Monday, January 25, 2016

F3 Half Marathon

I've been laying low for the most part since completing Route 66 back in November. It took me quite awhile to get back to feeling normal after beating my legs to pulp with all those races and then getting sick. The original idea for F3 was to be a benchmark and tune up for running the Phoenix Marathon in February. Well things didn't go all according to plan.

F3 had a later than normal start compared to most races with it kicking off at 10AM just outside of Soldier Field. I left with plenty of time to get down to the start and was supposed to meet people to get pictures beforehand. Fate had different plans for me. First the Brown Line train kept experiencing delays and kept getting held. Finally after several stops they announced that the train would likely be turning around at Merchandise Mart since the bridges into the loop were raised. Everyone groaned and I dashed off the train in search of other means. Luckily we were stopped on Chicago so I hoofed it the 5 blocks over to the Red Line and took that down to Roosevelt. Once there I didn't see any sign of a 146 bus so I started high tailing it over to Soldier Field along with some other runners. Once at the stadium there was a lack of signage on where we needed to go. The volunteers getting ready on the course didn't even seem sure. Finally after several dead ends I found the United Club and made it in just as everyone was starting to come out to get into the corrals.

I'm already sweating and my heart is racing from my pre-race dash. I fought through the crowds and finally got to gear check. Luckily I was mostly prepped so I just threw things in my bag and headed back into the stream of people. I also lucked out that one of the bathrooms was devoid of lines so I was able to hit that real quick on the way as well. There were a couple thousand people trying to get through one set of double doors so it took quite awhile to get outside and into the corrals. I made it with just enough time to acquire GPS signal and re-tie my shoes. After the national anthem we were sent off in waves 2 minutes apart. I was in the 2nd wave.

As my wave bolted out of the gate I managed to keep up with the lead runners. I think the adrenaline from rushing to get to the race had me going. I had no idea what pace I was running since I had my watch set to track my HR, which was higher than expected at the time and I hoped it was a glitch. It wasn't. First mile was completed in 6:59 and the second mile in 7:00.

After the first couple miles I slowed myself a bit to keep from completely crashing. I knew if I had kept the early pace up I would of had a meltdown before the race was over. I probably used up a little too much of my fuel hurrying to the start and was paying for it. Also going against me was the holiday weight gain which I still haven't dropped yet and the fact that I bruised my quadriceps a few days before the race and was still tender. Imagine my surprise when I saw Pete heading the other way when I was nearly to turnaround. I'd never been that close to him in a race before, but he sped up and I slowed down.

The 2nd half of the race was tough. My legs were being less and less agreeable. I had to slow my pace to keep the heart rate under control. I was in no man's land a lot of it which is tough. I couldn't try and reel other runners in. By the time I finished the 12th mile I had run my slowest split of 8:19, but saw that a sub 1:40 time was still in reach if I ran the last 1.1 miles in 8:30. I dug in and held on for dear life. At the 13 mile mark I saw that I still had about 45 seconds left and yet the finish seemed so far away still. I put everything I had into the finish.

Crossing the finish line I spotted Pete who managed to get a picture of me. I stopped my watch a little late at 1:40:02 so I knew it was close. I got my medal, chugged a gatorade, and grabbed a water bottle and headed over to where Pete was. I knew from after the turnaround that Charlyn and Mo were about a half mile or so behind me. It wasn't long before we cheered both on as they crossed. We took a couple pictures and then headed back inside to warm up.

Once inside I picked up my stuff from gear check and talked to some other runners I knew. Mo and I were going to head to Reggie's for the after party. There were shuttles which made it convenient. We stopped at the table that had results available and I found out that I just hit my made up in race goal with a time of 1:39:59. I had thought that was my 3rd best time, but it's actually my 2nd fastest half marathon. I do have a few half splits from marathons that were faster, but those don't quite count. Once at Reggie's we enjoyed some Goose Island and a bunch of kids playing Nirvana and Foo Fighters tunes.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Year in Review

After joining the Marathon Maniacs towards the end of 2014, I decided that I was going to live up to that status in 2015 and followed through in a pretty big way. I spent the year completing 9 marathons and a 50 miler while covering 10 different states. I will finish the year with 2,000 miles running which is a huge step up from my previous high of 1477.

January - I kicked off the year by going down to Disney and running in the Dopey Challenge. I survived running a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon in that order. My time for the full wasn't even awful. This was a great confidence builder for the year to come.

February - I spent all month running like crazy on the treadmill. I was doing 50 mile weeks. I even had a short span where I was eating clean. I was feeling confident for an upcoming PR attempt at the marathon.

March - On the first day of the month I ran in the Little Rock Marathon. This was not supposed to be my PR attempt, but to date it has been my fastest marathon. I did everything wrong for this race - no taper, 11 hour drive, ate like crap, ran a hilly course, but it all worked out in the end. I took the new found confidence in speed into my next few races only to flame out in the 2nd half. I also ran Circular Logic in March, which was supposed to be the actual PR attempt and found myself way ahead of PR pace halfway in before flaming out in the 2nd half. Not bad for being only 4 weeks after the actual PR. I then ran Shamrock Shuffle the next day and didn't completely suck so that's a bonus.

April - The month was a bit of a struggle fest as I tried to recover from the dual marathons of March and shifted gears and attempted to break 20 minutes in the 5K. I ran the Good for Life Race and Ravenswood 5k getting times in the 20:XX range for both of them which were both PRs, but not that glorious sub 20 I had hoped for.

May - I originally planned to run the full in Wisconsin, but stuck to the half and was glad I did on a warm day. Stomach cramps kept me from running my best, but I still set a new half PR with the fitness gained from the crazy marathoning. Memorial Day weekend saw a fun trip to Traverse City for the spectacular Bayshore Marathon followed by lots of breweries and passing out early. Oh and then I closed on a condo and moved in.

June - Ragnar happened again. I was in a van full of girls again. I also kicked off goal marathon training having picked out Twin Cities as my fall goal race.

July - I did or didn't break 20 min at Strike Out ALS 5K depending on who you ask. The official results have me at 20:00 even, but my own watch which I thought I stopped a bit after the finish line had me at 19:59.9. I also headed to Colorado and ran the gorgeous Aspen Valley Marathon. The altitude was a little rough at the start, but I found myself doing pretty well for a flat lander.

August - The month of struggles. I had to deal with re-building after a hamstring strain likely caused by compensating for sore quads that were beat up by running downhill in Aspen. I also went to Lollapalooza for the first time ever and saw Paul McCartney for the 2nd time. I also saw the Foo Fighters at Wrigley which was amazing.

September - I was back on track for the most part and set a huge new PR in the Lung Run 10K. It was a windy day on a crowded lakefront course so there's likely improvements still to be had. I did 2 5Ks and the 10K in an 8 day window and wound up getting sick, uh oh.

October - The craziness begins. I was still reeling from being sick and didn't do well in Twin Cities. It didn't help that I also twisted my ankle early in the race. Somehow I managed to heal pretty quickly and still ran my first ever 50 miler at the DPRT just 2 weeks later. If I thought my first marathon was tough, oof, the first 50 miler beat me up.

November - The month kicked off with the Milwaukee Running Festival marathon and my legs were just not ready for the hills. I started off well enough, but struggled into the finish. Just 2 weeks later and I was in Vegas running in the wind and rain - wut? Another struggle fest, but followed by lots of fun. I managed to get sick in time to run Route 66 the following weekend. I didn't run my worst time ever which is always a bonus.

December - I've been racking up miles on the treadmill, slowly rebuilding and trying to get enough mileage in to hit that 2K mark. Just one last 3 mile run on New Years Eve and I'll be there.

All in all 2015 was a pretty epic year. Hopefully 2016 is just as good or better. I've already registered for a number of marathons, though not as many as this year. I learned some lessons and limitations of what I'm able to do. Here's to staying injury free and crossing off more states!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Race Recap: Route 66 Marathon

When I last left you I was a bit weary and wind battered by the RnR Vegas Marathon. I stayed in Vegas for the rest of the week and continued on with my shenanigans. Towards the end of the week I could feel illness coming on. I flew out Friday morning to head to Tulsa, OK and by the time I arrived I knew it wasn't going to be a pretty weekend. I took the shuttle to my hotel, found a nearby Subway, grabbed a sandwich and called it a day.

On Saturday I slowly gathered myself and my strength, which was definitely fleeting, and got an Uber over to the race expo. When I entered the expo hall I was immediately alarmed by how long the lines are. I sighed, and got in line, but it actually moved fairly quickly. There wasn't any division for picking up bibs, it was just go to next available person. I feel like things go quicker when there is an alphabet or bib number division. Packet pick up was definitely longer than most races I've run. I wandered around the expo a bit and picked up my bracelet for the Maniacs corner and got myself a new Maniac shirt while I was at it. I found an excellent BBQ place nearby, Rib Crib, and managed to barely eat a couple bones of ribs and some brisket. I then headed back to the hotel to barely move again.

Race morning I was feeling marginally better. I think a lot of it had to do with race day adrenaline. My hotel had a shuttle to the start that I jumped on and it took us to the wrong drop off point. Luckily I spotted Amanda and Jude and we found a bus to the start. Next we had to find the Maniac Corner which wasn't too hard. We all huddle up frozen by the unseasonable cold temps. Luckily the corner had our own gear check so we could hold on to our jackets for a bit longer. Soon Mo popped up and then after that we all headed over for the ginormous Maniac group picture.

Mo, Judy, and myself were all in the A corral. Judy was going to drop back to run with Amanda, but they were actually strict about enforcing corrals. We huddle towards the back of the corral with no one planning on running fast. It didn't take long before we were on our way and up our first hill.

The course rolled and turned early on. I knew to expect it to be hilly, but I didn't realize how much it actually rolled. The support was definitely solid along the course. I started wondering when I would start to see the bootleg booze aid stations I kept hearing about before the race. Sure enough at mile 4 there was a rickety table set up with a sign that said free shots and I noticed handles of Bacardi and Smirnov on the ground nearby. It was definitely too early to do a shot, but if there was ever a race to drink, it's the 5th marathon in 7 weekends, right?

I refrained from grabbing a shot and kept running along with Mo. We had lost Judy at some point. Mo said she wasn't going to drink until at least mile 10, but soon broke that. At mile 9 there was a table full of jello shots so she grabbed one and I grabbed a craft beer from the table next to it. It was a bit hoppy, but went down pretty well. I kept with Mo until around the halfway point and then I needed to use the facilities and told her I'd see her at Maniac Corner. I wound up with some stomach distress and stopping again a few miles later before finally settling down. At some point there was a shopping cart full of PBR and people handing out cups, so of course I had to grab one of those as well.

I cruised along for awhile and met Sabrina, who is in charge of organizing the pace groups for Marathon Maniacs. Somewhere around mile 20 or so my legs decided they were about done and I started walking the uphills. At mile 22 there was the "party zone" where a local frat set up a table with Guinness, mimosas, M&Ms, pickles, etc. I grabbed a mimosa and enjoyed it. The next 4 miles were a bit of a struggle, but I trekked on. Just after mile 26 is a unique feature that this race offers called the Detour to the Center of the Universe. I have no idea what that's all about, but if you add 0.3 miles to your race you can get a medallion and a beer. I was down.

I made the turn for the Detour and it was a nice steep uphill to start before an equally steep downhill. I make it to the bottom and grab my beer. At this point I had realized that if I picked up the pace just a little I could finish the race without getting my worst time ever, even with the detour. Even though I was handed roughly half a solo cup of Michelob Ultra, which face it, it's basically water anyways, I quickly chugged it and stormed back up the hill. Somehow I didn't puke and picked up my medallion and was on my way. I didn't want to stick the medallion in my pocket for fear of losing it so I held it in my hand for the last bit of the race. As we neared the finish area I saw the Bart Yasso was on the course with a microphone cheering on the runners to the finish line. I came storming in with all I had left and Bart gave me a hear comes a Maniac cheer as I ran by.

I managed to cross the finish in roughly 90 seconds faster than my all time worse. Not bad for how beat up and sick I was. I ignored most the amenities at the finish since the Maniacs had their own tent and goodies. I wish I had picked up some snacks though since there wasn't as much at the tent as I though. Just beer and pulled pork. After getting my gear, medal, and polishing off a Pepsi I found Mo and we caught the shuttle back to my hotel to shower before heading to the airport. Thankfully the race negotiated 3PM checkouts.

With the gauntlet of races complete, I now have a better understanding of how much my body can handle. I made it through injury free, except for the sore ankle for a bit after Twin Cities. I just had to deal with being super sick for 2 weeks after the races. I should have known better since the dry air in Vegas always messes with my sinuses and then Route 66 while knowing I was already sick didn't help at all. Would I do it again? Most definitely, but maybe not with such an intense stretch of races. I seem to do OK with marathons a week or 2 apart, but I think the 50 miler as the 2nd race definitely put me for a loop.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

RnR Las Vegas 2015 Recap

The Rock and Roll event in Las Vegas has quickly become an annual event for me. This is the 3rd time I have gone as a runner and the 2nd time I've run the full marathon. I mean it's Las Vegas and I love visiting Vegas.

I arrived in town very early on Saturday, taking the earliest flight out of Chicago. This is both good and bad since anticipation means I barely sleep on Friday night. I've got the routine down now at the airport and was quickly able to grab my bag and book a shuttle to my hotel. I was staying at the MGM Grand this year which is the largest hotel in Vegas. I got there and waited in a short line before being helped. I splurged on early check-in which normally allows you to check-in at 10AM, but they were kind enough to give me a room a little after 9AM. I headed up and dropped my stuff off before changing and heading down to the workout room for a quick session on the treadmill.

Once Mo and J arrived in town, I headed over to New York - New York to meet up with them were we grabbed lunch at Shake Shack before taking the monorail up to the Expo Center.  The Expo for this race is what I would call organized chaos. It's big, noisy, and crowded, but we were able to grab our bibs and shirts without waiting too long. We made a quick stroll through the expo before the crowds got to us. From there we went and explored the SLS as none of us had been there yet before heading to the Linq and TAG Sports Bar for some video poker and craft beers. I set a new PR for the amount of beer drank the day before a marathon. I knew I'd be paying for it, but didn't really care since this wasn't a race I was doing for time.

On Sunday we spent most of the early part of the day at the Time Square Bar sucking down cokes, playing video poker, and watching all the football games. Eventually we headed over to Americas for lunch before I headed back to my room to chill until race time. There's something about a 4:30 PM start that throws you off a bit, but it's nice to have that time to just chill out and take a nap if you want. Soon enough I was getting dressed and making my way down to the start. Along the way I made friends with a couple girls from Milwaukee who were completely at a loss for where to go. Also picked up bits of sound from the Kid Rock concert along the way.

I found Mo waiting near corral 7. I went and used the facilities one last time before we jumped into the corral and waited for the start. There were announcements about having the option to switch to the half if we wanted due to the wind conditions. We looked at each other and were like "huh?" since it didn't seem all that bad out. It wasn't long before we were off and running. We stayed nice and steady early on. Once we looped around the Welcome to Las Vegas sign and headed back north the wind did start to pick up, but it was blowing across instead of directly into our faces. It was blowing a considerable amount of sand at us, but luckily the large casinos blocked most of that.

It wasn't long before we felt a few drops and the sky looked very ominous. We pass by J and Mo's dad on the bridge and I looked foolish for a couple of pictures. Running along the strip early in the race is very crowded, but we made our way along. It wasn't long before the skies opened up and it started raining. Yes, in Las Vegas, during the marathon we experienced rain and it wasn't just a sprinkle either. We kept ticking off the miles at a very steady pace and I let Mo know that if we kept this up we would have her 2nd sub-4 hour marathon. This is when she let me know she wasn't feeling it and was ready to drop down to the half, which she did eventually do.

After the course split I used the facilities as has become tradition as well. I felt better and picked up the pace for a bit. I did notice that the mile marker seemed to be about 0.2 miles off after being fairly on point according to my watch earlier in the race. I cruised along until we hit a steady uphill out and back section where I slow my pace a bit. Once I hit the turnaround ready to enjoy the downhill the wind hit me hard. It would be unrelenting for most the rest of the way to the finish.

The back half of the Vegas course isn't very exciting. They throw some lights up in sections and have some DJs and whatnot, but it doesn't hold the same thrill as running down the strip. I periodically chatted with other runners to help keep the spirits up. My splits slowly faded, but I grew too stubborn to slow to a walk. There was a band that was playing Blitzkrieg Bop around 23.5 that helped get me going again and I pushed my way down the last 3 miles before finishing. The course did wind up being 0.2 miles long as confirmed by other runners so it wasn't just me. I hurt right after finishing since pushing through that brutal wind didn't help at all. I was glad to be done though and the 4:04:53 could have been much much worse.

I'm signed up already for next year and will be ready for redemption.

Awesome PBR Neon downtown Vegas

Sadly I do get hangovers

Great local brewery

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Milwaukee Running Festival Recap


That was all my inner monologue was saying just over 4 miles into the marathon for the Milwaukee Running Festival.

Things started easy enough.  I drove up to Milwaukee with Jennifer after work on Friday. We got to our hotel then went and found food. On Saturday we got up and I got a short jog in on the treadmill before we headed over to the Harley Davidson museum for the expo and packet pickup. It was a cold and rainy day which didn't bode well. We caught Harry along the way and made plans for getting dinner together with him and Tiffany. Once at the expo we had to fight through a bit of a crowd as it had just opened. There were peoples still around from the mile run, plus they were having trick or treating for the kids.

The expo was in a smaller building on the Harley campus. It didn't take too long to walk to the far end to get packets, even with fighting through the crowds. After getting our packets we headed over to find Mo working at the Ragnar booth and got some goodies. I also met 2 of my future teammates. Soon Chris found us and we found out we got free admission to the museum so we headed over to check that out to kill some time.

From Terminator 2 and Easy Rider

We then got lunch at Marquette and did some shopping to kill time. After a stop back at the hotel to chill out for awhile we headed out to meet up with Harry, Tiff, and Chris to grab some pizza. We ate and a NYC style place called Brick 3 which worked out since it allowed everyone to enjoy their own preferences for slices. We then moved down the street for a drink and socialize some more. We wound up in a New Orleans bar of all places and I had a Chocolate Weisse from Abita.

Race morning came early, but not as early with the clocks rolling back. We decided to walk to the start of the race since it was less than a mile away. It was still chilly out, but no longer raining. The start of the race was near Summerfest and a bit chaotic. The lines for the bathrooms were crazy long so I didn't get a chance to go before the race started since I had to stand in a long line for gear check instead. I saw my old Ragnar teammate Krista just outside the corrals and talked to her a bit before lining up to start. I had optimistically lined up with the 3:30 pacers knowing that I was capable of that time, but didn't realize how far along my body was in recover from the 50 miler 2 weeks prior.

Once we were off and running I felt comfortable keeping with the pace group. Things ticked off pretty smoothly and I saw restrooms just past mile 2 and so I used them to much relief. Once I got done I may have unwisely picked up the pace a bit to re-gain some ground that I lost. It felt ok, and then past mile 3 we hit the first big hill of the race. I trucked up it, but it started to get to me near the top. My quads were crying out in pain and I already knew I was going to be in trouble for the rest of the race. From here on I slow my pace just hoping to survive.

The miles ticked off fairly steadily and I just tried to hold things together. The course definitely rolled which didn't help. We finally reached the split for the full and the half and I contemplated cutting things short, but couldn't bring myself to do that and so trucked on. After the split we had another long hill that I somehow managed to run all the way up. This would pretty much be the last hill that I ran up. The rest I had to walk.

As the race went on my pace just slowed and slowed. I had to walk more and more as my legs had nothing in them. I was completely spent. I finally spotted Krista and Mo while on one of the out and backs and knew they weren't too far behind. Krista passed me just before mile 20 and Mo caught up just after. We were at the 3 hour mark so I told Mo she only needed to run a 10k in less than an hour and she had this. That last 10K took me an hour and 14 minutes.

I really struggled to get the last few miles done. I could barely get the legs moving. I was at a point where my quads were so wrecked that even the downhills hurt. I grit my teeth and kept moving. I tried smiling for the cameras as I went past, but it was hard to hide the pain. I somehow turned a waddle into a jog for the homestretch and finished in my 2nd worst time of 11 marathons. I am human after all. There was quite the spread of treats in the finishing chute including water, chocolate milk, bananas, pretzels, granola bars, and even chocolate chip cookies. A lady tried to give me one, but I already had my hands completely full. That made me sad.

I was lucky enough to catch a pedicab back to the hotel and showered before checking out. The next mission was to get ribs. I was hungry and deserved it.

Friday, October 23, 2015

DPRT 50 Miler Recap

Ever since I was reborn as a runner 4 years ago I've been on a mission to improve and better myself. The distances raced, the volume of miles, etc. have all gradually increased. I'm even racing with a greater frequency. Some would call me crazy, but I love it.  After a string of 6 marathons in 6 months spanning October to March I decided the next challenge would need to happen and that was an ultra.

I chose to run the DPRT 50 Mile event since I had some familiarity with the trails and the timing was pretty good for spacing my races out and likelihood of good weather. I fielded a lot of questions about why I jumped straight into a 50 miler rather than stepping up to a 50K first. I just thought why not? I put in a enough mileage this summer to not be too worried about finishing. I just had to deal with still recovering from being sick.

The race was to take place on Saturday, October 17th. I briefly contemplated going to the office on that Friday and then staying at the host hotel since that would be super convenient. Instead I opted to do my usual work from home and would just get up early to head up to Vernon Hills. I'm glad I did this since I know I would of forgotten something vital had I not. Although to be fair I barely used anything I brought with me, more on that later.

I didn't get nervous for the run until the day before. I think the enormity of it finally set in. I calmed myself by going around and gathering everything I need so it would be ready in the morning.
-Maniac shirt
-Under Armour shorts
-Brooks socks
-Maniac buff
-Roadrunner arm warmers
-Nike sprint gloves
-Cheap sunglasses
-Mizuno Inspire 11 shoes
-Nathan HPL 20 hydration vest
-Accel Gel (chocolate flavored)
-Honeystinger Waffles
-Simply Balanced Fruit Strips

I was up at 4AM and got myself together and then drove to Half Day Forest Preserve. Luckily the 50 mile runners were permitted to park near the start of the race while the other distances had to take a shuttle from a remote lot. It was cold out, just about 33 degrees. I had all my layers on as I made my way over to check in and pick up my packet. I used the facilities and then headed back to the car to stay warm and prep for the next 30 minutes. About 15 minutes before the start I headed back to the start area. All the runners were huddled around several fire pits and we received our instructions for the race. The race started in 3 waves a couple minutes apart to help keep the trail from clogging.

I was off in the 2nd wave. The early going was trying to find an appropriate pace. Eventually another marathon maniac came up beside me and we chatted a bit as we did an out and back south for the first 3.2 miles. These early miles felt easy, but I knew not to over do it. The one thing I didn't do was drink enough. With as cold as it was I definitely wasn't perspiring as much, but didn't realize the rigors that lay ahead. I finally parted ways with the other Maniac at an aid station 7 or 8 miles in. The aid stations were spaced pretty far apart, but were well stocked compared to most races. I kept doing shots of M&Ms since they would portion them out in little cups. There would also be things like pretzels, chips, trail mix, oreos, coke, mt dew, water, gatorade, pb&j, grilled cheese, and pickles. I was definitely overwhelmed and didn't know what to really do at my first few aid stops.

I continued to churn out miles at a pace I thought I could maintain. It was slower than what I had trained at all summer so I thought I was good to go. I didn't factor in the fatigue from the marathon 2 weeks prior, or the lingering illness in my system. As the miles ticked off I soon began to get excited for the prospect of Mo joining me around mile 15. I was sad when I came to the aid station around mile 15 and hadn't seen her. I checked my phone for messages and had none. I trekked on. Eventually I did find Mo waiting for me just past mile 16 and she was ready to jump in. The boost of energy and morale support was definitely welcome.

The miles kept climbing and Mo kept talking. We kept on pace and I was feeling good through the supposed first wall at mile 18. It wasn't until around mile 23 that I felt the first signs of fatigue. The other error I had made was a lack of walking intervals to keep the legs fresh. They were now being added albeit a little too late. I also started to feel the effects of not hydrating as well as I should have. Starting with 22 I began to wonder when we'd start seeing the lead runners heading the other way. We didn't wind up seeing them until much later. At the turnaround we realized I was probably in the top 20 given the lack of runners we saw going the other way.  I took my time at the turnaround, using the facilities, fueling, and trying to hydrate. I re-joined Mo and we walked for a bit so that my stomach could try and absorb all it had taken in.

We walked about 1.5 miles and had a number of people pass us. Mo was a real trooper. It was supposed to be her long run and here she was walking with me instead. We finally got to the point where I was feeling a bit better and we did intervals of jogging and running. The pace was much slower this time around. By the time I hit the 50K mark I told Mo that my legs felt the same as they typically do the day after a marathon. This wasn't going to be easy to finish. We kept going at this while walking any incline and then enjoying any little downhill. Finally we were back to where Mo parked and I was on my own again. Not long after I got a low battery warning from my watch. I was at mile 37.5 so I turned my GPS off so I could at least have a watch for the rest of the race. I'd have to gauge distance by the aid stations and memory.

I actually picked up the pace for a bit. I was getting a 2nd wind and feeling strong again. The grilled cheese and pickle that I ate most definitely helped. This lasted for a couple miles until my hydration pack ran dry. I had an offer to get it filled at the previous aid station, but had not realized how low it was so I passed. Here I was without knowing how far the next aid station was and bone dry. I chose to start walking to prevent any problems. I started to panic as the aid station seemed further than it should have been. I eventually figured out that the sign marking that the station was a mile away was missing. I refilled my hydration pack and definitely downed some additional water and coke. The station actually had some hidden beer that another runner asked for, but didn't seem all that appealing at the moment. I walked and sipped for awhile more. We now had single digit miles remaining until the finish line.

A lot of the last 10 miles were a bit of a blur. I remember a guy passing me and then seeing a skunk run across the trail right in front of him and about 20 yards from me. I kept trading places with the guy for awhile before passing him for good with 1.5 miles to go. I did some jogging, but most the last 6 miles were closer to power walking with what little I had left in my legs. I must have drank more than enough to re-hydrate because I started to have to pee like every 10 minutes. I'd duck off to the side of the trail when no one was around and go. I was almost caught once, but was quickly able to play it off like I was using a tree to stretch. Another stop I heard some rustling in the trees near me. I look up and I'm staring eye to eye with a deer. It's eyes were completely fixed on me. Oddest moment peeing ever. A bit later I saw a rabbit darting through the woods so either I was turning into Alice or the Bambi trifecta was now complete.

I could sense the end getting close. I could even smell the cookout happening and hear some of the music and cheers as runners came in. I was highly encouraged to finish strong and somehow found what I had left and jogged into the finish. I crossed in 10:09:27 which was much higher than my optimistic 8-9 hour goal, but it didn't matter anymore. I got a handshake and a belt buckle.

I didn't think I'd be all that hungry, but I took my burger anyways, along with gatorade and a bag of fritos. It tasted so good after being on my feet for so long. The other maniac finished about 18 minutes after me and joined me to share the experience and talk about various races. Soon I cooled down and began shaking. I took that as the sign to head home so I did. I managed to catch the awesome end to the MSU vs UofM game in the car and probably looked crazy screaming in traffic, or not, it is Chicago.

The rest of this week has been spent recovering. I don't think I've ever felt this beat up and sore, but I did bounce back pretty quickly. I was running pretty normally again by Wednesday, albeit still much slower than normal. I still have another week to recover before my next marathon at the Milwaukee Running Festival on 11/1.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Volunteering at the Chicago Marathon

  I know I'm pretty crazy when it comes to running, but I wasn't crazy enough to schedule marathons on back to back weekends followed by a 50 miler so this year the intention was to sit out the Chicago Marathon. I realized I didn't entirely want to be on the sidelines so I figured I'd volunteer. Rather than work at aid station I decided I want to be in the thick of things at the start. I signed up to be an info person in the start area.

I was up at 2:30AM so I could get down to Grant Park for my 4:15AM check in. I got down there in the nick of time and followed the masses through the dark where I got my credentials and then was hooked up with a jacket and hat.They had some light snacks for us and then we met up with our coordinator for our assignments. I was going to be in Butler field. We grouped up and were placed all around the area by Buckingham Fountain and along Jackson. We would be directing runners with questions. We only had a 5 minute overview and given a map. Good thing I was familiar with everything so that was all I needed.

At 5:30AM the runners started streaming in. The most common question was for gear check. It was funny seeing a lot of runners just blow past us with only the VIP tents behind us and asking those guys where gear check was. I'm wearing a vest that says "Ask Me" and those guys were big burly bouncer types. Go figure. I guess if you're so focused you lose sight of other things.

The time flew by pretty quickly. Luckily my insight as a prior participant was a help. I knew the front corrals had port-a-potties in them so I started directing runners that way once it got later. Some people were hoping I had some magic hidden restrooms I could point out. Sorry, there's only so many. Once it was 10 minutes until the wave 1 corrals closed it turned into total chaos. People were running every which way. I don't get why after all this training and planning that you rush the last minute details.

Soon  after the corrals closed it got pretty quiet. We directed a few lost wave 2 people and started to head back towards the volunteer tent. We all gathered near the fence to watch the runners head up towards the start. Once the runners went through and the clothes were being gathered we headed back to the volunteer tent to check out. I then headed down just past mile 23 to do some spectating.