2014 Chicago Marathon Recap

My 2014 marathon scorecard will read something like this:

  • Marathon – 2
  • Craig – 0

After recording PBs in 6 of my first 7 marathons – the only non-PB was a win at the Mississippi Blues Marathon – I’m in an unfamiliar position. It’s the first time since I started doing marathons that I’ve gone over a year without seeing my times drop.

But if you think I woke up Monday morning worried that the sky was falling…think again.

Of course Sunday didn’t pan out exactly how I envisioned it would. And I’m definitely disappointed that I wasn’t able to see improvements in my marathon times this year – I invest too much time, sweat, and energy to not be. But I left the finish line on Sunday in surprisingly high spirits. Those last 8 miles were not at all easy. They were some of the hardest miles I’ve ever run, in fact. But I learned a little about myself during those 40 minutes. And in a strange way, just finishing that race was a huge accomplishment. Whatever it was when I crossed the finish line – relief or excitement – it felt good!

I knew I was toast at 18 miles. It’s pretty bad when you start hitting that marathon wall before you even reach the 20-mile mark, but there I was getting these shooting-type cramps in my calves and hamstrings before we even had Chinatown in our sights. There were several painful moments between miles 18-23 when I thought about just stepping off the course, but luckily I got some of the cramping under control by slowing down and running some 5:20s.

It’s devastating in that race moment when you know the goals that you have been working so hard for are no longer a reality. You look at your watch and see times that you aren’t used to seeing and there are these incredibly emotional moments when you question to yourself: “why bother?”. But since I had the cramping issue held at bay, I didn’t really have an excuse to stop running; if I would have quit, it would have been because I simply was not running well. So I had a little “suck it up” talk with myself around 23 and managed to salvage a respectable time and place on a day when I just didn’t have it.

So what went wrong? At this point, I’m chalking it up to a tactical error on my part. All indications were that the weather conditions on Sunday morning were going to be ideal for running fast – cool temps, no rain, and light winds. However, one of the first things I noticed when I peered out the window of our bus on the way to the start line were the freely blowing flags hanging from the buildings on Michigan Ave. Part of me wanted to believe that it was just a gust blowing through the tunnel of buildings. There was no way it could be windy; none of the forecasts had wind in them. But when we were warming up in Grant Park, it became evident that the wind was real, blowing in off of Lake Michigan.

I should have been smart enough to consider a slight adjustment to the game plan, but when the race started and I found myself running with Christo Landry and Stephen Pifer, I decided to still give it a go. We had all talked the night before about coming through the half somewhere between 65:45-66:00, so when we got out there and were working together, I think we all wanted to stay true to our word. We hit the opening mile in 5-flat and were right on pace. However, when we turned south on State street, we were met with that strong headwind. We passed mile 2 in 5:06. That should have been the red flag warning to throw time out the window and hang back a bit.

Pifer, Landry and I worked together to fight the wind as long as we could

Pifer, Landry and I worked together to fight the wind as long as we could

The lead pack of Kenyans and Ethiopians had originally planned to run their first half in 61:40; they ended up running 62:11 – 30 seconds slower than planned. Rather than just easing off slightly, we continued to fight the wind and the stretch from 7.5-13 ultimately zapped me (probably safe to say, us) of having the energy to run well over the last half of the race. So my conclusion, for now, is that the end result had nothing to do with the training leading into the race – everything was normal leading up to the race. Ultimately, I was working too hard, too early in that race.

It’s a tough lesson to learn. Especially when you know better and given that I only get to do this a few times a year. But if you saw me on Sunday you probably wouldn’t have noticed a difference between how I was acting this year (after running 2:16) and last year (after running my PR of 2:13:52). And that’s because I still have a lot to be happy about and thankful for.

I’m really pleased with the block of training I put together these past 12 weeks. The 1500 miles I ran in preparation for the Chicago Marathon has moved me forward as an runner. There’s no doubt in my mind that if I continue to string together training segments like this, I’ll see it payoff on race day in the future.

More importantly, I’m thankful for the incredible support team that I have. The confluence of Van Wert, Athens, and Eugene coming together in Chicago was nothing short of amazing. I’m sure the guys running around me got tired of hearing my name shouted from the sidewalks. When I got back to the hotel from the finish line, the entire fan club was basically creating a fire hazard outside the Hilton on Michigan Ave. When you come back to that, it’s hard to feel too bad about having an average race. It puts things in perspective.

The Compound Comes to Chicago

The Compound Comes to Chicago

The Ohio U. crew celebrating after the race

The Ohio U. crew celebrating after the race

Team Run Eugene does the Chicago Marathon: (L-R) Coach Ian Dobson, Alexi Pappas, myself, and Dan Kremske

Team Run Eugene does the Chicago Marathon: (L-R) Coach Ian Dobson, Alexi Pappas, myself, and Dan Kremske

So even though the 2014 Chicago Marathon was the slowest of the three Chicago Marathons I’ve run, I’m leaving the Windy City feeling all right. At the end of the day, life is good, running is still fun, and even the worst day of racing is better than not having the opportunity to be living out this dream.

**If you’d like a little insight on what happens on the day-before-running-26.2, check out Kevin Sully’s article “24 hours ’til 26 Miles: Craig Leon and the Chicago Marathon“.

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Chicago Marathon Mile Splits powered by Garmin

Split Time Cumulative Time Distance Elevation Gain Elevation Loss
1 5:00.2 5:00 0.82 13
2 5:06.2 10:06 1.08 11
3 4:57.2 15:04 0.92 20
4 5:00.1 20:04 1.04 15 3
5 4:57.9 25:02 1.02 7
6 5:00.2 30:02 1.01 3 10
7 5:01.3 35:03 1.01 6
8 5:06.2 40:09 1.03 9 11
9 5:05.1 45:14 1 10
10 5:07.3 50:22 1.01
11 5:01.2 55:23 1.03 5
12 5:05.0 1:00:28 1.01 7
13 5:03.7 1:05:31 1.03 11 5
14-15 10:00.9 1:15:32 2.03 7 7
16 4:58.9 1:20:31 .98 7 10
17 5:07.4 1:25:39 1.04 13 10
18 5:05.3 1:30:44 1.01
18 5:05.3 1:30:44 1.01
19 5:16.6 1:36:01 1.01 3
20 5:25.8 1:41:26 1.02
21 5:25.5 1:46:52 1.03 9 7
22 5:29.7 1:52:22 1.03 19
23-24 11:03.9 2:03:25 2.03 29 15
25 5:32.4 2:08:58 1
26 5:44.8 2:14:43 1.04 6 6
26.2 1:16.6 2:16:00 .22

A New Look and the 2014 Chicago Marathon

When I decided to leave Athens back in 2011 these things were all true:

  • • I would be quitting a job that I liked, forfeiting the salary and benefits that came with it.
  • • I was moving to Eugene, but I didn’t have a job or a place to live.
  • • I wanted to be a “professional” runner but had no contract or any real viable way to make a living at this new career choice.

    For all of the reasons above, plus countless others, you can probably understand why when I called my parents to tell them my grand plan I was greeted with a silence that would make a noiseless church congregation seem like a Metallica concert. I mean, crickets…

    Through the silence coming from the other end of the phone, I could hear the deafening sound of my Mom’s questions and concerns screaming aloud in her head. I took a huge risk, which is why bringing life to this project I’ve been working on for the past few months gives me such happiness and pride. Maybe more than any actual race. You see, this new website represents so much more than just a new look; it symbolizes the evolution of a dream into a career. It’s one of those entrepreneurial “I made it moments!” and it feels awesome!

    I truly believe that I have the two best jobs in the world: professional runner and industry outreach coordinator for the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. For the better part of the past year, I’ve been immersed around people who have a passion for sport business, sport marketing, and the power of branding. In addition to working with and learning from two of the best professional mentors anyone could ask for – Paul Swangard and Whitney Wagoner – another perk of my job is having the opportunity to listen to top industry execs speak to our MBA students.

    Much of this redesigned website is a byproduct of my day job. I’ve spent countless hours thinking about how professional runners – the collective we – need to do a better job running our businesses (no pun intended). Connecting with fans. Adding value to sponsors and races. Being ambassadors for running and a healthy lifestyle. Building a brand. All of these elements are all vitally important to professionalizing our sport in today’s business world. Running fast simply doesn’t move the needle.

    Pulling this together in time of Sunday's race kind of feels like Christmas morning - thanks, Boise!

    Pulling this all together in time of Sunday’s race kind of feels like Christmas morning – thanks, Boise!

    None of this would be possible without the person behind everything you see here today. To my friend, Jenny Ryan: thank you for making this thing a reality, and for teaching me how to write a little code – nerd alert! As I learned, building a website and then transitioning all of the old material to a new site is a task of marathon proportions. She did yeoman’s work making the launch of this thing prior to the Chicago possible! There’s no doubt she’s tired of getting emails and texts from me. We hope you like it!

    Speaking of Chicago, there’s a little race happening this Sunday. I guess you probably want some info on this weekend’s long run/workout: 26.2 miles @ marathon effort…

    Sunday's forecast

    Sunday’s forecast

    If you’ve followed some of my previous posts, then you know that everything has gone according to plan with my training these past few months. The goal of any training block is to make it to the start line healthy and fit. Well…mission accomplished. But all of that work can be for not if the weather doesn’t cooperate on race day. What’s the forecast for Sunday? Cloudy, temps in the upper 40s, and light winds. You couldn’t draw it up any better.

    I’m fortunate to be healthy and fit, the weather is shaping up to be ideal, and there will be a slew of guys to run with. Not to take anything away from any of the other fall marathons, but the Chicago Marathon race staff has put together the best, and deepest, field of American marathoners competing this fall. The race will also probably end up as the last time a field of US runners this good square off prior to the 2016 Olympic Trials in February. With everything coming together as such, I feel like I’m walking into a casino to play some blackjack with house money! There will be no excuses.

    How to follow along on Sunday:

    Start time is set for 7:30 a.m. (CST)

    Everyone’s favorite race day quipster, Aadam Soorma, will once again be providing live updates from the streets of Chicago through my Twitter account (@cleonrun) on Sunday morning. This is all entirely contingent on him surviving Homecoming in Athens on Friday and Saturday night – Go Bobcats!

    You can sign up for free athlete tracking here. I’ll be bib #19.

    If you’d like to watch the race, NBC 5 Chicago will provide complete live online coverage of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on race day from 7 – 11 a.m. More coverage here: nbcchicago.com

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  • Playing To Your Strengths

    Chicago marathoners: race week is finally upon us!

    I’m happy to report that all is well from the camp here in 1547937_947401245276614_7143933233464445583_oEugene and I’m eagerly looking forward to getting my feet on the ground in Chi-town. Over the last month, my training has been much of the same – in this instance, no news is good news. I was in Medford, Oregon 2 weeks ago for the Rogue Run Half Marathon, which served as a chance for one last marathon-effort tempo run. I did this same race last year and probably ran harder than I needed to, so in an effort to save up for my goal race, I made a conscious effort to run a much more controlled effort at a pace that I’ll be shooting for in Chicago next week.

    When I began training for the Chicago Marathon back in July, one of the goals for this block was to create a training schedule that played to my strengths. So often you hear athletes and coaches talk about working to address weaknesses, in the hopes that improvements in those areas will lead to faster times. While I see nothing wrong with this approach – I’ve done it myself in the past – I think there is some value in making the things you already do well, better.

    For me, this meant a renewed focus on long runs, longer threshold workouts, and high volume. I know that these are all areas of strengths for me, so Ian and I created a training schedule built around improving on these areas. Hopefully this translates into becoming a more efficient runner on race day, especially over the final 10k. The longer runs were longer and harder, and there were more of them. Over the past 18 weeks, I’ve run at somewhere between 20-30 miles during all but one of those weeks. The workouts were designed to build strength and I can point to several workouts during this block that were some of the best in my career. And finally, I’ll end up having run more miles during this marathon training block than any of my previous segments. If I were to grade how well the plan was executed, I’d give myself an A-. But I still have to take the final exam next Sunday before I can put anything definite on the report card!

    Stay tuned for some exciting news that I hope to be able share with y’all later this week!

    9/8-14 AM PM Total
    Monday 10 miles + S&C 6 miles 16
    Tuesday 3 mile warmup. 8 mile continuous alternating miles 5:20/5:00. 8 x 200m after. 3 mile cooldown. 15 miles total. 6 miles 21
    Wednesday 11 miles 6 miles 17
    Thursday 9 miles + S&C 5 miles + 7 x 150m striders 15
    Friday 3 mile warmup. 2 x 6 miles @ marathon pace, 3:00 rest. 3 mile cooldown. 18 miles 5 miles 23
    Saturday 11 miles 6 miles 17
    Sunday 22 miles OFF 22
    131

    9/15-21 AM PM Total
    Monday 11 miles + S&C 6 miles 17
    Tuesday 3 mile warmup. 24 x 400m, :30-:35s 100m jog rest. 3 mile cooldown. 12 miles total. 6 miles 18
    Wednesday 10 miles 7 miles 17
    Thursday 3 mile warmup. 5 mile tempo. 8 x 200m after. 3 mile cooldown. 12 miles total 6 miles 18
    Friday 9 miles OFF 9
    Saturday 6 miles + 8 x 100m striders OFF 6
    Sunday Rogue Run Half Marathon – 1:05:51 OFF 21
    106

    9/22-28 AM PM Total
    Monday 10 miles + S&C 6 miles 16
    Tuesday 11 miles 6 miles 17
    Wednesday 4 mile warmup. 12 x Hendricks Hill Loop. 4 mile cooldown. 12 miles total. 6 miles 18
    Thursday 10 miles + S&C OFF 10
    Friday 7 miles OFF 7
    Saturday 3 mile warmup. 3 x 3 mile, 2:00 rest. 3 mile cooldown. 15 miles total. 7 miles 22
    Sunday 20 miles OFF 20
    110

    9/29-10/5 AM PM Total
    Monday 9 miles + S&C OFF 9
    Tuesday 3 mile warmup. 4 x 400m / 2 mile tempo / 4 x 400m / 2 mile tempo / 4 x 400m. 3 mile cooldown. 5 miles 18
    Wednesday 10 miles 5 miles 15
    Thursday 9 miles + S&C OFF 9
    Friday 3 mile warmup. 8 mile cutdown run. 7 x 200m after. 3 mile cooldown. 5 miles 20
    Saturday 8 miles OFF 8
    Sunday 14 miles with 10 x :30 pickups OFF 14
    93

    September: The Month of Promises

    Hard to believe, but another summer has come and gone (or almost gone for those who are holding onto the fact that summer doesn’t officially end until Sept. 22nd!).  Seemingly without warning, we are starting to get hints of fall here in Eugene: shorter days, cool mornings, and even a little coloring in the trees.  Change is indeed a-coming.  These changes also bring with them promises of what lie ahead.

    From our earliest days as kids heading back for another year of school, September has always been a month of promises.  Entering the final 5 weeks before this year’s Chicago Marathon, those promises have taken on a new meaning.  Every run, and each workout, provide dreams of what could potentially be: a chance to be better than ever before come October.

    Team Run Eugene teammate, Dan Kremske, and I at last weekend's Wine Country Half Marathon.

    Team Run Eugene teammate, Dan Kremske, and I at last weekend’s Wine Country Half Marathon.

    There have been times during this pursuit when things don’t come easy and running isn’t always fun.  But a confluence of factors has made these last few months of training among the most enjoyable of my career.  Whatever is going on…it has me excited about the prospects of next month’s Chicago Marathon.

    The last two weeks of my training are below.  I’m not big on doing back-to-back weeks of high mileage, so after doing 150-miles a few weeks ago (8/11-17), I gave my legs a little rest from the volume during the last week of August before bumping things back up this past week.  This coming week will be the last time I go over 130 prior to the marathon; I like to start backing off 10-15% of the volume during the final month.  I’ve found that 110-125 miles per week is still high enough to where I don’t peak too early, but low enough to have my legs start feeling fresher for workouts and runs.  I’ll continue to tell anyone who is stupid enough to listen that being a good marathoner (runner) requires stringing together week after week of consistent training.  There are no off days in marathon training; you can take as much rest as you want and need after the race!

    8/25-31 AM PM Total
    Monday 12 miles 6 miles + 10 x hill sprint 18
    Tuesday 3 mile warmup. 4 x [3 x 800]. 200m in :45 between 800s, 400m between sets. 3.5 mile cooldown. 13 miles total. 6 miles 19
    Wednesday 12 miles 6 miles 18
    Thursday 12 miles OFF 12
    Friday 3.5 mile warmup. 4 mile cutdown; 8 x 200m. 4.5 mile cooldown. 13 miles total. 7 miles 20
    Saturday 10 miles OFF 10
    Sunday Wine Country Half Marathon (1:06:33). 3 mile warmup. 5 mile cooldown. 21 miles total. 5 miles 26
    123
     
    9/1-7 AM PM Total
    Monday 14 miles 7 miles 21
    Tuesday 12 miles 6 miles 18
    Wednesday 4.5 mile warmup. 12 x Hendicks Hill Loop. 4 mile cooldown. 13 miles total 7 miles 20
    Thursday 9 miles 6 miles 15
    Friday 3 mile warmup. 5 x 2 mile, 2:00 rest. 3 mile cooldown. 16 miles total. 6 miles 22
    Saturday 12 miles 6 miles 18
    Sunday 26 miles, with 10 x :30 on / :90 off during last 5 miles. OFF 26
    140

    Marathon of a training week

    When I posted my previous update last Sunday evening, I was somewhere above Colorado en route from Falmouth back to Eugene.  I wrote about how much I was looking forward to finally sleeping in my own bed and getting back to a regular routine.  Well, United Airlines had other plans for me.  Rather than arriving in Eugene late Sunday night, I didn’t make it back until Monday afternoon around 3:30pm thanks to 2 cancelled flights and a lengthy delay on flight #3.

    Certainly not the most ideal way to kick-off the biggest training week of my marathon block, but some things are out of your control.  Running 150 miles in a week is hard enough, so I wasn’t thrilled about beginning the week unnecessarily behind schedule.  I readjusted my goals for the week and chose to turn my focus to my two main workouts and if I ended up reaching my mileage goals, then great.

    What followed this week, surprised even me.  I went to do my hill circuit in Hendrick’s Park on Wednesday and ended up doing the most repeats I’ve ever done before (13 loops) then yesterday’s 30-mile long run / workout ended up being probably the best workout of my life.  The plan was to try and run 30 miles as follows: miles 1-5: easy, relaxed; miles 6-16: @ 6:00 pace; miles 17-18, relaxed; miles 19-24, alternating 5:00 / 6:00; miles 25-28, @ 5:10 average; 29-30, easy.  As you can see below, it went pretty much as scripted…maybe even better than planned.  30 miles @ 5:53 pace, with the last 12 averaging ~5:30 — now that’s a marathon workout!  Being able to nail a workout like this gives me a lot of confidence as the Chicago Marathon draws nearer.  Most importantly though, I woke up this morning feeling fine and the legs were good for an easy 14 miles.

    And despite the rough start to my week, I ended up reaching my goal of running 150 miles (*as long as I make it out the door for my afternoon run).  A lesson in life: you can either complain about the cards your dealt or you can work your ass off to change the narrative of the story that’s being written.  You get to control your attitude and outlook; make them performance enhancers, not inhibitors.

    I became tougher this week.  And a better runner.  One step closer to a breakthrough in Chicago.

    Distance Split Time Elevation Gain Elevation Loss
    1 mile 1 06:51.1 24
    1 mile 2 06:40.1
    1 mile 3 06:41.5 10
    1 mile 4 06:30.0 7
    1 mile 5 06:14.7 5
    1 mile 6 05:59.7 3 8
    1 mile 7 06:02.9 32 34
    1 mile 8 06:02.4 20 65
    1 mile 9 05:51.5 56
    1 mile 10 05:52.6 9
    1 mile 11 05:44.3
    1 mile 12 05:54.6 7 11
    1 mile 13 05:55.3 9
    1 mile 14 05:52.5
    1 mile 15 05:53.6 24 29
    1 mile 16 05:54.5 16 76
    1 mile 17 06:07.1 64
    1 mile 18 05:59.4 9 12
    1 mile 19 04:56.6 5
    1 mile 20 05:55.9 6
    1 mile 21 04:59.1
    1 mile 22 05:56.4 6
    1 mile 23 04:50.5 11 13
    1 mile 24 06:17.3 20 75
    1 mile 25 05:17.5 52 23
    1 mile 26 05:07.3 27
    1 mile 27 05:08.7 5 10
    1 mile 28 05:06.2 2
    1 mile 29 06:19.3 6 3
    1 mile 30 06:13.3
    0.01 31 :04.2
    30.01 Summary 56:20.0 389 407
    5:53 avg.
     
    8/18-24 AM PM Total
    Monday OFF 16 miles; 45 mins S&C 16
    Tuesday 14 miles 7 miles 21
    Wednesday 4 mile warmup. 13 x Hendrick’s Hill Loop. 5 mile cooldown. 15 miles total. 7 miles 22
    Thursday 13 miles; 45 mins S&C 8 miles 21
    Friday 13 miles 7 miles 20
    Saturday 30 mile long run / workout OFF 30
    Sunday 14 miles 6 miles 20
    150