Tag Archives: Run Streak

Run Streak 2014 Complete!

Mission accomplished, I somehow managed to run at least one mile every day of 2014.  I’ll do a full write-up at some point on the full year (i.e. the #1 thing I learned is not to set fitness goals for the following year while drinking on New Year’s Eve), but for now, here’s a quick look at the year in numbers.

Run Streak 2014 Stats

…and for visual proof, here’s every day of running condensed to about 60 seconds!

Thank You Interurban Trail for Saving My Run Streak

On short notice, I ended up having to fly out to Seattle for work last Friday. I flew out from Chicago on Thursday evening, getting to Seattle a little after 8:00. After getting a car and then grabbing dinner and a beer (ok, two), it was past 11:00 by the time I checked into my hotel for the night…or what was really 1:00 am according to my internal clock. I was flying back home the next day, and would be stuck in a meeting during the day, so I knew my only chance to get my daily run in would be first thing in the morning. I had to leave the hotel by 7:30 am for my meeting, so I set my alarm for 6:30 just planning on getting a short streak keeper run in.

The only problem was the hotel was on a fairly busy road near the airport, with no sidewalk on either side. I figured I would have to just hunt for a nearby road that was more accessible for running…or end up running laps around the parking lot (which I’m not above doing! … that tactic worked out fairly well when I was stuck in a snowstorm in Detroit earlier this year).

The view of the mysterious trail outside my hotel window.

The view of the mysterious trail outside my hotel window.

But that’s when I looked out my window and saw something unusual at the back of the hotel parking lot. A wooden arched garden arbor with what looked like a paved path on the other side. I wasn’t sure where it lead to, but it looked very promising. I quickly pulled up a map on my phone and sure enough – right at the back of the parking lot sits the “Interurban Trail“, which runs 14 miles and connects a few neighboring towns. I could hardly believe my luck – and pushed up my alarm to 6:15 to give me a little more time to explore.

Interurban TrailI hit the trail early the next morning on what was a beautiful sunny Seattle day. I was elated when looking over at the nearby road that I would have been forced to run on had this path not popped up out of nowhere. The path runs along a series of railroad tracks, which were pretty active as several freight trains rumbled through during my run. Trees and bushes separated the path from the tracks in most sections, and I figured I would turn back when I reached the 1.5 mile mark. As I approached my turnaround point, I noticed that a bit farther ahead there was somewhat of a clearing near where a set of tracks crossed over the path, which looked to be a good natural spot to turn around, so I continued on a little further.

View of Mt. Rainier in the distance on Interurban Trail

View of Mt. Rainier in the distance on Interurban Trail

And boy did that ever pay off! As I came into the clearing I glanced up and was greeted by a stunning view of Mount Rainier off in the distance. “The mountain was out” as they say in Seattle on days when clear skies allow for her to be seen. Had I turned around a tenth of a mile sooner, I would never had seen the snow capped mountain as it was hidden behind the brush the rest of the time.

I’ve always had a fascination with Rainier, and attempted to climb it a few years back. Unfortunately my summit dreams were crushed when my body couldn’t handle the altitude. As I found out later this was likely influenced by medication I was on at the time for ulcerative colitis – or as my doctor said when I told her after the fact, “you tried to climb what?!” This turned out to be just 7 months ahead of having surgery to remove my colon, so I wasn’t exactly in tip top shape. But someday I hope to give it another shot, and would like to think that this morning’s greeting was Rainier’s way of saying that she’s ready whenever I am. …or maybe that’s just the jet lag talking!

View of Mt Rainier flying into Seattle

View of Mt Rainier flying into Seattle

So all in all, a fantastic morning run to start the day and keep the run streak alive (day 157!). It’s always great when traveling to find an unexpected path like that, and really makes the run even more enjoyable. Thank you Interurban Trail!

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Run For the Turtles 5k – Race Recap

Sarasota Running

imageI was originally signed up to run a local 5k on Saturday, April 5th, but ended up having to go out of town for work that weekend.  While I was disappointed in having to miss the 5k, the sun and 80 degree temps of Sarasota, FL was sure to help ease my pain.  I knew that I’d have Saturday morning free, so I took a look to see if there were any local races.  Sure enough, the Mote Marine Laboratory was hosting their 28th annual Run for the Turtles.  Since I usually run about as slow as a turtle, I knew this would be a good race for me.  Plus, based on pictures from the prior year, it looked like the start line was actually on the beach…so how bad could it be?

Run for Turtles Race VillageThe race took place on Siesta Key Public Beach in Sarasota, which many signs on the island will proudly tell you is the #1 Beach in America (they’ve apparently won a few different awards – and I wouldn’t argue with any of them, the sand and beach are pretty spectacular).  I got there around 6:45 am to register, which beat the time the sun got up that day, so it was a little dark filling out the registration form.  They had a 1-mile fun run that started at 7:30, with the 5k going off at 8 am.  Unlike my 5k the prior week, I didn’t need to sit in my car to stay warm.  I was able to walk along the beach for a bit and watch the sunrise – not a bad way at all to kill time.  I also learned that it was not just the start and finish line that was on the beach, but the entire race.  Basically just an out and back course right along the water, something you just don’t get to experience in Chicago!

imageMy race – Did I mention the whole course was on the beach?  Oh I did…well that’s about all you need to know about this race.  It was beautiful and stunning.  I was initially concerned that the sand would slow me down, but I really don’t think it had much impact.  There was a 5-foot area right by the water was fairly packed down, so it wasn’t like I was running on soft sand for 3 miles.

I did the first mile in 7:15 and felt pretty comfortable…after all, I just kept reminding myself I was running on the beach, I’m not allowed to feel anything negative.  Then a funny thing happened after the half-way turn, I started to get tired!  Not to make excuses, but I do think the heat and humidity were starting to get to me since I wasn’t accustomed to it (no, I’m not complaining about the 70 degree weather, and really don’t think my body would have preferred the sub-zero temps it had become used to).  Anyhow, I slowed to 7:46 in mile 2.  I even got a cramp in my side around the 2.25 mark, and finished mile 3 in 8:07.  I didn’t have as strong of a kick at the end as I did in my 5k the week prior, but that’s ok – because all that really mattered was that the entire race was on the beach!image

I finished in 23:46, which put me 7th out of 23 in my age group, and 82nd out of 588 overall.  1 to 3 in each age group got medals, and 4 to 6 got ribbons, so I missed an award by one spot – but isn’t running a race on the beach reward enough?  I think so (although I did think this was a pretty fast group of runners, apparently it’s one of the circuit races for the local Manasota Track Club).

The Swag – Besides getting to run on the beach (sorry, just had to mention that one last time), I received a white tech shirt with the Mote Turtle Run logo on the front.

RunForTurtles5kMapOverall, this was a great experience, especially coming from the harsh Chicago winter to be able to finally run a warm weather race.  I was pleased with my overall time, even if it was slower than last week.  And I felt like a learned a little bit about race preparation for shorter distances (I didn’t have much to eat or drink beforehand, which likely contributed to my slowing; and didn’t warm up much – two things I would have changed about my race prep that morning).

I also got to hear something by the pre-race announcer that I probably won’t hear at a Chicago race anytime soon.  He announced beforehand that “about 3/4 of a mile down the beach there’s a large tortoise near the water, which appears to be nesting, so be sure to give it a wide berth as to not disturb it.”  Wow, I thought, that’s an obstacle I won’t encounter in too many 5k races.  Just before the start, the announcer came on the speakers and clarified, “minor correction, I’ve just been told that it’s a large TOURist, not tortoise, 3/4 of a mile down on the beach.”  Only in Florida.

Siesta Key

Blackberry Farm 5k Spring Gallop – Race Recap

Blackberry Farm 5k FinishI ran my second 5k of the year this last Saturday, March 29th, the Blackberry Farm 5k Spring Gallop in Aurora, Illinois. Blackberry Farm bills itself as a “historical village”, and is part of the Fox Valley Park District.  It has a few paths surrounding the property, which made for a nice run through a mix of forested trails.  Most of the race was on paved trails (using the Virgil Gilman Trail), with a short section on crushed limestone.Blackberry Farm 5k Course

I missed the online cut-off for signing up (which was something like a week ahead of time), so I got there early to register.  I had no problems registering, but had about 45 minutes to kill before the 8:30 am start.  Unfortunately, it was a rather miserable Chicago day – gray and windy and cold – so I spent the pre-race time huddled in the warmth of my car.  I spent most of the time debating my clothing options, and ended up sticking with my running jacket.  I walked over to the starting area about 10 minutes before the start, and was immediately glad I had opted for the jacket.  Too cold for March 29th!

Start Line of Blackberry Farm 5k Spring Gallop

Start Line of Blackberry Farm 5k Spring Gallop

My Race – I lined up towards the front a few rows back.  The gun went off and I took off like an idiot, racing like it was a 100 meter dash (I really need to work on that negative split thing).  I didn’t feel particularly out of breath or tired in the first half mile, but knew I was definitely going faster than I should have or could maintain for the full 5k.  In fact, I was a little scared to glance down at my watch because I wasn’t sure I really even wanted to know my pace at this point, in fear it might psych me out.  I worked up the courage to take a peek at the half mile mark, and found I was doing a 6:30 mile – way too fast for my slow legs!  So I dialed it back a bit to a more comfortable pace and finished mile 1 in 7:01.

I settled in and felt pretty good in the second mile, still pushing myself but nothing out of control.  I managed a 7:33 in mile 2, and just hoped I could maintain that pace in the third mile.  I was still feeling pretty good until around the 2.5 mile mark, when I started to feel fatigue in my legs (hmmm, I guess sprinting out of the starting gate is not an ideal race strategy after all).

I started battling another runner with a half mile to go. I would get passed and then they would pass me.  Soon enough though the other racer got a good 10 yards on me and seemed to be gaining speed, while I was slowing.  At this point, the race meandered and winded its way through a section near the finish, with lots of little turns.Blackberry Farm 5k Finish  I knew we were approaching the parking lot where the finish line was positioned, but couldn’t reconcile why my watch was telling me we still had .25 miles to go…since the finish was in sight.  This made me nervous because I didn’t want to start my finishing kick too early, or too late.  But as we approached it became clear that there was one little loop left in the parking lot before heading to the finish line.  Ah, I instantly felt better being able to see the remainder of the course, and confirm that my watch was not playing some evil and cruel early April Fools joke on me.

Anyhow, I still had my competing racer in sight on the last stretch, and was able to muster a strong sprint finish over the last .10…and managed to outkick the other racer by a good 2 seconds!  Ok, confession time – the racer I had been battling the last half mile was an 11-year old girl!  No, I am not proud of beating her (barely beating her), as I really was just battling and pushing myself rather than racing against anyone else.  And yes, that 11-year old girl is 10 times the runner I am, or will ever be.  She ended up being the second overall female finisher – and obviously has a very bright running future ahead of her.  Mine is much more questionable!

Blackberry Farm 5k FinishSo I ended up finishing in 22:32 (7:16 pace), which put me in 30th out of 394 runners, and 5 out of 25 in my age group (but would have been 1st in the 1-14 Female group, which as you know is my primary competition).  So this was easily good enough for a PR over my 24:18 back on February 2nd, which I’m obviously happy about.

Swag – The goodie bag included a long-sleeve t-shirt (not a tech shirt, but still ok), a bag with the race logo on it, and various other trinkets such as a key chain and stress ball which my daughters were very happy to take from me.

Overall – While the weather didn’t cooperate (missed it by just one day, the Sunday after was close to 60 degrees), this was a nice course and I was thrilled with my time.  Doing more short runs where I focus on speed rather than distance has helped with my cadence and quickness for these shorter races.  All in all a great morning, even if the weather wasn’t very “spring-like.”

Month 2 of Run Every Day 2014

Bill Murray perfectly sums up my feelings about this winter with his spot-on forecast in Groundhog Day:

Worst Winter Ever - Chicago Tribune headline February 2014

Worst Winter Ever!

This is where I’m supposed to write about how the cold and snowy winter has made me tougher and more resilient.  Oh sure, I suppose there is some truth to that, but overall I’m just ready for some warmer temps.  I do however feel pretty good about getting outside for a run every day this month, so I haven’t had to succumb to the treadmill yet.  And despite the cold and windy days, there were also a fair number of decent running days.  I’ve learned that single digit temps are really not all that bad if there’s not much wind.  I’ve also learned to obsessively check my weather app every morning to try and strategically time my run for the peak temp.  Should I run at 7 am when it’s 2 degrees with sun, or wait until noon when it warms up to 7 degrees but with wind?  These are the struggles I hope not to deal with much longer (and I promise not to complain in August when I’m debating whether to run when it’s 97 degrees as sunrise or 102 at lunch).

I’m still slowly easing into the mileage, which I think is smart and will hopefully help avoid any early injuries.  I topped out at 48 miles in the 28 days of February.  I plan to start increasing my mileage in March in preparation for an early May half-marathon, the Great Western Half.  I’ve been contemplating a Spring full marathon as well, but haven’t fully convinced myself yet (perhaps just a glimmer of warmer weather in March will push me to sign up – we shall see).

59 days into the run streak.  2 months down, 10 to go!

Winter running

Geneva Super Shuffle 5k 2014 – Race Recap

2014 Super Shuffle 5kAs somewhat of a reward for finishing the first month of my new running streak, I decided to sign up for the Geneva Super Shuffle 5k that took place on Sunday, February 2nd.  Though I’ve run 13 marathons and a number of half-marathons, I’ve actually only run two previous 5k races…I guess I like the longer distances better.  But I figured since I’d be running outside anyways on Sunday, I might as well get a free shirt out of it!

Super Shuffle 5k Start

Start Line of Super Shuffle 5k

The Course – The race took place mostly on a paved path surrounding a local grassland/park area called Peck Farm.  The area got somewhere around 5 or 6 inches of snow on Saturday, but the path was plowed for the race.  But as the race organizers repeatedly told us while at the starting line, it was only plowed, but not salted.  Translation – lots of ice and slick spots.  I saw a few people wipe out on the course, so I was glad to have on my trusty Yaktrax, I think they definitely helped navigate the course better.  I actually felt pretty comfortable running on the surface since it was very similar to what I’ve been running on for the last couple of weeks, so no surprises there.

The race started on a road leading to the local middle school, which was good since it seemed there were a quite a few people not lined up in the right pace group.  So it gave runners a good half mile or so to get better positioned (a nice little uphill on the road helped as well!) before transitioning to the narrower path.  Once on the path, all was good.

Super Shuffle 5k Finish

Finish Line

My Race – I felt pretty good in the first mile, but probably went out a bit too fast as usual – I was right at an 8 minute pace. My plan for the second mile was to just settle into a more comfortable pace and then see what I had left for the last mile.  I slowed to 8:14 for mile two, but couldn’t quite hold that pace in the third mile which started off with the race’s biggest hill, and ended up dropping to an 8:30 pace.  Since my daily runs are all closer to the 9 minute range, I felt pretty good with averaging 8:15…especially given the conditions.

I ended up finishing in 24:18 (7:51 pace), which means either my GPS watch was off, or the course was a bit short.  Either way, it was still my fastest 5k (and still would have been at the 8:15 pace)!  Ok, given that I’ve only run 2 5k’s before, a PR isn’t all that impressive.  But it does feel good to run faster than the younger 2004 version of myself, even in sloppy conditions.  My time was good for 74 out of 522 overall (top 15%!), and 7 out of 27 in my age group.  Considering I don’t typically finish even in the top half of most longer races, I’ll take it!  Maybe this running every day thing is starting to pay off…or more likely, people that run a 5k in February are just doing it for fun and to battle the elements.

imageThe Swag – The $35 entry fee (a bit pricey for a 5k in my humble opinion) included a nice hooded sweatshirt, a free drink ticket for the after party (which I didn’t end up going to), and a finisher’s medal.  I was a bit surprised at getting a medal for a 5k (is that a thing?), but I guess it makes some sense since there was some suffering involved given the weather.

Overall – It was a fun race and nice to get out with other runners in the middle of a cold and snowy winter.  Would definitely recommend!

 

Month 1 of Run Every Day 2014

Winter runningPolar vortex. Chiberia. Worst winter ever.

These are not things you want to hear in the first month of a run streak. Chicago winters are notorious for forcing people to give up all their dreams, abandon hope, and move somewhere South – and this winter thus far has lived up to that reputation and then some.  But I did manage to get out and run at least a mile every day this month even while fighting some annoying cold symptoms the first 2 weeks, which at least gives me some confidence for the rest of the year.  January runningBy the numbers:

  • 31 days – 49.1 miles (avg distance 1.58, median 1.62) Not impressive mileage for lots of people, but coming off of a zero base and never run this frequently in my life, I’ll take it. By comparison, from 2011-2013, I ran 6 marathons but only had 3 months with more than 50 miles (3 marathon months).
  • I probably surpassed my former run streak record somewhere around January 4th or 5th, so I got that going for me…which is nice.
  • Average Temp: 19.6°F
  • Average Windchill: 7.7°F
  • Coldest Day: January 6, -17°F, -40° Windchill.  That was fun.
  • Days below zero: 2 (8 with Windchill below zero)
January 2014 Daily Running Temps and Windchill

January 2014 Daily Running Temps and Windchill

…so the story this month was definitely the weather, but I’m encouraged that I made it out every day (and while I could have run on a treadmill, I really wanted to avoid it if I could in the first month).  I even came away with a few positives:

  • Snow footprintsIt was almost always better outside than it looked from the window (well, except for the aforementioned -17° day, that looked and felt bad).  My takeaway – don’t listen to the news or anybody else scaring you into not venturing outside – you’ll probably be ok if you’re dressed for it (-40° windchill not withstanding).
  • There is a very peaceful rhythm to running on a thin layer of crusty snow.  I’ll miss that sound when the weather warms up.
  • Likewise for having the first tracks after a new snowfall.  There’s just something about being the first to run through fresh powder.  Having no tracks except for the occasional rabbit or coyote tracks has a way of really connecting you with nature.

The daily run is also starting to become a bit of a routine – which is good and what I had hoped for and needed. I’ve typically been getting out the door around lunchtime, primarily since it’s a bit warmer by then. Early morning runs would have been more of a challenge not just because of the lower temps but also more ice on the roads and trails at that time of the day.

1 month down, 11 to go!

 

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Day 12: Ice Ice Baby

Ice

Dare I say I’ve gotten somewhat used to the cold?  Ok, it still kinda sucks…but not as bad as the ice.  Combine close to 20″ in cumulative snow with a sudden rise in the temps (even slightly above freezing, hooray!), and you get a lot of wet sidewalks.  All good.  But then when the temps dip at night everything freezes over again until it has a chance to melt with the midday sun.

YaktraxI’ve found that wearing Yaktrax on my shoes does help a bit, and I’ve avoided any falls thus far (well almost, I actually did fall on my driveway walking out to start my run, fortunately landed in a soft snow bank though).  But I think they work better in light snow fall than on sheer ice (at least the ‘Pro’ version I have, perhaps the ones specifically designed for ‘Running‘ might perform better – but I had these Pro ones hanging around so figured I should use them).  My running route has sometimes been a mixture of dry pavement and ice, and on the dry patches the Yaktrax are a bit distracting because they slip a bit when pushing off on dry blacktop (not a falling kind of slip, but just not as good of a push off as with a normal running shoe).  But overall, I think they’re doing the trick.

Yaktrax

Longing for the days when I’ll have dry (or at least non-ice!) footing to run on!  That’s all – now just stop, collaborate and listen.

Day 6: My First 17 Degrees Below Zero Run!

photoWhen I started my daily running streak (a mere six days ago), I knew that there would be days in the coming year when it would be challenging.  What I didn’t know was that day 6 may turn out to be the most challenging – because it was 17º BELOW ZERO (Fahrenheit)!  Windchill was somewhere around -40º.

Now, while I could have schlepped to the gym and run on a treadmill, I would have felt a bit guilty invoking the treadmill rule so early in the streak. C’mon, it’s just the first week – if I can’t get outside and run every day this week what chance would I have of running 365 days straight?  After all, how bad could it be? Well, pretty bad – but I survived.

After layering, and then layering, and layering some more, I headed out into the arctic tundra.  I couldn’t find my ski goggles so I settled on sun glasses to at least block some of the wind – but they didn’t last long since they fogged up.  So I was fully covered except for my eyes.  Surprising, it really wasn’t that bad and didn’t feel that cold.  And yes, I am completely aware of how dumb that sounds, but it’s true.  The only thing that felt cold were my eyes, as I could feel my eyelashes literally freeze – which is an odd sensation.

So I only made it a little over a mile before I decided to save myself from frostbite and live to run another day.  It can only get easier from here, right?  Maybe not, but as long as it’s warmer I’ll take it!

 

I’m Going Streaking!

Pretty similar to Old School, except the streak I’m shooting for is to run at least 1 mile each and every day of 2014 (most of which will likely be clothed). I’m usually not one for New Year’s resolutions, but I guess that’s the best way to describe this challenge. I realize for some hard-core runners this may be a relatively easy endeavor, and running every day (or at least most days) is something they just do, with or without pursuit of a “streak”.  On the farthest end of the hard-core spectrum are runners that have run every day for DECADES, there’s even an official association to keep track of these crazy people.  The longest active current streak will reach 45 years this coming May, and there are dozens of runners with streaks longer than 30 years. And at least one streaker has been able to ensure proper priorities are maintained, like this guy who ran and also drank a beer every day for over 3 years! Alas, I am not one of these hard-core runners, but just an average runner seeking some motivation to get out and run more frequently than I currently do.

So we’ll see what happens – I’m looking forward to the challenge and to see if I can actually make through the whole year…or at least a whole month.  Historically, I’ve been very, very good at finding an excuse not to run.  I’ve run 13 marathons, but have never been as disciplined in my training as I would like to be.  Just how undisciplined you ask? Read more