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.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Twin Cities Marathon Recap

This past weekend I completed my 10th career marathon and 6th this year. It was supposed to be my goal fall marathon, but everything that could go wrong seemed to.

I drove up to Saint Paul from Chicago on Friday. I elected to stay near the expo and finish line. The course is a point to point starting in Minneapolis and ending at the capitol in Saint Paul. Even though I arrived in the early evening I elected to hold off on going to the expo and instead getting some food and taking it easy. I had been sick in the week leading up to the marathon and was feeling marginally better. I had barely run and was feeling pretty drained. I did some reading on my kindle and watched a bit of TV and called it an early night.

The next morning I got to the expo minutes before it opened and joined the crowd waiting to enter. Once it opened I was able to pick up my packet with minimal wait. The expo was pretty typical and I would compare it in size to that of the Shamrock Shuffle. I walked up and down the aisles, but didn't find anything to my liking. For lunch I headed to Surly Brewing to meet up with the R/iver R/unners aka my track night friends. I had a couple beers. This may have been a bad idea as I felt a little out of it by the time I left and fell asleep for a nap when I got back to the room. A got some Italian carry out for dinner and made it to bed at a reasonable time.

The next morning I got up with plenty of time to head to the race start. My stomach wasn't happy as has turned into routine now. I took care of business as much as I could and then took some immodium and headed out the door. I walked out of the hotel with a group of ladies and decided to follow them to the start. I had intended to catch the light rail over, but the ladies led me to a nearby hotel where there were free shuttles. After a short wait in the lobby we were on a bus and on our way to the start area. I arrived an hour ahead of the start and had time to use the facilities twice more before the race started. There were plenty of port-o-potties there. The start area was in the shadow of the future home of the Minnesota Vikings. Finally I dropped off my extra layers at gear check, a UPS truck, and went to my start corral.

Things were pretty informal at the start. I just walked into the corral and found a good spot to line up.There were some announcements, the national anthem and then we were off. We wound through the downtown area where we had some twist and turns early on. It felt a bit crowded in the early going. I know at some point I had stepped into a pothole a bit awkwardly. I shook it off and kept going. I felt the urge to pee more than anything. I finally stopped at a port-o-potty just before the 3 mile mark. Other than this brief delay I was running pretty much on track for where I wanted to be. My pacing was good.

The race winds around several lakes. The course isn't quite easy for those of us used to running around Chicago. There are several rollers of hills that can be taxing if not approached properly. The course was also scenic and featured pretty good crowd support. I saw some familiar sights at several spots on the course, including a couple of people dressed as yetis. By mile 8 my ankle started to ache. The step in the pothole earlier wasn't so innocent. At mile 10 I was starting to struggle as my form began to suffer and my energy wane. I wound up powering through the halfway mark in about 1:40 before deciding to drop off the pace. I knew this wasn't going to be my day and that I just needed to get through it in one piece.

Even as I slowed my pace after the halfway mark I continued to struggle more and more. I definitely wasn't over being sick as my lack of energy was evident. As I would find out later when I checked my Garmin stats, my heart rate had been elevated as well. I contemplated phoning it in and walking to the finish, but couldn't bring myself to do it. I knew the real challenge was yet to come from miles 20-23 where the course gained 200 feet. I finally took a short walk break at mile 18 and did so about every half mile from that point on. I was motivated by wanting to just get done and off my feet as well as the desire to continue my streak of sub 4 hour finishes.

The home stretch was mostly downhill and featured a giant American flag being held up from the ladders of two firetrucks. Barriers were erected on each side of the final half mile or so since there had been a previous threat from Black Lives Matters protesters who said they would obstruct the course and prevent the runners from finishing. The threat never materialized as the protests remained peaceful and I never even noticed by a majority of the runners. I finally crossed the finish in 3:55:29 meaning my second half split was around 2:15. All said it was only my 4th slowest marathon so still impressive given being sick and twisting my ankle. It was still deeply disappointing given all the hard work I put in this summer. I'm capable of a massive PR, but it will have to wait until another day.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Oktoberfest 5K and Lung Run 10K

After behaving all all summer when it came to racing I wound up running 2 in a 36 hour stretch. We'll just ignore the fact that breaking my no racing rule was a marathon back in July. To be fair though, my training did call for a race on Saturday and that was the only reason I did the Lung Run.

I've run Oktoberfest on an annual basis so I signed up again like the routine is has become. I had hoped to have a solid showing to see how my fitness has improved since finally cracking 20 back in July. It turned out to not be the best of nights. Heavy storms rolled through the area Thursday afternoon and night. It was drizzling up until race time. It was warm and extremely humid with a solid wind on top of it. I do horrible in humid weather. The course was also all torn up and muddy. Long story short, I turned in a solid, but not great effort for myself of 20:43. I started the race right where I needed to, but faded over the 2nd half as I had trouble regulating body temperature and overheated. It was by no means a goal race so the only goal was really to make it out injury free which I did.

Saturday morning was the Lung Run 10K starting at Montrose Beach. I actually ran the 3 miles from my home to the start as a warm up. The weather was much cooler in the morning, but extremely windy. More rain overnight also did not help the trail conditions. I knew going in that I was a shoo-in for a new PR, but didn't know by how much since it had been 2 years since I really raced a 10K.

I started near the front of the pack since I saw that puddles would cause an immediate narrowing of the course. I was behind about 15 runners at the start, but began passing people almost immediately. About a half mile in I surged past a group of 4 guys and found myself in 5th place. I could still see the lead runners, but they were pretty far ahead already. This meant I now had to take the brunt of the wind myself instead of using other runners as a shield. After another mile I was passed by a female runner. I wouldn't be passed again until over 5 miles into the race.

The course was a bit tough given the wind and the mud, but we were also sharing the path with the CES training groups and normal Saturday morning traffic since the race started later at 8:30AM. I'm sure this cost me some time, but I'm not going to fret about it too much. I fell into a steady rhythm and was running pretty well. I had a slight positive split since I think I lacked a little motivation to really push it in the 2nd half. The runners in front of me were too far away to try and reel in. I wound up finishing in 41:55 and 7th place overall. This was a PR by over 5 minutes for me.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Checking in on Training

It's been awhile since my last post. I've been pretty busy between crazy projects at work and running like a maniac. There has also been a complete lack of racing which is completely foreign for me.

So what's been up? I started August with a bit of an injury scare. My hamstring tightened up and became extremely inflamed. I wound up having to scale back to barely running for a week. I did just enough to keep the streak alive and became very familiar with squats and other exercises to keep up a good workout. I carefully rebuilt my mileage and laid off the speed and was able to close out the month with my highest mileage week ever at 71 miles.

As part of my peak mileage week I also ran my longest ever training run at 22 miles. This run is important in the Pfitz plan since if it is run correctly it should take about the same amount of time as you would for the marathon. This means starting slow a building up until you are running 10% slower than your planned marathon pace. I finished the run in 3:07:30 which would represent another huge improvement if I do finish the marathon in that time. I've had other workouts that seem to indicate the time could be possible, but I'll be ecstatic with anything below 3:15 so I can automatically qualify for Chicago next year. I still think it'd take a miracle to get the 3:03:30 that it would probably take to get me into Boston for my age group.

I've put in crazy mileage this year. I've already blown past the mileage I put in last year. One can hope it will only pay off big time. I'll need the resilience and ability to run on beat up legs to get me through the fall schedule. I'll be running 5 marathons+ in 8 weeks. I say + since one of them will be my first ultra, a 50 miler. I'll basically be going for broke at Twin Cities since the 50 miler is 2 weeks later. I won't be able to recover in time for any of the other races to run for a good time.

I've also started looking ahead to next year. I know that I have to survive this fall, but I've become determined to earn a jacket and a spot in the oldest marathon. Unfortunately my budget will be a bit smaller for travel after all the expenses this year between Disney, Colorado, Vegas, and buying a condo. I may have to settle on more road trip races next year. I already signed up for back to back marathons in Kentucky Derby and Flying Pig to cross off 2 more states. The following weekend I head out with family for a cruise so I'll get to recover in style. I still need to pick a goal spring marathon. It'll probably be in March or April. I wish I could find a cheap way to do Phoenix since that would offer a fast course and cool, dry weather.

Upcoming Races:
September 17th - Oktoberfest 5K
September 19th - Lung Run 10K
September 24th - Sprint and Stride 5k at work
October 4th - Twin Cities Marathon
October 17th - DPRT 50 Miler
November 1st - Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon
November 15th - Rock and Roll Las Vegas Marathon
November 22nd - Route 66 Marathon

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Aspen Valley Marathon Recap

While trying to plan my races for the year I decided I needed to visit my family that moved out to Colorado a few years back.I hadn't been out there yet and figured that I can add a race and kill two birds with one stone.After weighing the options as well as the proximity to my family I settled on the Aspen Valley Marathon. I also wound up deciding to get there and get it over with rather than trying to adapt to the altitude.

I flew out for my race on Friday and landed in Denver bright and early. From there I took a shuttle to Vail. Then my cousin's coworker picked me up and then my cousin took me to his home. His girlfriend then took me to my aunt's place. Finally my aunt took me to the airport to rent a car to make the rest of my journey down to Aspen. It was a long day to say the least.I made it to town with about an hour to spare for packet pick up. Aspen itself was very walkable and full of characters from what I could tell. I wound up just getting my packet, a quick dinner, and then crashing.

Race morning came much too early. I was definitely sleep deprived. Luckily this wasn't a goal race.I got to the race site a bit early and walked around to stay loose. Oddly the race didn't have any port-o-potties at the start, but instead relied on a public restroom. I know there were only about 250 runners, but 2 stalls isn't going to cut it. Being there early enough helped and I took care of business with plenty of time. I also met and chatted with some fellow Marathon Maniacs at the start, including 1 who was pacing for 3:40 aka the fastest pacer for this race.

Quiet start area

Now this course likes to advertise itself as fast. The race shirt itself even bills the race a Boston Qualifier. This isn't without reason since the course has a net loss in elevation of nearly 1500 feet. The problem is the race starts at an elevation of nearly 8000 feet. Unless you're adapted to the altitude, you won't do nearly as well. I came in the day before so you can see where this is going.

Nice downhill for 20 miles

Soon the race started and we raced our way through downtown Aspen. I hung in behind the 3:40 pacer who may have shot out a little quick himself. I struggled to breath for the first mile or so and figured this was going to be a long day. After a bit we hit the Rio Grande Trail and I settled into a comfortable pace. By about mile 3 I was actually running quite relaxed with my heart rate and cadence both slowed down to training run efforts. Perhaps it was the scenery or running along the river that calmed me.

I eventually fell in with a group of runners for the next 8 miles. We broke off from other nearby runners, but couldn't lose each other. I finally started talking with the others and found out that one of the girls was shooting for a BQ after failing a few weeks prior and the guy was running his first marathon with only a long run of 16 miles under his belt. They were from Fort Collins and shocked that I was holding my own so well on my first high altitude run. I eventually lost them around mile 11 as I surged a bit and they faded.

Around mile 14 I felt a familiar rumbling in my tummy. One of the aspects of being at high altitude is that it can also upset the stomach. You would think by now that I would learn to take Imodium before a marathon, but haven't quite grasped that lesson yet. The downside of this race was that the aid stations were pretty far apart i.e. only 2 in first 7.5 miles and not all of them had restrooms. I had to wait until mile 16 to use the facilities. I wound up losing around 4 minutes here, but felt much relieved after.

Once back on the course I really picked up steam for a bit. I guess I was a bit determined to get back that 4 minutes I had lost. I passed a lot of runners and eventually re-passed the group I was running with before. They had broken apart as the girl was struggling and knew a BQ was out of site. The guy was still going pretty strong when I caught him, but soon started to fade. I also caught and passed the 3:40 pacer for the time being.

After the first 20 miles the course turns into rolling hills. I managed to keep strong until mile 22 when I finally decided I didn't like running uphill anymore. At that elevation I was getting winded just climbing stairs, so running up a hill felt like having a heart attack. I eased off and went with a walk/run approach from there to the finish. The temperature also had been rising and we no longer had the shade from trees on the path.

The final stretch of the race involved running into downtown Basalt. There were more people around here and I picked my pace back up. I also was nearly hit by cars twice in this stretch. First a guy making a right out of a parking lot kept looking left and never looked right to pull out. He decided to pull out when I was within feet of his car. I screamed at him and fellow onlookers couldn't believe it either. I also managed to capture this all on my GoPro. Then when nearly to the finish there were people directed traffic and apparently weren't paying attention since they directed a car to cross the intersection right in front of me. I did make it to the finish without any further incident.

At the finish line we got our medals. I got a fist bump from the 3:40 pacer who congratulated me on a job well done. I also got a wonderful cold and wet towel to wipe down with. I guess I missed it in my initial post race haze, but there was also champagne at the finish line. I wound up heading straight for the beer line and got an Orange Shandy from Aspen Brewing Company. Definitely the refreshment I needed. The race also had a salad bar, but who eats salad after a marathon?

I liked the race other than the few bumps with the bathrooms and near misses. The course was absolutely stunning. I'm glad I had my GoPro on me and took clips throughout the race. The people were all also super friendly. I don't think I've ever talked so much to fellow runners as I did during this race. After spending several days with the family it was determined that I had to make this race an annual thing, an excuse to come back and visit. 

As for the final results - I finished in 3:45:48 and 33rd out of 226 finishers. If you course correct for the conditions and altitude, this time would be the equivalent of around a 3:25-3:30 in Chicago. I'm extremely pleased with that result given that much of the race was spent running conservatively. All that downhill did do a number on my quads and toes though. This now gives me 8 marathons in as many states in the last 10 months.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Strike Out ALS 5K 2015 Edition

This was my 4th time running the Strike Out ALS 5K. I almost didn't run it though. I've  been so committed to keeping up with my marathon training schedule that I've been hesitant to alter it in any way. A week before the race I decided to register and just run a double for the day to get my miles in. The race holds special meaning for me too since I lost my uncle to ALS 4 years ago.

I did the pre-race packet pick up at Roadrunner Sports the Saturday before the race. This was quick and easy since they have parking there and everything. I also decided to pick up a pair of racing flats to break in for my eventual goal marathon. After trying out some new stuff I got a pair of the new release Vazee Pace from New Balance. The shoes are super light and comfy with a 6mm heel drop and a good feel that leads to faster stride turnover. I wound up running the 5K in them.

 Race day was a bit different for me this time around. Since I signed up last minute I hadn't roped my friends into running with me. I got down to US Cellular field early and relaxed for a bit. The weather had cooled off and felt pretty good. I had run 10 miles in the morning and had melted then so this was a nice change. I dropped my bag off at gear check and went for a short jog to loosen up a bit. I noticed that in addition to the cooling off the wind had also picked up and might make things difficult.

Soon enough I was heading into the start corral for some announcements including the reciting of Lou Gehrig's famous retirement speech. Unfortunately and ill-placed generator plus the wind was blowing fumes into the faces of those of us near the front. I was ready to get moving so I could breath again. After the all clear it was off went.

Mile 1:
I got sucked into the fast start of the lead runners. It just felt so natural, but a quarter of a mile in I slowed to a more manageable pace before I got myself into real trouble. It was crazy only seeing 8 runners in front of me. I wound up passing another after he fell off after the fast start. We ran and zig zagged south through the stadium parking lots towards Pershing before turning back north. Once we turned north we were slammed by a pretty strong wind. I managed to cross the mile marker in 6:12 which is my fastest timed mile ever.

Mile 2:
We continued north past where we started to the north edge of the lots, then turned east, then south briefly and then back north. The wind was just relentless and started wearing on me. I did manage to pass another runner who was also struggling with the wind. Finally towards the end of the mile we turned back south. The wind did its damage though and this mile was done in 6:40.

Mile 3:
We were now zig zagging south before finally entering the stadium for a lap around the field. This is always a lot of fun, but running on the gravel can slow you down a little too. I also had to deal with a photographer who decided that the right spot for picture was right in the optimal running route so I had to dance around him. Right near the exit for the stadium I was passed by 2 runners. Once I got out of the tunnel I checked my time and knew I still had some fight left so I tried to push the pace and kept up with the 2 runners. I hit the mile 3 marker at 19:25 for a 6:33 mile.

Mile 3.1:
I knew I had to really book it for the finish if I was going to crack 20. I picked up the pace even more. After one last turn I had 10 seconds left to make it and found myself in an all out sprint. I wound up neck and neck with the other 2 runners who had passed me. I stopped my watch a little after the finish line at 19:59.9. The official results have me at 20:00 even. If there ever was a time you wanted race results reported down to the tenth of a second this was it.

I wound up finished 8th overall out of over 400 runners and walkers and 3rd in my age group. My time was 1:04 faster than last year when I was 2nd in my age group. It's always funny how the times ebb and flow year to year for events. There was no official award ceremony, except to announce the male and female overall winners. I still got a medal though which was nice.

As I was leaving I managed to catch the final runner finishing. He was an ALS patient who decided that he too was going to finish the course. It was a great moment of bravery. Many of the runners took a break from their post race fun in order to go over to the finish and cheer him on as well.

Strike Out ALS 5K is always a well run event and for a good cause. The logistics may be inconvenient since it's always held on All Star Tuesday in the evening at US Cellular Field. The course also contains something around 23 turns I think I counted so it isn't normally a PR type course even though I managed to set an 11 second PR myself during the race.

I'm proud of the way I ran. I've been absolutely torturing my legs with mileage, piling on more miles than I've ever run before and still managed to get some speed out of them. I was tired enough that I couldn't get my heart rate up to where I normally run 5Ks at. I know I'm more fit, but I just couldn't bring myself to the pain and huffing and puffing normally experienced during a 5K. I'll have to find a 5K after all the marathon madness is over and run it on fresh legs to see what I can really do. It's nice knowing that I could probably go sub 20 without any issues and that's always a confidence booster.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Cycle Begins Again

Summertime for me has turned into marathon training season. The typical training cycle is 18 weeks which means starting in June for a fall marathon for most folks. I'm a little behind on the times and am actually wrapping up week 4 of my training plan.  My goal marathon is Twin Cities on October 4th. I'm actually running 4 marathons and an ultra this fall, but that's a different story.

The past 2 years I trained for Chicago using different methods. I first used the Hanson Marathon Method in 2013 and failed miserably at keeping up with the plan and fell short of my goal. In 2014 I tried a different approach and basically came up with my own plan roughly following the weekly mileage guidelines of Higdon intermediate while sprinkling in speed workouts from Hanson and Yasso. I did meet my initial goal last year, but some gastro-intestinal distress left me short of my full potential. I've run 6 more marathons since Chicago without following a training plan at all, basically just maintaining fitness in between and have managed to excel and get faster.

This year I decided to return to using a defined plan. I chose the Pfitzinger 18/70 plan as something that will challenge me and hopefully take me to the next level. The plan is 18 weeks long and peaks at 70 miles in a week. The mileage from the plan would be 400 more miles than during my training cycle last year. I'm hoping the additional mileage will help my body adapt and stay strong through the whole race in addition to preparing me for the rigors of a 50 mile run.

So what have I done so far? I didn't quite follow the plan exactly the first 2 weeks. I was starting just 3 weeks after my last marathon so I did a reverse taper. Week 1 wound up being 43 miles instead of the planned 53. Week 2 was 54 instead of a planned 56, which is actually damn impressive given that I did this in spite of running 17.5 miles entirely too fast during Ragnar. Week 3 I was finally in sync with training and ran 58 miles.

The current week has been a bit different. I changed my routine and am now starting to run before work. It is definitely much cooler and peaceful running 14 miles on a Tuesday morning. Yes, I ran that much on Tuesday and it was only my mid-week medium long run. I still need to do a long run of 18 on Sunday. The plan is not for the timid. I won't drop below 55 miles until I taper. If you're curious to see what the schedule looks like, someone made a calendar that is just a week off from my plan.

So what is my goal for Twin Cities? That's hard to say at this point. I seem to make improvements by leaps and bounds. My last 2 marathons both featured blazing fast starts followed by 2nd half fades. With smarter pacing I would likely be somewhere between 3:20 and 3:25. I would love to make the improvement to BQ, but that would likely require a time around 3:03 for my age group. I'm not sure if I can make that jump in this time frame, but I'll definitely train hard and smart and see what happens. I need to stay healthy to make it through all my fall marathons.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ragnar Chicago 2015 Part 2

When I last left you my van was due up to be active. We did some quick decorating, putting our name on the back window - One Man Perv Per Van, and got our runner to the exchange zone to start our adventure. I was bad an accidentally missed the hand off since I ran into 2 other friends in the exchange area and spent a few minutes catching up. It was crazy how many people I knew were running Ragnar this year. After our runner was off we rallied the troops and hit the road for the next exchange. I had some time being the last runner in our van so I played navigator and played with my GoPro.

Ragnar changed it's legs and some of its routes this year. Last year I was runner 7 and had only a 2.9 mile first leg. This year being runner 12 I got stuck with the short leg again, but it was at night. That said, our runner 7 this year had the optional exchange zone leg. There was a mile long stretch of road the vans would park along and the exchange could happen wherever the runners liked. It wound up being a blessing in disguise since it shortened the leg for our runner who was hurting and the next runner took the extra distance like a champ.

So one by one the runners went and then finally it was my turn. Suzy slapped the bracelet on my wrist and away I went. It was a little awkward at first given that I always start too fast and I was trying to get comfortable running while carrying my phone in hand which I never do. I normally use a pouch, but since I'd have to text my team with a mile to go I didn't want to be digging for it during the middle of a run. My leg went well and I finished well ahead of planned pace. I get to the exchange and see people from both vans there to greet me. There was a round of high 5s and then an immediate let's go get dinner.  We went to Noodles and Co. and it was glorious. The girls missed the show though since they headed into the restaurant while I changed out of my wet clothes in the parking lot. They suggested I used the bathroom in the restaurant, but I knew better, it was lined up with runners from all the various teams.

After dinner we prepped for our night time runs. We got our safety gear out and looked all sexy in our vests.  The girls all made it through their runs without much issue, except for Krista who had some creepy moments. Once I was up I was off and running once again. I got lost not much after when the road split and there were no signs. I slowed to check my phone for directions and let a runner catch me to figure out where to go. It didn't help that this was a section that doubled back on on the runners coming in for the exchange so all the blinky lights in the dark through me off. This was my slowest mile of the entire event. Finally I was back on track and passing runners once again. The last stretch of the run was along a lakeront trail. There was a steep downhill that I decided to just go with and started flying when a rabbit darted in front of me. I definitely let an expletive fly as it truly startled me. I soon made it to the finish where our van 1 teammates were waiting after having napped in tent city.

Van 2 decided to get out of dodge and avoid sleeping in tent city given the noise, distance from where the van was parked, etc. We headed over to North Chicago High School to see that no volunteers were there yet and everything was pretty much in lock down. A few of us camped out on the porch of the school and the rest in the van. The porch was a good move since the overhang protected us from the thunderstorm that came through during the night. One of the guys on the sidewalk was starting to get wet so he decided to get a little cozy next to me. After a few hours of sleep we grabbed some breakfast at Dunkin Donuts and prepped for our final legs.

One by one we finished our final legs. Early cloudiness and fog gave way to clearing skies and rising temperatures. My last leg was going to be midday and I knew it was going to get rough if it kept getting warmer. My route didn't have a whole lot of shade either. As a team we made up some huge ground on our last legs and I was running a bit earlier than planned, just before 12:30PM. I took the exchange from Suzy and started running from the Northwestern Campus down the lake and Sheridan. It was a lot different from my first 2 legs since I had many pedestrians to contend with. I also had to stop at a lot of lights along Sheridan. There were stretches along the lake that made it so worth it though. I had originally intended to take things easy, especially to give the van a chance to find parking at the finish, but I was feeling pretty good in spite of the heat and just ran with it. I once again destroyed my anticipated pace. It was a bit odd running this leg since we were ahead of nearly all the other open teams. I only passed 3 other runners and was passed once by someone who had to be running in the 6 min range. I managed to capture the last 5 minutes of my leg on GoPro, including when I spotted Sara and told her to move her ass since she'd miss running across the finish line as a team.

Once we crossed the finish we waited for Sara and took a team photo.

After that we headed over for some much needed beers. And since it's never too early to plan, we started discussing ideas for next year. We joked about doing Super Troopers with the "I'm freaking out, van" and the "You are freaking out, van" , but found out later someone already did that team idea. We'll come up with something. After a couple beers and one last browse through the gear shop we jumped in the van and headed back to Mo's dad's. We made a pit stop at Mariano's to use the restroom and then crawled our way back. I dozed in the backseat. My energy was gone. We reached the house, cleaned out the vans and everyone parted ways. I went home and crashed. It was a fun time and unfortunately it had to end.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ragnar Chicago 2015 Part 1

Spending 2 days stuffed into a van with 5 other strangers while barely getting any sleep, eating terribly, and having to run every few hours sounds like a barrel of monkeys doesn't it?  To be perfectly honest it is actually one of the most fun things you can do and hence why I subjected myself to such torture for the 2nd consecutive year. The idea was to join forces with Mo and get together our van mates from last year and form a new team for another round of shenanigans.

As time progressed it became clear that Mo and I would be the only stalwarts and we would be joined by a new band of merrymakers. The call was put out to other running friends as well as using the Ragnar Ambassador program. We finally had a team and started planning a name and all that other fun stuff. Unfortunately injuries kept our team in flux and we had a rotating band of characters for awhile. Once things settled down we were with 2 males and thus One Man Per Van was born.

We finally got some shirts made up near last minute as well as some magnets for tagging other vans. Speaking of vans, Mo booked us some minivans to save on costs and took care of a bunch of other stuff keeping costs for the team to the minimum. Some lineup shuffling put Mo in van 1 and me in van 2 as runner 12. I would be the one who got to carry the slap bracelet to the finish.

Even though I was in a van of girls I either didn't know at all, or barely knew, I decided to break out the Lone Sausage persona and the #andEric created during last year's Ragnar given that I'd be the lone guy in the van again. Luckily the ladies were game and went along with it.

We decided to all head up to Madison the night before the race since we had a 7:45AM start time and wanted to do some team bonding over beer. We met at Mo's dad's place and started our trek from there. I met my van mates - Jessie, Susie, Beth, and Sara. The 6th, Krista would be joining us in Madison. There was a mix up and the rental place and we wound up with a Buick Enclave SUV to squeeze into. We had to play tetris with our bags, but eventually made them fit and off we went. Dinner was a Monk's and involved cheese curds and Spotted Cow. I don't think you get much more Wisconsin than that.

We headed back to our hotel and Mo hung out with my van mates and I for a bit before we finally crashed. After a restless night we awoke to see grey skies and rain clouds. Luckily the forecast called for it to clear up by the time our van was due to start, but we were supposed to go to the start for a team picture. We did and it was raining too much so we just got our shirts and hit the road to grab breakfast and chill before it was our turn to run.

We wound up at a coffee shop playing a game of Cards Against Humanity. It was the same team building game I played before the start of last year's Ragnar. What better way to get into the sick and twisted parts of your van mate's heads before spending 30 hours together. There may have been some real freaks in the group, but that's just between us. So we got notification that Van 1 was nearing so we headed to the exchange and prepped for us to be the active van.

More to come...