Category Archives: General Running

Spring Race Recap (2013 Edition)

I’ll be honest – I’m pretty terrible about remembering to recap races. I always think to myself, “I’ll just take an extra day and reflect on this race before writing about it,” and then it never happens. I’ve run 16 races in the last year, and can you guess how many I remembered to recap? That’s right. Zero. So much for “time to reflect.” That said, with the changing of seasons (finally) straight from “drowning away winter” to “oh my God that’s hot,” I figured I should – at the very least – do a Spring Race Recap, and what a spring it’s been.

This spring, I had half a dozen races to hold myself accountable, keep myself moving and check in with the local running pack. It’s been an eventful and emotional season for my running progression, but I made it to summer, and there’s something to be said for that. Thus, with no further extended prologue, I present to you my very first Spring Race Recap (2013 Edition):

Jack Kenny Gaelic Gallop 5K (March 2)

This race took place in West Peoria on a very brisk morning. I had the running tights on that I’d acquired at Running Central for just such occasions, and even with those and several other layers, I was still shivering as I helped erect barricades prior to the race (since the race benefits the non-profit for which I work, it was only fitting that I volunteer on race day as well). This race has traditionally kicked off the Peoria-area running season, and while the area keeps adding more and more races to the annual calendar, this was my first run of the year. Unfortunately, it came as I was still recovering from a pretty wicked chest cold.

As you can guess from the title of the blog, the type of wicked chest cold that would keep me home from work for a day or two is only magnified by my asthma, making breathing difficult even when relatively sedentary. However, when race day came, I was down to bouts of coughing and was confident I would be able to get away with using my inhaler and powering through. That was NOT the case. I definitely ended up slowing way down a few times and even stopping for cough breaks, but aside from rapidly becoming the most miserable 5K I’ve ever attempted to run, I had fun hanging out with people who supported the St. Patrick’s Society and Children’s Home.

Blarney Blitz 5K (March 16)

As an RCRM event, this race went down in Peoria Heights with the start line at Running Central. For an inaugural event, I had a lot of fun. I trimmed a couple minutes of coughing off my Gaelic Gallop time to put me at a more respectable 29:23. I also had a chance to run with my friend Matt from Menards. It’s always more fun when you run with friends!

Yes, I wore this hat for both March 5Ks. The first time for style, the second time to blame "wind resistance" for any time deficits.

Yes, I wore this hat for both 5Ks. The first time for style, the second time to blame my time on “wind resistance.”

Heights Half Marathon (April 13)

This race was in its second year, and the 2012 edition was the first half marathon I had run that wasn’t a OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon (read: Indy Mini). The first time I ran it, the crowd was relatively conservative in numbers, and it was fairly brisk. However, the race goes along the World’s Most Beautiful Drive (Grandview Drive), so the wind is pretty hard to control on the bluff. This year had a few similarities to the inaugural year, but there were definitely some improvements. First, due to the date of Easter, the event was moved a little later in the year, which meant that while the start of the race was pretty cold, it was right in the “jacket/no jacket” range. The first couple miles caused me to worry about nipple chafing were a bit chilly, but then my body warmed up and I got rocking along. The hardest part this year was that the wind on the bluff made you feel like you were constantly running into the wind, regardless of which direction you were actually running. I enjoyed the added challenge of the hills and wind, though, as well as the on-course support from spectators. The Sole Sisters had even set up a jelly bean station on one of the loops for runners.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the 2:17:17 I logged, even though it was slower than last year’s time. I’ll readily admit that with the perma-cold, I hadn’t been out training the way I had the previous year, so it is what it is.

Run for Boston (April 22)

Part of the crowd for the Run for Boston at RC

Part of the crowd for the Run for Boston at RC

After the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, the Running Central and RCRM crew worked rapidly to get a run set up in Peoria for the “Run for Boston.” Shirts were sold at the event and all proceeds went straight to the The One Fund in Boston. I have no idea what my time was for the 3 miles I did, but the square outside Running Central was packed solid with hundreds of runners, all along for a cathartic journey together. I chose to run 3 miles, but there were options to do one mile or “more” than 3 miles, which basically meant that you passed the last police car at the turnaround, stayed to the side of the road, and came back when you felt like you’d run far enough and hard enough and long enough to start feeling a bit more normal again.

Wabash always fights!

Wabash always fights!

OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon (May 4)

Going strong on my fourth trip through the IMS

Going strong on my fourth trip through the Indy Motor Speedway

As a bit of background, 2012 was the first year I really thought of myself as a “runner” because I signed up for a series of different races at different lengths and in different cities. However, it was in 2010 that I ran my first half marathon. After being challenged by some of my friends, I registered for the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, commonly known as the “Indy Mini.” The race is the largest half marathon in the nation at 35,000 runners and actually spends a couple miles on the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway (no gels on the Speedway!). This has since become a fixture on my calendar (I joked with the Illinois Valley Striders that I have a “standing five-year contract”), which made this my fourth running of this particular course.

My favorite parts of the race are:
1. Clocks at every mile marker – Since up until this year, I was living in a world without Garmin, the clocks helped me stay on pace.
2. Crazy numbers of local musicians – Every time you leave the range of one performer, you’re entering the range of the next. It might as well be a Rock ‘n Roll event given how much attention is paid to on-course entertainment.
3. Hunormous pre- and post-party – The Expo is a HUGE can’t-miss event (I say this having missed it this year due to travel constraints), and after the race, without the Family Area letters, I’d never be able to find anyone. “Where are you?” “M” “Be there in five.”

As always, my least favorite part of the course was the part you’d expect to be the BEST – the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While it’s cool to say you ran the track, the heat from the pavement, the lack of music (inside the Speedway, there are groups of cheerleaders from area schools but no bands; alternatively, some sections of the track have blaring pop music on the loudspeakers), and the lack of any kind of change in scenery just makes it feel like a grind. Sure, it’s cool to run across the Yard of Bricks and get water or Gatorade in a real pit stop area, but that doesn’t make the track stop radiating heat at you the whole time you’re doing it. On the plus side, though, this year’s weather was the most tolerable of all the years I’ve run it. Previous iterations have started with everyone in sweats and extra layers or with people sweating before even hitting the start line. It’s kind of a crap shoot. This year, weather = awesome.

As an added bonus this year, having run the Heights Half Marathon early in 2012, I finally realized that I could put my seed time faster this year and get in a better corral than I’d been in the past three years. With this having been my only race, I’d never known I COULD finish it faster. The timing was important because I have gotten into the habit of registering for the following  year’s race the night before running the race itself. Without the inaugural Heights Half, I’d likely have started much further back than I did.

Factoring in the sea of people through which to wade, I’d guessed I’d be at about a 2:15 this year. I was pretty close – I finished with a 2:18:14, which dropped my course PR by FIFTEEN MINUTES. It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t have to weave through a huge crowd of people determined to run a slower pace than you! Somehow, even in that sea of people, I always see a few friends on the race course, most of whom are nice enough to slow down long enough to say “Hey!” before engaging their rocket boosters running past me. I’m “officially” shooting for a 2:10 next year, but we’ll see what happens. There’s a part of me that wants to slow it down a bit and pair it with the Flying Pig the following day in Cincinnati as part of a back-to-back challenge many runners do.

After the race, I made up for missing this year’s Expo by dropping by the Wabash College tent at the post-race party for the first time and scoring a free metal water bottle while catching up with alum Jon Pactor (one of my fraternity’s alumni advisors). Then Katie and I headed back to the hotel so I could shower before heading to Lafayette for South Street Smokehouse and a pub crawl downtown. Not the best hydration strategy, but I was definitely drinking lots of fluids …

Anyway, that’s my somewhat disjointed and not terribly helpful series of race recaps from this spring. Stay tuned for a more coherent cohesive recap of the Midnight Mayhem trail race at Black Partridge Park that I ran with CITRA this past Friday night as well as a recap of the inaugural Run River City Marathon, in which my wheels fell off and also my legs almost did too. I think we can all agree that both inaugural races were adventures …


For Boston, For Boston

For the last 18 hours or so, I’ve had the lyrics of Dropkick Murphy’s “For Boston” stuck in my head. Specifically, the mental playback has been from the first verse:

For Boston, for Boston, 
we sing our proud refrain 
for Boston, for Boston
’tis wisdom’s earthly fane
for here we are one 
and our hearts are true 
and the towers on the heights
reach to heav’n’s own blue.
for Boston, for Boston
’til the echoes ring again”

I tried to smile. Really, I did. It just wasn't happening.

I tried to smile. Really, I did. It just wasn’t happening.

Today, in honor of the victims of the explosion at the Boston Marathon, #RunChat asked runners to wear race shirts to work today. Since my office is relatively casual, I grabbed my Indy Mini shirt from last year and laced up the neon green AdiZero Sonic 3s for the day. Will it change anything to wear this shirt? Probably not, but it makes me feel connected, makes me feel less like I’m drifting and makes me feel like I’m wrapped in the running community’s embrace as we all try to cope with the senselessness of this tragedy.

As I sit in my office, I’m reminded of an e-mail I once received from (then) Wabash College President Andy Ford as a college freshman in 2001 …

“Terrorists want to disrupt our lives. I urge you to deny terrorists this victory. Let’s continue going to classes, continue teaching, continue working, and maintain our community. These terrorist acts illustrate the need for people who think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely. Let’s stay at this most important work together.”

Whether this was the act of one person or a larger group, Ford’s words still ring true in my ears. Let’s stay at this important work together …

Two Puffs and Push It

Or, “Why This Blog is Called ‘Asthmarathon Man'”

Growing up, I would start and end my day with a pair of inhalers and occasionally a nasal spray in addition to having to have an emergency inhaler on me at all times. At the age of eight, I was attending a workshop for controlling asthma attacks and had my own peak-flow meter – with chart – at home. I had to blow into this plastic tube three times each sitting, morning and night, to keep an eye on my total lung capacity.

An example of a peak flow meter not unlike the one I had

An example of a peak flow meter not unlike the one I had

By high school, I had the joy of learning about a machine called the nebulizer, in which you put medicine and a saline solution and then breathe in the fumes. The point of the nebulizer is to deliver medicine when your lungs can’t hold breath long enough to get medicine from the inhaler to settle. For those who don’t know, it’s recommended you hold in the puff from an inhaler anywhere from a count of 10 to a count of 20, which at times can be a challenge if you’re in serious respiratory distress.

A breakdown of the major parts of a nebulizer

A breakdown of the major parts of a nebulizer

Upon going to college, my need for the nebulizer and the morning/evening inhalers passed, and I was left with the emergency inhaler. I distinctly recall a few times I attempted to run along with either my fraternity brothers or just in generally high spirits and had to grasp for the canister that would restore my breath.

Now, I’m a runner. Well, I’m a sort of runner. I know my PRs for a given distance, but I’m content running my own race at my own pace. Some might call me a Penguin. I enjoy signing up for races not to win but to push myself to my own limits and maybe make some new friends in the process. There’s something about running in a pack that makes me feel safer, more complete. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe to someone who hasn’t been in a crowded start line, who hasn’t toasted another finisher at the post-race beer tent, who hasn’t gone to a potluck with members of his/her local running group. Humans are, by nature, social animals, and running in a pack at my own pace makes me feel complete, as though maybe I’m not as restricted as I once feared I would be my entire life.

However, I’m still not completely out of the woods. Before every race, I still reach for that inhaler. Last fall in a half marathon, I left it in the car after a pre-race hit and found myself gasping for air during the race, not accounting for certain allergens during a half marathon that ran through a cemetery and a park. I seriously contemplated leaving the race course to get it or gasping my need to the police working the crosswalk. However, stubborn runner that I am, I pushed through it, coached myself to calm down, regained my breath and finished – albeit a bit more slowly than I’d hoped. This year, my goal is not to do that.

My first race of the year was the St. Patrick Society of Peoria Gaelic Gallop. While only a 5K, I was recovering from a chest cold – often more serious for me than I let on – and I found myself struggling for breath in the chilly winter air. The worst part is not struggling to the finish line, hoping you still get a decent time in spite of yourself. It’s not the fear that you could end up having to stop altogether and call a 5K a failure. It’s knowing that your body is going to punish you for your arrogance. That the lack of oxygen is translating to a buildup of lactic acid that wouldn’t otherwise be warranted at that distance. That the body is going to take longer to recover than conditioning would suggest.

All that being said, I run because I love to run. The half marathon has proven to be a distance I can (usually) conquer without requiring my inhaler on the course, and I find it to be a good way to push myself. This year I’m hoping to go sub-2 as a new PR (just missed it by less than 2 minutes last year in Louisville), but I’ve got a larger goal in mind too – to complete my first ever 26.2-mile marathon this May. You can be sure my inhaler will be on the course with me.

Take two puffs, a few deep breaths, and push it!

A bit of background on my racing past (and a place to store 2012 race times):

My first goal was for 2012 was multiple mini-marathons (as opposed to just Indy) with a goal time of 2:15:00 as a new PR by the end of the year. Since I did that with a time of 2:11:34 at the Heights Half in March, I could have stopped there … if it weren’t for my secondary goal. Since I was turning 30 in November, I wanted to set a memorable milestone for my 2012 running – 100 competitive miles logged by the 7th of November. Did that mean I have to be in contention to win? No. It just meant there had to be a race with other people and actual timers (and preferably a shirt or medal with which to remember it).

Toward this goal, I registered for six half marathons, the Steamboat Classic 15K (9.3 mi) and a couple 5Ks. The nice thing about shorter races is that I’m less likely to be running alone, but with the longer races I get sweet bling and can use them as excuses to go for trips out of the state that almost serve as mini-vacations. As per the other half of the equation (my new half marathon PR goal), I think I’ll keep that one to myself for now …

2012 RESULTS (Pace in min/mile)

Heights Half Marathon (Peoria Heights) – 2:11:34 (10:03 pace)

Indianapolis Mini-Marathon – 2:33:31 (11:43 pace – course flag for heat)

Steamboat Classic 15K (Peoria) – 1:40:23 (10:48 pace)

Takin’ It To the Streets 5K (Peoria) – 27:00 (8:43 pace)

Firecracker 5000 (Peoria) – 32:08 (10:21 pace)

Detweiller at Dark (Peoria) – 26:34 (8:51 pace)

IVS Half Marathon (Peoria) – 2:16:03 (10:24 pace)

Big Hit 1/2 Marathon (Louisville, KY) – 2:01:44 (9:18 pace)

Bridge to Bridge Run (Peoria, IL) – 36:05 (8:35 pace)

Glow Run 5K (St. Louis, MO) – 28:58.2 (9:39 pace)

Mo’ Cowbell Half Marathon (St. Joseph, MO) – 2:07:24 (9:43 pace)

Monster Dash (Chicago, IL) – 2:11:46 (see Heights Half Marathon)

TOTAL DISTANCE COMPLETED: 104.3 miles (Based on registered distances)