Thursday, July 11, 2013

I Tried Running Once

It slips my mind every now and then that I just didn't pick up one day and start running. And I don't know many runners that have started that way. Becoming a consistent runner was really about running in spurts. Finding the enjoyment after the initial pain.

 For me it started in 2006 when my friend, and former high school cross country teammate, Joel, invited me to run the Plainfield Harvest Fest 5K. I put a little training in that summer so I could finish and ended up with a salty 32:33. It was so much fun we decided to do it again the following year. However, this time I pushed off the training and not really having run since the 2006 race I ran a painful half walk half run 5K in 2007 with a time of 36:16. OOF!

Not happy with that time or effort we found another race a month later and I improved a little bit to a 34:07. 3 races into my running career and I still wasn't a consistent running. It was the following year, 2008, that change happened. Nike was promoting this big "Human Race" event where people all over the world were running a 10K on the same day at the same time. It sounded fun and I had found it in early May giving us most of May, June, July and part of August to train. It was a 10K and I knew I couldn't fake that race.

That's when Steph found the Couch to 5K program and we set out to conquer the 10K monster. I can still remember like it was yesterday running on the trail doing the intervals. Steph was in charge of the watch telling me when we run and when we could walk. I kept huffing and puffing complaining asking when it was going to be time to walk again. I think that was during the 90 second run intervals.

We never got up to the 6 miles by the time the race rolled around. I think the most we had run was somewhere in the 4 mile range. I remember that race well. It took us a good 30 minutes to cross the starting line after the gun went off, but once we did we took it out slow and easy. That was the first time Steph and I started a race side by side. The last time was in 2010 when we ran a 1/2 marathon in Utah. It was her first half and I was coming off an injury so I ran it with her, but I digress. It was at the water station when we got separated. She went for water and I lost her in crowd of people. I remember the turn around thinking "great half way" and then the slog fest that was miles 4, 5 and 6. The finish was amazing. I ran for an hour and seven minutes. That blew my mind that I ran for a whole hour. That was it I was hooked. I ran 5 more races that year and 12 the following year and have been a running fool ever since.

 I wrote this piece to remind myself that I didn't become a runner overnight and I can't expect everyone to do   so. I also wrote this so that if you're reading this and you've tried running and didn't feel like it was for you or you haven't found your groove yet, don't worry. Sometimes it takes a bit. It doesn't have to happen all at once. Enjoy the journey.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Dare2Care 5K - Race Recap

I felt really good after last Saturdays race. I've been progressing nicely and I'm nearing my previous best fitness level. Usually when you have back to back weekend races one race goes extremely well and the other you fall a little flat on. Today's weather and a hip issue that started after the race last weekend made this race feel flat. I say 'feel' because looking at my results from last week I'd say they are about the same. It just felt harder today.You could see the humidity in the air this morning. What I thought was a storm rolling was just the sun bouncing off the humidity creating a dark looking sky to the west.

 I had a lot of friends racing with me today. I always enjoy having my friends around it makes the day fun. One of those friends was, Paul, a friend since early childhood and this was his first 5K. I was excited for him as I have been following his training since January. He's lost a good deal of weight and has been running on a treadmill very early in the morning. I was looking forward to seeing him run a good race I figured he'd likely finish in the 25 minute range. Also in that friend group was my "Rival" Jason.  If you are unfamiliar with this rivalry check my August 2012 blog called "The Rivalry". As you can imagine this put the race on a level a little bit higher than a casual race. It was a "gotta work hard this race to make sure I win" race.

Standing at the start waiting for the gun. National anthem - check, Prayer - check, I'm watching my heart rate monitor as they say 10 seconds to go and it suddenly jumps up. I went from 103 to 143 in a few seconds and I haven't even started running yet. BANG! Gun goes off and we fly out of the gate. Two younger kids maybe freshmen in high school really turn on the burners and I look at my buddy Brian and tell him to go run with them. Brian is a bit faster than me, so he's one guy I'm not worried about beating he's 150 pounds and 23. I don't stand a chance. Jason, on the other hand, had started out a little behind me. Though I didn't pay much attention because Paul was running shoulder to shoulder with me. I look at my watch and we are keeping a 5:45 min/mile pace. Too fast for me and I figure way too fast for Paul. All I could think was "poor guy is going to be hurting by the half mile mark".

Just before that half mile I settled into a fairly comfortable 7:20 pace as I watched Paul continue to pull ahead I figured he was running about a 7:10 pace. Jason, at this point, wasn't even a blip on my radar. I figured he hadn't done any training and was cruising 15 to 20 seconds behind Paul and I. With the mile mark within site I was just concerned about Paul. I thought for sure he would stop to walk or slow down a bunch just after the mile mark, maybe stop for a drink at the water table. In my arrogant, elitist head I could not comprehend not being able to keep up with him. I checked my watch to see how my pace and heart rate was. I looked because I figured maybe I was going slow. Unfortunately my pace was decent and my heart rate was already up in the upper 170's which meant I couldn't kick up the pace without paying for it before the end of the race. The humidity was taking it toll early.

It was a smaller race so by this point the runners had really thinned out. I was in that all too familiar spot of no one near enough to chase down or run with just to keep pushing the pace. All I had was Paul a good distance in front of me and he was not showing any signs of slowing down as we hit the halfway point. He looked smooth and comfortable. I battled on just trying not to lose any more ground on him. I figured maybe in the last quarter mile I could kick it up and take him, but it wasn't looking promising.

So there I am running thinking "good for him he's really killing this run" really exceeding my expectations and I'm all like "whoa is me", what's wrong with me. All this hard training and this is all I have to show for it. I can't even keep up with this noob?  It's hard to be happy for someone when your own world isn't going so well. I tried though. I really thought a lot about how hard he worked to get here and that he gets up super early every morning and goes to the gym before going to work. Running on that boring human hamster wheel. I come to realize he puts in a harder effort than me. He earned this. Truly I am happy for him. I'm just not happy with myself, but why do I have to be so concerned about me? Good grief I need a shrink!

While I'm still trying to work through these issues in my head I catch up to one of the kids that sprinted out of the gate at full speed. Poor kid hit the wall just before mile 2, he was spent. I shouldered up with him and he ran with me for a ways before finally falling off. I too was gearing down a bit trying to lower my heart rate and recover a little before pushing into the final mile. I thought maybe I can get comfortable enough to push in the last half mile. It was about this time that I heard the clomp, clomp, clomp and heavy breathing of Jason. I knew it, I knew it before I even turned around to verify it. I know the foot falls and I know the breathing anywhere. The turd must have been riding my shoulder the whole time. keeping me in arms reach and now as I slow up just a little he makes his move. I can't go with him now. I need to recover or it's over.

We hit a small downhill that leads to the 2 mile mark and I figure I'll take advantage of the downhill to pick up some speed without pushing the heart rate up. Jason comes with. We were chugging along at about a 6:50 pace and making up ground on Paul. I think to myself  "this is good and bad". Good because as a group we can really push each other. Bad because we have a mile left and I'm hurting and my heart rate is approaching the 180's. I can't sustain 185 for very long once I hit it. We caught Paul and I clapped him on the shoulder to let him know he was doing a great job. That was enough to give him a boost of adrenaline help him run with us and sure enough he did as we hit Addelman St. We ran shoulder to shoulder to shoulder for a good three and a half minutes. Then Paul fell off pace and Jason picked it up. I wanted to fall off pace too. I was hurting. Now I traded Paul for Jason in front of me. Can't I catch a break?!. I would rather lose to Paul.

Jason did a great job gaping me. He had a good 8 second lead on me as we turned on to Harris dr. with a little less than a half mile to go. I could hear the first runners being announced as they crossed the finish line. It was encouraging to hear the pain was almost over. I didn't know if I could make up the 8 seconds on Jason before the end. I had to hope that he would have to walk. Then I had to hope he wouldn't start running again just as I caught up. Then I hoped I would just die because I knew the last quarter mile was going to be all push and pain.  I passed him and shortly after I could hear him pick it up again. We turned down the last street and I decided then and there that if he wanted to catch me he was going to have to work hard to do it. I picked it up to a 6:48 pace and pushed. My heart rate was 187 and I hoped that I could maintain for this last quarter mile. At mile three we make a slight turn to run up the driveway with a tenth of a mile left before we hit the finish line. I took the opportunity to peak over and see what kind of gap I had. As I feared there wasn't much of one and Paul was right behind him. I looked at my watch and prayed my heart wouldn't explode pushing 190 bpm. I started to sprint dipping into the 5 min miles and eventually 4:58 by the finish and peaking at 194 bpm. I had held him off, won today's battle without my heart exploding. Next rivalry race will be the Minooka 5K in June.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Injury Experience

Shortly after the last post (Aug 26 2012) I succumbed to an injury, two injuries to be exact.

 First I'll tell you the back story before getting to the actual injuries. My goal for 2012 was to get faster. I had hit a speed plateau that was far from my goal. My goal, incidentally, is to run a 5K in 18 minutes and 40 seconds or at an average pace of 6 minutes per mile. I'm currently stuck in the 21 min range right around 7 minutes per mile. My thinking going into 2012 was to improve my aerobic capacity and I thought the best way to do that was to run more miles. Until September hit I was on pace to break 1,000 miles for the year. In 2011 I was averaging about 60 miles a month. I was consistent running 3 to 4 days a week. In March of 2012 you can see the spike to 80+ miles a week and in July, gooood night, almost 120 miles. I accomplished this by running 6 days a week at a pretty slow pace. I was trying to build aerobic not anaerobic.

Bix 7 Elevation Profile
July was a crazy month. I had inadvertently signed up for a 10 mile race and a half marathon back to back. The 10 miler on Saturday and the 13.1 miler on Sunday. My frame of mind was "I'm up for it, run slow the 10 mile and push hard the next day at the half no problem". I should write a whole post about that experience. It was miserable. The 10 was good, but the half was bad from the moment I woke up and it only got worse as the day went on. The only thing I felt good about that race was that I managed to sneak in just under the 2 hour mark...But that's not all! The following weekend we traveled out to Iowa for the Bix 7 a very popular very hilly 7 mile race. We went with some great friends and had an absolute blast.
Bix 7 Friends

Shortly after the race was finished we stopped to grab a sandwich and we drove up to Green Bay, Wisconsin for the Welcome to Training Camp Packer 5K at Lambeau Field. The race started at 7pm. The race where my rival, aka brother in law Jason, beat me.

Green Bay 5K
It was obvious that my stamina was good. Distance was no problem, but I never gained the speed I was looking for with all the added miles. This realization came on August 9, 2012 when I ran the FireFly 5K in Channahon and did worse than the previous year.

I was furious. These were my notes from my running log about that race "It just wasn't there tonight. I didn't want to hurt so I didn't push. I should have pushed hard in the first mile when I was feeling good and just held on like normal. I'm pretty upset about this race. Time to hit the tempos and track work hard. very hard!"  and notes from the following run on the following day "Ran hard, walked, ran hard walked. Very angry run. It appears I need stamina runs at a good speed. I'm so upset with yesterdays race. I've never been so impassioned to improve. Fall is coming and I'm just not ready yet."  I remember being near tears on this run. I worked so hard all summer to improve. Double races, extra miles. Fall is coming fast and I'm slower than I was a year ago. I went into panic mode. Speed work. I needed speed work. Lets throw in 2 sessions a week and keep running 6 days a week. That will do it.

Well. It did it alright. I ignored a nagging pain in my left foot that according to my running log started to be noticeable enough back in late July (ding! ding! hello!) that I made mention of it in my notes "Yesterdays good run, today's ughh run, until I realized that I ran faster in a hotter temperature. Still not as smooth as yesterday felt. Started out in the GoRuns today, but noticed my left heel was hurting. So I quickly turned around went back home and changed shoes. I figured I'd have to adjust to the GoRuns. They have a low heel drop that will stress the achilles and calf muscles which typically results in heal pain. Once I switched the pain went away. The rest of the run was mentally tough with the heat. Got that tired sluggish feeling." I made it worse in August with the extra speed work in those low heel drop shoes. Sanity returned after a 10 mile run in late August when I realized my heel problem wasn't going away it was actually getting worse. The injury alarm that I was ignoring finally got through.

 I was even more frustrated because the fall races that start in September were just a few weeks away and I still wasn't ready. Now on top of not being ready I have to rest my foot. I thought if I just give it 2 weeks off I will be okay. It would heal up and I could still salvage the season. I stopped my training and joined a fall softball league figuring I'd still be able to stay in shape and the minimal running shouldn't be an issue.

If you didn't see it coming here it is - injury #2. My worn out body was not ready for, nor in shape to handle, softball. As a runner you get this false sense of security that you are in great shape and can handle any type of physically demanding activity especially one that involves your legs. A sprint to first base in the second inning proved me wrong. As I was trying to leg out a poorly hit ground ball to the short stop I felt and heard a loud "THUD" in the back of my left leg. My hand immediately grabbed my hamstring as I tried hopping the rest of the way to 1st base. I managed to crawl the remaining 10 ft where I stayed on the ground for a few minutes to gather my senses. I was in a small state of shock. I couldn't put any weight on it and had to be carried to the bench where I spent the rest of the night on an ice pack. All I could think was "great, another 2 weeks lost"

The boot

If you look back up at the chart I posted at the top of the page you can see how the rest of the year went. The fall races were ran, but the results were ugly. The worst part was after 4 weeks of not running the heel problem was still there. After my final race on December 1st I hung up my shoes for the year. The week before Christmas I got into see the podiatrist and she put me a boot for 3 weeks and assigned me to physical therapy.
This is where the story gets better. I went to ATI for my physically therapy at the Joliet West ATI facility where Deb put me back together. I went 3 days a week from the end of December to beginning of February. I love making new friends. I'm an extrovert extraordinaire and the staff at ATI in Joliet were my kind of people. Even the other patients were pulled in and I made friends with them too. We joked and laughed everyday. It was good healing.

2012 - 2013 miles

I was released the second week of February with permission to run. Run slow and run short, but I could run.  As you can see I've slowly and carefully been building back the miles. Only running 3 to 4 days a week with 2 cross training days and a full rest day on Sundays.

Now that my distance is decent I'm starting to work on speed again. Carefully and cautiously. I'm racing my first 5K since last Decembers 5K that resulted in me walking in the middle of it. I feel pretty confident that this will be a good race to springboard forward into the summer training. I have 2 half marathons that I'm training for this year and of course the fall race season. With some smart training I should be able to slide 15 seconds per mile closer to my goal.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Rivalry

I've struggled with competitiveness most of my life. Okay, all my life. The emotions suffered during a defeat are often overwhelming. I've been working on controlling them for the better half of my adult life. I think I'm getting better. Steph says I'm a little better. The emotions are still the same, but my outward attitude has improved a little. I'm not gonna lie. It's still a huge struggle for me.

Me, Steph, Renee, Jason, Corrine @ CASA 5K 2007
Running was the first sport that I never felt competitive in. I began my running career in the 6th grade. I think I never felt the pressure to win because I was slow and thought that this is as fast as I can go I can't go any faster. I was genetically limited and I was okay with that. I ran my hardest; I gave my best effort; I left it all out on the course every race. I really enjoyed running because I felt like the pressure was off. In other sports it seemed you had moments of greatness. Golf is the perfect example. You get a fantastic hit and therefore you know you are capable of great hits, but you can't do it consistently and that brings in frustration. Inside your head you tell yourself you are better than this, but the people around you don't know that and you can't show them because you can't repeat your greatness. You know it's in there you've lived it. Ask any golfer. I've never felt that way towards running until recently.
Harvest 5K 2008

Enter The Rivalry. It all began in the fall of 2007 at the Plainfield Harvest Fest 5K. Steph and I had run the race the previous year and were talking to her sisters about how fun it was. It only took a little convincing and both her sisters signed up, Renee, Corrine and Corrine's husband, the rival, Jason. Up until this point in the rivalry Jason had schooled me in golf and cooking. Running I decided was going to be owned by me. I had quit smoking 2 years earlier and had trained for the 2006 race, but not too much for 2007. I still figured I had the advantage not being a smoker and having at least run a little. Jason on the other hand hadn't trained at all and at a pack a day was no way going to beat me.

The race did not turn out how I expected. At all. Here is the result:
Run 5K
Plainfield, IL
Racer NameBibPlc APlc GPlc OFinal+Diff
Jason Frankovich (15)Rivals1583426251636:13
Robert Coyne (63)Rivals923526351836:16+00:03.70

He beat me by 3 seconds and yeah that hurt. So quickly I signed us up for a second race that year. The CASA Trick Or Treat run that was run at Pilcher Park. Here is that result:

Run 5K
Joliet, IL
Racer NameBibPlc APlc GPlc OFinal+Diff
Jason Frankovich (15)Rivals256244230:20
Robert Coyne (63)Rivals147325634:07+03:46.30

He schooled me by almost 4 min. My life was ruined...sorry I'm being over dramatic, but that's how my emotions work when I lose.

The following year I was all about the business of running. Steph and I trained hard for our first ever 10K run in Chicago. It is still one of my favorite runs of all time. The race was in August so I was ready come the Harvest 5K in September where we went at it again. Here is how that turned out:

Run- 5K
Plainfield, IL
Racer NameBibPlc APlc GPlc OFinal+Diff
Jason Frankovich (15)Rivals3726941629:28
Robert Coyne (63)Rivals4429347930:57+01:28.10

Despite knocking 6 min off my previous years time he still beat me and by a minute and a half. It's only now looking at the results so closely that I realize these time differences. Had I known about the 6 min improvement and still losing I may have quit. Thankfully not see and I did not quit. In 2009 running became a passion fired by the achievement of the 10K and the "I will beat Jason" mantra. Keep in mind Jason hasn't trained at all for these races. Each race makes him better. It's staggering to think about how good he could be.

My first victory comes in April of 2009. From Sept. 2008 to April 2009 I ran 6 races. Jason ran zero. I did 13 training runs. Jason did zero. Here was the result:

Chicago, IL
Racer NameBibPlc APlc GPlc OFinal+Diff
Robert Coyne (63)Rivals452781083184830:30
Jason Frankovich (15)Rivals34133021199223732:21+01:51

I finally got him by almost 2 min, but did not beat his best time. That was our last race together for 2 years. They moved to Kentucky in 2010 and moved back in 2011.

Because of Jason's lack of training I have never had any trouble beating him in anything over a 5K (3.1 miles). You can gut out a 5K, but a 10K it helps to have some training. Not to take away from his amazing ability to post an amazing time with zero training. We both ran the Rockdale 10K in April 2011:

Rockdale, IL
Racer NameBibPlc APlc GPlc OFinal+Diff
Robert Coyne (63)Rivals728495448:15
Jason Frankovich (15)Rivals11211657749:54+01:39

He ran extremely well on a tough course, but just as I was thinking victory was decided on who the better runner was the next race happened:

New Lenox, IL
Racer NameBibPlc APlc GPlc OFinal+Diff
Jason Frankovich (15)Rivals9723202723:31
Robert Coyne (63)Rivals9401212823:39+00:07.50

He passed me in the last quarter mile of the race and I just couldn't hang on. To dump a lot of salt into the wound he edged me out of the podium and a fancy medal taking 3rd place in our age group. A bitter loss indeed. The next race was a little harder to accept defeat. I ran my best time ever, but Jason actually put some training in leading up to this race in the early summer of 2011:

Channahon, IL
Racer NameBibPlc APlc GPlc OFinal+Diff
Jason Frankovich (15)Rivals456273221:39
Robert Coyne (63)Rivals326303621:49+00:09.35

Jason didn't keep up with his training and by fall had lost some of that fitness. My first win at Harvest Fest came in the fall of 2011 where I handily beat him by 2 and a half minutes:
Plainfield, IL
Racer NameBibPlc APlc GPlc OFinal+Diff
Robert Coyne (63)Rivals12911394821:46
Jason Frankovich (15)Rivals211189914724:22+02:36

We both ran an 8K (4.98 miles) in November, which is more than 3 miles, and with no training on Jason's part and a lot on mine I beat him by my biggest margin yet.

Joliet, IL
Racer NameBibPlc APlc GPlc OFinal+Diff
Robert Coyne (63)Rivals969829436:42
Jason Frankovich (15)Rivals1532719628042:56+06:14

In 2012 we have competed in 5 races. A 10K and four 5K's. I easily won the first 3 races giving me that false sense that this rivalry is over you can go ahead and crown me king, but then the Sundowner happened on a hot night in July I had to dig really deep. I lead the race for the first mile and a half. I heard his foot falls close behind me. Right around the first mile I decided I would break his spirit by putting in a surge that would leave him grabbing his knees if he tried to come with. Well he hung on. I felt gassed and he was right there chugging a long. My plan backfired I didn't break his spirit I broke my own.
 Just after the 1.5 mile mark he passed me and I had to let him go. He continued to increase the gap as I fought to keep him in sight. I was hurting. It was hot and humid and I felt trashed. I had one hope, that he would have to stop for water and walk for a bit. It was the only way I had a chance. A big part of me wanted him to not stop, because I knew if he stopped and I had a chance it meant that I was going to hurt a lot in the last 1/2 mile. As we rounded the corner and the water table came into view I could see him track towards it. He was walking. The bad part was I had about 150 meters to make up on him so I began to push a little.
By the time I reached him he was ready to go again and started running with me. I was in trouble. I didn't get water; I didn't get to walk. We ran about a quarter mile together when I decided the end was close enough it was time to put in a kick and see what he had left. Having rested a little he had enough to come with me. Fortunately or unfortunately I miss judged the course and the finish was further away than I expected. I kicked too soon and had to slow up. He slowed up too. Both of us were struggling for air. Our breathing was extremely labored. When we finally came in sight of the final turn I pushed with everything I had left. This is where interval training helps. I had the speed in the final leg to put in a strong kick to the finish. It's been our closest finish to date:

Joliet, IL
Racer NameBibPlc APlc GPlc OFinal+Diff
Robert Coyne (63)Rivals1012014617123:16
Jason Frankovich (15)Rivals1622114917423:19+00:03

One of the gutsiest races I have ever had to run, but the rivalry isn't over. Two weeks later we are up in Green Bay (Jason is a 49er's fan) and we are in my Packer land running a 5K that circles Lambeau Field. A perfect day to race and even better day to improve the rivalry record. Leading up to the race there was a lot of smack talk being flung about. Him beating me on my home turf, me not letting that happen. In our second closest race Jason out ran me. I lead for the first 1/2 mile then he passed me and I could not keep up. I had the same hope and about the same distance to make up as the previous race. I needed him to stop for water. I needed him to walk. This time things were different. This time he didn't stop. I realized he probably wouldn't after crossing mile 2 so I worked hard to close the gap. The final 1/4 mile was around the football field and the course was narrow without much room to pass. I was closing on him as I willed my legs to turn over faster if only I could muster a killer sprint at the end, but I didn't have it I ran out of course and he beat me:

Green Bay, WI
Racer NameBibPlc APlc GPlc OFinal+Diff
Jason Frankovich (15)Rivals14142227233322:50
Robert Coyne (63)Rivals13242428134322:55+00:05

Green Bay 5K

The current race tally stands at Bob: 8 Jason: 6

Now I have humbly conceded defeat in many areas of rivalry with Jay. He's a better cook, a better golfer and a better dancer, but I will not concede that he is a better runner. He may be genetically superior, but for now I'm still the better runner.