Saturday, December 31, 2016

Marine Corp Marathon Recap

Race information


AHave funYes
BNo injuriesYes
CBreak 4 hoursYes


I arrived in town on Friday morning for the Sunday race. I was able to check into the hotel early and then grabbed some lunch before heading to the Gaylord National Convention Center for the expo. Picking up packets was easy. The line for official race gear was not. Luckily there was an "aid" station midway through the 45 minute line. On Saturday I hit up the National Mall and did way too much walking checking out the Smithsonian, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and other sites. I was back to my hotel by 5pm and has logged 21,000+ steps on my fitbit for the day. That's how much I usually get during a half marathon. I grabbed a couple slices of pizza and watched as much of the Cubs game as I dared before finally getting some shut eye.


Race day started far too early. Everyone warned of long security lines and the need to get to the start area early. I headed over to where the shuttle buses were and waited in line for about 30 minutes to catch a bus. I realized that it was already getting to warm for the mylar blanket I had with me. For further entertainment I got mixed in with a group of Danish runners. The security line at the start area was nearly non-existent. It was quicker for me since I didn't even bring a gear check bag. I only had to lift up my hat. I found a spot to chill for awhile until I eventually spotted Mike and then Lauren. Finally after much too long waiting around it was time to head to the start. There's no corrals for Marine Corp so they go by an honor system with the faster runners being told to line up earlier. With "beat the bridge" on the back of the packers minds', well no one listens. I was further delayed getting to the start since I had to get in on the Marathon Maniacs group photo. The start ceremony was pretty cool with a cannon being shot off and a flyover from some Ospreys. A runner had fallen during the start and the Marines lined up into a human wall to allow the medical crews to get to and treat the runner. I thought that was pretty cool as well.

Miles [1] to [9]

I started the race pretty slow. It was quite crowded and hard to find room to stretch the legs out. I just went with the flow since I had every intention of trying to negative split. The early hills helped keep the pace slow as well. They weren't terrible climbs, but still sizable for anyone coming from Chicago. The first signs of trouble was how much I was sweating in the early going. It was humid already and it was only going to get warmer as the race went on.
Miles [9] to [17]
The roads opened up a little later in the race. Still a little on the crowded side, but I no longer felt like everyone was on top of me. Mile 10 was the "Blue Mile" and featured memorials to all the Marines lost over the prior year. I saw many runners stop to pay their respects to loved ones. I also saw someone dressed as Mr. McGibblets which was either so wrong or completely awesome given the nature of The League. The race then runs around the National Mall area. You don't get a great view of any of the monuments, but do get to see all the Smithsonian buildings and run right in front of the Capitol building. There was a race photographer right there who got a good shot of me in front of the dome.
Miles [17] to [23]
The race moved up the bridge this year, yes the bridge that had a cutoff time. I was no where near in danger of missing that cutoff so I finally gave in and walked for an extended period across the bridge. Someone had given me a jolly rancher before the bridge too so I wanted to suck on it without choking. In order to make the bridge earlier the course was altered to add loops around the Pentagon parking lots and bus depots to get in the extra distance. This was certainly dull. Things got livelier as we headed into Crystal City and saw larger crowds again. Unfortunately the course also narrowed and felt crowded again. I was at a point where I was having trouble staying hydrated so I kept taking walk breaks. I kept playing leap frog with a duo dressed as Thor and Hulk. They had to be so hot in their costumes.
Miles [23] to [26.2]
We finally left Crystal City and made our home stretch back towards Arlington for the finish. I was just trying to hold things together and get through the race. I saw one runner stop at a bus station to rest only to collapse when they tried to lean on a post. Luckily spectators there rushed to his aid and a course marshal was across the street and immediately ran over. There were 2 first aid workers who rushed to the scene with water. When I got to the aid station I checked with them to see if they knew what was going on and if not to send a cart over since the guy didn't look to be doing well. As the race end drew near the crowds picked up again. This race has a tough finish. For those familiar, it's like running up "Mt Roosevelt" during the Chicago Marathon or Shamrock Shuffle if that height was condensed into a quarter of the distance. You want to just say hell with it and walk it, but you don't because there are so many Marines there yelling you on to the finish. You suck it up, yell "Oorah!" and charge that hill.


You don't have to wait too long post race to collect your medal. There are Marines ready to hand them to you right after. The finish is also right in front of the Iwo Jima Marine Memorial which makes for a great post race photo op. The post race area was huge with all sorts of stuff going on. I skipped the finisher gear store since the line was already huge. I grabbed my beer and waited for others to finish. Eventually I was about to give up and head back to the hotel, but met up with Mike and Lauren again at the last minute before parting ways again. The marathon wound up being my 2nd slowest, but it was a hot day, reaching the 80s, as well as being my 3rd marathon in October.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Race Report: Chicago Marathon 2016

Race information

  • What? Chicago Marathon
  • When? October 9th, 2016
  • How far? 26.2 Miles
  • Website?


AHave funYes
BNo injuriesYes
CBreak 4 hoursYes


I entered the lottery for Chicago this year as a back-up plan.  The real hope was to run a BQ at St George the weekend before. Of course the hills and weather ate me alive there, but I still had Chicago to run. I hit the expo at McCormick on Friday evening and ran into so many familiar faces. After much chatting and buying some gear I had finally left after about 2.5 hours. I ran the International 5K on Saturday morning with Jennifer as sort of a shake out run. It was a bit chilly, colder than marathon day. I spent the rest of the day being relatively lazy. 
Race day I got down to the start with about 90 minutes to spare. I immediately lined up for the port-o-let and watched the other runners


Race day I got down to the start with about 90 minutes to spare. I immediately lined up for the port-o-let and watched the other runners scramble around in a frantic manner. I had realized on the train ride down that I had forgotten my gels, but I didn't panic. I had some candy on me that would have to do as a substitute and knew I could grab stuff on the course as well. I dropped off my bag at gear check and headed to the start corrals. It wasn't long before it was away we went.

Miles [1] to [9]

The early miles ticked away pretty steadily. I was locked in pretty much right at an 8 min/mile pace if not a hair under. I felt much better than anticipated which was probably helped by how relaxed I was at the start given that it was my 2nd marathon in 8 days and I had no intention of running for time. Thoughts of running a 3:30 soon creeped into my head even though I knew that would be pretty stupid of me to attempt.
Miles [9] to [17]
I used a restroom just past the 15K mark. I got back into my groove after exiting, but not for long. My quads started to complain so I dropped my pace a bit to see if that would help. They just screamed louder as the course wound through the west loop area. It was here that I noticed my watch went haywire. I would later notice that my GPS signal bounced over Lake Michigan and made it look like I was running on water. It added an additional 4 miles to my distance. I'm so glad I had set my watch for manual splits. Just past the aid station around mile 17 I pulled up to the side of the course to see if I could stretch and loosen up my quads. I felt a tweak in my hamstring and knew that wasn't good.
Miles [17] to [23]
I tried running again, but the hamstring wasn't happy. I began a stretch where I did a lot of walking and a little jogging. I knew I didn't want to drop out, nor did I want to walk the final 9 miles so I did what I could. This section of the race was a big of a slog even with the good crowd support in Pilsen and Chinatown. I really just wanted to be done.
Miles [23] to [26.2]
Once past The Cell I began to look for beer. I knew the Hash House Harriers usually set up in this area and that sounded magical at the time. I did finally find a group of people handing out beers and grabbed one and walked and sipped for a bit. I looked at my watch and realized I still had time to break 4 hours, if I hauled a bit of ass. I picked up the pace as well as I could, but still took long walks through the next couple aid stations. At mile 24 I realized I had about 20 minutes to cover the last 2.2 miles. I eventually picked up the pace for good. From the 40K mark to the finish (42.2K) my splits indicate that I had run a 7:25 min/mile pace would would mean I finished with my fastest mile of the marathon. After crossing I was still full of energy and more annoyed at everyone standing between me and the eventual beer. Just give me my medal and let me through!


I finally grabbed my beer, then my gear and changed. I went to the post-race party and had another beer and chatted with some friends for a bit before finally heading to the Weathermark to meet up with Bootlegger friends and swap war stories.

Friday, October 14, 2016

St George Marathon

Race information


A< 3:15No
B< 3:28No
C< 4:00Yes

Race strategy

This was going to be my attempt at my fastest marathon time of the year. The course features a net 2500 foot downhill and promised to be fast. I planned to take advantage of the downhills while running conservative on the uphills.


I flew into Vegas early in the morning the day before the race. I didn't get much sleep the week of the race due to a hectic work schedule and the extremely early flight didn't help. I picked up my rental car and then picked up my Maniac friend and drove the scenic 1:45 drive to St George,Utah. We headed straight to packet pick up which had a larger expo that expected for a smaller race. We didn't stick around too long before going to get lunch and then check into our hotel. I had forgotten toiletries and had to head over to the drugstore for replacements instead of taking a nap. We had an Italian dinner and went to bed early for the 3AM wake up call. I was on a shuttle shortly after 4AM and headed to the start.
The course is a point to point starting in Central, UT and winding through Veyo and Snowfall Canyon before finishing in St George. The start area featured dozens of campfires and a thousand port-o-potties. Runners set up camp with mylar blankets and gloves provided by the race waiting for the 6:30AM start. There was a delay to the start as a bus was still on the course. We eventually were sent on our way about 10 minutes late.

Miles [1] to [7]

In spite of the lack of sleep, I felt pretty good early on. The first 5k was basically a warm up and I ran it in 24 minutes. The next 5K had some of the most perfect downhill running I could dream of and I ran it in 21:45 with hardly any effort at all. I was beginning to really like my chances of having a special day.

Miles [7] to [11]

My optimism didn't last for very long. Mile 7 was basically a 250 foot climb. I didn't take things as easily as I should have and still had a 9 minute split in spite of taking a walking break late in the hill. I hoped to recover on the descent, but the course rolled pretty heavily until mile 11

Miles [11] to [18]

The course turned downhill again after mile 11. Some of it was steep downhill. My legs became pretty chewed up from the previous section and the steepness of the downhill here didn't help matters. I actually managed to stay on PR and 'B' goal pace until the 30K split. I wasn't confident in my ability to keep it up and with the sun now out, the temperature was quickly rising.
Miles [18] to [26.2]
There was a bit of an uphill at mile 18. Some kids were handing out otter pops though so I grabbed one and walked and enjoyed it while ascending the hill. I became a bit self defeated in this section of the race. I walked a lot more than I needed. There wasn't any sense of urgency to really run. I started talking to some other walkers who had also blew their goals about other later fall races that were supposed to be fast. We all did agree on trying to break 3:40 since it was still in reach and started jogging again. This didn't last all that long before walk breaks took hold again. I managed to get myself going just enough to finish in 3:48:00.

Post Race
St George became my 16th state completed and 20th race finished of a marathon or longer. It was also my 11th state with a sub 4 hour finish. I was happy enough with this, but disappointed in the overall performance as I should of been able to run a much faster time. I learned my lesson and need to do more hills if I'm going to run a course like that. Getting ample sleep would help as well. All sadness was washed away a couple hours later when I had an amazing old fashioned burger from an old drive-inn type place near the hotel. The next day I headed to Vegas and really celebrated my finish with a slab of ribs and beer.

Aspen Valley Marathon

Race information


A< 3:45No
B< 4:00Yes
CHave funYes

Race strategy

I didn't come into this marathon with much of a plan. I had ran it the year before and intended to do much of the same. My training hadn't been quite as intense as 2015, but I expected my fitness levels were around the same level and hoped to run as fast as or faster than by prior year time.


I did most of the same routine as 2015. I flew into Denver early. This year I had a rental car instead of taking the shuttle to Vail and then renting a car. I met up with family for lunch in Eagle and hanging out for a bit before heading down to Aspen. Once in Aspen, which I arrived much earlier than last year, I checked into my hotel and headed to packet pick up. Pick up was at another local hotel and very low frills. Afterwards I walked around town catching Pokemon before getting the same pizza I got the year before and getting some sleep. Race day started early and I walked to the start and met up with my Maniac friend and chatted a bit before we were on our way.

Miles [0] to [7]

The first few miles brought about that familiar gasping for air that I experienced last year. I knew it took a couple miles to settle in and so didn't panic. I wound up running with the 3:40 pacer for a bit and chatting with her and another Maniac. The early miles were about settling in and getting comfortable. My pacing was already ahead of last year and I felt good.

Miles [7] to [20]

Around the 7 mile mark I felt the need to urinate. The aid stations in this race were spaced further apart and the port-o-potties even further than that. The gentle downhill led to an increase in pacing without an increase in effort, or perhaps that was just perceived since I had to pee really bad. After several miles and a couple aid stations with no bathrooms I finally gave up and used a bush on a more secluded part of the trail. Luckily there were no critters hiding in there. I did encounter 2 snakes later in the race. Outside the urge to pee, these miles were mostly taking advantage of the downhill trail and beautiful scenery of Colorado's mountains.

Miles [20] to [26.2]

After 20 miles the course flattens out and then adds in some rollers for hills. Nothing terrible mind you, but definitely rough after 20 miles of running downhill. To make matters worse it became quite warm. The weather was much hotter and drier during this year's visit to Colorado. I decided to start taking it easy and walked a bunch. I had been well ahead of the prior year's pacing up to this point, but I didn't feel like I needed to throw off the rest of my summer training just to beat an arbitrary goal. I did wind up finishing in just 57 seconds slower than my time the prior year and consider than a win given that it was somewhere between 5 and 10 degrees warmer at the finish. I grabbed my beer and enjoyed it before taking the shuttle back to Aspen and checking out of my hotel.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Ragnar Relay Madison to Chicago 2016 Edition

Once again I got roped by Mo into running Ragnar Relay. This year we joined some of her Milwaukee based friends on a team and thus were the only Chicago based runners. I had to pack even lighter this year since we'd be taking Amtrak up to Milwaukee the night before the race. It was my first time on one of those trains since I was a kid, but it was a short fun ride with a couple of beers. We were picked up in Milwaukee by Renee and another teammate, Erin, who I was meeting for the first time. We immediately headed to a local bar for some beer.

Race morning wasn't too early. We were in van 2 so we casually got ready and then the rest of the team picked us up in the Van for our trip to Lake Mills for our exchange point. The heat and humidity were already starting to hit pretty hard. The drive consisted of jokes on how we weren't allowed to take the van to Mexico according to our rental agreement. That later turned into the theme for the van with "Mexico Bound" splayed across the back. I contributed a "Donde est la biblioteca?" on one of the window panels. We also had to comment on the weather with a "[Redacted] This Weather!". It's worth noting that we were Team [Redacted]. Soon enough the runner from Van 1 rolled in, Renee was off, and our adventure began.

I was runner 12 so I still had quite awhile until I had to run. I demolished a 12 inch sub and some chips from Subway where as everyone else opted for a 6 inch and some saved their sandwich for after their run. It was already evening by the time it was my turn. I took the hand-off and bolted out a bit too fast. My leg was 6.8 miles and I dropped a 7:24 first mile. The heat soon caught up to me and I had a hard time cooling off. I slowed down more and more each mile, finally opting for short walking breaks the last couple miles. I wound up posting a pace a little below 9:00 min/mile and was fine with that given all the running and heat we would still have to deal with. We parted ways with van 1 and went to get dinner at Noodles and Co. After a bit of re-hydration I started to sweat a bunch during dinner before finally cooling off.

After dinner we headed over to the high school that hosted the next major exchange for some sleep. We initially set up outside and were there for about an hour before one of the volunteers came over to let us know that a lightning hold was started and that runners were going to be held at their next exchange. We looked at a huge storm on our weather apps and decided to head inside to the air conditioned gymnasium for more sleep. This sleep would be interrupted by what became referred to as erector set guy who dumped all sorts of metal poles on the floor and then proceeded to noisily put together a cot to sleep on. Some people are just so self centered and oblivious to everything else that is going on. Close to midnight we received word that the hold had been lifted and that the team would skip 2 legs. This meant we had 3.5 miles from runner 6 until we were on duty again. We packed up our gear and got ready to go.

The night legs got interesting as the exchanges and directions didn't match between sources. Multiple teams were getting lost. The running routes were also changed at times, but luckily there were signs on the course. One of the route changes proved fortunate as a shooting had occurred on the original route. We witnessed all the police vehicles fly by. The sun was starting to rise by the time I was up to run again. I had a nice 6 mile route through some neighborhoods and then along the lakefront in Racine. It was still slightly warm and humid, but much cooler than the previous evening. I flew along and finished this leg with a 7:58 pace. Next was a much needed stop at IHOP for breakfast.

After breakfast we headed over to North Chicago High School for the next major exchange. We weren't allowed indoors here so we camped out where we could find shade. We had a little shade tent, but it wasn't enough to shelter the whole team. I shifted several times as the shade moved along with the sun. It also didn't help that every time I started to fall asleep that ants would start crawling over me and wake me up. The heat and lack of sleep were really starting to get to me. We did learn that we could double up runners and skip some legs for our final leg of the race. Between the hold and the heat slowing us down, we needed everything we could get to finish before the 8PM cutoff.

My final leg started at 4:30PM. It was a bit odd in that no one was handing off to me since we had skipped the prior leg. I showed up at the exchange and told the officials I was starting and we just skipped. I then started my 9.7 mile journey towards La Bagh Woods for the finish line. Early going was ok. I knew I'd be taking it easy and taking walking breaks to avoid overheating. There was supposed to be 3 water stations on this route, but no one knew if they would actually be there. I conserved the water I had just in case. The first water station was there about 1.8 miles in. Shortly after while still in the forest preserve I got a nice scare as a deer jumped out of a creek towards me and was about 10 feet away. The doe seemed startled by my presence as well and we eyed each other as I kept running and she darted off into the woods. The next water station was about 4 miles in after a long sunny stretch through a park. I was already running more than walking and couldn't get enough water into my system. I took a salt tab to try and help, but it was a losing battle. I started jogging a bit more until we got to the final water station just before mile 6. We then hit a long sunny stretch down Devon where I just felt done. I walked the entire way. I knew my water wouldn't last until the finish. Luckily lots of teams were out there handing out water and gatorade to those who needed it. Someone even propped a spray hose up in their driveway. The last few miles of my run are a big blur. I got dizzy, took another salt tab, and just tried to stay cool and finish safe. I was able to get an ice cold bottle of water from another team than I put on the back of my neck to cool off a bit before chugging it. There was another spot where a team had a hose and sprayed runners with cold water. Finally, after about 30 minutes after my predicted finish time, I rolled into La Bagh woods and wondered where the heck my team was. I stumbled closer and closer to the finish before I finally spotted them and we all ran across together. I then just hunched down and tried not to black out. Water was fetched and a team photo was taken while everyone asked what I needed. My answer was shade.

We found a spot in the shade and I laid down for a few minutes. A team mate brought over a bottle of gatorade which I downed pretty quickly. I also ate a slice of pizza and finally started to feel a bit normal. Just like that it was basically over. A couple of team mates left, van 1 gave some of us a ride to van 2 and we parted ways. The remaining team members dropped me off while accidentally side swiping a car in the process. We waited 45 minutes for the police to show so we could file a report. I finally went in to my air conditioned condo and took a much needed shower and warmed up some leftover pizza. I think I caught up on social media for about an hour and called in a night and slept for the next 11 hours.

The theme for Ragnar this year was "Inner Wild", but it should of been "Embrace Chaos". Things just didn't run as smoothly race-wise as with prior years. I get that they can't do anything about the heat or storms, but communication was horrid. There also weren't any improvements over prior years and existing problems still remained. Poo mountain anyone? One would think that they would take extra safety precautions with the heat, but all that we got was a text at 3pm on Saturday saying to stay hydrated. Yeah, we've been trying to do that since 5AM on Friday. Ragnar hasn't done anything to help matters. There's no extra hydration stations. No misters. No extra shade constructed. Nothing. I think this race has left me burned out and turned off from Ragnar for the time being.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Flying Pig Marathon Recap

I had heard many good and potentially concerning things about Flying Pig before I had run it. People talked about the great course and crowd support. They also talked about the hills. Given that this was day 2 of my first ever marathon double, the hills would definitely be of a concern.

We drove up to Cincinnati from Louisville, which is about 80 miles away. We got to the expo and saw that it was pretty big. After some initial confusion we found out where to get our packets, and then had to head to the opposite end of the place to get our shirts and our pretty nifty bags with yoga mat holders. The wandering around the expo was probably good for my legs as it kept the blood flowing and prevented me from getting too stiff after my marathon that morning. I also wound up buying a new pair of shoes, Hoka One One Infinity, that aren't carried by Fleet Feet in Chicago. After we went to our hotel, grabbed some dinner, and then settled in for the night.

Race morning felt like it came a little too soon. It was also raining steadily outside. This didn't bode well given that I finished Louisville looking like a drowned rat. I was smart and had a poncho with me, so I wore that down to the start line, which was about a mile away. The walk served to warm the legs up and get a little loose before the race. It started to feel a bit steamy out with the humidity and also wearing the poncho. The rain let up just before the start of the race and I ditched the poncho.

I was in Pig Pen B (aka Corral B) for the start of the race. I headed towards the back knowing I wasn't going to start out too fast and the pen was really for runners who expected to run between a 3:20 and 3:40. Totally not happening this time. The race starts and we're running along near the river and by the sports stadiums. Things feel a little stiff, but ok. We hit a long uphill on a bridge and I decide to take a walk break. I see a runner from the day before and we chat for a few minutes before he goes running off.

About 2 miles into the race I spot Meg, a fellow Marathon Maniac who I had run a couple miles with at the Garmin Marathon 2 weeks prior. We made the decision right then to stick together since it was the first double for both of us and would make things easier, and it did! The miles actually started to tick by. It helped that we had a lot of similar goals and talked about other marathons we planned to do or had already completed. She's going for 50 states at a far faster pace than I am and hopes to finish next year. I wish I had the vacation days and funds to pull that off. We also started sort of a game. We knew that the hills would eat us alive if we tried storming up all of them so we would pick a landmark such as a sign or a traffic cone and say we were going to run to that sign and then start walking. We would repeat for transitioning from walking to running.

We hit the halfway point in around 2:12. I was still feeling optimistic at this point of achieving my goal of not running my worst marathon ever which was a 4:26. I knew the 2nd half of the course was mostly downhill and the worst of it was behind us. Up to this point the crowds had been pretty awesome and people were handing out all sorts of things on the course such as twizzlers, swedish fish, orange slices, and even slices of bacon! I had a twizzler that I ate part of before I gave up on trying to chew the rest. The sun had come out during the course of the race and was beating on us in full force now.

There was a lady after the halfway point who was yelling out that it's all downhill from here. I joked to Meg that I was gonna have to cut the woman if she was lying. She was most definitely lying. Although the course was net downhill after the halfway point, there were still a lot of inclines. As the sun continued to beat down and warm things up, the walking breaks became more frequent and longer. My stomach started knotting up a bit. I grabbed a beer on the course and that seemed to help for a bit. Finally I stopped and used the facilities around mile 20 or so. Meg walked so I could catch up to her after. It was here that I realized something else scary, My thighs had chafed badly and I was bleeding. It didn't hurt, yet, so I continued on.

As the end of the race came near the crowds picked up again big time. It felt like a big city race heading through the downtown streets towards the finish. Meg and I decided to put our all into the final stretch. The final time of 4:38:35 was a new personal worse by 12 minutes, but I had completed my double with the 2nd day being the hilliest course I've ever run and on a fairly warm day with temperatures in the 70s. Meg had run only 2 minutes slower than the day before so she was pretty happy. The finisher's chute had so many goodies after we collected our medals and water. I wish I had a bag to collect all the chips, cookies, candy, etc. I soon parted ways with Meg and found Natali who immediately asked if I was ok and pointed at my legs. I had partially dried blood streaked down them. It's a wonder no one stopped me on the course or in the finisher chute since it did look pretty bad.

We made our way back to the hotel where it felt great to get out of my soaked clothes, all sweat this time, not rain. I found out my once white socks now had a nice pink hue. The shower was a bit painful to wash certain areas, but much needed. Luckily I had first aid cream and medical tape in my toiletry bag to patch myself back up.

After showering we managed to wander over a few blocks to Tom + Chee to get the most amazing grilled cheese sandwiches ever. I think that might be my ultra food. I had one at mile 36 of the DPRT 50 miler last fall and it was a godsend. After a few hours resting at the hotel we got hungry again and wandered out for dinner. I found a place called Eagle Food and Beer hall that looked good. It had an hour wait at 6PM. We put our names in and headed across the street for a drink. The wait was well worth it as I got half a fried chicken and a 5-cheese mac with garlic bread crumbles. I destroyed that dinner and then had Graeter's Ice Cream for dessert. I guess 52.4 miles made me a little hungry.

We managed to barely stay up long enough to watch Game of Thrones and then had a good night's sleep before driving back to Chicago the next day.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon

Some time ago I got the bright idea of running two marathons in one weekend. Kentucky Derby and Flying Pig seemed like the perfect set up since the races were only about 80 miles apart. I soon signed up and all was well until race weekend approached. I was never able to properly train for the double, so that had me a little worried heading in.

I drove down to Louisville on Friday afternoon. It was largely uneventful except when it came time for lunch and the realization there is almost no where to eat on the drive between Chicago and Lafayette. We finally got to Louisville which featured nearly as much road construction as Chicago and headed to the convention center for the expo. I picked up my stuff which included a hat that I wasn't expected then headed out. The only route out of the expo snaked you through all the exhibits and had narrow corridors full of people gawking over stuff. Not fun. Next was over to a friend's place that we crashed at and dinner and finally bed.

The original forecast was for a wet and stormy morning. I checked the weather once again when I woke up and saw that the rain was going to hold off until later in the morning. I brought my hat in preparation, but this was much preferred to having the race potentially canceled. After parking somewhere in the vicinity of downtown Louisville we made our way to the start line. I soon found Amanda and line up in the corrals with her and Julie. The race started and sent us down the main drag past bourbon places and the Louisville Slugger museum.

It wasn't long before I left Amanda behind as she was making sure to take things slow to survive the double as well. I ran past some girls where one was explaining to the other what the different bib colors meant and that some of the people were running a marathon. I announced to them I was running two. They asked if my 2nd one was Flying Pig and I said yes. They were excited since they were from Cincinnati and love Flying Pig. They were shooting to get the girl a sub 2 hour half so I ran for them awhile to try and keep them on pace. I tried coaching the girl a bit as she was running far to tense and it showed. The miles ticked off and soon we were doing a quick lap around Churchill Downs. A bit after this the course split so I said good luck and good bye to the girls and was on my way.

There were far fewer marathoners than half runners. It didn't take long to spot some Maniacs though. I found a couple who were also trying to be 50 Staters. There was a sprinkle that started at mile 8 that was now turning into heavier rain. It was refreshing and I picked up the pace a little. At mile 11.5 we entered Iroquois Park which featured a lot of ups and downs, especially compared to Chicago. I swallowed my pride and walked a bit of the uphill portions knowing full well that even though I wasn't tired, I wasn't even 1/4 of the way through my weekend mileage yet. One of the Maniacs, Steady Eddie, saw what I was doing and joined me to conserve some energy as well. He told me about another group he's in that I should join - 50sub4.  You need 10 states at sub 4 hours to get in and the goal is to his sub 4 hours in every one, which only 84 people have completed to date. We were still on sub4 pace for KDF so that would give me my 10th state if I kept it up.

As we finally hit some downhills and left the park I also left Steady Eddie to greet his wife. Back on the streets I picked up the pace a bit. The trip through the park meant some splits closer to 10 minutes with the walking. While still on sub 4 pace, I wanted a little more cushion. Once we reached mile 18 the half and full course merged once more, but had dividers splitting the 2. The marathon side was a bit narrow and I soon found myself weaving around a lot of the marathoners who had faded. I was still running strong and enjoying myself in the rain. I cleared 20 miles in 2:56 and knew I could practically coast to the finish line under 4 hours. I finally realized how dumb I was being and slowed things down at mile 22.

I nearly made it through the entire race without using the facilities, but decided to stop during the 23rd mile because I had time and there was no need to run with discomfort for the next few miles. When I slowed down I switched to monitoring my heart rate. Once I hit the threshold from moderate effort over to hard effort I would walk myself down to and easy level heart rate and then start jogging again. The system worked out pretty well even if I did have a 10 minute and 10:30 mile doing it. I soon found myself on the home stretch and with a large group of people yelling my name. It was the girls from earlier and their friends with them out there cheering me on. That gave me a little pick up for the home stretch as I crossed the line in 3:55:59.

Don't think I've ever looked this strong at the finish (in yellow)

I soon got my medal, water, Mylar blanket, and a chocolate milk. The finish area was under an overpass so it stayed mostly dry. Unfortunately the area was sandy which was a mess to walk through. My friends found me and after a bit we decide to grab lunch at a local bbq/microbrewery. By this point the rain was a complete downpour. Lunch was good, but I wasn't very hungry. My tummy was a little out of whack still from the running. One of the girls from earlier actually came in and she ran over and hugged me. She PR'd and was happy about that but missed her sub 2 half by 33 seconds.

After lunch it was time to put on some dry clothes and head to Cincinnati for the next part of this epic journey.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ravenswood 5K 2016 Edition

After last year's move to Lincoln Square, this meant that Ravenswood was now my neighborhood race. I had to sign up for it of course. I've run this race for a few years now and the convenience factor was now a definite plus. I was able to do packet pick up from the Fleet Feet Lincoln Square location on Thursday evening. The races are now being organized by RAM so it was their set up with check in, get a random bib, and scan it in under your name. Fairly quick process and then I went and bought new shoes.

Race day was one of those freakish warm days we've been getting this Sprinter. I decided to jog over to the start as warm up. I might have gotten a bit of a late start and then have to rush a little, but not too much. I got to the race site with 12 minutes to spare before the race was to start. I headed over to gear check and spotted Pete. It was quick to drop off my gear bag and then head towards the start corrals. Had a little bit of a fight to get anywhere near the pace I needed to be lining up at. Lots of kids near the front which worried me a bit.

It wasn't long before we were off and running. The early going had some speed bumps, but those weren't much of an issue. It was everyone who sprinted out and then got winded and slowed down that I had to weave through to keep on pace that slowed me down. The first mile was still a respectable 6:35. There were no Rahm sightings for me this year since I found out after the race he actually ran.

During the 2nd mile I began to struggle. I just could not keep my legs pumping as hard. My cadence slowed and my stride shortened. I was working way too hard to maintain the pace I was running and thus slowed down a bit to 7:10. Things should not have been as hard as they were given that I had run faster on a windy day 2 weeks prior. I didn't think the warmer temperature was affecting me that much. Every time I went to try and push things I got a little dizzy and realized my heart rate was up near top effort.

We ran down Lincoln and through the main square where the Fleet Feet employees were cheering everyone one. After than is the turn down Lawrence that seems to go on forever before turning back down Damen. I was getting passed and really fought to maintain the pace that I had been running. The third mile was just a touch slower at 7:14. Turning back down Wilson I pushed with everything I had left and ignored that I was getting dizzy again. I crossed the line at exactly 22:00. It was a subpar performance for me and I was happy to just be done. I grabbed some water and headed towards gear check.

I ran into the Bootleg group on my way to gear check and found out where the meeting spot was going to be. I got my gear fairly quickly and also got a sticky bun before heading over to church for pictures with the Bootlekeggers and the bloggers.

We began discussion race performance. Pete had an amazing PR. I realized that I had not eaten well the day before and likely just bonked. It's been recommended that I get the book Racing Weight to be able to cut weight and still train for endurance. Also found out that Rahm was behind Pete at the start. We had an Olympian in the race who finished 2nd overall for females. Pete and Annabelle both placed in their age groups.  In spite of the bad personal race, it was a good day and the weather was beautiful. Couldn't think of a better way to spend a Sunday morning.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Garmin Land of Oz Marathon Recap

Last fall I gave in to a whim and signed up for the Garmin Marathon. There was a discount for Marathon Maniacs and they were touting some perks. I figured it was a race I could drive to and spend a 3 day weekend. I didn't put much thought into how the course or weather might turn out or the fact that I was doing my first double marathon 2 weeks later.

I took Friday off of work and drove to Olathe (Oh-LAY-thuh), Kansas. The home of Garmin. It is a suburb of Kansas City.The trip was mostly uneventful as driving across Illinois and Missouri can be. I stopped a few hours in for gas and lunch, but pretty much trucked it right on to the race expo. I must admit my legs were a little wobbly after being in the car for so long so I spent a few minutes getting my balance and senses back as I wandered into the expo. I got my registration sheet and headed towards the back to pick up my stuff and crossed paths with a girl from my Ragnar team. She was in the other van so we didn't really know each other too well, but she gave me a funny look and was like, hey, do I know you? After I said yes, Ragnar, she was like oh, right. What are you doing for dinner, me and the girls are gonna grab something soon. She was with Too Tall and Judy who I knew, so I figured why not join in on the fun.

After happy hour beers and a teriyaki stir fry I finally made it to my hotel. Someone must not like me because the room was filthy. I was too tired to complain. The only things clean were the sink and the bed which was all I needed after the long day. I talked to another runner after the race staying there who said she got a newly remodeled room. We both paid $45 a night so I still feel a bit shafted. I managed to get to bed after the Blackhawks game finished and got up bright and early to get to the race site. It was at an industrial complex without a lot of roads in or out and would be closing for the race so I was there 75 minutes before race time. I chilled in the car for half an hour before heading to the race area to use the facilities. I wandered around looking for familiar faces, but talked to several other Maniacs instead. I used the facilities one more time before the start of the race and then found the start corral completely jam packed with 10 minutes before race time. The pacers were all like 5 feet apart. There wasn't enough room for the number of runners so I had to wait with a large group to jump in from a side entrance after the race was under way.

Early Miles -
I was way back in no mans land by the time I crossed the start. I saw a 4:40 pacer in front of me and groaned. I wanted to start conservative, but this was a bit too much. There was no room to navigate either. I wanted to avoid weaving, but didn't have a whole lot of choice as the pace was painfully slow. I wound up using turn lanes on the road for a little extra space to get around people. We also got an early taste of some rollers. These were a bit taller than Mt Roosevelt in Chicago and ran back to back. I caught up to Too Tall somewhere around the 4:30 pace group and she was sticking around there with her friend and told me to keep going so away I went.

The Fun Miles -
It took about 4 miles, but I finally got locked into a groove. I had caught the 3:50 pace group and planned to stick with them for a bit. A couple Maniacs started talking to me and one of them was doing 3 more of the same races as I was this year. The pace felt casual and I had no problem conversing so I was surprised to see my watch show a sub 8 split on the next mile. After a couple miles my new friend said she wanted to take it easy and stay with the 3:50 group so away I went. There were some more small hills, but I was in a good mood and cruising so I kept at it. I eventually caught and passed the 3:37 pace group. I had no intention of running anywhere near this pace so it was a bit unexpected. The sun had come out though and things started to take more of an effort.

The Grind Miles -
There was a long hill up to mile 12. I fought my way up and might have used too much energy doing so. I only had one more sub 8 mile after that hill. I recognized that between the heat and the climbs, my legs had lost their mojo and tried to slow my pace just to survive. To make matters worse my stomach was in knots. I was sure I was having hydration issues and the powerade flavored water wasn't helping for electrolytes. I tried to use the bathroom during the 16th mile and this is when the 3:37 pace group passed me by.

The Wheels Falling Off -
I kept going. I started getting stomach pains and wondered when the next bathroom would pop up. Miles 12-25 of the race were along a paved bike trail that while scenic, meant longer distances between aid stations and restrooms. I tried using another restroom at 18 with no luck. Finally at 18.5 we hit the turnaround of the out and back along the trail and I was greeted with a fierce headwind. It was a steady 15 mph with stronger gusts. The fact that we were also going uphill just added to the battle. It wasn't long before I was reduced to mostly walking. I was feeling faint and dizzy, but was too stubborn to give up so I power walked what I could and jogged the downhill stretches. I hurt seeing a bunch of pace groups pass me by, but I didn't want to end up in a med tent or worse.

The Finish -
Even if I had fresh legs, the climb just before the mile 25 marker was pure evil. It was 80 feet up a steep incline. We then went down a little decline and small incline before turning onto the same road we started the race on. One last trip over those rollers before hitting the finish. I had pushed myself just enough over the last couple miles to avoid a personal worst. I finished just under 4:21. I collected my medal, a water bottle and headed straight to the beer tent. I caught up on news from Carmel and waited for the others to finish. The medal was actually pretty cool.

After thoughts -
I actually felt really good in the first half of the race. I may not have lost as much fitness over the winter as I thought. I'm definitely not in shape for hilly courses on warm days though. I also need to start splurging for host hotels and the perks they give. I could have slept in an extra hour if I had. The race was well themed and well done. The only problems were the crowded start, the over diluted powerade, and the lack of on course port-a-potties.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

2016 Shamrock Shuffle Recap

In 2012 I ran my first race ever at that year's Shamrock Shuffle. It has since become an annual tradition of mine. Who doesn't love flying through the streets of the loop having a near Chicago Marathon experience without the mileage?

The Friday before the race I headed down to McCormick after work for packet pick up. It takes a little longer to get their from my new place, but it's nice that the green line has a stop nearby now. I'm also glad I paid attention to where people were coming from since they moved the expo into a different hall than it normally is in. Packet pick up was pretty painless and then I wandered around looking at vendors before bumping into Harry and Tiffany. Not long after I also ran into Luis and Charlyn.

The next morning was the monthly meet up of the Mikkeller Running Club. I had planned on taking it easy and just getting loose before the Shuffle. Well I did the running nice and easy no problem, but then I might have gone a bit overboard with the drinking. I apparently got a bit drunk. Untappd says I drank 6 beers with the last one being 12% alcohol. Oops.  I did manage to make it home with a pizza by 5PM so I had some time to recover.

Race morning came far too early. I was slightly hungover and it was far too cold out. I made my way down to the start area. I met up with some of the usual suspects, but needed to use the facilities and wandered off. I did bump into Charlyn in time to head to the corrals together where we found Pete and watched the elites warm up. Pete soon headed off to the front while we stayed near the back of A corral.

Once the race started I got sucked into things. I was running stiff and could feel myself over striding. It's hard to correct myself in a short, fast race like that. I decided to just hold on the best I could even though it isn't very efficient. I hit the first mile in 7:02 which was just a touch slower than I had hoped for. Mile 2 was more of the same and a similar split.

The middle miles turned into bit of a drag. We had a couple stretches where we had to fight the wind. The inefficient stride was also wearing on me and I slowed closer to 7:15ish splits. During the last mile we turned back onto Michigan Ave and I tried to pick up the pace a bit knowing the end was near. I caught Charlyn passing me so I had a new target to keep up with. We turned up Roosevelt and were nearly to the homestretch. I got stuck taking a wide turn around a slower runner who also took a wide turn. The hilly fall marathons must of paid off because I was able to power up the hill pretty well. After that final turn towards the finish I was able to pull together everything I had left and finished pretty strongly. Charlyn wound up a few yards behind me. Final time was 35:27 which was good for a 7:08 pace. While it was a PR, it was still slower than the 6:46 pace I had during my 10K last fall. I guess that's what I get for running hungover.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Live Grit Lakefront 10 Miler

Last year I was invited to join a running group that competes on the CARA circuit. I knew I wasn't going to score any real points for the team with age group wins, but I could still get participation points so I signed up for a bunch of races on the circuit. It helps that I'm also a race addict. The first race on the circuit this year was the Live Grit Lakefront 10 Miler.

As tends to be the case I woke up race morning after going to bed too late the night before. I got myself together and hydrated and ate a Kashi bar before taking the bus towards Montrose Harbor. I made it to the race site without having to run to the start this time. I found Mo at the Ragnar tent and Pete strolled up a few minutes later. We discussed goals and I basically said finish and PR since I've actually run 14 marathons since my last 10 mile race which was Soldier Field in 2014. Wrap your minds around that.

I didn't have a whole lot of time before I got myself together and dropped off my stuff at gear check before heading to the start corrals. I opted for shorts and tshirt on this chilly day with arm warmers and gloves. I'm like a furnace when I run so I knew I wouldn't be cold for long, but it always seems like forever when in the corrals. After an acapella version of the national anthem we were off and running.

I quickly realized that I started myself too far back and that I was running pretty fast at the start. I also felt that maybe I hadn't hydrated as well as I should have before the race. Oops. The first mile ticked off in 7:01. The next few were around the 7:05 range and this included slowing to actually drink water at the aid stations and climbing over Cricket Hill. I had been finally getting over whatever funk had been plaguing me for months at it was starting to show.

As the course wound down and around Diversey Harbor my legs began to become uncooperative and heavy. It's been so long since I've run this fast and for this long. I began to focus on re-gathering myself and trying to optimize my strides. My pace fell off a bit, but I held on to sub-8:00. I also think I mentally caused myself to slow down on the way back to Montrose to conserve energy for the 2nd trip over the hill. This 2nd climb was definitely more of a trudge, but once it was over I gathered myself on the downhill and made a strong push to the finish with a 7:18 mile while hovering around a 6:45 pace for the last 1/4 mile.

I wound up finishing in 1:13:11 for a 7:19 min/mile pace and a new PR by 12 1/2 minutes to boot! I got my medal, gatorade, water, and part of a bagel and wandered over to get my gear and then back to the Ragnar tent. After catching up with people, me and Pete decided to head to the beer garden to celebrate our PRs. We stood near the back rope and had a few people slip us extra tickets which added to our cause. We had more than we can drink so we gave a ticket to a girl that was there and talked to her a bit. After she left Pete gave me a hard time for not getting her number. What can I say? I'm not smooth at all.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Phoenix Marathon Experience

I first signed up to run the Phoenix Marathon last fall after my goal race didn't go as planned. I had visions of redemption on a fast course. Fast forward to recent times and I'm still in doldrums from all the fall racing and a bit out of shape. Well I'm in a rounder shape after a lackluster winter. Once race day got closer it also didn't look like mother nature was going to cooperate either.

I flew out to Phoenix a couple days early given that I've never been there before. The first night was spent meeting an internet stranger and drinking entirely too much good beer at Four Peaks Brewery. Day 2 saw me and my friend meeting up with a former coworker for packet pickup at a bigger than expected expo as well as driving past Wrigley West. After packet pickup We went over to Mill Ave to soak in the college crowd, and a drink, before heading to dinner to carb up. It was then lights out early for an all too early alarm clock on race day.

The alarm went off at 2:30AM so that I could be ready for my friend picking us up at 3:30AM. We drove over to the finish line area to catch the shuttle buses to the start. I hopped on my bus and it took us up one of the smaller mountains in the dark. Once there it was like a camp with port-a-potties, water station, and a bunch of heat lamps and fire pits. It was still a little cool in the dark so I settled in near a fire to relax.

Soon there was the national anthem, complete with fireworks and we were on our way with even more fireworks announcing the start of the race. The first few miles were a pretty steep downhill. I tried to settle in, but really just rode gravity and coasted downhill. Looking at my Garmin information later it's crazy to think that I was running a 7:25 pace with a less than optimal cadence. About 4.5 miles in there begins a mile long steady climb. It was here that my legs felt like molasses and I struggled a bit. This was followed by another steep downhill sequence where I went flying again.

As the race went on the sun rose higher in the sky and started to heat things up. The course started to flatten out again and things became a struggle. With as steep as the downhill sections were, once things were more or less even again it felt more like an uphill fight. I also began struggling with dehydration. I had to start walking a lot more.

The second half of the race was a stark contrast from the first half. What began with a 1:43:45 turned into a 2:35:xx 2nd half. The feels like temperature of 80+ was not nice. As I walked I talked to other runners who were also struggling, even meeting a fellow Chicagoan from Roscoe Village who had runner friends in common. I did manage to pick things up just enough to finish with my 3rd worst marathon time. I managed to spot Lauren as I approached the finish line. After crossing I got my medal and downed a bunch of water and gatorade. My friends found me and we talked while I cooled off a bit. The finish area also featured Famous Daves, french toast, turkey dogs, and the only thing I could eat, fudgesicles. It was a pretty solid set up.

The day after the race was spent going on an "easy" 3 mile hike near Tom's Thumb. Once that was done I wanted nothing more than to spend some time cooling off so I finally went and saw Deadpool which was hilarious.