, played tunes from a large mixed playlist I have of songs I know well enough that they can serve as background music (mostly 70s and 80s supergroups like Styx and Rush, lots and lots of Zevon, some Johnny Cash and Jimmy Buffett for variety), and just wrote. I got up once to use the bathroom, and once to put on socks because my feet were cold, but otherwise stayed planted in the chair. It felt damn good. Mrs. Unfocused took the kids out for most of the day, so I had time to get in my run, do some work for my paying job, and still do solid time on the novel. She’s a saint.

All that, and two blog posts. I feel productive as hell. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have children to wash.

I Walk Like a Cowboy…

… because my quads are killing me. I was right — I’m paying for my caffeine-fueled race on Sunday. Damn DOMS.

I’ll Pay For This.

I ran the 2008 Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K this morning. The Shuffle is the kick-off for the Chicago racing season and, for many of us, the true start of spring. In keeping with the kind of winter we had and the way spring has started, it was below 40 degrees at the starting line. For the first time since I started running this race (1997, I think), I wimped out and wore tights instead of shorts. I felt like a real wuss when I saw the guy with no shirt, covered in green body paint and wearing a neon green wig.

I set a personal record today by over a minute — I came in under 36 minutes, far and away my best time ever. Yes, I’m bragging, but with a purpose: I have discovered the secret to fast times, and I’m going to share it with you. It isn’t training; I haven’t done much running this winter, or any cross training. It isn’t diet; I have not been particularly careful about what I’ve been putting in my mouth the last few months. And I got less than seven hours of sleep last night.

Here’s the secret: drugs.

This morning, I arrived downtown just over an hour before the start of the race. I parked, emerged onto Michigan Avenue, and immediately began to look around for a dealer. I knew there had to be one nearby. There! I ducked into a storefront doorway, and placed my order. Minutes later, I had it: a double espresso. I gulped it down while it was still hot, and I was off to the races!

Oh, I know the side effects, but I was willing to bet I could get to the port-a-johns before the race started, and in fact I handled that issue just fine. Mrs. Unfocused says I need to put an asterix by my time this year, but I say if the major leaguers can do it, so can I. I just hope that I don’t develop a tolerance and have to move up to triple and quadruple espressos, because that could get expensive.

I’m going to feel it tomorrow, that much I promise you.