Friday, June 26, 2009


It has been stiflingly hot this week in central Illinois. After my noon run on Monday finishing with completely soaked shoes after an easy 7 miles, I decided to try to beat the heat by doing my speed work early Tuesday morning. It turned out to be miserable as well (although I did get to chat briefly with the NCAA 5k Champion, Angela Bizzarri who was also at the track at 7am to do her workout in preparation for her race tonight in the USATF national championships).

Yesterday, I decided to do a sweat test to figure out my sweat rate in these conditions. I lost nearly 5% of my body weight on a 7min/mile paced 10 miler. Here's the "scientific" report that I sent my running group after the run:

I did a sweat test on today's run and thought you all would be interested in the results.

Prior to the run, I weighed myself nude at on the digital scale at the ARC. During the run, I wore a fuel belt and drank measured amounts of water. After the run, I dried off and then weighed myself nude again using the same scale.


Pre-run weight: 155.9 lbs
Water consumed: 40 ozs (2.5 lbs)
Post-run weight: 151.2 lbs
Run time: 1:10:00
Distance: ~10 mi
Weather: 90 F, 54% humidity, 12.7mph W wind, mostly clear with a few clouds

Total weight lost during run = 155.9 lbs - 151.2 lbs + 2.5 lbs = 7.2 lbs

During the course of the run, I lost 115.2 ozs, which we can attribute mostly to fluid loss and possibly the liquification and sweating out of a significant quantity of brain matter. This is a sweat rate of 98.7 ozs / hour or 1.65 ozs / min. If I were drinking water from a shot glass during the run, I would have to take a shot every 55 seconds to maintain my weight.

Running is dumb.

Many alternate conclusions were propsed like "running in today's conditions is dumb" or "summer in the midwest is dumb." Regardless, I'm sure I'll keep on doing it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Illinois Marathon

It's been quite some time since I've posted anything here, so I'll come back to it with a race report from the first annual Illinois Marathon.

2008 was a disastrous marathon year for me. I felt like I was in really good shape heading into both Boston and Chicago. In both races, I had severe stomach pains starting somewhere past mile 15 and had a miserable experience in finishing both races. I finished 45 and 35 minutes behind my expected finish time in both races and was extremely displeased. After Chicago last year, I was so fed up that I decided I would take at least one marathon cycle off and maybe just quit running them entirely.

Fortunately, the Illinois Marathon came to town. The race was to be a smaller marathon in the town where I live with most of my running group participating. With everyone in the group training for the marathon, I was almost training for it by default, so I went ahead and put in the long runs and signed up for the race. I decided two important things in advance.

1) I would train at lower volume than I have for my previous marathons. I still wanted a bit of a break from the training. I put in a lot of weeks around 50 miles and I peaked at just 60.5, the only week I went over 60 miles.

2) I would run a conservative pace. Despite the fact that I'd finished 4 marathons, my PR was still a 2:58:17 from my first marathon, which I ran in Austin. I'd been looking to run 2:45 in the past few where I'd blown up. I still think I'm capable of running at least that fast (I did a 24 miler at a pace that would have put me at 2:41 training for one of my disasters last year...and felt great after the run), but I couldn't risk blowing up again or the prospects of continuing to marathon would slim considerably. I needed to "get the monkey off of my back" as my training partner liked to say. I decided I'd look to run just under 3 hours and there were a bunch of guys in my running group who I could run with at that pace. The plan was to run a nice, relaxed pace and have fun doing it.

Things went according to plan.

I got out of my own bed on the morning of the marathon, well rested and tapered down from my moderate training mileage. I picked up a few of my running buddies and we convened with the rest of the running group in one of their offices which was right near the start line. The weather was better than we could have asked for. It was around 40 degrees at the start, sunny, and low wind (10 mph, which is low for here in Champaign-Urbana).

We ran nice, even splits right on pace as we opened up the marathon. Pictured here (photo courtesy of Kate Torrey) is a bunch of my running group in the early miles along with my PhD advisor, who was running the half. It was fun seeing lots of people we knew along the course. Before the race, I decided that no matter how good I felt, I wouldn't pick up the pace until at least mile 18. I felt great, but I waited patiently. Still feeling good at mile 18.5, I told the group I was going to pick up the pace and I dropped down from ~6:47/mile to under 6:30's where I stayed through the last 10k to the finish line, coming across in 2:55:30. My splits for the entire race are recorded here (I forgot to hit the button at 15).

I was really pleased with the way the marathon went. I ran it according to plan, I felt great, and I had fun. Normally, I don't look to "have fun" while I'm running a race, although I'm looking to have enjoyed it afterwards. This was a win-win because I got the monkey off my back while also having fun (admittedly, the last couple of miles still hurt and I'm not smiling so much in the picture from the last mile). I also recovered incredibly fast. It was a Saturday race and by Wednesday, my legs already felt really good, although I gave it a full week before I started running again. And I'm re-motivated about the marathon. I'm already planning to run Columbus this fall with a bunch of guys from the running group.

As far as the organization of the marathon goes, I thought it was an incredibly well-done first year event. When the plans were first announced and I heard they wanted 4,000 people, I laughed. Amazingly, there were around 9,000 people across the three events with nearly 2,000 in the marathon. Almost everything along the course was well-done too. My biggest complaint was the places where the marathon and half-marathon courses merged. Around mile 23 in the marathon we merged with mile 11 or 12 of the half-marathon for about half a mile and had to cross paths. This meant that while I was coming through under 6:30 pace, I was moving across a lane of people walk/jogging. I nearly got run into the pillar of the viaduct as somebody slowed to a walk and moved off to her left as I came through. And while it was nice to finish in the stadium, the common start + common finish for the full and the half led to a similar problem. My training partner (who ran ~2:41) nearly got caught in the tunnel entering the stadium amongst a mob of half marathoners jogging their way in. And the winners of the marathon finished amidst a wash of slow half-marathoners. Despite these complaints, I think it was a great marathon. I'll definitely do it again...unless I'm running in Boston.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Surviving the Cold

Last week, we had some very cold weather come through. The first photo here shows a screenshot (yes, that's a preview of the Windows 7 Beta running on my home computer) from last Friday morning before I headed into the lab. -17 degrees F with a wind chill of -31 F. I ran outside later that afternoon, although it had warmed up considerably. We started our run at 0 degrees and it warmed to 4 degrees by the end of our 7 mile run. The second picture shows the gear I wore for the run. We earned 5 points on this run.

5 points, you ask? How do you earn points on a run? My running group has a system wherein you earn points for runs on extremely hot or cold days. The formulas are as follows:

Winter points = Miles - Average Run Temperature in Fahrenheit
Summer points = Miles + Average Run Temperature in F - 100

Anything left that is positive earns you points. Since the average temperature on our run was 2 degrees F, the points we earned were 7 miles - 2 degrees = 5 points. Everyone diligently logs their points and then at the end of the year, we add them up and trade them in for absolutely nothing. My record for a single run is 12 points (18 miles in 6 degrees), which pales in comparison to some of the guys I run with. I could have racked up some serious points if I'd run when I got up on Friday morning! Some people say the run must be a minimum of 3 consecutive miles to earn points.

The last picture here shows my biking outfit for a cold winter commute in to work. I may complain a lot about how cold it is here, but it sure doesn't keep me inside!

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Saturday, January 10, 2009


My sister didn't have Christmas off this year, so the family headed out to her place in Salt Lake City once the airfare had dropped a week after the new year. We're just now finishing up our five day trip.

Our first full day here, we went skiing at Alta, which is where I have done the majority of my skiing in Utah. 12 inches had fallen in the 24 hours before we hit the slopes, but it was a very warm day (it hit 34 F at the Alta base) and the powder was really heavy. It was not the champagne powder Alta is known for and it made the skiing a lot of work. It was a gorgeous day, though, and still a lot of fun. The first picture here shows my dad trying to get up aided by my sister after taking an awesome face-first plant in the snow. I fell 3 times before lunch myself and the thick powder was lots of fun to tumble in. The second picture shows my brother and at I at the top of the Collins lift and the last picture is the mountains across the street from the Alta base in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
The next day was even warmer, so we skipped the skiing and went to one of the last days of the Body Worlds 3 exhibit in SLC, which was really cool. It was also helpful having Dr. Dad along to explain more than what the exhibits pointed out. I have no pictures to post since they don't allow photos, but it's definitely worth checking out if you get the chance. We spent two hours there and could have easily stayed longer. It was 54 degrees, so I was able to take a rare winter short-sleeve run back home after the museum.

The third day sent us to Solitude for skiing, where I'd never been. It was colder and we had 7 inches of fresh powder and the skiing was awesome. I really liked skiing there a lot and the crowds were very thin. It was a most excellent day of skiing.

Today I abandoned the skiing and went for a long run up City Creek Canyon, a run I discovered using the USATF Routes tool. It was a simply fabulous run. Unfortunately, I started 5 miles from the canyon. I'd only planned to run 12 miles, but once I got into the Canyon, I had to tack on some more because it was so incredible and I ended up doing a bit over 14 miles. It's a gradual climb up the Canyon, reasonable even for this Illinois flat-lander. The road was plowed, but is closed to traffic during the winter (and it's closed to traffic every other day in the warm seasons!). It was low-30's and sunny, which was perfect weather for the run and while the road was clear, there were banks of snow on the sides, with City Creek babbling a few feet away and snow-laden trees forming a canopy overhead. I really must find some mountains to live in when I finish my PhD.
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