Thanks for 2015

I want to just send out a quick thanks for reading my posts this year.  The whole blogging process is still new to me and I am working to make it a better experience for the readers by providing better content on a consistent basis.  I will continue to work through 2016 to bring you, as the reader, the best experience that I can.

-Runner

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Race Review: Hot Chocolate 15K in St. Louis

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Hot Chocolate 15K 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!”

For anyone seeking the best way to take a break from Law School finals I have found the secret.  Just take a quick trip out of town to an enjoyable race to get your mind off the stress of finals.  When I saw that the Hot Chocolate series was coming to St. Louis on the weekend between my two weeks of finals I thought that it would be a great release from the strain of constant studying and pressure that was bound to occur during those two weeks.

Post Race 1There has been an exponential growth in themed races in America.  Just in the few years that I have been running there has been an explosion of race series that have themes surrounded by parties, celebrations and excitement beyond the thrill of finishing.  There are races now that promote glowing paint, mud (lots of mud!), inflatables and color powder just to name a few.  One of the best tasting themes of any of these races is the Hot Chocolate series that has quickly expanded to multiple races throughout America.  The races start in November and run through the winter and into the early spring in cities throughout America including a very big race in Chicago each year.

This is the third year for the STL race and the previous two years the Hot Chocolate was well deserved at the end due to the weather.  This year the temperature at step off was in the fifties and they announced that combining the previous two years temperature at step off would still be 20 degrees below this year’s temperature.

Race Criteria: I have divided my experience into five categories that cover what I think is every aspect of a race.  Just to make it easy each category will be numbered 1-20 for a total out of 100 to rank the race.

Race Organization: 17/20
I have ran some of the best ran races in America and I love to see different approaches to putting on races.  Hot Chocolate, obviously, has plenty of experience putting on races and they have perfected what is needed to run a successful race.  They sent out multiple e-mails with training plans that list out what a typical training plan would include in the upcoming weeks to help runners prepare.  They provided plenty of guidance on the locations of the expo, the start line, the finish celebrations.  There will obviously be a difference between this race and the large marathons and it would not work well for races like this to mirror the Chicago or NYC Marathon with their promotions with the participants.  Instead Hot Chocolate has developed its own unique approach that worked great for the STL race.

Union Station Entrance

Expo: 14/20
Hot Chocolate ExpoThe expo for the Hot Chocolate race took place in the historic Union Station. Union Station is in the heart of St. Louis and, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. So often people look to the Arch as the extent of the St. Louis iconic architecture without realizing that there are buildings like Union Station that should be ranked up with the Arch when people look at St. Louis.

The expo was a small expo but it served the purpose.  I was able to quickly walk in, get my registration packet and look around without having to fight the crushing crowds seen at some expos.  One of the best features was after picking up my packet I was able to try on the long sleeve jacket to confirm that it fit, while being able to switch it out if I need to, before leaving the expo with it.  Many of the sponsors were local companies that have roots in the STL area that provide a great regional feel to the expo.  This feel was a great experience since most of the runners were inevitably from the St. Louis area so advertising local companies and races would have the biggest impact.

Course/Race Experience: 16/20
Hot Chocolate CourseThe course started on Market street downtown and went towards the St. Louis University Campus before turning back towards downtown where the 5K/15K split occurred.  The course then ventures past Busch Stadium before heading south towards the Budweiser Brewery before the turnaround.  Around mile 7.5 or so there was a turn that began a long hill that culminated almost a mile later.  The race completed with a small hill, that felt much bigger on tired legs before a gradual downhill into the finish line.  The first mile was almost all uphill and the final 2 miles was a majority uphill as well completing what was a tough 15K race.

On the course there was only four water stations, at each there was water, Gatorade and a snack relating to the chocolate theme.  I did not partake in the snacks, not wanting to chance my body not appreciating them, but other runners said the treats (including chocolate chips, as well as strawberry and chocolate marshmallows) were great.  I understand that when the temperatures are cooler fewer runners will take water but with the temperatures as they were on race day I felt that an extra water station would have gone a long way to making the race more enjoyable.  Two miles between water stations is further than what is found in other races.

Hot Chocolate Finisher

Post Race: 12/20
Although the warmer temperatures created a more enjoyable pre-race environment, that same weather created a less enjoyable post-race environment.  The whole theme of the race revolved around having a warm cup of hot chocolate waiting for you at the finish line to warm you up after being out on the cold course for the race. To add to the warmth it drizzled throughout the race creating a very uncomfortable setting for the post race celebration.

The hot chocolate was great and the cup shaped serving dish that held all the post race treats including more marshmallows, a banana along with dipping chocolate and the cup of hot chocolate was a great way to quickly serve all the runners allowing there to be virtually no line to get the food. Overall the post race experience would have been must better if the weather would have cooperated to optimize the experience.

Hot Chocolate Cup

Extras: 17/20
Finisher MedalThe Hot Chocolate series tries to make itself stand out with the extras that it provides to runners.  Beyond the post race hot chocolate the series gives every runner a nice long sleeve zip up jacket as well as a distinctive medal that features a candy bar with a bite out of it with a unique picture representing the city that the race takes place in. These are some of the best extras that are provided for free from any race that I have ran in.   The jacket is something that I will wear regularly in the future.  The medal features the arch and city skyline and is one of the most unique medals I have earned.

 

MY OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 76/100
This was a fun race that I would definitely look to do again in the future.  In fact I will look to do some of the larger Hot Chocolate races to see how they compare.  Specifically I would love to do the Chicago race that I have heard from friends is one of the most fun race in the second city.  I would recommend this race, and the series to every runner that I know!

-Runner

Running Through Law School

*This topic is in the forefront of my mind now because today is my first final of my first semester of law school.  I cannot help but look back on what has happened this semester but also look forward to what I will do differently next semester and what it has in store for me.*

In August I started the next chapter in my life.  I began law school at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.  The first year is usually seen as the hardest of the three years that you are in law school.  That difficulty comes from multiple features including having to learn a new way to read, interpret and write.   I knew these opinions going into the beginning of school in August and had to decide how I would approach the beginning of my studies.

Before the beginning of school I asked many friends who had went to law school, grad school and med school if they thought that I should continue my heavy running schedule.  The opinions were mixed but generally each said that you can continue to enjoy any hobbies that you have as you enter school but starting any new hobbies that take up significant time should be avoided at all cost.

Heeding this advice I felt comfortable continuing my scheduled training plan that had the goal of a PR at the Chicago Marathon.  That training plan did not go perfectly, and there were times when the studying had to realign the training plan but I was able to get in the requisite miles and completed a PR in early October.  The best lesson I have learned in this first semester is how to prioritize the training and the studying.  I learned that working out in the mornings work well with my studying schedule and fitting in extra group sports (playing outdoor soccer, flag football, and basketball this semester) allow me to get in second exercise sessions while not having to stress my legs as much as training miles.

Starting in the spring I am going to begin triathlon training for another spring/early summer triathlon.  This training will consist of similar workouts to my training plan for Eagleman that occurred in June.  I am going to focus on trying to get in swim sessions and strength sessions in the mornings before classes start.  This will allow many of the cardio sessions to be in the afternoons when it is warmer, but also will make it so I can focus on getting in as many swim sessions (my weakest of the three sports) before classes and studying has a chance to interrupt the schedule.  I feel confident that knowing what the law school demand includes I will be able to successfully execute my training plan to best succeed in my half triathlons this year.

-Runner

Gear Review: Rudy Rydon Glasses

Disclaimer: I received a pair of Rudy Rydon Glasses 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!”

Every runner, whether you run just one day a week or multiple times a day, knows that running takes more than just a pair of shoes.  There may not be many “required” purchases in order to hit the streets but there are many that will make that run easier, better and more enjoyable.

Rudy Rydon Sunglasses from Website

Rudy Rydon Sunglasses (taken from e-rudy.com)

I learned quickly after starting to run that one necessary piece of gear for me is a pair of quality sunglasses.  I learned that I have very sensitive eyes and will often wear glasses well into the late evening, after most people will take their glasses off.  Knowing this put extra emphasis for me to find not just a pair of sunglasses that successfully will block the sun from distracting me and blinding me on a run, but also a pair that is comfortable enough for me to wear longer and more often than most others will wear their sunglasses.

I am naturally skeptical when trying out another pair of sunglasses because I know that even a bad pair of sunglasses that wreak havoc on my runs.  I do not like running while having to squint in order to make sure I do not trip on the sidewalk.  I approached the Rudy Rydon glasses with this built up skepticism but also with a hopeful outlook that a such quality company would  produce a quality product.

I was not disappointed.  The Rudy Rydon glasses quickly become one of my favorite pieces of gear on my runs and rides.  The glasses are built out of very light materials so they do not feel heavy on your head, and their light weight allow them to sit softly on your nose without much bouncing up and down.  I have worn the glasses for many hours during runs and rides and have never had a problem with the comfort of the frames.  They have never rubbed poorly, or sit uncomfortably during any event. I have even worn them as regular glasses through the day and have not been disappointed.

Rudy Rydon Sunglasses

Wearing the Rudy Rydon Sunglasses

One of the best features, for any athlete, of the glasses is their lenses.  The lenses change colors depending on the level of light in the room.  This technology has been around for awhile but Rudy has risen the bar in its implementation.  I went on two runs in particular that showed to me the benefit of the lenses.  During one run I started running in the middle of the afternoon and during the run it got dark.  When I arrived back home I realized that I still had the lenses over my eyes but hadn’t noticed because of how effortlessly the lenses transitioned as the sun set.   The second run started in the morning when the sun had just gotten up, but during the run the clouds rolled in before a storm yet I was able to keep the glasses on throughout without any interruption.

Lastly, I believe that it should be mentioned that these glasses are versatile.  I used them predominantly for running but the weather allowed me to wear them on two bike rides of over an hour.  Many endurance athletes know Rudy from their cycling apparel and equipment before their running products.  These glasses fit into a category where they work for either.  On my bike rides the glasses were able to stay on throughout the whole ride, regardless of how light it was, the weather or the time of day. This capability of knowing that you won’t have to worry about taking your glasses off, or trying to look through them as it gets dark is a great quality that adds to an already great product.  As a triathlete, I could not ask for a better pair of sunglasses.

Overall Rudy has not disappointed with the Rudy Rydon sunglasses.  Although many people might not realize it, sunglasses can make your runs and your rides easier and better.  The Rudy glasses do just that.  They are a piece of equipment that I will be able to rely no matter the conditions, the duration or the type of activity I participate in going forward.

-Runner

Race Review: 2015 Chicago Marathon

After completing the Chicago Marathon on October 11 I was completely spent.  For a year I had been leading up to that race.  I had prepared harder than I ever had before and I had spent so much energy to complete the 26 mile loop around the city.  I could not think about anything else for so long that after the race my body just shut down.  I made a promise to myself that I was not going to put any stress on my body for at least a month.

Part of that promise was to stop blogging and to take more time to relax, read, and recover from the race before I entered back into the endurace world in order to prepare for my next race in the spring. I am happy to say that I have accomplished that month off and feel rejuvenated and ready.  To announce that I am back on the training path, I wanted to complete my review of Chicago.  This review was mostly written soon after the race but I wanted to hold off publishing it until my body was repaired.

Enjoy!

Race Criteria: I have divided my experience into five categories that cover what I think is every aspect of a race.  Just to make it easy each category will be numbered 1-20 for a total out of 100 to rank the race.

Before Chicago 2015Race Organization: 19/20
I made a point to get to the expo early this year and was able to very quickly breeze through the registration, get my packet and head to the back to pick up my shirt and bag before the crush of the crowd.  Before I reached the area where I picked up my number they already knew my name (from when I first scanned my bib and got my assigned area to pick up my bib) and had the number packet ready and waiting.  The only blemish on the record of Chicago is the long lines to get into the park on race morning.  Obviously these lines are caused by the sheer number of people who attend the race, and the security is a necessary measure, it is just not the best experience when you are already super stressed about the race to begin with.

Expo: 20/20
If there ever was a perfect experience at an expo that had thousands of people then I had it.  I got there early on Friday, with Bride and a friend who was also running the race and we headed strait to the booths that we wanted items at first. We wanted to make sure that they were not sold out before we got around to the booth.  After that we headed to pick up our registration and was quickly pushed through the line.  We quickly got our shirts (which were much better than last year’s) and were off to visit all the booths. While at the expo Bride got a pair of Chicago Marathon Nike LunarGlides, I got a USA Track and Field Chicago Marathon shirt and a few other items.  But the big item was not something I bought, but something I won!  I won a free entry into the Puerto Rico Marathon in March!!! I couldn’t believe that I wont and am so excited!!!

I could not have asked for a better experience.  I beat the crowd, I won a free race entry, and never was I told that something that I wanted was sold out.

After Chicago 2015Course/Race Experience: 20/20
It is obvious that the race is great.  Not only is it organized but it is one of the most well supported races in the world.  Well over 1.5 million people were estimated to line the 26 miles through the 29 neighborhoods.  How can anyone not be inspired to run their best when they know that so many people are there cheering them on.

The whether called for it to heat up to near 70 later in the day so I changed my strategy away from staying locked in with a pace group.  I instead decided to leave it all on the line and go out hard and just hold on for as long as I could.  I knew that with it just getting hotter I needed to take advantage of the cooler earlier temperatures and that is exactly what I did.  I stayed ahead of the 3:40 pace group until mile 20 where I really started to slow down.  As with every marathon I have ever ran, miles 19-23 were the hardest for me.  From mile 24 till the end, I survived on adrenaline and crossed the line with a huge PR of 3:57:06!!! Great time for a warm day.  I saw one analysis where they said the heat could have caused the times to increase by almost 10 minutes, so that made me feel even more confident with my time.

Post Race: 16/20
This year’s post race was different from last years.  This year I got to spend it with Bride who made the trip up for the race.  She said this was her favorite race that she has ever watched me in.  She got to see me twice along the course, and our hotel was just a block from the two locations where she could see me!

After the race we met by the family reunion area, after I wobbled over to it.  We relaxed under the sun until I was recovered.  I enjoyed my free beer, some food and some time to take in my new PR.  We then moved on to the hotel where we packed and headed back home.  The Chicago Marathon might be one of the biggest in the world but the way that it is set up makes it very manageable for any runner.  There is plenty of room after the race for you to stretch out and enjoy some time off your feet in the park. That being said, there are still thousands of people walking around and many of the lines are unbearable to stand in.

Extras: 18/20
With any big race there is going to be plenty of themed items.  Virtually every major running brand is at the expo and everyone of them has Chicago themed clothing and items available.  Goose Island Beer is always one of my favorites.  This year I got a themed pint glass to celebrate another year in Chicago.  I also was happy to find a great t-shirt that had the outline of the skyline on it. (I was disappointed at the Nike official clothing this year because this years logo was almost identical to the one used last year.)  One of the best experiences at any major race is getting to see all the extras that are available for that race and this year is no different.

MY OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 93/100
Simply, the Chicago Marathon is one of the best Marathons in the world and definitely one of the best races I have ever ran.  I understand that big races aren’t for everyone, and I have ran some small ones as well, but a marathon major like Chicago is unique and I would recommend every runner to aspire to someday run those 29 neighborhoods.

-Runner

St. Louis Hot Chocolate 15K Race Discount

I received a XYZ to review [or I received a free entry to XYZ race] 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!
Hot Chocolate 15K St LouisI am lucky to have the opportunity to participate in the Hot Chocolate 15K run series on December  13 through a partnership with the Hot Chocolate series and BibRave.com.  This race series has grown into one of the most well known in the country.   I have not had the opportunity to participate in the series before and am excited to join the thousands of other runners who will participate in all the Hot Chocolate races around the country this year!
Hot Chocolate St Louis MedalThe Hot Chocolate series not only has some of the best medals but it has some of the best swag in the country.  The medals are specifically themed for the city that you run in and the swag includes a great fleece lined zip up jacket.  I hope you will join me on the streets of St. Louis next month!

Hot Chocolate 15K FleeceTo celebrate this opportunity I have been given a discount code that will provide any runner who registers to receive a free Hot Chocolate branded multi-use headgear.  The promo code to enter when you check out is BibRaveSTL!

After you run in the race on December 13, please write a review of the event on BibRave.com to help future runners select their races.

-Runner

Tomorrow Begins the End!

Tomorrow I am leaving to head to Chicago for the weekend.  This trip will culminate 16 weeks of work and dedication towards one goal.  On Sunday I will be participating in my second Chicago marathon.  Before last year’s race I had done 6 previous marathons but in none of them did I feel as if I had given 100% into doing the best that I can.  After that race all I could do is smile and looking back at it one year later I still hold it to be the most accomplished I have ever felt while running.

I hope that the same feeling will greet me as I cross the finish line in Grant Park on Sunday but I cannot be 100% sure.  I have worked hard to get to where I am and I feel that I am ready for the race but it is so hard to estimate what your body will do when pushed as far as I will have to push it on Sunday.  I know that I am mentally ready for the race and that physically I am as ready as I ever will be, but on race day it is impossible to know how you are going to do.

The Chicago Marathon is one of my favorite races.  Not only is it so great to hear millions of people cheering and screaming for the 40,000+ runners but it is great to know that all the hard work, early mornings and long miles were worth it.  Although I started my year working on becoming a triathlete, I knew that I had to try to come back to Chicago and experience the race again.

The race is just a few days away now but I am going to try to appreciate and enjoy the experience of the race.

-Runner

Gear Review: Addaday Pro Massage Roller

Disclaimer: I received a Buff 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!

I have been searching for a good roller that I can use for a long time now.  I am constantly playing other sports outside of my regular training and I am regularly sore after these extra activities, as well as my regular soreness after running and training.  With the Addaday Pro Massage Roller I have found something that meets all those needs.

Addaday Pro Massage Roller Picture

With the roller you are able to hit every spot of your body to relieve pain and soreness.  I have not only been able to get some relief after my runs, but I have also been able to work on rolling before runs to help with any post workout soreness and pain.

I have really enjoyed getting to know about the technology and techniques involved in the Addaday Roller but I will not claim any expertise yet.  The Addaday website has a wonderful set of videos that help train you on how to best use the products.  You can find those videos here and throughout their site.

PROS:
-Can reach a variety of spots and locations
-Easy to learn by using the Addaday videos
-Variety of rollers allow you to address a variety of sore areas
CONS:
-Hard to pack because of size
-To take full advantage you must take time to learn how to properly use the product

I look forward to continuing to use this product and continuing to learn how to better use it.  It has worked well for me so far and I am confident that it will continue to improve my wellness and my recovery going forward. In fact, I am so impressed with this product, I am going to look at other Addaday products and how they too can better my recovery.

-Runner

Gear Review: Half Buff USA

Disclaimer: I received a Buff 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!

CO BuffThere are many products out there to help runners and athletes to make their workouts easier, more successfully and more comfortable.  Some of those products focus on helping us recover (foam rollers, compression, food), some help you track and execute your runs (shoes, watches, clothes) and more, like the Half Buff help you be more comfortable during your run.

I sweat a lot, just ask anyone who has seen me after a run over 3 miles.  It does not matter if I run inside, outside, slow or fast there is a good chance my whole shirt will be soaked.  The Half Buff helps keep the sweat out of your face and makes sure that your eyes stay clear of sweat throughout your run. As someone who constantly battles with dripping sweat, I am excited if any product can help that issue.

FIT: I wore the buff as a bandana around my head and it stayed on very well throughout all of my runs and never fell down or moved around on my head.

FEEL: The fabric is very soft and works well on my head.  It never irritated my skin or caused any discomfort at any time.

Wearing the CO BuffPROS:

  • The buff works well for what it is supposed to do, it keeps the sweat off of your face.
  • No skin irritation
  • Gives your outfit some personality, which is never a bad thing

CONS:

  • Although the Buff serves a purpose, I do not usually get sweat in my eyes and I do not feel that the Buff helps me as much as it would some others.
  • Unlike some other running gear this can only be used once before it must be washed.  You would need to buy multiple Buffs in order to make sure you had plenty for each run.

Overall, I will continue to use the Buff on runs going forward but I will not consider this product a necessity for my runs to be successful.

-Runner

Chicago Marathon Training: Week 5-6

The last couple of weeks have been tough.  I knew that I needed to add the weekly mileage to my legs to test out their strength and their endurance so I have used these last two weeks to do just that.  Although these runs have not been the best runs of my life, they have allowed me to feel very comfortable with where I am now.  Last year my 17 mile run did not happen until September 21 so I am almost two months ahead of schedule compared to last year.  Knowing that the next couple of weeks will see my focus change a little before going into my longest runs of the cycle at the end of the August.

WEEK 5: 
Monday July 20: 3 Mile 5K Tempo Run
Tuesday July 21: 8 Mile Easy run in the heat! Evening 30 minute core session
Wednesday July 22: OFF DAY!
Thursday July 23: 8 Mile Run with 6 miles at Marathon Pace. Evening Strength session focused on core and legs.
Friday July 24: OFF DAY!
Saturday July 25: 14 mile run that started outside but finished on the rec center track because of the heat.
Sunday July 26: 4 mile run followed by two baseball games
TOTAL MILES: 38.1 Miles

WEEK 6: 
Monday July 27: OFF DAY! (Holiday World Trip)
Tuesday July 28: 10K easy run.  30 minute strength session focused on core and stretching.
Wednesday July 29: 7 mile run in the heat with 4 miles at marathon pace.
Thursday July 30: 8 mile easy run outside with a 30 minute arms and shoulders strength session.
Friday July 31: OFF DAY!
Saturday August 1: 16 mile long run. Did a portion inside when it get too hot.
Sunday August 2: 4 mile recovery run.
TOTAL MILES: 43 Miles

As mentioned above, my focus will change for the next couple of weeks to build the required strength in my legs, core and upper body that is needed to go as far and as fast as I want to.  I will continue to build mileage but my longest runs are still to come in the future. It looks like the heat will not give in yet and will continue to cause my runs to be more stressful than they will be in the future when it cools down.

Lastly, I have a major challenge in the next 10 weeks until the race.  That challenge is LIFE!!! On August 19 I start last school and until then I have a work and a personal trip that will make it difficult to fit in all my workouts.  I will need to plan out my runs ahead of time and stay focused on what I need to do and not waste time when I have no time to waste.

-Runner