Chicago Marathon Training: Week 4

This week was another scorcher.  I knew it would be from the start and tried to plan accordingly.  Luckily it was an off week for me so I did not have any long runs during the week.  Instead I did a lot of running on the indoor track at the Rec Center.  Wednesday afternoon I was sitting at home after completing all my work and the power went out.  I took that as a sign that I needed to get out so I went on an unplanned bike ride for an hour.  I knew that it would not hurt but since this was an off week for me I did not plan on doing any cross training.  On Saturday, during my long run, I knew that even if I started early it would get too hot for me so I ran as long as I could before getting too hot. After about 8 miles in the heat I ran to the rec center and finished the rest of my run on the track.  I didn’t like having to do that but it was really the only way that I would be able to get in the miles that I needed.

WEEK 4: Summer Running
Monday July 13: 4 Mile Easy Run
Tuesday July 14: 5 Mile Decreasing Fartlek (Miles Decreased in Time) & Core/Back Strength Session
Wednesday July 15: 1 Hour Bike Ride & Arms and Shoulder Strength Session
Thursday July 16: 5 Mile Easy Run
Friday July 17: OFF DAY!
Saturday July 18: 12 Mile Long & Slow Run
Sunday July 19: 5 Mile Track Run & Core Strength Session
TOTAL MILES: 31.1 Miles

This upcoming week will bring on more miles again.  I still plan on doing only 5 runs (instead of the 6 that my plan calls for) with hopefully two cross training sessions. I know that the weather will not cooperate so I will try to do most of my longer runs this week in the morning to try to get them done and over before the true heat of the day.  My long run on the weekend will probably be another split one between the gym and an outdoor run but we will see. With each run I am getting more excited for the race, which is only 81 days away!!!

-Runner

Gear Review: Plantronics BackBeat FIT

Disclaimer: I received a Plantronics Backbeat FIT as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

There are some things that all runners can relate too.  We all are constantly searching for the best shoe, the latest training routines and clothes that don’t chafe.  One thing that I have been searching for since I started running years ago is a pair of headphones that stay put and remain comfortable no matter if you are sprinting, doing a long Saturday run or going for a walk.  The Plantronics Backbeat Fit is the first headphones that I have found that checks all the necessary boxes for that perfect pair of headphones.

20150714_092424FIRST OPINION:
You can’t help but judge a product by the packaging.  When you first get a new item home it is always a great time opening it and getting to get your hands on it for the first time.  The packaging not only shows the product, but it also really shows how versatile the headphones are.  I loved the opening of the package that lets you see the headphones, how slick they look.  You are able to imagine how they will look on your head by just looking at them in the box.

Storage Case

Storage Case

Arm Case

Arm Case

After I took everything out of the box and read the instructions I was shocked to find a feature that I think could be the best feature I have ever seen with a set of headphones.  In the box there was a storage case that holds the headphones and the charging plug but looks can be deceiving.  This case can be flipped inside out and it becomes an arm band that holds your phone while you run! It could be that I love the simple things but how could I not love anytime that there is a practical and unexpected feature to a product.

USAGE:
I eagerly hit the streets with the headphones later in the afternoon and was shocked at what I felt…because I didn’t feel anything!  The headphones sat perfectly in my ears and didn’t interfere with my running at all.  The headphones didn’t fall out once, they didn’t itch, and they did not feel like my ear was so full that I could not even hear the music that was playing.

After the first or second run I was afraid that maybe I was missing something.  The headphones didn’t move at all during my runs and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just a fluke.  To test these as much as I could I made sure to wear them during all my runs, including my long run of 13 miles.  Total I ran over 40 miles with these headphones and through that whole time they performed perfectly.  They did not move at all, they did not cause any problems with me during my runs and they did not loose their signal at all.

With the Headphones After a RunThere are other aspects of bluetooth headphones besides their comfort and in every case these did not disappoint. I charged them fully before the first run and I never even received the low battery alert.   A long battery is vital because, to be honest, I would not want to charge them after each run. I also tested the call reception on the headphones and my friend who called was able to hear me clearly when I answered the call on the headphones.  Best of all was right when the call was over I immediately herd my music kick back on again.

OVERALL:
I cannot recommend these headphones more.  They do not have an obvious faults that would cause any runner, or athlete any discomfort.  I am not someone who wears headphones often, usually because I have not found a pair that fit well.  Going forward, I will continue to wear these headphones and am looking forward to getting to wear them again.

 

 

My Gear: 2014 Specialized Allez Road Bike

I will be honest, I didn’t really like my first bike.  The one that I did most of my triathlon training on was a heavy road bike that was not built to be ridden for the amount of time or the miles that I was riding it.  I stuck with it because I knew that if I was going to spend more on an upgrade I would have to first love riding and second know that I would continue to ride even after the triathlon.

During my training I came to the realization that I did enjoy cycling and I knew that I would continue to cycle after my triathlon.  (I eventually knew that I would do more future triathlons.) Knowing this I began to look at what my future bike would be.  I looked at all sites that I could get a bike from including Craigslist, physical stores, online retailers and everywhere in between.  I finally found a great price on an almost new Specialized Allez that I knew was too good to pass up.  Unfortunately I found this right before the triathlon so I was a little nervous using the bike in a race so soon after getting it but I knew it would be the best decision.

Specialized Bike Review 3

Photo taken from sevenstring.org

Review: 

Simply put…I love this bike.  It is lightweight, easy to maneuver and provides a much better ride than my previous bike.  I am not a competitive cyclist, and don’t expect to be anytime soon, but I wanted a bike that handled better, and rode easier than my other bike and this Specialized Allez accomplishes all of those.

Specialized Bike Review 1

The Bike is Set Up and Ready to go at the Eagleman Triathlon

One of my favorite features of the new bike is the Shimano Claris components.  I am not that knowledgable about the components and have made it a point to read more about them, but I will tell you this, these components do make the ride easier.  The best feature that I have found of these components are the brake handle shifters that are a part of them. These allow my hands to stay in place while I shift.  This improvement over my previous bike has added so much to not just my speed but to my comfort as well.

I am looking forward to putting in many more miles on this bike in the coming years.  I know that with some improvements (including Aerobars and a new seat post) this bike will become a great bike for me going forward for my future triathlons.

-Runner

Chicago Marathon Training: Week 3

This week’s theme revolved around the heat! Most of the week included temperatures that included heat indexes into the 100s and lows still in the 80s.  I tried to run outside earlier in the morning (including getting in my 8 mile run on Thursday done before 7:30 in the morning) to minimize the heat.  I kept telling myself that even though the runs will not be as good in the heat they will help when the weather cools off but it is tough to get out there and suffer through the miles.

WEEK 3: Heat Acclamation & Strength Training Starts
Monday July 6: 7 Mile Easy Run
Tuesday July 7: 6 Mile Fartlek (Track Fartlek with Decreases Mile Times)
Wednesday July 8: Arms and Shoulder Strength Training Session
Thursday July 9: 8 Mile Run at Marathon Pace
Friday July 10: OFF DAY!
Saturday July 11: 13 Mile Run (Cut 1 mile off because of the hot and humid weather)
Sunday July 12: 5 Mile Track Run & Legs Strength Training Session
TOTAL MILES: 38.8 Miles

This week is supposed to see the extreme temperatures continue, which will continue to restrict many of my runs to remain inside. Luckily this week is scheduled to be my first rest week (happens every 4 weeks) so this week will include lower miles with some more strength training sessions.  My miles will be focused on easy miles maintaining good form while building endurance.

-Runner

Race Review: Freedom 4 Miler

Some people might call me a snob for admitting this but I do not normally sign up for races that are shorter than a half marathon because they are usually just too short for one of my weekend long runs.  But sometimes, those shorter races fit perfectly into my schedule…this weekend was one of those perfect times.

I have just started training for the Chicago Marathon in October and this weekend I was scheduled to do a four mile run followed by my longer run on Sunday.  I couldn’t help but sign up for the Freedom 4 Miler in Forest Park on the morning of July 4th!!! Some holidays just call for you to run and 4th of July is definitely one of those holidays.

Leading up to the weekend I made plans to head to my brothers house in the Illinois suburbs on Friday night and head over to the race on Saturday morning before spending the rest of the day back at my brother’s with the rest of the family.  As the race day approached Bride said that she wanted to race it too!!! I love racing a good race, but one thing I admit I love more is racing a good race along with Bride so my day could not have started off any better.

Freedom 4 Miler Course

MY RACE:
Bride and I left early that morning and there was actually a little chill to the air.  The temp was only in the 60s, although it would eventually reach the high 80s, and the humidity had broken.  I knew it would be one of the best racing mornings possible for a 4th of July in St. Louis.  We got there with plenty of time to sit down and relax before the race and enjoy the beautiful forest park.

My goal for the race was 30 minutes although I knew that my legs were tired from the training and that goal was definitely going to be hard to meet.  I compromised with myself by saying that I wasn’t going to look at my watch the whole race and was going to just run as fast as I felt like I could and see what time my body was going to give me.  The start of the race was my worst nightmare.  The largest, and only, hill on the course was within the first half mile.  I don’t mind running a good hill but I always feel like I run them better when my legs have a few miles in them first.  This hill wasn’t tough when I was running it, but my legs felt it a lot later on in the race.

Mile 2 was when I really got into my zone and just focused on keeping up the pace and pushing though the miles.  I did try to enjoy the scenery a little through the beautiful forest park.  The 3rd mile left forest park and went west along Lindell Blvd where I saw 3/4 of a mile full of beautiful homes (and some much needed shade).  Entering the park again began the 4th mile where we curved our way until the finish line.

I felt strong when I crossed although my time on the clock was approaching 32 minutes I knew that my total time was going to be just a little below 32 which I was proud of. Sadly, in the hassle I forgot to stop my watch (a rookie mistake!).  I went home and checked my time and I got 31:50 for the race. Not the best that I have ever ran, but I am happy with the time and know that I can use that and grow from it.

Pre RaceRace Organization: 16/20
This is a good size race for a 4 miler.  There were a total of 880 finishers, including Bride who finished in 50:32! They had multiple locations where you could pick up your bib and shirt the day before, including one in Illinois where Bride and I went, as well as having race morning registration and packet pickup.  They had a bag check available for a fee, but biggest of all, they successfully communicated to everyone the night before the race that because of all the rain in St. Louis that week the parking location was moving from a field in the park to the parking lot of the zoo.  This problem could has wreak havoc on race morning but I felt like they handled it well and had plenty of signage around the park pointing everyone where to go.

Mitra and the Shopping CartExpo: 14/20
There was no expo for this race in the regular sense.  But that is completely understandable.  It was a holiday small mileage race and there was no need for an expo.  I gave it this ranking because the pre-race festivities were well run and there were booths there set up by the sponsors as well as one great display by Schuncks Grocery Stores, the presenting sponsor, that will never be forgotten by Bride or myself.

Race Experience: 18/20
As written above, even though I did not get the time I wanted, I really enjoyed the race. I felt that I raced well, the course was in a great location, set up in a challenging way and provided a great test to see how fast I could go that day.  I was impressed that they had water stations at every mile, but I was disappointed at how badly the Power Ade was mixed.  The portions were not right and it did not taste good at all.   I know that the 4th of July is a prime day for running in America and I am sure to do future races on this day as well but it will be tough to get a better race experience than this one.

Post Race

Bride is Showing off her Bling!

Post Race: 16/20
After I finished the race I got my initial recovery snacks including a banana, a protein bar and plenty of water.  I watched the runners come in behind me and cheered them all on, including an Army group running in cadence.  The atmosphere was great including an announcer who tried to mention as many people’s names as he could (he even pronounced Mitra correctly!).  There was always music playing and always a good crowd cheering on the finishers.  It was a great time.

Extras: 18/20
This race is never going to be the one with the best swag, the best perks or the largest field but that doesn’t mean it can’t have something extra to give to a runner.  First, I must admit how much fun it was getting to run through Forest Park.  We ran by the 1904 bird cage at the zoo, the Muny as well as the Missouri History museum in the park.  Also, this race, which only cost $30, included a free beer and a pretty nice t-shirt, which is about as much as you can ask for with that price.  Once again, they did a great job with what they had.

MY OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 82/100
You can’t compare this to the major marathons I have gotten to run but for what this race is, it doesn’t get much better.  If you are looking for a race that has sights, sounds and hills this is it.  Starting off my day with the race and finishing it with fireworks are two characteristics that, by themselves, mean a great day.  I am looking forward to not only doing this race again, but hopefully participating in more races in St. Louis in the near future.

Chicago Marathon Training: Week 2

Although I pushed through the first week of training with long heavy miles I realized that my body wasn’t quite ready to push in with a lot of heavy miles weeks yet.  I know this will be a long training cycle and I need to focus on being the best that I can on October 11, rather than now.  With that mindset I backed off this week and just tried to focus on running consist speed and shorter runs.  I gave myself a break over the holiday weekend and cancelled my long run (scheduled to be 12 miles).  My legs were tired and just putting in those miles at this point in the training because my plan said so would not have helped.

I continued to focus on gaining speed, doing another great Fartlek workout this week, along with a few runs that had long stretches at Marathon pace.  I also started some cross-training with getting back on the bike during my off day on Friday.  I am looking forward to getting in the hard miles this week and getting in a few strength training and cross training sessions as my first period of training starts!

 

WEEK 2:Speed and Recovery
Monday June 29: 5 Mile run at Marathon Pace
Tuesday June 30: 6 Mile Step Fartlek Workout (10, 5, 3, 2, 1 minute sessions)
Wednesday July 1: 4 Mile Easy track run
Thursday July 2: 6 Mile easy run
Friday July 3: 18 Mile Cycling Ride
Saturday July 4: 4 Mile Freedom Run (Forest Park in St. Louis, MO)
Sunday July 5: OFF DAY!
TOTAL MILES: 25+

This week I am going to focus on increasing mileage by doing more easy runs to allow my legs to build the endurance up.  I will also begin an intense focus on running specific strength, especially my hamstrings and core.

-Runner

Shoe Review: Mizuno Wave Enigma 5

Disclaimer: I received the Mizuno Wave Enigma 5 to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Anytime I talk to a runner shoes seem to be a main topic of conversation.  Shoes are obviously the most important piece of equipment for any runner.  Even now with heart rate monitors, and GPS watches, and all the synthetic fibers, a good pair of shoes is all that you really need to start a running journey.  Bride admits that I have too many pairs of running shoes and I would have to agree that to the average person I probably do.  Currently I am rotating four pairs of running shoes (from four different brands), although all will be retired before my next marathon in October.

Knowing my loving relationship with shoes you can imagine how excited I was when I was selected to test out Mizuno’s newest Wave Enigma 5.  I have not worn Mizuno shoes before to run in and I was excited to see what this company had to offer.  I have heard great reviews of the strides they have made in their construction and presentation in recent years but have never had the opportunity to feel for myself what advances they have made.

Mizuno Wave Enigma
First Impression:

I waited eagerly for the shoes to arrive because I knew that I was going out of town and I wanted them before I left. I had read and seen the first reports of the shoes and was excited to get my hands on my pair. Asteically the shoes are great.  Their blue color pops and although I like bright running outfits as much as the next runner, I appreciate them creating an attention getting shoe without neon colors.

Mizuno SoleFit and Feel: 
I first wore these shoes the same way I wear all of my running shoes…like regular shoes.  I wore them while I traveled on Friday.  I have found this is a great way to see how they fit, you can feel any hot spots that could cause havoc if they weren’t found until out on a run, and you can get a feel for the foot strike without having a big chance for blisters.  The shoe fit is great.  They hugged my foot like a sock and I could tell that they would be able to expand my my foot did while I ran. The toe box provided plenty of room for movement to cut down on the chances I would get any black toenails during long runs. There were no hot spots and I was confident that in the next couple of days, when I first would run with them, I would have no problems.

Mizuno StructureStructure: 
I almost always run in a neutral shoe and have never had any real issues with my feet.  These shoes provide a lot of support that I don’t always feel in other neutral shoes and I believe that support, while not feeling significantly heavier, allowed less fatigue while getting in my miles.  As with most new shoes they had a lot of pop but the sole of these shoes was thicker than other shoes I wear and will continue to provide pop well after other shoes would have stopped. The bones of this shoe are meant to withstand the pounding that it will take from the ground and will allow your foot to have more comfort because of its support.


The Run:

I ran three times in the shoe for a total of almost 17 miles over the last five days.  I tried to vary the terrain I ran on, the road, some hills, and around a track, so I could get a complete feel for how the shoe will react to conditions.  I found that the shoe performs very well.  I landed naturally and was able to run at high speeds, slow jogs and marathon pace without feeling the shoe was causing me to change my landing position.  The weight of the shoe was not an issue and I don’t believe that its weight would effect anyone else who wears standard running shoes in the market.  It is heavier than some of the light weight racers but most of the popular shoes fit into the middle weight category like I would put this one in.

After my first run!

After my first run!

Overall:
CONS: Let me start with some of the few cons that I found.
-Oddly I found the shoe strings that came with the shoe to be too long.  I put some of my own shoe strings in them because when I would tie the standard stings the loops would come up and hit my leg when I ran.  I worked to adjust the length of the bows, and even double knot it (which I never do) and still had the problem.
-I felt that the thicker sole on the bottom of the shoe effected how high I had to pick up my foot when I ran.  Specifically when I would run up hill there were multiple times that I would scuff the ground because I felt like I had to lift my foot just a little bit higher than I was used to.
-I never ran with the shoes in very wet conditions, but feeling and working with the fabric, I do not think it would hold up very well in wet conditions.  If I used these in wet conditions I would be prepared to have wet feet.

PROS:
-Comfort is key to any shoe that you will be wearing for hours and hours on a marathon course. These shoes provide that in droves.  The Wave Enigma fit my foot like a glove yet I felt the shoe provided plenty of room for my foot to move around throughout the run.
-When your foot hits the ground the shoe that you are wearing should react and the Wave Enigma does exactly that.  The structure allows for a great push off and landing without taking much extra energy.

Final Word:
From a runner who has not worn Mizunos before, I was impressed with these shoes and will definitely continue to wear them as I train in the weeks ahead.  They are a great pair of shoes that balance the needs of a runner’s comfort with his/her need to increase endurance and speed.  A shoe can effect how well you run and the Mizuno Wave Enigma 5 does just that, it makes you run better.

-Runner