Friday, October 28, 2016

2016 Chicago Marathon

Finish line - "Meh"
For my final running event of 2016, I ran the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Oct 9th. Which meant, among other things, a trip down memory lane (I lived in Chicago from 2007-2012) and a belly full of tasty regional grub.

Alex and I flew in Thursday, dropped our bags at our friends' apartment in Lakeview, and immediately hit up The Wiener's Circle for a Chicago dog with everything on it (but no ketchup, rookies). The days leading up to the event also consisted of Giordano's deep dish pizza, Big Bowl stir-fry, and all the Irish pub fare and Midwestern craft beer a boy could ever hope for. I tend to become a vacuous expanse leading up to running events, I'll admit it.

Blah blah carbo-loading blah blah glycogen. The truth is that I friggin' love to eat.

The morning of the race arrived. My pre-race ritual is very nebulous and unstructured. I sorta let my focus drift in and out. Sometimes I try to go through the course in my head mile by mile, but then other times I just let my eyes glaze over and check in with my body. Sunday was no exception. Alex came with me as usual to take care of the gear (an incredible support team of one. I dunno how she does it, seriously). We rode the train into downtown to avoid road closures and got to the starting corrals by around 6:15am.

The Chicago course is notoriously flat, and basically at sea-level, so I felt reasonably comfortable that I'd have a good race. I'll admit, I'm carrying a few extra pounds right now (shocker, based on my diet, right?), but my legs are probably stronger than they've ever been. Also, the weather was a perfect 50 degrees at the starting line with very little wind. The race got underway and, within the first couple miles, I could tell this race was gonna be...

...a problem.

Wait, what?

Yeah. A problem.

See, I felt fantastic out of the gate. So good, in fact, that my original race plan went quickly out the window. I had told myself to start at around an 8:05 min/mile pace and aim for negative splits, which would put me on track for a 3:25:00 marathon. But when I looked down at my watch after what felt like a slow, easy first mile and saw 7:46 staring back up at me, I got excited.

"Holy crap," I thought, stupidly. "I know I shouldn't keep up this pace, but that was too easy. Let's keep this pace and see if I can crush my PR!"

And, had I actually done that, I might have.

But I went full-idiot and did something worse: I sped up.

Wait...what?... No, that can't be right. My GPS watch just screwed up, right? Yeah, that's it. Don't let it go to your head, JVB. Just run your race.
....shit. That was a bad over-correction.

I reached the half-marathon marker on pace to finish with a 3:17:56 time. But I had over-exerted my body in the first half of the race, depleting my fuel too early, and I ultimately struggled hard to finish with a final time of 3:33:53.

Was it the worst result in the world? No.

Am I mad at myself for greedily sabotaging my own race even though I knew better? You bet your ass. This was my eighth marathon and I made a newbie mistake.

Am I done trying to push myself past my boundaries? Come on now, get real. ;-)


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

New Kicks on Doudy Draw

One of my goals as a runner is to escape the suburban streets when possible and run on the trails of Colorado. The scenery is better, the paths are more forgiving, and the elevation changes are much more drastic.

For my first trail run of the year, I decided to link up Doudy Draw and the Spring Brook Trail loop. It's a 5-mile course near Eldorado Canyon that's popular with hikers, mountain bikers, and even horseback riders. It only nets about 580 ft of vertical gain (most of which comes in the first two miles), but it's still a lot more challenging than anything I find in Broomfield.

In the past, when I've gone trail running, I've simply thrown on an old pair of street running shoes and hit the dirt. However, this always lead to me slipping on loose dirt and rocks every time I tried to move laterally. The last thing I want is to lose my footing while I'm bombing down a trail, so I decided I'd better get some appropriate off-road shoes.

I used an REI gift card and nabbed a pair of Salomon Speedcross 3 shoes that looked like their tread could rip your face off. But when I got on the trail with them they performed beautifully. They're lightweight, responsive, and they grip the trail nice and tight. I'm stoked to take them out again on some trickier terrain to see how they perform.

Overall, the run went pretty well! I completed the loop in just a little over 47 minutes and felt strong the whole way. This is definitely one I'll be revisiting! The scenery is a lovely combination of grassy open meadows and ponderosa pine stands. Routes like this remind me why it's so much more enjoyable to get out and run in nature as opposed to on pavement. I can't wait to do it again!

Monday, May 23, 2016

2016 Colfax Marathon

Mile-High Salute to my Broncos, baby!
On May 15th I ran the Colfax Marathon. It was my first time running the entire course, having done the first leg of the marathon relay in 2015. You can view my specifics on Strava here.

I got to Denver City Park at about 4:45 AM to find parking. I'm glad I arrived as early as I did, because the lots were already starting to fill up. But with a starting line with thousands of participants, I suppose you have to expect some parking difficulties, right?

The weather was super agreeable; about 45 degrees at the start with no real wind to speak of. The entire morning never got above 55 degrees, which made for incredibly pleasant running. I had a cheap sweatshirt that I wore to stay warm before the start, but I tossed it before we even began.

I rant the first few miles at a comfortable 8:25/mi. Looking back, it may have been prudent to go a bit slower out of the gate, but that early race adrenaline had me pretty amped. By mile 9, a lingering glute strain began to bother me a little, but it wasn't anything painful, so I was able to work my way through it by the end of the Sloan's Lake leg of the course.

Miles 12-15 climbed about 200 ft, which looking back isn't that much, but it certainly felt like a challenge at the time. I remember thinking, "Dammit, go away hills!" Again, looking back, I probably should have gone up the hills a little bit slower to save some gas in the tank for the last few miles, but I knew that miles 17-20 were nicknamed the "Screaming Downhill" leg, so I figured I'd make up some time there.

But I was wrong. My body just didn't want to scream down the hill by that point. I managed to maintain an average pace of about 8:27/mile on the downhill, but if you adjust that based on the grade %, the numbers tell you what my body was saying: "Fuuuuugh..."

And then mile 21 hit and I experienced the sudden slow-down that I usually suffer at that point in marathons. It's like clockwork. I watched my pace drop off like a rock. 8:27 became 9:00. Then 9:05. Then 9:21. I watched the 3:45 pacer run past me near 23.5 miles and there wasn't much I could do about it. By the time I crossed the finish, I was struggling to run a 10:07/mi pace.

My final time was officially 03:46:14, which breaks down to a pace of 8:37/mi. It was slower than I had been hoping to run, but it was hard to be too disappointed. And my recovery time was quicker than it's ever been, so I'll take that as a huge victory.

Next up: Chicago Marathon in October. A pancake-flat course near sea-level.

Bring it on.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

New Gear

I've been trying to step up my running game lately in preparation for what will eventually be my first ultra-marathon (I was hoping that race would happen this fall, but I got into the Chicago Marathon, so I'll be looking for an ultra most likely next Spring). In that spirit, I finally caved and decided to pick up a GPS/heart-rate watch to assist with training.

I've been rocking a Fitbit Charge for about a year and a half, but with this new device, I wanted something that would do more. The fact of the matter is that I really don't need a step-tracker. I get my steps in nearly every day. My goals don't revolve around steps, they revolve around mileage. And Fitbit doesn't really track mileage the way I'd like it to. So, after very careful research, I opted for the Garmin Forerunner 230. I won't go into too much detail about why I chose that one, other than to say it seemed to have everything I wanted at a reasonable price.

I'm thrilled that I won't have to run with my iPhone strapped to my arm anymore! No more chafey armband, no more bulky technology.

Ultimately, I'd like to start running without music, too. Lately I've found both the headphones and the music to be more an annoyance than anything else. Plus, you don't see too many ultra-runners rocking earbuds. Whatever zen they've found with their own thoughts, I want to find that, too.

The gadget gets here tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Alright, Break Time's Over!

I just wrapped up my first run in about three weeks. Why the break? Well, after running the Lucky Laces 10k earlier this month, I had a little bit of plantar fascia irritation for about a week. Oh, and I got a cold. And there was a blizzard. And I wrecked my legs installing new floorboards in our house. And yadda-yadda-yadda...

I tend to get down on myself when setbacks occur. My self-esteem plummets and I get really angry with myself. At those times, my healthy eating habits tend to fly out the window, too.

Instead of beating ourselves up when things happen, let's instead try forgiving ourselves. "It's okay, buddy. Even the pros take breaks. When you're ready, get back out there and have some FUN!"

Man, wouldn't it be great? No more guilt. No more shame. No more regret.

The weather is great and I'm feeling healthy and happy. Let's do this! :-)

P.S. - The picture is from our neighbor's front yard. We've heard chainsaws all week and figured they were just cutting down the dead trees. Turns out...they're making BEARS! Hell yeah!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Mallory Cave

It's been a pretty mild Winter in Colorado this year, so Alex and I decided to finally take advantage of the sunshine and hit the trails for some easy hiking in Boulder on Sunday. We decided to hike to Mallory Cave.

We reached the trailhead at around 11:30AM. Instead of braving the weekend crowd at Chautauqua, we parked in the expensive neighborhoods near 17th and King and started our hike on the Four Pines Trail. This turned out to be a solid choice. Parking was a whole lot easier and the trail itself was less crowded. We really didn't see many other folks until we linked up with the Mesa Trail later on.

The first stretch or Four Pines is relatively steep, so we were huffing and puffing a bit while our legs got used to the effort. But once we branched off onto the Koehler Mesa Trail, the terrain mellowed out significantly and we really got to enjoy the shade of the pines.

Once we linked up with Mesa Trail, it went from quiet and serene to frat-guy-central. I'm not a snob by any means, but it sorta puts a damper on the afternoon when these huge groups of loud college kids go storming around the trails. But that's the price of hiking on the weekend, I suppose.

We didn't encounter any snow or mud the entire afternoon (a testament to the dryness around here the past few weeks), and the final stretch of rocks leading up to the cave was pretty easy to scramble up. It was about 1:15 when we got there. There are bars over the entrance to the cave to protect the bat population from disease, but the view of the Front Range is pretty good from there. We pounded some protein bars and turned around just as a huge group of college kids came bounding up over the rocks. Needless to say we got the heck outta there.

Alex and I made it back to the car by around 3PM. We used trekking poles for extra stability on most of the descent, but they weren't necessary. The West End was calling our name, so we chilled downtown on their rooftop bar with cold drinks and good grub before heading back to the 'burbs.

Springtime in Colorado is just the best.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Lucky Laces 10k 2016

I'm not typically a person you'll find celebrating St. Patrick's day with a gallon of green beer. But give me a race to run and I'll be there faster than you can say "Shillelagh!" This time around, it was the Lucky Laces 10k with good friend and fellow runner Laura Adducci. I hadn't run a 10k in a couple years, so I was eager to join her for some fun in City Park.

3...2...1...GO. I started with Laura near the rear of the corral, but managed to weave my way into some free space by the time I reached the first mile-marker. From here, I cruised at just under a 7:00/mi pace. The weather couldn't have been more agreeable, and my legs felt surprisingly strong (I had just come off a 20-miler two days prior).

There's really no bad-assery to speak of on my end. I wound up finishing 16th overall in a field of about 400, so I felt pretty good about that, but the real winner of the day was Laura! This was her first 10k and she finished strong! I was super impressed with her tenacity and spirit.

We hit up Annie's Cafe afterward to enjoy some brunch and post-race glory. The biscuits and gravy were on point.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Hello....It's Me...

Hi! I'm Joe Von Bokern. I'm somebody who really enjoys running and hiking, and I've created this blog to chronicle my adventures here in Colorado.

I've run a handful of marathons across the country, and I hope to complete an ultra-marathon in the near future. This blog is where I'll tell stories about training, races, hikes, diet, and inspiration on the road to...uh...wherever it is I'm headed!

The reason I decided to call this blog Breaking 'Burbs is because that's exactly what I'm doing. My lovely wife and I live in the quiet suburbs of Denver, surrounded by a whole lot of good folks. It's a comfortable existence, but it's easy to get sucked into the belief that happiness is being a fat, lazy consumer. Here, success is often measured by the numbers on a bank statement, or the car in a driveway.

I want to measure my success in the miles I've run. In the summits I've reached. In the finish lines I've crossed. In the self-doubts I've shattered.

Maybe nobody will read this, but that's alright. I'm doing this mostly for myself anyway. But if you are reading this, then I hope you enjoy it!