The Joys of Training in Chicago

It's always interesting training in this city.  The weather is all over the board, and after yet another unseasonably warm Chicago Marathon two weeks ago, I've more recently been dealing with some of the worst running weather one can have: excessive wind, rain, and "feels like" temperatures in the twenties.  It is much better to be running in temperatures well below freezing so that you don't have to deal with the rain.  But such is life.  When you run year-round, in most parts of the country that means you deal with some pretty crappy weather.  I don't mind so much for "normal" runs; in fact, it is often a welcome change.  But workouts can really get screwed up, particularly ones where pace is important.

I've been doing mid-week back to back workouts in my current phase.  Typically, I've been doing a harder, more half-marathon specific workout on Wednesday and hill work on Thursdays.  I can pull this double off fairly well, because it doesn't really matter if I'm tired for the hill work, as pace isn't too important—it may well be better that I'm tired. 

Last week, I had 12 x 400m repeats on Monday, followed by a scheduled Wednesday/Thursday double of the variety described above.  The 400s went well, and the weather was decent.  However, we were then hit with 48+ hours of rain/wind/bullshit, and I had to juggle my workouts just to retain some semblance of the original plan.  I had aerobic power 1000m repeats scheduled for Wednesday, but with 30-40 mph winds coming from the north, I pushed them to Thursday.  Instead, I talked myself into getting out the door for hill work on Wednesday night.  I've been trying to take my hill preparations for the TNF 50 Champs seriously, as I didn't really have any focus on hills prior to TNF Wisco or UROC.  In other words, there's a lot of room for improvement.  In howling wind and rain, I headed up to the hill at North Pond and banged out 20 hill reps (running hard both up and down) in the dark, more than a little worried that a tree or large branch would fall on me at any moment.  Back at my apartment complex, I did a 3 mile uphill tempo on the treadmill at varying grades (7.5-15%) and speeds (anywhere from 5.5 to 8.5 mph).  Then I hit the stairwell for a number of trips up my 36 story building.   

This left the 1000m repeats on Thursday.  I did 10 x 1k at 3:00 w/ 1:1 rest a couple weeks ago and was hoping to do 12-15 this week.  However, the weather was still pretty bad (though not nearly as bad as Wendesday, which is why I swapped the days).  Additionally, I was not going into the workout fresh, which is far from ideal for a session where muscular endurance is one of the goals.  On a wet Lakefront path, with some solid wind, I managed 8 x 1k in about 3:05.  Not great, but better than nothing, and I felt like I had made about the most I could of a poor training situation. 

The Saturday prior, I did my only real "specific" run for the Lakefront 50 Mile that I have coming up on October 29.  The goal was 30-35 miles at 6:00 pace, or close to it.  The temperatures were decent, but the wind was pretty strong, which definitely slowed things down a bit.  I also didn't feel too great.  I ended up running 30 miles in about 6:15 pace.  I actually felt pretty awful about 15 miles in and slowed down a bit, but managed to average low sixes for the last 10 miles.  A good mental exercise in grinding it out a bit.  This is almost surely what the last of four 12.5 loops will be like at the Lakefront 50—a grind.  This workout wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but it wasn't too bad either.  I'm still hoping to race well this weekend, and wind up somewhere on this list.  There were a number of fast 50 miles this past weekend, with Mike Wardian running 5:33:46 on a tough course at Tussey Mountainback, picking up the USATF road championship and a CR by about 10 minutes.  Zach Bitter, whom I met at TNF Wisco, also cruised a nice 5:26:52 on the less-challenging (than Tussey) Door County Fall 50.  Still a very impressive time. 

"Somewhere there's a nice, sunny place with warm breezes and shady palms, where all the second-place guys train." —Bob Kennedy ad from the 90s