Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!!

Some of you may wonder about the title of my blog. 'sisterbison'? 'running with the herd'? What is this all about? I became completely, utterly in love (i.e. obsessed) with bison the first time I went to Yellowstone National Park as a kid. My family became pretty big fans of bison themselves and we jokingly called ourselves the 'bison family'. My brother and I even made a song. Becoming an adult has in no way changed my love for bison. I think I've instilled a least a deep respect for bison in my husband, who graciously tolerates this obsession, even purchasing a HUGE bison photograph (it really is a beautiful piece of art) for our living room. So, what would be better to carve into our pumpkin? A bison. Adam is very creative- this is all his doing and I LOVE it!! So I will spend my Halloween with my carved bison and my husband. My other activities for the day include:

Race report to follow. It was a jolly good time. Many great costumes. I ran as - what else?- a bison. Believe it or not, my family owns multiple bison hats, costumes etc. This one is a vest that has a noise maker in the pocket that makes bison grunts.

Me on the way to the race this AM.

On the walk home to our apartment from the race in Grant Park, Adam and I decided to do a "bison around town" photo shoot. Yes, we find ourselves hilarious.

We stopped by Buckingham Fountain:

We stopped to see the flowers in the Lurie Cancer Survivors' Garden:

Next up: DINNER! We decided to have a proper mid-afternoon dinner, giving Halloween the credit it deserves as a true holiday. Adam made roasted chicken w/ lemons and carmelized onions (ooh, our apartment smells so good!) and a side dish of autumn root vegetables. Great post race eating! Here's the chicken before it went in the oven:

The rest of the afternoon and evening will be devoted to some serious R & R. Definitely some alcohol (I have a Whole Foods $7.99 bottle of Calina 2009 Reserva Carmenere from Valle del Maule Chile that's very decent esp for the price), certainly some blogging and likely a movie or two with Adam. Gotta love those 2-day weekends! They are few and far between!

Happy Halloween to all!

Monster Dash 2010 Race Report

The punchline of this post is: this was a fun race that renewed my love of running and races. Hurrah!

From an overall race perspective, I should report some objective findings for the runners out there who may want to run it in future years.

The Good: Lots of enthusiastic runners wearing fun costumes. This makes the race highly entertaining for both runners and spectators. It's a good race for your friends and family to spectate at. Good number of water stations w/ powerade and they had plenty of both. The course was pretty and not super crowded. Well organized finish line w/ appropriate post race food (water, bananas, graham crackers, string cheese). Excellent hoodie for the free shirt!

The Bad: They started a couple minutes early! There were a few problems with the course, likely related to the last minute course change (they had to go North on the lakefront path instead of South as planned, I think because Obama was flying out from the South Side). The bridge at the Chicago River went up right when the elite runner reached that point (about mile 11) so they all had to stop and wait for at least 10 minutes. No joke. Also, they did not stop traffic at lower Lakeshore and Grand so we had to wait for about 12 seconds. ;( And while the mile markers were easy to see, there were no clocks or timing pads ANYWHERE on the course besides the start/finish.

The Ugly: The race was anywhere from 0.25-->0.5 miles TOO LONG! More on this later.

My personal experience:

I loved this race! I had fun! My goal was to get out there, work hard (but not really shoot for a particular time) and enjoy the race. The starting gun went off when I was a good 5-10 minutes from the start which was a bit of a bummer. I even said to my husband “What’s the point of running if I’m so late?” which is RIDICULOUS because the point was to have a good time! And the folks who are fashionably late often have the best times! Duh! Then I crossed the start line without turning my ipod on so, like an idiot, I wasted a good 10 seconds on that.

To the right, I'm running backwards so Adam can get a shot of me with our apartment (the tall skinny white one) in the background;)

Anyway, I started late so I had to sprint 0.5 miles to the start which is not ideal. The goal for this race was to have fun. I was NOT shooting for a time. In fact, starting late was likely a blessing because I didn’t have the chance to “locate satellites” on my Garmin so ended up not using it and gave it to Adam at mile 1.

Sprinting to the start really got my energy up and I blasted through the first 5 miles. I have no idea how fast I was going because no Garmin and no clocks anywhere on the course. But I felt fast- I could even feel it in my legs which usually doesn’t happen until mile 18 in marathons- never in ½’s! I alternated between looking at the costumes and realizing I was really short of breath- mostly the former. The headwind was ROUGH! I listened to Arcade Fire for the first 5 miles.

At mile 5, I switched to Coldplay. Miles 5-8 didn’t feel too bad. We turned around at Belmont and then, thankfully, the wind was finally behind us. Another unplanned benefit of my late start was that I was passing people almost the entire race. Therefore I got to see many costumes- more than I would have if I lined up with my appropriate pace group. So that was fun. Mile 9-10, I started to get tired, but was still holding it together.

At mile, 10 I changed to my Rockford ½ marathon running mix, which is still my favorite mix (probably because it led me to my ½ marathon PR!). It didn’t really help prevent the deep fatigue that was setting in. Mile 10-11 was tolerable. Mile 11-12 was tolerable only because I knew I was almost done. However mile 12-13.1 felt really long. Reeaallly lllooong. And I know the lakefront path pretty darn well and I really thought it was longer than it should be. I would guess by at least 0.25 miles. (Later, I went to the race facebook site and saw multiple comments from folks whose Garmins recorded the race closer to 13.4 or 13.5. One fellow’s Garmin was right on at mile 12 but said 13.43 at the finish.)

At the end of the race I was on Cloud 9. I had so much fun and felt like I pushed myself pretty hard. I was breathless for a lot of the race but kept moving. When I got really tired, I just slowed down a bit and I would naturally speed up again over time. Looking back, I REALLY wish I had my Garmin during the race so I could see my splits post-hoc. But, I don’t so I can’t.

I, of course, dressed up as a bison. It was a great running costume. Not too uncomfortable since I could just remove the hood if I got hot. I tried to smile for all the cameras and especially for Adam;)

When I finished I really thought I was close to 2:00. Maybe 2:05 at the very most. Part of me wishes I had never checked the race results because I got a bit down on myself for a few minutes after I saw them. 2:10:03! I’ve never finished a race and not believed the results. I’ve been disappointed, yes. Disbelieving, no. But, honestly, I don’t believe I was running that slow. Maybe it goes back to the course being long….

So then I had to remind myself about Fail # 1 from my Chicago Race Report. The goal of this run was to HAVE FUN. I DID THAT. So, success regardless of the time. And, I passed 1076 runners and was only passed by 9, so that's kind of fun.

Special thanks to my husband, Adam who took all the pictures in this post. From my very first race, Chicago Marathon 2006, when he hosted my family so they could all spectate in the freezing cold, to my current running to this whole blog thing I'm doing now--> he's been super supportive and has even become a runner himself;)

Here are some of the other costumed runners that Adam got pics of:

Thanks to everyone who dressed up in costume- it was so fun to watch! And thanks to all the spectators! I think this was one race where we really did give back to the spectators--> most of them seemed very amused by our outfits;)

I will definitely sign up again for next year for another 'fun run'!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chicago Marathon 2010 Race Report

Be forewarned- unless you are a "runnerd" (see below for definition), you are likely not going to be interested in this post. I tried to avoid writing it while I am still feeling down on running but now it's been 3 weeks and I'm still feeling dejected and am hoping this post will be a catharsis of sorts so I can go on my merry way and start a new training cycle.

("Runnerd" is a new term I learned from Candice at her blog I Have Run. Her definition is:

"RUNNERD: a person who does not conform, often highly intelligent but socially rejected because of their obsession with running. A runnerd will run in any condition and is constantly thinking about running, running, or talking about running."

I find this highly amusing. If you fit in this category you may be interested in this post. Likely though, it's more for me than for you, dear reader!)

So, Chicago. What the hell happened? How on earth did I miss my goal of 4:15 despite multiple training runs that indicated I could do it (according to the trusty McMillan calculator as well as general training common sense). My proof that I was properly trained:

***15 miles in 2:18, 2 weeks before the race. Felt good, felt strong and McMillan says that should be a 4:12:21 marathon.
***20(.15) miler in very poor conditions w/ clothing malfunctions, too fast start, torrential downpour and general lack of self esteem in 3:22 (10:01 pace) 3 weeks before the race--> in general, long runs should be run at 30s to 1 min slower than goal marathon pace, so
this was right on target
***As mentioned in my psych myself up pre-race post, I ran a total of 11 runs 15 miles or longer with 5 of those being longer than 20 miles.
***3 weeks after the race I VERY COMFORTABLY ran 8 Yasso 800's in 4:10 each. Easily. Without much shortness of breath or fatigue. Yes, I was rested, but that also is supposed to be a marathon finish time predicting work-out.

I was prepared. So what THE HECK happened????? (And, more importantly, how do I fix this for next time????)

Pre-race preparation went according to plan. Had a wonderful carbo loading dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant, Dave's Italian Kitchen, with my friend Sara (Chicago was her first marathon and she rocked it!) and her friend who is a super fast marathoner (her PR is 3:02!!, so nice of her to come cheer for us slowees!). Good food, good company, good night. Got a decent amount of sleep, can't blame that.

I was so excited about this marathon because 3 of my favorite people in the entire world were also running it:

my husband, Adam

Rockford Half Marathon 2010

my dear friend from med school, Bonnie

Gargoyle 5K 2006ish
(Halloween race, I was a bison, she was hunting me)

my dear friend from residency, Sara

2010 Madison Mini-Marathon

While I loved, Loved, LOVED having my fave folks running, I think I felt torn b/t running for fun with them vs running the race I needed to run for myself. I didn't start w/ the 4:15 pace group as planned (we just got a bit distant from them at the start) and despite running 15-30 s faster than goal pace for 7 or so miles I never caught up to them (I still don't know how I didn't).

FAIL #1: Started out too slow with friends, then had to go too fast to make up for it.
LESSON LEARNED: I have to decide on the purpose of each race before I run it: fun vs PR vs specific goal time.

I ran with my friend Sara until about mile 8 and was feeling pretty decent. I drank water or gatorade at every single stop. As usual Chicago is super well organized and there was plenty of water and gatorade on both sides of the road roughly every 1.5 miles. No shortage of fluids. When Sara pulled back (as planned/expected) is when I started to fall apart. I don't know what happened. Let me just say here that Sara has been such an amazing running partner. I've loved our long runs (okay, not all of them, but they were always better when she was with me!) and she has been so motivational. She is one tough cookie and I know is going to be a great marathoner for years to come (once that foot heals--> sending healing vibes your way!!).

Mile 8-13 I was completely doubting my ability to get my 4:15 and even started to question if I could finish. I didn't have any specific problems. No bad cramps, had a bit of nausea but nothing too bad, felt warm but was still sweating, wasn't short of breath at all. But it just felt really hard to keep running at goal pace. Who am I kidding, it felt hard to run at all! But I couldn't stop, obviously. I didn't even have a reason to stop. The race just felt a lot harder than I would expect so early on given my preparation/training.

At 10, I had some goo chomps. No help whatsoever. Usually, I get a little energy from them. No luck.

FAIL 2: Despite having no specific catastrophic problems, I still didn't want to run and felt really tired. And, I let these two subjective thing affect my pace.
Lesson learned: I need to HTFU. (I learned this phrase recently, aparently it means 'harden the f*** up'. Yeah, I need more of that;)

Here would be a good time to state how absolutely AMAZING Chicago spectators are. They come out in full force whether it's warm, cold, deathly hot, raining in 30 degree weather, they are OUT and they are LOUD. The spectators are inspirational with their "I love you, Mom" signs and their "Do it for Dad" signs. They donate their time on a random Sunday morning just to help us do this ridiculous thing we do. And they stay out for the slow runners, which is the most important thing in my mind. I always enjoy the "poop if you gotta" guy (saw him 2 years in a row!), did not really enjoy the guy who actually did poop. Seriously! Oh my god, it was gross! I also appreciated the guy with the sign saying he was missing the Bears game to come support us. Thanks, guy!

At the half, despite feeling like I was running hard, my time was 2:09:30. Besides fun runs with friends (no focus on time), I haven't had a 1/2 that slow since my first even 1/2 in 2006! Clearly something was not working. From mile 14-18, I pretty much thought about quitting THE ENTIRE TIME. I was so miserable. I started to get really nauseous. For a while, I caught myself hoping I'd start vomiting because then I would feel okay about quitting (sad, I know). I stopped sweating at that point and never did sweat again despite drinking like a madwoman and going through every sprinkler in sight. (Another plug for Chicago: they had lots of hoses, sprayers and wet sponges on the course, which was nice.)

There were a few reasons I didn't quit. I did NOT want to be the only one of my friends who didn't finish. This may be a bit vain but I have run more marathons that all of them combined so I would have felt like an a**hole if I didn't finish and they all did! Secondly, SO MANY people knew I was running this- friends, family, people at work, bloggie friends- that I hated the idea of answering the question "How'd your race go?" with "I didn't finish". No can do. Thirdly, I bought this FABULOUS track jacket at the Expo and it said Chicago 10/10/10 on it. If I DNF'd ('did not finish' for the non-athlete readers) I wouldn't be able to wear it! New clothes is apparently a powerful motivation. A large part of the reason I ran the marathon the hot year (not this year- the REALLY hot year a few years back where they closed the race early) was for the bright lime-green jacket. Also, I clearly couldn't not finish if Eiffel Tower guy could finish (see right)!! And finally, I didn't want to be a quitter. I didn't want to forever reflect back on 10/10/10 as the day I quit. I knew very well I could cross the finish line. There was no question of that. I just didn't see the point of putting forth so much effort if I wasn't going to get my 4:15 or even a PR.

I fought with myself for a while. Finally I told myself that I was being a big baby if I quit. Finishing a marathon is never easy. What kind of example would I be to others if I quit just because I wasn't going to accomplish my goal? Running races where you don't achieve your goals can be a lot harder than those where you do. I finished Chicago 10/10/10 because I'm not a quitter. I may be slow, I may not have improved after 1 year of hard training (so freakin' depressing) but I'm not a quitter.

Just because I finally committed to finish the race did not get any easier. I tried so many mental games with myself. I played the old "1 more mile" game which deteriorated into the "to the next water station" game. I tried the "run until the end of this song" game. I lost at all of those games. At one point, I realized I was in danger of finishing slower than I did my very first marathon. That would have crushed me. So I pulled it together and decided to pretend I was running a nice, slow, 8 mile recovery run all by myself.

8 Mile Recovery Run

Then I had a very long, somewhat embarrassing internal monologue, trying to fool myself into believing that I really was just on a recovery run. As I got cut off by another runner I thought "Boy the lakefront path sure is busy today", when I ran by one of the photographers I thought "Well look at that! So nice of him to take a picture of me on my routine recovery run", then at the water/gatorade/banana station I thought "It's so nice of these folks to come cater my little 'ol recovery run". Seriousely. This is my thought process for a good 3 miles at least. And as goofy as it sounds, it worked!

I don't really remember much about the last few miles. The crowd support on the South Side was better than it had been in past years, so that was nice. I had enough in me to shout "Help us out" to the crowd on the final hill on Roosevelt and got a lively response which was awesome. Then I sprinted in (relatively speaking) the last 0.2 miles. Marathon runners often say "I can do anything for a mile", well I guess I can REALLY do anything for 0.2 miles because I sprinted in at a 8:13 min/mile pace which is quite a bit faster than the plodding 10:42 min/mile pace (it still pains me to write that) I averaged for the race as a whole.

I've now ran Chicago 4 times. Will I do it again? Immediately after the race I said I would never run Chicago again. Usually after races, no matter how painful, I don't say things like that. Usually, I'm uncomfortable but my pride in finishing > my discomfort. Not this time. Three weeks later, I will revise that statement. I will never run Chicago competitively again. It will not be an 'A' race. Despite the wonderful aspects of Chicago- and I still maintain it is the best beginner's marathon in the country- the spectators, the organization, the course etc etc, for me it is too crowded and has become a bit boring. The crowded course really bothered me. I was bobbing and weaving around people the entire time and was cut off more than once. My Garmin says I actually ran closer to 27 miles, which is likely true. The picture below shows how crowded we were. See if you can spot me, Adam, Bonnie, Sara and Sabrina:

I think I will continue to run Chicago each year while I live here (the starting line is literally 10 minutes from my door) but I will do it for fun, with friends, not as a competitive race.

FAIL 3: Using a less-than-ideal race to attempt a PR.
Lesson learned: Next time I'm shooting for a specific time, I will pick a less crowded course so I don't waste time and energy dodging people.

Finally, the last big lesson I will take from this is that no matter how prepared I thought I was, I clearly was not prepared enough. I have no doubt that I could have run a 4:15 if all the stars aligned: IF it had not been so hot, IF I stuck with the pace group, IF I had a good day where I didn't feel tired. But for my 'A' races, being prepared to get my desired time only IF the circumstances are right IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH. I need to prepare myself for an ever faster race so that if I slow down for unforeseen reasons I will still get my time.

FAIL 4: Preparing to reach my goal time on race day "if all goes well".
Lesson Learned: I will train for a time more ambitious time than my true race goal so even if thing don't go according to plan on race day, I will still have a shot at my PR/goal time.

And I'll add a 5th:

FAIL 5: Having only 1 'A' marathon in a year. Having Chicago as my only PR/goal time attempt this year was probably not the best idea. I had no back up plan.
Lesson learned: Plan further ahead and design a race schedule that involves multiple, properly spaced, 'A' marathons. My race schedule for next year is in the works- I'll publish it soon!!

To end this long winded, introspective race report, I'll leave you with a quote I saw on Marlene's blog Mission to (a)nother Marathon:

"Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward."
-Vernon Law

Lesson learned. I'm ready for a new test.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New England Vacation 4: Acadia Biking

One of the cool features of Acadia are the carriage roads. Throughout the park there are over 50 miles of roads that were used back in the day for carriages. They were financed and designed by John D Rockefeller with the help of a landscape architect. Rockefeller was insistent that the roads not obstruct the views thus they were designed to fit in very well with the environs. The roads today are used for hiking and biking only, no cars, which is great!

The carriage roads traverse many gorges and other natural features and the bridges constructed to cross these areas were really neat. You can see one in the background behind Adam in the picture above.

We did a bike ride called "Around the Mountain" because it, well, goes around some mountains! The route was hilly but breathtakingly beautiful and we couldn't have asked for better weather- about 50 degrees and sunny. The carriage roads took us along mountain edges, past waterfalls, next to ponds. This was by far my favorite part of the trip. When I go back to run the Mount Desert Island Marathon, I would like to spend more time biking on the carriage roads.

After our bike ride we had a light lunch of lunchables and Cheeto Puffs at the Sand Beach. After the rich, delicious 3-course breakfasts at the Bass Inn and our completely over-the-top decadent dinners, we needed something basic. Doesn't get more basic than lunchables, right? (As a side note, lunchables now contain drink boxes and dessert. Times sure have changed!)

Here I am contemplating the absolute perfection of my cheesy-puff. I love these and for that reason only have them on vacation (otherwise I would weigh 300 lbs and my cholesterol would be out of control!).

After the bike ride and lunch, we headed back to Bar Harbor. Bar Harbor is the main town near Acadia. It is quite small- about 5 streets, but there is a lot packed into those 5 streets! A brewery, a wine store, gift shops galore and many excellent restaurants.

The best restaurant we visited in Bar Harbor was Havana. Havana is a Cuban restaurant and had excellent food mostly locally sourced and organic. The food was good by city standards, so I was impressed to find such a place in a small tourist town! Adam started w/ the Autumn Vegetable Soup which was excellent. He then had the Paella, which was good and I had the swordfish special that was EXCELLENT. Very, very tasty. We had a very interesting dessert. It was Indian Pudding ice cream. Traditional Indian Pudding is a dessert made of cornmeal, milk and molasses. It's pretty thick- kind of a porridge type dish- usually served w/ ice cream or whipped cream. It's called "Indian Pudding" because the colonists at Plymouth, MA made the dish to re-create 'hasty pudding' they had back in Britain. Hasty pudding is usually made with wheat flour or oatmeal but the colonists only had access to cornmeal, which they had thanks to the local Native Americans, so they named it after them.

Anyway, the dessert was ice cream, not porridge, but it had the flavor of Indian pudding. Very creative and very tasty.

Havana is so good that the Obamas visited when they were in Maine. The waitstaff said they were lovely, kind, and treated everyone with respect. No matter how frustrated I get w/ some of Obama's policies, I know (from personal experience and many stories) that he really is a good guy.

Watching the other diners was pretty entertaining. There were a lot of suburban types there who seemed like they walked into the wrong place. For example, the couple next to us. When the woman ordered the paella she looked very concerned and grilled the waitress- "Now, it's not spicy, is it? I can't handle spice, make sure it's not spicy". The waitress assured her that, no it's not spicy, but she'll tell the cook to make extra sure. When the paella arrived (which Adam had so we ate it and can say it is NOT AT ALL spicy), the woman took one bite and was like "My goodness, too hot!" The waitress talked with the couple and re-emphasized the lack of spice and finally said "Well, maybe it's the Bell peppers". The BELL PEPPERS? If you can't handle the "spice" of bell peppers, for the love of god, don't go to a Cuban restaurant. Hilarious!

I'd highly recommend Havana. I plan to go there again next time I'm in Bar Harbor.

New England Vacation 3: Acadia Leaf Peeping

Acadia National Park was the first national park east of the Mississippi River (in 1919). It contains 47,000 acres located on the southern coast of Maine, just 5 hours from Boston. The park consists of multiple islands, with the largest being Mount Desert Island (MDI). In 1947 there was a fire that burned 10,000 acres of the park. This fire is still referenced with some frequency by the locals as it well should be because it really changed the landscape of the area. Specifically, deciduous trees grew which were not there before which are the ones that change color in the fall thus increasing the tourism in the area many-fold.

The leaves were absolutely breathtaking. There really isn't much else to say. New England wins for best leaves I've ever seen;) Here are some pictures from various places in Acadia National Park. If you'd like to see others click here or click on the New England SlideShow on my blog homepage.

Next up...hiking, biking and of course more wining and dining:)