Treadmills, Rocking my Brain, & New Digs

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 2 – March 27 > April 2

The weather forced Friday’s 45 minute run indoors to the old dreadmill.  I’m very grateful that I have access to two treadmills, and I am very glad to have that option when the weather is bad.  But my goodness they can suck the life out of you.

I decided to use the treadmill at work for my run.  The workout room has a TV, but it’s mounted on the far wall, hasn’t worked in a couple of months, and I can never hear it anyway.  But we do have a rockin’ speaker system that I can connect my iPhone music to through Bluetooth.  So I usually flip that thing on and crank up the classic rock that was once new rock when I first heard it.  Maybe I’m classic now, too.

I pulled up a playlist and hit shuffle.  The first artist was The Heavy, with a song called No Time.  My kind of tune.  After that came Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road.  After that song came Runaround  by Blues Traveler.  It was at that point I decided to try to remember all of the artists that played during my run.  I was surprised at first that I couldn’t remember the first artist.  It came back to me and then I began repeating them over and over.

Next up was Lynyrd Skynyrd.  Then came Billy Joel.  He was followed by a band called Grouplove.  After each new song, I would restart the process of repeating the artists in order, sometimes having momentary memory lapses, sometimes flipping Blues Traveler with the Boss, and often forgetting about Billy Joel.  But it would eventually come to me.

The next groups were Pearl Jam, Genesis, Robert Randolph & the Family, and Jack White.  Gerry Rafferty finished up my 5.25 mile/45 minute run with Baker Street.  

I must say that trying to remember the names of the artists was somewhat difficult, but also fun.  If one of my coworkers had walked in while I was repeating them over and over again, they would have thought I was strange.

But I got my planned run in, exercised my body and my mind, and actually enjoyed the dreadmill for once.  I think I will make this a habit.

The rest of the week was easy but also exciting.   I wasn’t able to swim due to spring break at the high school and the pool being closed.  That’s the easy part.  The exciting part is that my wife and I closed on a lake home in Minocqua, Wisconsin.  We were up there for the closing on Monday, and spent a couple of nights there.  I got in a couple of runs on the local roads and trail, and scoped out the riding options that look to be very hilly.  I can’t wait to get up there every month and do more training, especially some open water swimming in the lake!

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Can’t wait to enjoy the training perks that the new lake home has to offer.  Just need the ice to melt first.

TOTALS:

0 Swims – 0 yards this week / 3200 yards total

4 Bikes – 42 miles this week / 83 miles total

7 Runs – 25.5 miles this week / 45.5 miles total

 

Gunners-2-1
Week 2 for Ironman Lou is no longer due!

Yay! Week 1 is Done!

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 1 – March 20 > March 26

Very glad to have one of the 30 weeks of training in the books.  I was excited to get started, and to once again be following a plan instead of just doing whatever certainly gives you a sense of accomplishment.

So if you are wondering what the first week of an Ironman training plan looks like, here’s how it went for me.

Monday – Rest day!  But I ended up doing a 30 minute stationary bike spin and a 2 mile treadmill run.

Tuesday – A swim and run.  I am following the easier “Just Finish” version of the swim plan in Be Iron Fit, so it was a 1600 yard swim today.  200 yard warm-up, 8×50 drills, 5×100’s with 20 seconds rest in between 100’s, another 8×50 drill set, and a 100 yard cool down.  I was very surprised at how much my shoulders and arms were fatigued during the swim.  I’m sure it will get easier within the next couple of weeks.  I averaged about 2:02/100 yds.  The run was supposed to be a 30 minute run in Zone 2, which is a light pace run.  I gunned it instead, pushing to finish 4 miles in the 30 minutes.  So much for following the plan.

Wednesday –  The bike/run brick day.  I always think of this day as an easy day, because it sort of is.  30 minutes on the bike with a 15 minute run and you are done.  Beats Thursday, that’s for sure.

Thursday – 3-shower Thursday.  I get up and shower before I go to work.  Swimming was up first, and I was still sore from Tuesday’s effort, having not done any swimming in months.  The fitness will come eventually, though.  You swim, then you take shower number 2 to get the chlorine smell off of you.  Then it’s off to home to spin on the bike for 30 minutes.  And since I am a running streaker, I get to do a mile after that on the treadmill to keep my streak alive.  Then it’s time for shower number 3 followed by a liberal coating of lotion so my skin doesn’t dry up completely and leave me itchy for two days.  I don’t like Thursday.

Friday –  It’s typically a run day, but since I was leaving town on Saturday to drive to Minocqua, Wisconsin I decided to do both Saturday’s 60 minute bike and brick the 30 minute run.  If I hadn’t, I would have missed the bike altogether.  Now I can do an easy mile or two before leaving on Saturday, and just do some easy running for the following three days after that.

Saturday/Sunday – An easy two mile run on the treadmill at home and then drove to the Northwoods. Sunday was an easy 5 miler around Minocqua.

So there we have it, Week 1 is in the books.  Just 29 more to go.

TOTALS:

2 Swims – 3200 yards total

4 Bikes – 41 miles total

7 Runs – 20 miles total

Gunners-2-1
Week 1 is DONE!  

 

30 Weeks to Ironman Number 3

HOW FAR IS THAT, AGAIN?

I was dropping my college freshman off at school after being home two weeks for spring break, and we stopped in at the local Culver’s for a quick dinner.  The young man at the counter recognized that I was wearing a hat with the Ironman logo on it and asked me about it.

“How far is that again?” he asked.  I had already anticipated the question, and I gave him the automatic response – 140.6 total miles – 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 mile bike ride, and a full marathon of 26.2 miles.  Like most people who are slightly aware of what an Ironman triathlon is, they are almost always surprised to learn of the distances.  In all honesty, knowing those distances, especially the 2.4 mile swim, was what had kept me out of doing the event for many years.  I just couldn’t wrap my brain around the possibility.  I could never swim that far.  I was surprised initially at those numbers as well.

But as he was wrapping his brain around it, I was contemplating a much different number:  30.  30 weeks, actually.  And not just the 30 weeks until my next Ironman race, Ironman Louisville on October 15, 2017.  I was thinking about the 30 weeks of many miles of training to get to that point of being able to actually attempt the 140.6 miles in under 16 hours.*   Last year I swam about 150,000 yards, cycled more than 2,600 miles, and ran over 1,000 miles in training just leading up to the 140.6 miles on race day at Ironman Lake Placid.  So, is 140.6 miles far?  Sure.  But the mileage put into training makes 140.6 miles a piece of cake.

So yeah, an Ironman is a long way to swim/bike/run.  And 30 weeks is a long time to prepare for the race.  But if my past two Ironman races are any indicator, I expect that number three will be just as memorable and just as fun.

I plan on taking it day by day.  As they say in Ironman, just keep moving forward.

*  (IMLOU only gives you 16 hours to finish it, unlike the 17 hours for the others.)

GOALS AND PLANS FOR TRAINING FOR IRONMAN LOUISVILLE

Not long after finishing Ironman Lake Placid in July 2016, I was already thinking about the next one.  Like a day after finishing the race.  Lake Placid was quite a haul from the south Chicago suburbs, and I was kind of hoping to try a race closer to home.  I briefly thought about doing Ironman Wisconsin again, and as much I love that race and locale, I thought that maybe a race that isn’t full of hills that are referred to as “bitches” by the triathletes  would be better.  I was hoping for a flatter bike course.  After consulting with my buddy Dave, we settled on Louisville.  It’s pros are a mostly downstream swim with the current, a bike course that consists mostly of rolling hills much like those where I live, and a run course filled with crowds and an exciting finish line.  But the biggest factor was that the race was moved from August to mid-October.  Can you imagine an Ironman in Louisville, Kentucky in the middle of August?  I’ll take mid- October, thank you very much.

The cons:  My wife is a UK grad!  And we bleed BLUE, not red!  The race also conflicts somewhat with the Chicago Marathon, a race that I have grown to love and hate to miss, especially since it will be the 40th running.  Also, my youngest is in a highly competitive marching band and has the state championship on the Saturday before the race.  Hopefully, they can make it down to watch me finish.

The training plan I am using for this race is the same one that I have used for the past two, “Be Iron Fit” by Don Fink.  I will be following the Competitive plan for the 30 weeks with a couple slight changes.  I really don’t like swimming much, and my confidence in my ability to swim has grown.  So I plan to follow the “Just Finish” plan for the swim and see how it goes.  I’m well under the cutoff time for the swim, so I think I can cut back on it without any problems.

The other issue I have is that I am still enjoying a run streak that I started on January 1, 2015.  Now that I’m 2+ years into it, I would hate to have to kill that off.  I made it through last year running every day training for IMLP, so I think I can manage it okay.

My preliminary plan for the race is to hopefully shoot for a new personal best.  Actually, that’s every race I do.  But I think IMLOU will be much faster than the hilly IMMOO, and the mountainous IMLP.  Hopefully the current of the Ohio River will produce a fast swim time for me, somewhere around 1:10.  Many of the race reports I have read indicate that the author had a great swim.  I also hope to take advantage of that bike course and shave 30 minutes off my current 6:46 bike PR.  I may even use my full disc aero wheel for this one.  I have yet to race with it.  And if the temperature for the run is in the 70’s, I really hope to be around 4 hours or under for the run.  I will work hard at those goals, but the weather is the biggest factor.

I started on my triathlon journey with my two life long friends, Dave and his brother John.  And last year we added another very close friend Jeff, and Dave’s son Alex to our team of Gunners.  John has a newborn, and claims he’s skipping this one.  But I never believe John.  He’s a poker player with a great poker face.  Since IMLOU doesn’t seem to sellout anymore, I’m not betting against John joining us at the midnight hour.  Alex has indicated that two of his college Tri-Hawks teammates from the University of Iowa may join us this year as well.

Hopefully the summer will be filled with Gunner get togethers for group rides, open water swims and lots of great conversations through our hilarious group texts.  I’m hoping for a memorable and safe 30 weeks of training for all of us.

So, Day 1 of Week 1 is in the books.  It’s a rest day.  I rode a spin bike for 8 miles/30 minutes, and ran two miles on the treadmill.  So much for resting.

Gunners-2-1
30 Weeks begins today!  Go GUNNERS!

2016 Running & Triathlon Year in Review

28 YEARS!

28 years of running are in the book!  I say “book” in the literal sense, seeing that I have been logging my runs since 1989 and keeping them in a notebook.  It’s becoming a behemoth!  28 total years and a crazy 21,867 total miles is what I currently stand at.  I’m very proud of that.  I’m glad I started logging them down back in 1989.

As it is the usual custom for me, I like to sum up the year and take stock of my accomplishments and create goals for the following year.  I started doing triathlons in 2012, so I now include notes about my triathlon season as well.  So here’s my 2016 Running & Triathlon Year in Review!

 

2016 REVIEW

 

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2016 was Year 2 of the running streak that I started in 2015.  I really wanted to see if I could run every day for a year, but once I got past that first year, I just kept it going.

I managed to log 1824 total miles in 2016.  This is 288 less miles from last year, which surprises me a little, seeing I did both an Ironman and the Chicago Marathon in 2016, and only the marathon in 2015.  Both 2015 and 2016 were years in which I ran every day.  I think the main reason for the smaller year end total was that in November 2015, I started to wonder if I could get over the 2000 mile mark, and once I did I kept it going hard until the end of the year, running a lot of 8 and 10 milers until I reached the 2112 mile mark.  (Being a die-hard Rush fan, how could I not shoot for that number?)  This year I developed a nagging foot issue in December and really cut back in hopes of making it to the end and keeping the streak alive.  Now that I have completed the 2 year streak, I think I better take some time off and let the foot heal.  Plus, running a mile the day after an Ironman and a marathon was a very hard task.  I have a huge year ahead of me planned for 2017.  You never know with me, though.

One of the stats in the photo above is the average pace of 8:47 / mile, which surprised me quite a bit.  It was 8:12 / mile in 2015, and I have always been more concerned with pace than distance.  But since I trained for both Ironman Lake Placid and the Chicago Marathon this year, I logged a lot of long, slow distance runs.  I’m not one to remember the weather, but I do seem to remember a lot of long, hot runs which may have also slowed me down.  I will review it again in 2017 and see if I’m still slowing down.  At 53 years old, I kind of expect it.  But after setting another marathon PR this year, I also question it.

 

2016 RACES

As far as racing goes, I took it a little light this year, only doing five races, which is two less than in 2015.  I have included a link to my previous race report blogs.

4/30/16:  Aurelio’s Pizza Frankfort Half Marathon – 1:35:16 Finish Time – 7:16 ave./mile – 4th in AG – 12th Overall.  Race recap:  2016 Frankfort Half Marathon Race Report

6/12/16:  Batavia Triathlon – 1:18:15 Finish Time – 3rd in AG – 29th Overall.  Race recap:  2016 ET Batavia Triathlon Race Report

6/15/16:  Short Run on a Long Day 5K – 20:52 Finish Time – 3rd in AG – 17th Overall.  Race recap:  2016 Short Run on a Long Day Race Report

7/24/16:  Ironman Lake Placid – 12:52:01 Finish Time (PR) – 59th in AG – 812th Overall.  Race recap:  2016 Ironman Lake Placid Race Report

10/9/16:  Bank of America Chicago Marathon – 3:25:08 Finish Time (PR, BQ) – 7:49 ave./mile – 201st in AG – 3159th Overall.  Race recap:  2016 Chicago Marathon Race Report

Here is the running data from 2016:

2016 Running Year Summary  –  Running Stats

Month / Runs / Miles / Hours

January  / 31 / 119 / (22.25 ave.)

February / 29 / 127

March / 31 / 137

April / 30 / 154

May / 31 / 159

June / 30 / 187

July / 31 / 180

August / 31 / 185

September / 30 / 204

October / 31 / 135

November / 30 / 128

December / 31 / 109

Total:  366 Runs / 1824 Miles / 267 Hours

 

Weekly Runs Average:     7  /   Monthly Runs Average:            30.5

Weekly Miles Average:   35  /  Monthly Miles Average:            154           

Weekly Hours Average:  5.1 /  Monthly Hours Average:       22.25

Total Lifetime Runs:  3975 (as of end of 2016) ~ 142 runs/year

Total Lifetime Miles:  21,867 (as of end of 2016) ~ 780 miles/year

Total Lifetime Hours:  2884 (as of end of 2016) ~ 103 hours/year

Notes: 2016 was a leap year, adding an additional day to the year. The averages are based on 28 years of running data.

 

2016 BIKE AND SWIM

The bike and swim went well for me this year.  I more than doubled my bike mileage from last year, which was expected thanks to all the training I did for the Ironman.  Swimming was way down from my other Ironman year of 2013, somewhat due to pool issues and also due to me thinking all that damn swimming wasn’t that necessary for me.  I did 67K less yards this year and still took off about 12 minutes from my Ironman 2.4 mile swim time.

For 2017, I will swim about the same or maybe cut back just a little more.  I think the training plan is a little too swim heavy, and I am completely fine with being able to swim the 2.4 miles in 1:20 or so.  I will keep an eye on how I am progressing throughout the year and adjust it if necessary.

I’d like to get my bike average up to near 17 mph or more for Ironman Louisville in 2017.  I think that is doable.  IMWI and IMLP were very challenging bike courses, and I am hoping for a faster ride at Louisville.

 

2016 SUMMARY

I think 2016 went really well for me in my running endeavors.  I was glad I was able to complete my streak, running at least one mile every day for two straight years.  I also set two new personal bests in 2016 in both the Ironman and marathon.

I thoroughly enjoyed training with my Gunner teammates Dave, John, Jeff and Alex and completing Ironman Lake Placid with them.  It was an awesome day.  I also got to race with my son Ben in the one 5K we did together.  That was a hot race.

But I think the most notable thing for me this year was once again qualifying for the Boston Marathon with another personal best at the Chicago Marathon.  I lowered my time by another 3 minutes, and gave myself a BQ-4:51.  Not quite a slam dunk sub-5 minute cushion, but with the cutoff to get into the race sitting near 2 minutes under the qualifying time, I think I have a pretty good chance at getting into the 2018 Boston Marathon.

 

2017 GOALS

The “A” race for 2017 is Ironman Louisville on 10/15/17.  I look forward to 30 weeks of training with my buddies and sharing this experience.  I also have the Batavia Triathlon sprint on the schedule, and will probably add the Chicago Triathlon too.  It’s been suggested that we try the Triple Challenge again, and knowing my Gunner teammates, that’s probably what we will do.  The Chicago Marathon is a no go this year, as it falls the week before the Ironman.  Even I am not crazy enough to attempt that.  I’m regretting it a little as it is the 40th anniversary of the marathon, but I will make sure that I maintain my legacy status and make sure I can run the 50th.

Other than that, I hope to stay healthy, and out of harms way out on the roads training for my planned races.  See you in 2017!

 

 

 

2014 Ironman Muncie 70.3 Race Report

Note from me: I originally posted this on a blog site called iamtri.com. Unfortunately, that website is no longer valid, but through some magic performed by my computer knowledgeable college son, he was able to recover my posts. I am sharing them here so that I may preserve my memories from my first Ironman 70.3. Chris

 

2014 Ironman Muncie 70.3 Race Report

July 12, 2014

My First IM 70.3!

For my third triathlon of 2014 and designated “A” race this year, I decided to pick a 70.3 distance, and since I live near Chicago I had three really popular choices to choose from:  Racine, Steelhead and Muncie.  After hearing about a horrible swim in Racine in 2013, and seeing Steelhead is in the same Lake Michigan body of water, I opted for a reservoir/lake located in the middle of Indiana – Muncie!  The only negatives that people had about this location was that the run course was hilly, and that it was hot.  Aren’t they all?  Signed up in February and goaded my buddies to join me.

Location 

The race is held just south of Muncie in the Prairie Creek Reservoir.  It is very rural and peaceful.  The lake is pretty large, with a great swim area and a new facilities building for washrooms and showers.  After hesitating on booking a hotel in Muncie, we opted to stay at the Hampton Inn in Anderson, which was a popular choice with many of the other racers.  It was about a half hour away from the race site, but the town had plenty of dining and other options.

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I watched this helicopter fly in and land on Thursday night.  I wish I knew there was helicopter parking, I would have flown in myself!  (Just kidding – triathletes can’t afford a helicopter.)

Friday/Race Day Eve

I got to Anderson late on Thursday and checked in.  My friends and I met up on Friday morning and started planning our day.  We opted for a short 20 minute run to settle our nerves and knock the cobwebs off of a rest day on Thursday.

We hopped into our cars and headed to the race expo.  We decided to take advantage of the optional bike racking on Friday to avoid one less issue on Saturday/Race day morning.  After picking up our packets, we stuck the stickers on our bikes and wheeled them into the transition area.

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The KX5 all racked and ready to go.

After checking out the expo, buying the expensive Ironman event merchandise and grabbing something to eat, we sat and listened to the race talk.  There were hints that the water temperature may be just cool enough for an unusual for Muncie, wetsuit legal swim.

Race Morning

Wetsuit legal!  Just barely, but many of us were relieved.  The wetsuit for me has become a security blanket of sorts, although I have done races without one.  Anytime I spend time looking at a big body of water, I get nervous.  Wetsuits take that anxiety away for me.

We got up at 4am and hit the road at about 5am.  I slept well, thanks to taking 1/2 of an Ambien that my physician buddy gave me.  But I did wake up twice due to stomach issues.  Spent a lot of time in the port-a-potty line, and was able to get things taken care of.

I set up my transition, pumped up my tires to 120 psi, and took some time to visualize the trip from the Swim Out to Bike Out.

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It has taken me some time, but I’m starting to see the benefit of not bringing all my junk to transition.

The race started at 7am, but my wave didn’t start until 7:55, so I had plenty of time to watch others and my other racing buddies start the race.

 

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Bride and bridesmaid.  I had my buddy Dave help me zip up an obviously too tight for me wetsuit.  

 

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Can you tell which triathlete needs prescription goggles to see?  That would be me.  Dave and I picking our swim line.

 

1.2 MILE SWIM

The water was a perfect temperature.  Usually I don’t do well in cold water, but this water was perfect.  I chose to swim the inside of the buoys until the turns and had no issues at all with other swimmers.  Zig-zagging was minimal.  I did start to get a calf cramp in my legs about 2/3’s of the way into the swim.  I just slowed down, kicked a little less and was fine.  I started to notice that I was catching the white and pink capped swimmers  that had started in waves 5 and 10 minutes ahead of me, respectively.  That was a positive sign for me that I was having a good swim.  Toward the last four or five buoys to go, I decided to pick up the pace.  I could see some athletes were standing, but I swam until my fingers hit bottom.

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Out of the water declaring “Piece of Cake!”  It really was the most uneventful swim.  

 

After getting out of the water I sat down and the volunteer wetsuit strippers (or peelers, as they prefer) yanked off my suit and it was a slogfest up to T1.  It was uphill on a rocky path, which was covered with thin carpet.  But everyone seemed to be walking.  I was like, “Hey, get out of the way!  This IS a race, right?”

SWIM TIME:  42:17

T1

After getting by the field of swim zombies heading to T1, I got to my bike and quickly dried my feet and head off and changed into the cycling gear.  Heading to the exit, I spied the toilets and went in.  I had to go while I was in the water, but just couldn’t do it while I was swimming.

T1 TIME:  5:48

56 MILE BIKE

Everything I heard about the bike course at Muncie was that it was flat and fast.  Nope.  I will give you fast, but it wasn’t flat.  I guess that I’m just too used to the flat rails-to-trails trail that I constantly ride at home.  That is flat.  The portion of the course that leads to and from the looped highway is 16 miles of hills, turns and potholes.  The race announcer said at the course talk that when prepping the bike course, they normally go through about 3 bags of cold patch asphalt. This course required more than 30!  Admittedly, it was a little rough, but easily rideable.

My heart rate monitor started chirping at me right away.  I was trying to stay in Z3, but was well into Z4 for the first 45 minutes or so.  Finally got it settled down and locked in.  The two loops were done on a closed highway, which was new for the course.  Two twenty mile loops.  The two aid stations rocked, helping me reload my bottles while I used the bathroom again.  Peeing was a good sign for me, as I was sweating quite a lot.  Since I was in a later start wave, I had a lot of fast riders zipping by me on my first loop as they finished their second loops.  It was a lot less crowded on my second loop.

 

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Heading out of T1 for 56 miles of “flat” riding.  Yeah, right.  My son and daughter are behind me in the green and pink shirts.  

Around 40 miles I had an issue.  A little before I had taken a drink of Gatorade and got back into an aero position and had a little acid reflux.  Nothing too bad, but gave me some discomfort.  But the real issue I had was I tried to eat a GU and I swallowed it a little rough, causing some coughing and throat irritation.  I dealt with that for at least ten miles.  I couldn’t get my throat cleared, and it was to the point I was gagging.  Finally got over it, but it was not fun.

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The last of the second loop on Highway 35.

The sun had finally made an appearance on an otherwise cloudy day.  I knew with the run coming up, having the sun out would not be good.  Fortunately, the skies cloudy over again.

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My kids watching the action on the bike course.  Well, Ashley was watching with her eyes closed.  

Coming in to T2 I had that feeling that 56 miles was hard.  Even though I had done a full Ironman less than a year before, I couldn’t fathom having to do another 56!  Glad I was coming in for the run.

BIKE TIME:  3:01:31

T2

The second transition was quick.  I grabbed the water bottle that I had in transition for rinsing my feet off, and used it on my head.  A good sweat rinse felt great.  I downed another GU, put on the visor, bib belt, and running shoes and I was off to get some sunscreen and run a half marathon.

T2 TIME:  3:16

13.1 MILE RUN

I was concerned I had pushed too hard on the bike and would suffer a little on the run, but in reality I felt great.  I got to the first aid station in 7:45 according to my watch.  I told my self to back it off.  I hit the first of several really great aid stations and hit the water, ice, cola, and pretzels to get me going down the road.  The aid stations are about a mile apart, and were well stocked and manned.  The volunteers were once again, pretty awesome.

At every aid station I would take ice and shove it into my trisuit to get my temperature down.  Seemed to work pretty good.  Take some ice water, drink the water and then shove the ice in my clothes.  I took a banana a couple of times, but mainly stuck with my eating a GU every half hour, plenty of fluids, and a salt capsule every hour or so.

Around the 5.5 mile area, I spotted my buddy Dave ahead and started to catch up.  Just before seeing him go by, his brother John was passing by heading back to the finish.  Big boost to seeing him.  John started in the wave before us with a 5 minute head start.  I knew I had work to do to try to catch him, so I gently started picking up the pace.  I passed Dave right around the turn around, and started in on the hills back to the finish.

The hills were brutal.  A lot of athletes were walking up them.  I just kept my turnover going and powered through.  At mile 9, I decided to start pushing.  I passed a lot of people those last 4 miles.  In all, I can only remember getting passed by one guy on the course, who was younger than me, and he had a good pace going.  The only other runner that passed me was a younger girl who outkicked me in the chute after I had already passed her a 1/2 mile earlier.

I had driven to the event site several times on that run course, so I knew I was getting close.  The few sprinkles that had started were more of a relief than a bother.  I was already soaked.  My feet squished when I took a step.  I got to the final climb and really pushed through that last hill, feeling relieved to see the tents and finishing chute.  I could see my family and hit my watch to see that I had easily broken 6 hours in my first 70.3 attempt.

RUN TIME:  1:53:18

     FINISH TIME:  5:46:10 (PR)

RECOVERY AND POST RACE

I knew I was spent and just wanted to walk a little.  I met up with my family and sat down in a chair.  After a few minutes I decided to head to the medical tent to see if I could get some Perform to drink, and after talking with the staff, I decided to enter and sit down.  They got me a wet towel and I put it around my neck, and started drinking the cold Perform.  Thank goodness it was Lemon-Lime flavor.  Before I knew it they had a blood pressure cuff on me and advised me that I was 100/70.  A little low, but not dead.  I told them that I had hydrated well, and had taken a salt capsule every hour.  The doctor offered an IV, but I turned it down as I was starting to come around.

Once out of the medical tent, I met my buddies who now had all finished.  We swapped stories and race recaps and ate a little from the athlete food tent.  After laying around for a while, we claimed our bikes from transition and headed back to the hotel in Anderson.

THANKS

Thanks go once again to my great family, who spent their weekend watching me do my thing.  It is truly a blessing to have such support.  The photos my wife and kids took were awesome.

Thanks also to Carla for setting up our hotel for the weekend and being such a great planner and photographer.

And finally, I know I wouldn’t have as much fun doing these tri’s without my lifelong friends, Dave and John, and also Dave’s son Alex.  I love the fun we have, and certainly the friendly competition.  Alex, being only 19 and on the U of Iowa Tri-Hawks team, will always come in first.  But with the finish order this year – John, me and Dave – we now have each had a race in which we have won.  That is pretty cool.

Another awesome triathlon experience, shared with my best buddies and family.  I am blessed.

 

Ironman Wisconsin 2013 Race Report

Note from me:  I originally posted this on a blog site called iamtri.com.  Unfortunately, that website is no longer valid, and through some magic performed by my computer knowledgeable college son, he was able to recover my posts.  I am sharing them here so that I may preserve my memories from my first Ironman.  Chris

 

2013 IRONMAN WISCONSIN Race Report

September 8, 2013

 

I AM AN IRONMAN!!!

I did it!  And surprisingly enough, I really enjoyed it!

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Okay, so it may not looked like I enjoyed it, but I actually did! Kind of a smile/cry thing going on at this point.  

 

When I started this adventure, my friends and I debated as to whether to try to do this together.  I was somewhat torn, because I felt that my experience running marathons and good training would help me race the Ironman.  And my friends seemed to prefer to be just finishers.  And then I rode the bike course.  Three flats, a broken spoke, a monumental bonk, and watching my buddies ride the course with ease on that first ride gave me a huge reality check.  I now had to respect the hills, and I made the decision then that I would train hard and race smart.  Finishing was now my goal.  And my friends would also soon see their potential.  We spent 30 weeks getting ready for September 8, 2013, and had a great time training together.  I will long remember the training as well as the race.  I’ve said over and over that the training was the hard part, the race will be the reward.  And that statement proved to be true.

Here is how I became an Ironman.

 

INTRO TO TRIATHLON/IRONMAN

My training partners, Dave and John, are my lifelong friends.  We have known each other since 1969 or so.  Dave and I went from kindergarten through college together, and his little brother John was always a shadow to us.  We spent a huge part of our youth together, so naturally, when John got an interest in triathlons, he started ingraining us with the idea of doing it with him.  As a runner, I always thought marathons and 5K races were plenty for me to handle.  And whenever I watched the Ironman on television, I would always shake my head at how that was even possible.

John worked his magic on me and Dave, and we finally committed.  Then reality set in – I had to learn to swim!  Well, I had the basics down, but there was no way I could swim effortlessly for even 50 yards, let alone a mile.  So, I started doing a lot of swimming in my pool.  I found that I was trying to swim too fast, sprinting instead of pacing myself through the water.  I had to develop technique and pace.

First up for me was a sprint tri that didn’t go so well.  What should have taken me 12 minutes or so to swim 500 meters ended up being a 17 minute survival swim.  But the bike and run went well, and I was hooked.  As we were driving to that tri, Dave asked me what I thought about doing an Ironman.  Here I am trying not to freak out heading to my first triathlon, one I should mention, that was not wet suit legal due to the 82 degree water temp, and he wants to know if I want to do an Ironman!  I don’t remember what my response was at that moment, but I had a feeling that wading in the water of an Ironman start was going to be in my future.

I was able to do one more triathlon in 2012, the Olympic distance of the Chicago Triathlon.  We had a great time and did really well.  I was becoming a triathlete!  So, on September 10, 2012, we three sat at our computers and hit submit on a race entry for the 2013 Ironman Wisconsin.  When it was accepted, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was almost sick about it.  But we were in!

 

TRAINING

Dave had some experience training for his marathon and triathlons by using training books by Don Fink.  He suggested that we purchase his book, “Be Iron Fit” and follow the competitive training program to get us through the Ironman.  I wasn’t so sure.  The more I looked into the Ironman, I saw time and again that using a coach might be the way to go.  So I contacted a local coach and met with her.  In reality, I thought I was contacting the head of a local club, but she made it very clear that she was a very good triathlete and coach.  Her advice was just what I was wanting to hear.  Then she advised me of her fee – $200 per month.  It was clear – Don Fink’s book it is!

We counted back 30 weeks from 9/8/13 and started our training on 2/11/13.  Mondays were always a day off recovery day.  Tuesdays were swim and run efforts.  Wednesday was a bike to run brick.  Thursday was a swim and bike, with Friday being a run.  Later in the program, a third swim for the week was added on Friday.  Saturdays were long bike rides, and Sundays were long runs.  As the program progressed, a brick bike/run was added to the weekend.

Coming off a hard year of running in 2012, I was glad the program started very easy.  It obviously progressed in the typical fashion until we went from an hour long weekend ride to a 6 hour, near century effort.  I realized how well thought out the plan was, and started to trust it completely.

I was a little worried about the swim, so I started that in January, hitting the local high school pool.  I quickly realized I am not a fast swimmer.  I started looking at YouTube videos and found a link to a DVD called “Total Immersion Swimming,” which was geared toward open water swimming.  I bought it and learned a lot, especially how to break the swim down into its basic components.  Swimming is all about technique, and I focused on that as I also increased distance.

The worst part of training was being stuck indoors on the treadmill and trainer.  Nothing worse than riding your bike in the basement during winter.  I watched a lot of home improvement shows during those rides.

Getting outside was tremendous.  I was riding my Trek 2.3 road bike, which served me well.  But when I rode with Dave and John they would drop me easily.  I thought maybe that my bike was heavier (it is) and my gearing was smaller than theirs (it is).  But what was really going on was that they just flat out rock the bike.  Very good cyclists.  We decided in the summer to head up to Verona and ride the infamous hilly course of Ironman Wisconsin.  We got a late start at it due to a rain storm and started a little low on fuel.  The ride started out horribly.  I got two flats within 15 minutes of leaving.  We got lost several times just trying to get out of Verona.  Then I got another flat in Mt. Horeb after getting dropped by Dave and John.  I fixed the flat and then we hit the rollers of Witte Road.  Then I broke a spoke on my rear tire going 35mph down the first hill.  My luck and confidence were non-existent at that point.  It was really then that I decided I would need a bike upgrade, more training time in the saddle, and a new plan to make sure I survived the bike so I could do the run.  Racing IM Wisconsin was no longer in the plan.

In July, I went to Spokes in Wheaton, IL and told the guy sitting there that I wanted to go fast.  He fitted me for a tri bike fit for a pro, emptied my wallet and I went home with a new Specialized Shiv Pro.  I regretted the purchase at first, but after a few long rides with my partners, it became apparent that I made a good choice.  I really improved my cycling with that bike.  Now I wasn’t so worried.  But I feared I made a rookie mistake by buying the bike and trying to get used to it too close to the event.  However, it didn’t take long to master the different riding position.

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Me and the “KX5.”  Looks fast standing still.  The bike, that is.

 

I had some great weeks and some not so great, but I stuck to the plan as close as I could.  I am convinced “Be Iron Fit” prepared me well.  Over 30 weeks of training I covered over 217,000 yards of swimming, 2500 miles of biking, and 800 miles of running to get ready for my 140.6 mile adventure.

 

THE 2013 IRONMAN WISCONSIN RACE

We arrived in Madison on Thursday night and checked into the Monona Hilton, which is ground central for the race.  The expo is right there, along with where the course finishes.  My room had an awesome view of Lake Monona and of the top level of the Monona Terrace parking garage, which is where the bikes are racked for the race.  If you are thinking of doing IM WI, this is a great place to stay.

Friday we checked in, which is required – no Saturday registration.  We sat in on the “mandatory” course talk and race rules.  I don’t know how they would know if you attended it or not, but we listened and got nervous.  Actually, all of Friday and Saturday were just filled with anxiety for me.  I was having trouble not letting the event make me more nervous than I wanted. Just looking at the enormity of the lake was something I found I couldn’t do.  John is a doctor and uses Ambien to help him sleep on nights before big events like this.  I had turned him down before other events, but I decided to try it on Thursday night.  I slept well.  Friday, I opted not to take it and did not sleep as well. I knew I’d take one on Saturday night.

We also sat in on the Pro panel, which featured 2 top women and 3 top male pros in the race field.  The eventual winner of the race was one of them, Maik Twelsiek from Germany.  Mike Reilly, aka “The Voice of Ironman” asked them questions.  I got more nervous listening to them.

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Mike Reilly – aka “The Voice of Ironman” – in the red hat.

 

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My Run Gear Bag (2585) in a sea of others.

 

John had his bike checked by the Trek crew there and they informed him how messed up it was!  All summer long I had to listen to his chain squeal when we rode.  They said it was junk, as too was his cassette.  They ended up giving him a nice granny climbing gear, which allowed him to spin up the tough hills easily.  This made him happy, as he thought he was going to have to walk them.

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Dave making us enough PB&J’s to feed all of the triathletes.  I remember eating

a couple of bites in T1, but we really just had them in our bags as a back up in case

we needed real food.  

 

We made the same mistake most newbies make by walking around on an 85 degree Saturday, checking out all the exhibits and turning in our bags and racking our bikes.  It was hot, we were getting too much sun, and we were on our feet for way too long.  At about 2pm or so we ended up at Francesca’s, an Italian restaurant about a block up the street from the finish line.  I had angel hair with marinara sauce, and some bread and felt very full.  Later around 6pm, we ate a little more, some cheesy bread, some salty french fries (not sure if that was advised, but they tasted good) and a portion of a grilled cheese sandwich.  I made sure I drank a few bottles of water and some Gatorade and kept pretty well hydrated.

I finally retreated to my room to watch some college football and relax, and await the arrival of my very busy family.  My son is a XC runner at Loras College and had his first meet.  Dave’s kids go to U of Iowa and picked him up on their way from Iowa City.  They got there late.  My wife arrived around 9pm with my two girls, a high schooler who had marching band practice all day, and my 6th grader who had a late afternoon soccer game.

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My cheer crew!  Daughter Ashely, Mom-in-Law Darla, Son Ben, Wife Kari,

Daughter Rebecca, and Dad-in-Law Gary.

 

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We made sure we didn’t go through the finish line.  We didn’t want

to jinx ourselves.  Walked around in the heat too much on Saturday.

Newbies.

 

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John (left) and his brother Dave with their racked bikes.  My two best buddies.

 

I took the Ambien and the next thing I heard was the alarm at 4:15am.  It was go time!

The Ambien did wonders.  Not only did I sleep well, but for the first time since getting there, I actually felt relaxed and emotionally excited.  I got up and ate a plain bagel with peanut butter, a banana and had a cup of coffee.  I spent some time in the bathroom making sure everything was taken care of.  That went well.  I met the others and grabbed our swim stuff and headed to the transition to pump up our tires and load up the bike with our bottles.  I packed about 1/2 the nutrition that I would have normally consumed on a solo ride of that length, just to make sure that I had the flavor I liked.  Weighed me down though.

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Getting body marked by a volunteer. 

 

We got our bodies marked and I had my first freak out of the day.  She asked my how old I was and I immediately sensed that I was going to get marked with my actual age and not the crazy way USAT wants it done.  I’m 49, but in tri’s you usually are marked with the age you will be on December 31 of that year.  I checked with another body marker and they said that they were told to go with the actual age.  Okay then, mark me 49.  Not five minutes later I see my buddy Dave and he’s marked the other way.  C’mon, Man!  Oh well, it didn’t matter anyway, because I used so much Tri-Slide on my wet suit that it erased the markings.

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Donning my tri dunce cap.  I wear glasses and my goggles are prescription, so I 

need to wear them to see.  I’m practically the only one wearing goggles pre-swim

and in T1.

 

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 Fairly happy trio, all things considered.  Dave, John and myself.

 

THE SWIM – 2.4 MILES – 1:30.37

The weather gods blessed us.  On Saturday, we had hot sun, mid-80’s temperature and could feel it.  Race day morning arrived with a forecasted high of 74 beautiful degrees and overcast conditions.  The only caveat was that there was a 12-15mph wind forecasted for the day.  That made for some choppy waters.

We were still standing on the ground at 6:50 when the cannon went off for the pro athlete start.  It was now very real.  As soon as that was done, they kept pushing us to get in the water which we did.  I downed a Gatorade Prime pre-race drink and ate a gel.  We then entered the water and waded over to the back middle of the start area and I got separated from Dave and John.  We weren’t in the water for more than 5 minutes when 7am hit and the cannon went off. They wanted to be closer to the inside, but I had decided that I would angle over on the front stretch.  I was hoping to avoid getting pummeled and swimmed on.  Didn’t matter.  It was tough!  At times there were people swimming perpendicular in front of me.  I kept sighting, not only for the next buoy, but also for open and clear water to swim in.  I think I had maybe one full minute of peaceful swimming during the whole swim.  I got hit in the goggles about four times, each time causing me to stop and readjust my goggles.  I was getting a little ticked off.

I MOO’ed when I went around the first buoy, as it is the tradition at IM Wisconsin.  I kept up my plan of trying to stay in clear water and just swim buoy to buoy.  On the back stretch, things got interesting.  We were heading into the wind and the water became very rough.  Rough as in there were waves, rough.  I usually bi-lateral breathe, but ended up breathing on my left side, because I was getting more water than air on my right.  To add to that problem, my goggles had leaked a little water in the left eye and was mixing with my anti-fog and burning my eye.  Having water in your goggles is no fun, and especially crummy when its burning your eye.  I toughed it out, but when I exited the water I could tell that my eye was not right.  I felt like I had a little bit of film on it, and also like I had something in my eye.  It got better on the bike as I rode through the next stage of the race.

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I’m in there somewhere.  This is the last leg of the swim, heading to the swim exit.

 

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Coming out of the water in 1:30.  Not sure why my wetsuit is not slick like the

others.  Also not sure what the guy behind me is yelling about.

 

T1 – SWIM TO BIKE TRANSITION – 14:18

I let the strippers do their job and two of them ripped my wet suit off of me while I laid on the ground trying not to get emotional.  I was so glad the swim was over.  I took my time getting my land legs back under me and jogged up the Helix (the curly ramp to get to the top parking level where T1 is located).  I went into the room where the swim-to-bike bags were located and the volunteers asked if I needed help finding it.  I had put some pink tape on the bag and drawstrings to help me find it, and I found it with ease.  Next up was the changing room, aka the “Get Naked Room” where there were plenty of naked guys standing around.  I found an empty seat and a volunteer helped me get my junk out of the bag.  I grabbed the PB&J sandwich and took a couple of bites.  I toweled off a little and put on my cycling jersey.  I kept on my tri shorts, as I had worn them under the wet suit in the swim.  I put on socks, grabbed my shoes and out I went.  I headed outside and debated about putting on sunscreen on a cloudy day.  I played it safe and had a volunteer put some on my arms, neck, ears, and nose.  Then I made the long run to my bike and headed to the mounting area.  Not sure how that ended up being 14 minutes of transition time.  I think I was a little emotionally spent sitting in the chair getting changed and took a little longer than I would have normally.

 

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Just crossing the timing strip and heading out onto the bike course.

 

THE BIKE – 112 MILES – 7:33.51

I had a blast on the bike.  It was truly the best part of the day.  The crowds and volunteers were outstanding.  There was rarely a time when you didn’t see a spectator cheering you and a volunteer helping you.  As I rode down the Bike Out helix and onto the bike path, I felt a little cold.  I kind of expected that, as I had just got out of the water and was still wet.  But I wished I had donned my arm warmers.  I rode the stick out (the course is a lollipop type course, where you ride out to a two loop course and then head back) and was struggling to get my heart rate into a manageable range.  I had planned to keep it around 120 bpm or so, but was hitting the 140’s throughout the first 45 minutes of the ride.  When we finally got to the loops in Verona I noticed that I had finally settled it down.

I am so glad I had ridden the loops in training, as it gave me no surprises.  I could have rode the course without volunteers directing us along.  And, I was actually enjoying the ride for a change.  My plan was to stop at every aid station and eat and replenish my reserves.  I would eat one GU gel every half hour, and I set my timer to remind me to do so.  Every hour I tried to drink a full bottle of water or Ironman Perform, but I wasn’t liking the Perform so much.  I drank about 1/2 bottle every hour.  I took one Salt Stick salt capsule every hour, along with eating a Bonk Breaker bar (the snack size is what they had on course, which is half the size of a regular bar) and a chunk of banana.  I also used the bathroom at several of the stops, as peeing on the course was a DQ.  And there was no way I was peeing myself on the bike.  Yuk.

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Coming into Verona and the aid station on the first loop.

 

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The second loop had much fewer fans, but I was still feeling pretty good.

 

The hills were no problem for me this time on the course.  I just sat and spinned up as best as I could, only getting out of the saddle a couple of times.  I also made sure that I GU’ed about 5 minutes before getting to them.  Being on a sugar high makes a big difference on the hills.  The section of the course that has the toughest hills have the nickname of the “Three Bitches,” and I passed several struggling riders on those hills.  Matter of fact, I don’t think anyone passed me on any of the tougher climbs.  Lots of fun going up the hills.  On the second loop, I actually popped a little “wheelie” to entertain the boisterous crowds.  I got a big cheer for that.

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Just hitting the top of the third of the toughest hills.  You can see how far back

the hill climbs, and there were several like this.  And you had to do them twice.

 

On the first loop I had made it about 30 miles or so into the ride and was reaching the fun rollers of Witte Road when things got exciting.  A motorcycle cop whizzed by and a little bit after that came the first pro, Romain Guillaume, a Frenchman who we dubbed the “Little Guy” at the expo.  He was booking.  It wasn’t long before other pro riders were whipping by.

The rest of the ride was terrific.  My time was about where it I thought I would be, but when I looked at my GPS watch it said I had 20 minutes of stop time!  I should have not spent so much time in the aid stations!  The watch also revealed a top speed of 43mph, a new high for me!

After getting home I saw that Ironman had uploaded a race day video of the race and I viewed it.  I was very surprised to see that I was in it, at about the 3:27 mark, riding my bike in a group of about 4-5 riders heading up some hills.  You can see it here:  

 

T2 – BIKE TO RUN TRANSITION – 11:28

This transition was much smoother for me and quicker as well.  I decided to get naked and change into a fresh pair of tri shorts for the run.  I had three shirt options, but I chose the matching tri shirt because it had a zipper that I could unzip if I got warm, and I liked the idea of a snug fitting top so nipple chafing would be minimal.  Normally, I run without a shirt on warm days, but its not allowed in Ironman.  I rubbed Body Glide all over the soles of my feet.  And then I used the creamy version of Body Glide and coated my toes with it.  Tossed on a pair of good running socks, threw a little baby powder into my shoes, and pulled them on.  I took off my heart rate monitor strap due to the watch still being on my bike, donned bright yellow/green visor that matched my shoes, and out I went.  The sun screeners offered sunscreen again, even though there hadn’t been any sun all day, and it was about to be twilight.  I let them put a little on my ears, neck, bald spot and shoulders, and headed to the port-o-john.  I ate a Bonk Breaker bar, which along with bananas, I had been eating about every hour on the bike, and headed out to the run out exit.

 

THE RUN – 26.2 MILES – 5:07.18

The first step of a marathon always seems to be the hardest for me, because you know there will be thousands more to follow.  My plan was to run from aid station to aid station and eat and drink what they had on course.  I carried two gels as a back up in case I didn’t get one at the stop.  But the course had plenty of everything as far as nutrition was concerned.  I had brought along a Gatorade Recover from my bike gear bag, and sipped it for the first few miles until I didn’t want to carry the dumb thing around any more.  I didn’t need it anyway.

The weird thing about the marathon was that it seemed like I hit the wall in reverse order.  The first six miles were somewhat of a struggle for me.  I felt hot and was sweating early in the race, and then I would get cold.  Not sure if getting off the bike, where there was constant cooling going on made me feel hot at first, and then after sweating for a few miles, getting chilled when I actually got away from the shelter of the downtown buildings and felt some breeze.  But anyway, it wasn’t until mile 7 that I felt like I was running well and feeling good.  Matter of fact, mile 7 through 17 or so felt great.

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Early on in the first loop of the marathon.

 

I maintained the same eating pattern of a GU gel every half hour, but since the aid stations were every mile, I started the buffet eating, snacking on a combination of bananas, potato chips, and pretzels.  Those three went very well together for me.  I usually followed it up with some cola and some ice water.  I also maintained the Salt Stick salt capsule every hour.  But no matter how much or how little I ate, any swallowing was followed by an urge to pass gas.  There is a saying in triathlons that says “never trust a fart.”  I heeded that advice, and visited the port-o-john at several aid stations to be sure.  But, as soon as I passed gas, the urge went away until the next eating session.  This repeated itself nearly every mile.

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I have teased my son that he looks like the “Keep on Truckin'” guy from the 

70’s when he runs.  The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, I suppose.

 

A highlight of the course takes you into Camp Randall Stadium, where the UW Badgers play football.  Very cool to get to run on the field.  We made two passes through the stadium on the two loop run course.  Neither time did I see a photographer, so I was a little disappointed not to get a photo of that.  The campus was awesome, lots of cool old buildings and great crowds.  There was one hill called Observatory Hill that I walked.  It was a brutal hill, and most everyone walked it.

I had great team support on the run.  I saw Dave’s family several times, with his son Alex running along with me a few times.  Great kid and a good triathlete.  I’m sure an Ironman is in his future.  My family rocked the run course.  Although I only saw them twice on the bike course in Verona, I saw them numerous times on the run course.  My son Ben and wife Kari would run to different check points to see me, thanks to the friendly layout of the two-loop, out and back course.  I didn’t think that I would like the course the way it was laid out, having to run within a couple hundred feet of the finish line at the 13.1 mile mark and turn around and head back out.  But seeing it once helped me digest where I was going and how much more I had to do.

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Coming up to check in with the family.  I was using them for support and they were

assessing my condition.  I felt pretty good.  The two girls behind me chatted the 

whole time they were together.

 

It got dark on the second loop, and the trail portion of the course became a little scary at times.  There were times that I would step funny, not knowing where my foot was landing.  Also, on the course you often had people running the opposite direction of you.  There were a couple of times I entered the port-o-john and came out not remembering which way I was heading!  Fortunately, I never made a wrong turn.

After about the 16th mile, I switched up and sometimes skipped the banana/chips/pretzels combo and just went with liquid.  By this time chicken broth was being served and I took it at every station that had it.  It was just warm enough to drink it down and it tasted great.  I would follow that up with a cup of cola, and the ice water.  I felt like I had nailed the fourth discipline of triathlon, nutrition, very well.

Around the 22 mile marker I was my wife and son again and they found me in pretty good shape.  I told them I would see them at the finish.  But my son met me again between mile 24 and 25 and ran with me a little.  At this point, I was running like I had just started a 5K, passing people left and right.  Ben took a short cut to the finish, and I paced myself closer and closer to the finish.

As I made the final turn toward the chute, I looked behind to make sure no one was coming up behind me and that I wasn’t going to catch up too close to the guy finishing ahead of me.  I wanted to make sure I had a little moment in the chute to myself.  I saw my family and tried to high-five all of them, and reveled in the crowd as I crossed the finish line.  “Chris Hedges from Mokena, Illinois, (and some other guy) you are an Ironman!” said Mike Reilly in a somewhat relaxed manner.  It didn’t matter how he said it, all I heard was that I was an Ironman.

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Not sure what I was doing with my arms!  Not very Ironman-ish. 

 

I was immediately met by some catchers and peppered with questions.  I told them I felt great.  They gave me a mylar blanket, a finishers shirt and hat, and of course, the Ironman finisher medal.  The girl reminded me to hit my stop button on my watch, which I had forgotten about.  They asked me if I would like a photo, and I said “heck yeah!” and he held my stuff while I gave a smile and said cheese.

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Proof that I am an Ironman!

 

POST RACE – 140.6 MILES – FINISH TIME – 14:37.31

I was quickly met by Dave and John, who I knew had beaten me to the finish line.  Not only beat me there, but they personally CRUSHED their inaugural IM’s.  We started out with me thinking I would race it and they would survive it, and in the end, they just flat out slayed it, and I was content to be the finisher!  Dave had a sub-13 and John was just a little over 13 hours.  Very impressive for their first Ironman, heck for anyone’s first time for that matter.

We went into the recovery area and I was given a cola and more Ironman Perform.  I was starting to feel a little light headed, a little hypoglycemic, so I made sure I got some sugar in me.  I asked for a bag of ice and rested it on the back of my neck for a little while.  I quickly came around and ate a slice of pizza, while comparing race notes with John.  My wife wasn’t allowed in the recovery area, but I could see she was monitoring me very closely, because she has had to deal with quite a few of my post-marathon crash and burns!  But there would be no crash and burn this time.  We spent about 30 minutes in the area and then went back to the hotel.  The decision was made to go get our bikes and gear bags, so we limped our way down to the transition, where the great volunteers happily gathered our stuff for us.

We made it up to the hotel room and I decided that I had enough for the day and took a shower and tried to go to bed.  But being so close to the finish, I could hear the runners being announced. And since I had overdosed on caffeine from the cola and GU/Roctane all day, I was wide awake. I decided to try to watch the finishers on the live website feed, but I couldn’t pull it up.  There was about 1/2 hour left and I decided that I was going to go down and watch the final finishers.  Kari was not so sure it was a great idea.  But, I wouldn’t be able to sleep with all that noise anyway.  I saw John, whose room was right next to mine, and found Dave eating in the hotel lobby, and told them we were going to go watch the final finishers.  They joined us about five minutes after Kari and I got there.  I have to admit, I am so glad we went down to watch.  It was so uplifting to see these final people meet their Ironman goals with minutes, sometimes seconds, to spare.  One of the final finishers was a 2013 Ironman Wisconsin Facebook group friend, who managed to finish with less than two minutes to spare.  Later on, I discovered her story got better.  She made the swim cut-off by 20 seconds!  She made the bike cut-off by like a minute!  And now she, in her first attempt, became an Ironman in 16:58.  Not only that, she was in the 60-65 age group, and finished with a podium placing 5th in her A/G!  Barely makes the cut in each segment and podiums!  Outstanding.  There were many awesome finishers, and Mike Reilly was right there in front of us welcoming them all home.  What a perfect way to end the day!

Here is a link to my Finisher’s Pix race day video.  I shows me at various checkpoints in the race.  I don’t remember high-fiving the volunteer at the 13.1 turn, but I’m glad I did!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuxDzKJ66To&list=FLBHNceAyJ1iqiYYmINSxUeQ&index=3

 

CONCLUSION

Here is a wrap up of my race equipment.

  • Blue Seventy Reaction wet suit
  • Bike – Specialized Shiv Pro, equipped with a Fuelselage (an integrated hydration bottle), two bottle cages, two saddle bags with CO2 cartridges and tire levers and spare tubes, SRAM Red with 52/36 and 11/28 gearing
  • Timex Ironman GPS  with heart rate monitor for the bike ride
  • TYR tri shorts for the bike, with a full zippered Champion Systems cycling jersey
  • LG tri top and shorts for the run
  • ASICS Gel-Nimbus 14 shoes for the run

 

Here is my nutrition routine for the race.

  • Gatorade Prime and GU taken prior to the swim start
  • Two bottles of Gatorade to start the bike ride, then replenished with Ironman Perform on course, about one bottle per hour, along with water
  • One gel every half hour, alternating regular GU and Roctane (bike and run portions)
  • One Salt Stick salt capsule every hour (bike and run portions)
  • One Bonk Breaker Bite every hour (bike portion)
  • Bananas (about 1/5 of a whole banana) every aid station when I felt like I wanted it
  • Small amount of potato chips and pretzels at nearly every aid station (run portion)
  • An occasional GU Chomp when I wanted something to chew on (bike portion)
  • Cola and chicken broth at every aid station (run portion)
  • Ice and water every aid station (run portion)

(Note – the liquids on the run were very small portions, of which I sometimes took extra, and sometimes didn’t finish it all.)

 

What I did right –

  • I got a good night’s sleep the eve of the race thanks to an Ambien.
  • I had my bike checked at the shop two weeks prior to the race.  No issues with such a new bike, but the cables were tightened and the bike got a thorough looking over by a pro bike mechanic.
  • I didn’t freak out in the water when it got rough with the other swimmers.
  • I paced myself well and stayed within my race plan.
  • I nailed the nutrition, never really feeling hungry or hypoglycemic.
  • I used my own bottles.  Several riders used the bottles on course and I saw dozens of full bottles laying on the road side at every bump on the course.
  • I rode the course a couple times during training!  That was vital.

 

What I could improve on –

  • I should have adapted to the cool race day temperature and allowed myself to push my limit a little further.  I think it could have been a sub 13:30 day had I taken advantage of the 75 degree and overcast day.
  • I wasted far too much time stopping at each aid station.  My GPS watch showed that I had 20 minutes of stoppage time on the bike!  Add up the time spent walking through the aid stations on the run, and I could have easily wasted 30 to 40 minutes there as well.
  • I bought my tri bike late into the training.  Although I adapted quickly to the different riding style, my neck and back could have benefited from a longer training season.
  • I shouldn’t have carried all of my necessary nutrition on the bike in my cycling jersey pockets.  There was plenty of nutrition on the course, and you could have grabbed one or two extra at each stop if you are afraid of dropping one.
  • I had three options for running clothes in my bag.  In the end, I went with what I had originally planned to wear.
  • I brought every piece of triathlon equipment I owned and didn’t really need it all.  Security blanket, I guess.  There was plenty of stuff at the expo that you could buy if you needed something.
  • Lastly, transitions!  I pride myself at flying through most smaller race transitions, but I wasted too much time in the Monona Terrace.

Also…

  • “Be Iron Fit,” by Don Fink.  An excellent training manual for the Ironman triathlete.
  • “Racing Ironman Wisconsin,” by Raymond Britt.  A complete guide to everything you need to know about IM Wisconsin by a guy who has done it many times.
  • “Total Immersion Swimming” – A good open water/distance swimming dvd.

 

So, I am an Ironman.  I took my time, executed my plan, and really enjoyed the day.  I can’t think of a better way to experience Ironman.

 

THANKS 

I have to give thanks and credit where credit is due.  Without the support of my family and friends, it would have been a long summer.

Thanks go to…

My friends Dave and John.  Thanks for sharing this wonderful adventure with me.  I would have never done it without you guys.  Another awesome life experience among the many I have shared with you two over the years.  You are my brothers.  I love you.  You are Ironmen!

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Ironfriends.  Ironmen.

 

Dave’s wife Carla.  Thanks for putting up with us.  And especially, thanks for being our official travel agent and fan.  Every event we went to we would have been sleeping in our cars if it wasn’t for your great skills at getting us the best of the best hotel rooms.  Thanks for monitoring us, keeping us on track, keeping us in line, taking photos, and being a great fan.

Elizabeth and Alex, for making the trip from U of Iowa, and picking up my son Ben along the way.  And special thanks to Alex for running with me during our week in Pentwater, and along with me at several of the points along the run route.  It definitely was a pick-me-up.  I hope some day that you too, will fulfill your dream of doing the Ironman.  I know you want to!  Don’t worry about Grandma Sally.  We got your back!  Also, Dave’s two little guys.   It’s hard to have dad training so hard, but you two guys were great supporters.  I also see a future triathlete in Max for sure!

Mandy and baby Lilly, for putting up with John and us.  Being a new mom and having a Ironman training husband was tough, I’m sure.  You deserve something really nice from John!

Sally and Al, Janet, and Connie for coming out for support.  See Sally, it wasn’t so bad.

My in-laws, Darla and Gary for putting up with me and watching my kids and filling in when I wasn’t able to drive to soccer or whatever.  Gary, don’t think I didn’t notice that huge smile on your face when I was on the bike route!  Darla, thanks for bragging on me to everyone you know.  Thanks for being my fans.

My Facebook friends, who at first thought this might not be a well-advised event, but quickly learned that I was going to do it anyway.  Thanks for putting up with all my bragging and posts of my running and tri results.  (Especially, Peggy, who may be the only friend that bothered to read these weekly posts that I threw together every Sunday!)

My work friends, especially Lou and Julie for taking the time to track me during the event and sit in front of their laptops watching the live feed to see me finish.  It really meant a lot to me.  Thanks for listening to me drone on and on about my training, Lou!

My children Ben, Ashley and Rebecca.  I have tried to be a good role model, and I’m glad to see that my running has rubbed off on, well 2 of the 3!  I’m not giving up on you, Ashley!  I was blessed with three wonderful kids.  Thanks to Ben for running with Mom and meeting me along the route.  I can’t say enough how much that meant to me.

And lastly, my wife Kari.  She has had to deal with my numerous marathon efforts, running races, long absences on the weekends, and the money I spent to do this crazy event.  Thanks for being so supportive and loving.  You are an Iron-wife!  I love you.

Chris Hedges – Ironman

p.s. – MOO!

 

 

 

CUBS WIN!!! I lose.

The Cubs have won the World Series!!!  What are you going to do next?  Mope around, I guess.

After 108 years of World Series drought the 2016 Chicago Cubs have finally won it all.  And I can’t seem to enjoy it.  It was quite a roller coaster ride, the awesome season, the wins over the Giants and Dodgers and finally reaching the pinnacle of the sport.  I should be ecstatic.  But I’m not and I’m still trying to figure out why.

I have been a Cubs fan for as long as I can remember.  My mother had told me that my first baseball game was when I was a newborn at a Kansas City A’s game (!), but when we moved to the Chicagoland area in the late 1960’s, the Cubs were hot and I became a fan.  I can remember being little and watching Santo hit a home run on opening day and then running out to the garage and telling my dad and brother, who were deep into some mechanical project and probably could not have cared less.  But I have bled Cubbie blue as they say, since that time.

Many Cub fans have carried that burden of being beholden to the “loveable losers” for so long, and it seems that the relationship has now changed for me.  They are no longer losers.  There was a diehard Cubs fan being interviewed on the news that replied to a question from the reporter that really resonated with me.  When asked if the Cubs winning had sunk in yet, she replied that it hadn’t. She said that being associated with a team that has consistently let us down, we only knew how to expect the worst and to deal with losing.  She really wasn’t sure how to celebrate them winning the World Series, because it hadn’t happened for generations of fans.  I can really relate to that point.  I don’t know how to enjoy this.

But in all honesty, I think I let myself down.  After getting into the playoffs in 2015 and then having a quick exit, I told myself that I was no longer going to be emotionally invested in this team, or really any team anymore.  I couldn’t take the losing.  My thought was that by being detached from it emotionally, if they won a game I could be happy, and if they lost, well I wouldn’t have lost sleep over it.  Essentially, I guess I wasn’t a die-hard fan anymore because I just couldn’t take them losing any longer.

As a youth baseball coach, I had confessed several times that I almost always felt worse about beating another team than when we lost.  I just felt bad for the other team for some reason.  I knew as a long time Cubs fan that losing sucks.

Game 7 of the World Series was everything the sport’s final deciding game should be.  It had the drama of the two teams with the longest World Series droughts battling it out in the final game of the year.  The Cubs jumped out to a lead that we all new would never be a comfortable one.  I sat in my chair watching the game in an almost catatonic state.  I wasn’t moving, blinking, or anything – just breathing and watching.  As if on cue, the supposed “curse” was starting to kick in and by the time our closer gave up the game tying two run homer in the eighth inning, I was convinced that it was over.  I couldn’t take the pressure and went to bed.

As I lay in bed, I tried to sleep and nodded off at least once thanks to getting my mind off of it by listening to a little music.  But the bedroom door was cracked open slightly and I could still tell that my wife was still up watching the game.  I knew it had been tied, but figured they would have lost after listening to at least one full album of music.  So I hit replay and listened again and tried to fall back to sleep.  Hopefully I would wake up to the Cubs being World Series champs, or get up to the already familiar feeling of we almost did it.  But then I heard fireworks.

As I wandered back out to the living room, my wife looked at me and patiently let me come to the realization that the Cubs had done the improbable.  They had won.  I sat on the couch and watched the replays over and over again.  It didn’t seem real, but there was the proof.  Bryant, Rizzo, and gang being interviewed.  The celebrity fans in the locker room.  The fireworks still going off.  And I missed it.  I missed it because I couldn’t stand the thought of them losing again.  This time the Cubs hadn’t let me down, I had.

By winning, the Cubs took something from me it seems.  They took the part of what being a fan of that team was – being able to love them even though they let us down for over a century.  I’m not sure how to accept that they are no longer the “loveable losers.”  I need therapy.

A few days have now passed since the Cubs won the title and I’m feeling a little better.  I’m enjoying the celebrations that have gone on in the city, the special thoughts by long time Cub fans on social media, and the burden of being perennial losers has been lifted.  I think I have started to take a little more pride in the team, and can stop punishing myself.  But I might have to atone for my lack of faith.  I’m no longer rooting for a loser.  I’m rooting for the Cubs.  The 2016 World Series Champion Chicago Cubs.  That’s going to take a while to sink in.

 

 

 

2016 Chicago Marathon Race Report

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After getting a personal best and a Boston Marathon qualifying time at the 2015 Chicago Marathon, and then missing the cutoff by a half minute, I felt like I had a score to settle after that disappointment.  I knew however, that trying to improve on a marathon best that was ten minutes faster than my previous personal best was not going to be easy.  But this year was shaping up to make me well prepared.

 

TRAINING

Leading up to the marathon I had already had a pretty good training season, thanks to training for and completing Ironman Lake Placid.  The training for IMLP started in late 2015 and 30 weeks later got me to the finish line in the third weekend of July.  (You can read my IMLP report here:  https://anamazingrun.wordpress.com/2016/07/29/2016-ironman-lake-placid-race-report/ )

I usually follow a sixteen week plan for the marathon.  The plan I follow was created by Nike and was promoted by the Chicago Marathon.  I was already into Week 2 of the training when I finished up the Ironman.  So I wasn’t really starting at the beginning, seeing that I just finished a marathon as the plan had just began.  But I needed to dial it back a little for a post-IMLP recovery and it was easy to slide in to the plan where I needed to be.  (Here is the plan I followed:  https://assets-chicagomarathon-com.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2014_Advanced_Final.pdf )

So I eased into the plan, adding a few bikes into the mix, and kept checking off the weeks until race day.  My longest run was a 22 mile run that I didn’t really want to do, but I got it done.  Most of the training was pretty warm, and I struggled to train at a tempo that was near my goal of being under 8 min/miles.  But I knew that training and racing were two different things for me, and the summer heat would hopefully be gone by race day.

 

MARATHON RACE WEEKEND

I went to the expo on Friday midday and found it to be very crowded.  I usually buy some race day clothing at the Nike store, but after seeing how long the line was to check out (it actually went outside of their exhibit and wrapped around it!) and being disappointed at the junk they were selling, I almost passed on it.  But I ended up buying a white event t-shirt and a new set of red shorts, along with a new visor.

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A selfie at the race expo.

 

Saturday was busy as usual for my family.  I was glad that everyone was around for the weekend though.  My son Ben didn’t have a XC meet and ended up coming home from college to watch the race.  My daughter Ashley was excited to come home and watch the marching band home show that my youngest daughter Rebecca was involved with.  I ate a pasta meal with the family at Gatto’s, and then made the trek into Chicago to the hotel.

My usual plan is to walk to the gate where I enter for the corrals just to make sure nothing has changed.  Then I walked around a little, grabbed a muffin for breakfast, and a sub sandwich for dinner and headed to my room.

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The Art Institute of Chicago flying the “W”- GO CUBS!

I walked through the lobby and got a glimpse of Joan Benoit Samuelson, which was pretty cool.  I made it to my room and tried to find the Cubs playoff game on TV.  Very disappointed to find the channel it was on wasn’t carried by the hotel.  I tried to find it online, only to find that I could only get simple live updates on some dumb MLB website.  So I monitored that while I pulled up the Ironman Championship live stream from Kona.

 

RACE DAY

My alarm went off at 4:30 am and I got up and got ready.  I made a cup of coffee, ate my muffin and started getting myself race ready.

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I laid out my options and decided to run in the red shorts.  Pretty bold decision for me!

 

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I figured out how to use the timer feature on my iPhone.  I texted this picture to my wife so she knew what to look for during the race.

 

I took my own advice and headed to the corrals at 6 am.  In the past I have waited too long and had to stand in line waiting to get in.  The wait was minimal this time.  I walked to the corral area got in line for the toilets.  Took care of that and then found a place to sit on the sidewalk outside of Corral B and just relax.  People watching was interesting as usual.  I saw actor/comedian Rob Riggle getting escorted to the front of the race even though he was wearing an E Corral bib.  Must be nice being a celebrity.  At about 7:10 am I ate a gel and drank the last of my Gatorade and then used it to inconspicuously pee into before entering the corral.  Once in the corral we listened to the National Anthem, watched a group of geese fly over almost on cue, and started moving forward.

 

26.2 MILES

My plan had been formed by virtue of not making it into Boston.  I would shoot for a sub 3:25 marathon, which meant holding about 7:50 min/mile pace.  My strategy was to run even splits until either 5 miles, 5K, or less to go seeing how I felt at those times and then push as hard as I could to the end.  Race day was perfect – temperature in the 50’s at the start and rising slowly into the low 60’s.  There was a moderate breeze that concerned me a little, but I knew we were going to have a great day to run.

Mile 1:  7:36 split – I was running comfortably and wasn’t surprised at this split.

Mile 2:  7:41 split – Another good split, nothing out of the ordinary at this point except I felt like I had to pee again.

Mile 3:  7:44 split – This is the tempo that felt good and I hoped that I could maintain.

Mile 4:  7:43 split – Locked into that tempo.  I was starting to sweat somewhat, which surprised me.

Mile 5:  7:39 split – Into Lincoln Park and moving along well.  Could really feel the wind here and it definitely cooled me down with my sweaty shirt.

Mile 6:  7:46 split – Soon after leaving the aid station where volunteers were yelling “Gatorade” and “water,” we were met with a guy yelling “cigars, cigarettes.”  Funny.

Mile 7:  7:40 split – Getting as far north as we would be, I was glad to be turning around.  But as soon as you do, you get hit with the smell of breakfast.  Gets me every year.  Smells so good.

Mile 8:  8:20 split – Just before the Mile 8 marker I saw the toilets and saw my chance.  I had the need to go since the start and I knew I would have to make one pit stop.  As far as pee breaks go, this one was typical, but I think that it cost me the sub-3:25.  I didn’t try to make up the time here, I just got back on the pace I had been running.  I also took my first salt capsule at the aid station.  I wasn’t thinking that I would need them today, but the amount of sweating I was doing made me commit to taking one.

Mile 9:  7:42 split – Somewhere in here I tossed the homemade tube sock arm warmers I had.  I had rolled them down, but kept them in case it got cold.  I kept my gloves, but just held on to them, mainly for personal memento reasons.

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My first Chicago Marathon was the 1999 LaSalle Banks sponsored race.  They passed these gloves out at the expo to everyone.  I kept them as a souvenir.  I accidentally grabbed them for this race, which meant if I tossed them I would wouldn’t have these keepsakes anymore.  I ended up carrying them throughout the entire race, occasionally wiping sweat from my brow with them.

 

Mile 10:  7:49 split – Okay, for some reason the race would be a let down for me if I didn’t see Elvis in this mile.  Upon turning onto North Avenue, I could hear the music.  Normally he is right next to the roadway, but this time he was up a little higher and I wasn’t sure I would be able to get my fist bump.  But I saw an opening and went over and yelled “Hey Elvis!” and he met my fist with his.  Made my day.

Mile 11:  7:45 split – Mile 11 is pretty much a straight shot back into the Loop.  Kept up my pace.

Mile 12:  7:45 split – Somewhere in here I found myself running with a guy carrying an American flag.  He was a very popular guy.  The crowd was making noise for him and I got energy from that as well.  But after the flag hit me in the face a few times, I knew that Flag Man and me would have to part ways.

Mile 13:  7:44 split – Another very close split time and I got through the 13.1 mile marker in 1:41.49.  A quick calculation in my head told me I was doing just fine and looking at possibly being closer to 3:20 than 3:25.  I saw Kari, Ben and Ashley for the first time through this mile and it gave me a boost.  I could tell Ben was following my splits closely and was cheering me on like I usually do for his races.  Made me proud.

Mile 14:  7:42 split – A little faster, probably due to seeing the family and starting to head through the Cheer Zone of the route.

Mile 15:  7:38 split – Another faster split time as I headed into the Dead Zone of the race.

Mile 16:  7:58 split – Not sure why there is a 20 second difference.  Maybe I hit the split/lap button too early in the previous mile.

Mile 17:  7:55 split – Okay, now I realize that I’m edging closer to 8 min/mile pace.  As long as I kept it under 8’s I felt I’d be okay.  I saw my family again and got another lift.

 

 

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Running with the masses at Mile 17.  Looks like the C Corral was moving up.  I ran with that IM Moo guy for a while and was going to talk to him about the race, but he was wearing earphones.  

 

Mile 18:  7:53 split – I wasn’t feeling bad, I just couldn’t get back to the 7:45’s.  I was walking a little more in the aid stations, making sure I was getting a good drink of Gatorade.

Mile 19:  7:46 split – Heading into Pilsen and feeling pretty good still.  I could really feel the head wind now.

Mile 20:  7:55 split – At 20, I knew I was doing good but chose not to push any harder yet.

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I think this must be right around the 20 Mile mark, where Kari snapped this photo.  

 

Mile 21:  8:05 split – Okay, lots of distractions in Chinatown – the music, crowds and of course the photographers distracted me enough that may have made this a slower mile split.

Mile 22:  7:50 split – It was at this point I made a choice to hold off until the last two miles before pushing hard.  I made the same decision in 2015.

Mile 23:  8:07 split – (See note below)  Just a 5K to go, and I got my last gel in me.  Here’s where in your mind you are ready to turn to the finish line, but the course takes you south and then east for a block until you hit Michigan Avenue for the final stretch.  I tried picking off runners that were ahead of me, one at a time.

Mile 24:  8:07 split – (Miles 23 and 24 were averaged as I missed the marker for Mile 23 and hit the lap button around 9:20 or so.  I added them together and averaged them for the splits.)  I felt like I was really pushing, but the effort was all in my head as it was taking that effort physically to maintain what I perceived as a fast pace.  With two miles to go, I put my head down and started running.

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Last time seeing the family and the last time getting their much needed pick-me-up.  For the second year in a row, we finished the last two miles into a head wind.  My bib number would not stay down into the wind.

 

Mile 25:  7:47 split – That’s more like it, although I thought I was running sub-7 at this point.  Toward the end of this mile I saw a sign that read “800M”, meaning 800 meters to go.  But my mind read it as “BOOM”, a saying my fellow triathletes had in the 2013 Ironman Wisconsin race.  Either way, it was a positive for me.

Mile 26:  7:41 split – The fastest mile I had run since about Mile 14.  I turned and climbed “Mount Roosevelt” and it seemed like an eternity.  A quick left and I was checking my watch to see how close I was to 3:25.  I sprinted with all I had left.

Mile 26.2/FINISH:  3:25.08 – Missed being under 3:25 by 9 seconds.  But that really didn’t disappoint me at all.  I had just gotten my second Boston qualifier, a BQ-4:52 as they say, which should be more than enough to get me into the 2018 Boston Marathon.  If that’s not fast enough, I’m not sure what else I can do.

 

POST RACE

The finishing chute was a blur.  I was really having a hard time moving forward, almost staggering and felt really drained.  It wasn’t long and they handed us a bottle of water.  I started sipping on it and then grabbed another salt capsule out of my fuel belt and downed it.  I made my way to some misting fans and just kind of hung out there a little bit until moving on.

I chose an older lady out of all the volunteers to put the medal around my neck and wrestled with my emotions a little bit.  Seems strange that after 16 marathon finishes, I still get a little choked up at finishing a race, especially when I set a personal best or have a great race.

I shuffled along picking up a banana, an apple and a bag of goodies and then saw the group of guys handing out the mylar blankets.  They were pushing them like they were car salesmen or something.  They were trying to get people to laugh and it worked.  I got my blanket and headed for the gate.  One last picture as I walked out and then I made my way back to the Hilton to meet my family.

After a quick shower it was a two block walk to Devil Dawg’s on State Street for the usual post event lunch.  Another successful Chicago Marathon in the books!

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It is mandatory to eat at Devil Dawg’s after any Chicago race.

 

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The tracking app was pretty good this year.  Above are my 5K splits. Post race results indicated that I finished 3745th overall, 3148th out of the men, and 201st in my M50-54 age group.  

 

RACE EXTRAS

Here’s some of the details of my race that helped me get another personal best and Boston Qualifier.

  • Running Gear:  Nike 2016 Chicago Marathon Event shirt (not the participant shirt – that is a no-no in my book!) and visor, along with Nike Flex running shorts with the built in mid-thigh liner, all purchased at the expo.
  • Arm warmers made from new tube socks.
  • Polyester gloves.
  • Skin Glide lotion for my feet to prevent blisters.
  • Two Band-Aid flexible fabric bandages to cover my useless nipples.
  • Louis Garneau Mid Ride cycling socks.
  • FuelBelt brand bib number belt with pouch.
  • ASICS Gel-Exalt 3 running shoes.  I have been running in some of the cheapest ASICS shoes I can buy.  They were great.  I had broken them in two weeks prior to the race.
  • Three Salted Caramel (extra electrolytes, caffeinated), and four Root Beer flavored GU brand gels.  I took one Salted Caramel about 15 minutes prior to the start, then one gel every 30 minutes.  Two Root Beer, then one Salted Caramel until they were gone.
  • Four Salt Stik brand salt capsules.  I took one at the hotel at about 6 am, and then took one every hour after the first hour.
  • One cup of Gatorade at every aid station, with an occasional water as well.
  • Timex Ironman 50 lap watch.  I have a Garmin 910XT but don’t trust it.  The Timex Ironman has never let me down.

 

 

28 Seconds…

To qualify and gain entry into the Boston Marathon you have to meet a time standard, what is commonly referred to as a Boston Qualifier (BQ).  For my age group that means I have to run a sub-3:30 to even be able to apply.  But since the Boston Marathon is such a popular and prestigious race, many runners want to vie for the 25,000 or so slots.  So to keep it a competitive race, they award the faster runners first.  Those that are 20 minutes under the qualifying times are shoe-ins.  So are the 10 minute and 5 minute under runners that apply.  I got my BQ at the 2015 Chicago Marathon, running a 3:28:19 on a somewhat warm day for the race.  I had qualified!  But I was a ‘squeaker’ – a runner that has a small margin of being under the cutoff.  My cushion was 1:41.  One minute and forty-one seconds.  Today, the Boston Athletic Association announced the cutoff time – 2:09.  I missed the cutoff by 28 seconds.

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The highly anticipated, but extremely regrettable email.

To say it didn’t affect me would be lying.  But the disappointment of missing out on what is generally accepted as the pinnacle achievement by twenty-eight seconds stings somewhat.  28 seconds.  Where could I have lost 28 seconds in my BQ run at Chicago?  Did the weather set me back?  It was warm, and it was definitely windy in the last 5K, but I had a personal best race that day.  Did I not train enough?  Where could I have gained 28 seconds?  I had not stopped for any bathroom breaks.  I had limited my time spent getting through the aid stations.  I had hit my splits very well.  I ran the tangents.  My nutrition was all going to plan.  Truthfully, I think I gave it my best shot.

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Earning my BQ at the 2015 Chicago Marathon.

As I finished the 2015 Chicago Marathon I glanced at my watch and saw my time.  My reaction was very strange.  I had a sense of overwhelming joy at being under my qualifying time, but I knew that the current BQ cutoff was a whopping 2:28 for the 2016 Boston Marathon.  I realized that my time probably would not be enough.  I had my own personal “ABC Wide World of Sports” moment – I was experiencing the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat all in the post 26.2 mile finish chute.  I was both happy and upset.  Then I went to Devil Dawgs and had a hot dog.

It didn’t take me long to get over it.  I was proud that I had qualified, and extremely proud that I had just set a marathon personal best for myself by ten minutes!  So I patted myself on my back and moved on to my 2016 racing season, with the expectation that I would apply for the Boston Marathon when it opened in September of 2016.

September arrived and I hit submit.  I knew that it was long shot, but I have spent probably close to 15 or more years attempting to get into this race, so why not?   And then this eternal pessimist started to become an optimist.  I had come across a Runner’s World online forum that was discussing the cutoff time for the 2017 Boston Marathon.  Among the contributors that were posting on this forum were statistics loving runners and stat crunchers who almost took joy in trying to guess what the cutoff would be.  Amazingly enough, they were mostly predicting that the cutoff would be less than 30 seconds to even as small as ZERO cutoff!  I absorbed it all.  One guy I questioned as to what he thought my chances were replied that I was “definitely in”.  All the stars were lining up for me.  The previous year’s qualifying marathons had been hot, which meant many runners had difficulty qualifying.  The 2017 Boston was to be run on the day after Easter Sunday, which would more than likely keep many more away.  And they had indicated that the field size may be around 30,000.  I waited for two crazy and stressful weeks.  Then the email came.  28 seconds.

 

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Actually 28 seconds, Agent 86

 

I left work at noon and had already talked myself off the ledge.  As I was driving home listening to my typical classic rock radio station, one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands – STYX – came on the radio.  I pulled into the driveway already rocking out to Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man) and I was struck by the chorus:

  • “GET UP!  GET BACK ON YOUR FEET!  YOU’RE THE ONE THEY CAN’T BEAT, AND YOU KNOW IT!  AWW, C’MON!  LET’S SEE WHAT YOU GOT.  JUST TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT AND DON’T BLOW IT!”

I put on my running gear, and went for my planned marathon training plan run.  I have the 2016 Chicago Marathon in ten days.  I plan on taking my best shot at another BQ.

 

 

Tips and Advice for Running Your First Chicago Marathon

Running the Chicago Marathon is an awesome experience regardless if this is your first marathon or one of a many.  But if you have never ran Chicago before, here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare for a great weekend and race.  Full disclosure – I’m not a running expert, I’m just a guy who has experienced the joys of running and like to share my thoughts and experiences.

PRE-RACE PREPARATION

I will assume that you have adequately prepared and trained for the race.  Trust the training you have done to get you to race day.  Enjoy the taper that has prepared you to arrive on race day morning fresh and raring to go.  Race day is almost here!

  • READ THE PARTICIPANT GUIDE – It seems like a no-brainer, but I always shake my head when people ask questions about the race that are clearly covered in the guide. The guide will be mailed to you and can also be downloaded from the event website when it becomes available.
  • ENJOY THE EXPO – The expo at the Chicago Marathon is one of the best around.  The expo is free and open to all.  First up is packet pick-up.  Only YOU can pick up your packet, and it has to be done on Friday or Saturday.  There is no race day pick-up.  You will need an ID, and either your participant guide, the emailed version of the guide or a smart phone that has the participant info scanned into to it to get your bib and check bag.  From there you will head to the far back of the expo to get the shirt.  This forces you to walk through the expo.  If you feel the shirt size you selected is wrong for you, here’s your chance to exchange it at the booth that handles that.  If you have forgotten anything that you think you might need (gels, visor/hat, gloves, etc.), you should be able to easily find it at the expo.  Nike is the official gear for the race and will be selling tons of stuff with the official logo, but the other athletic companies will be there as well.  On your way out, make sure you pick up a poster.  This keeps it from getting smashed and wrinkled up while walking around the expo.  I like to frame mine.  If it is your very first marathon, consider buying the finisher plaque.  It’s a little pricey, but you only have one first-time marathon finish.  The expo is less crowded on Friday during the day, but if you have to go on Saturday try to limit the time you spend walking around.
  • PLAN YOUR TRIP INTO THE CITY – I drove in from the suburbs for my first Chicago Marathon in 1999.  The unexpected traffic at 5am left me sitting on the expressway and I almost missed the start.  I ended up parking at Soldier Field and ran about a mile to earn a place at the end of the field that was already moving.  That forced me to have to zigzag through 25,000 or so slower runners.  I think I ran an extra mile just navigating through the field.  Then I had to walk what seemed like another marathon back to the car from the finish at the end of the race.  Driving in for the expo the day or two before the race gives you a chance to figure out your route for your drive in the morning of the race.  Take some time to plan out how early you need to leave to get into the city and find parking that will be accessible to the start and finish of the race.  Nothing is worse than having to walk a couple miles back to your car after 26.2 miles of running.  And if you are staying at a downtown hotel the night before, you are in good shape.  But you still need to know how long it takes to walk from the hotel to your corral.  I would normally advise to limit walking around the city the day before, but it pays to walk from the hotel to the entrance to your corral gate to know how to get there.
  • EAT EARLY THEN RELAX – Carbo-loading is a honored tradition, but I have seen more and more athletes dialing it back quite a bit.  The trend seems to be to start fueling up on carbs the days leading up to the race and not just the night before.  I will eat a normal sized carbohydrate based meal the day before, but I tend to place greater importance on nutrition during the race.  In the past I have found that if I am downtown on the eve of the race, getting a table at a local pasta place near the hotel is going to be a really long wait.  Plus you will be standing around on your feet waiting for a table.  Look into getting a reservation for yourself a couple of days ahead, or plan on eating before the crowds, sometime around 3pm or so.  You will have no worries finding a table and plenty of time to relax in the evening.  And salt everything!
  • LAY OUT YOUR RACE GEAR THE NIGHT BEFORE – Take the time to get your stuff together the night before, lay it all out and check to make sure everything is in good shape.  Trying to find your race bib, safety pins, socks, etc. in the dark at 5am is not good for your nerves.  I like to put Skin Glide on my feet to prevent blisters, so I will place that near my socks.  Wear your bib number on the front per the race rules – this will allow the photographers to be able to sort your photos.  There is adequate liquids (water/Gatorade) on the course, so you shouldn’t need a fuel belt.  But if you have a special relationship with yours, then by all means wear it.  You won’t be the only one.  If you feel you need to bring extra band-aids, or salt capsules, or sunglasses, make sure you lay all of that stuff out as well.  Don’t forget sunscreen.  Although the sun won’t make much of a difference at the start of the race, it’s easy to get burned later in the morning once you are out of the shadows of the downtown buildings.
  • CHECK YOUR WATCH – If you have a fancy GPS style running watch, make sure that you have charged it fully.  Also check to see if you have enough storage room to handle the data from the race.  People tend to forget to clear all of those summer training runs from the watch and then find that they do not have enough space to store the race data during the race.
  • CHECK THE WEATHER – Keep an eye on the weather forecast.  Make sure you have comfortable running clothes for a variety of conditions.  A good plan is to dress just warm enough with layers that you can shed if you warm up.  You can always shed layers, but can’t put them on if you don’t have them.  A large garbage bag will work as a rain coat and warming device that you can toss easily.  Just be prepared that they may not let you past the gate if you are wearing it before entering.
  • DECIDE ON A POST RACE MEETING PLACE – Finding your family after the race will be a challenge.  If you are staying at a downtown hotel, it has been my routine to just meet everyone back at the hotel room.  The finish area will keep pushing the runners through until you hit Balbo.  If you pick a common place to meet, say like Buckingham Fountain, expect to find that half the field has chosen that as their meet up place.  Pick one away from the crowds and the immediate finish line area.
  • TRY TO GET SOME SLEEP – I’ve had races where I have tossed and turned all night, and others where I slept like a baby.  Don’t be concerned if you don’t get a restful night of sleep.  You will still be able to run the race just fine.  There will be plenty of time after the race to nap.  If you are considering using a sleep aid, make sure you try it out prior to the night before the race.
  • SET AN ALARM – Set another alarm.  Have someone else set an alarm.  Double-check your alarms.  Set your alarms for at least 5am.  This will allow ample time for you to wake up, make sure all of your bathroom needs are taken care of, eat a light breakfast, take care of some more bathroom needs, get dressed, go to the bathroom again, etc.

 

RACE DAY!

  • NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY – This is the golden rule of racing.  Now is not the time to try the new shoes you bought at the expo (unless you forgot yours!).  It is not the time to eat something completely out of the ordinary for you.  Nothing new on race day!
  • EAT A LIGHT BREAKFAST – I always follow the same routine on race morning that I do during training.  I will eat the same thing that I always eat for breakfast, a toasted bagel and coffee.  If you run on an empty stomach, now is not the time to eat a banana nut muffin.  Nothing new on race day!
  • GET TO YOUR CORRAL EARLY – This is the mistake I make over and over again.  The corrals are accessed by five gates, but if you are in the first wave – Corrals A through E – you need to go through Gate 1.  That’s a lot of people to move through the gate.  Only runners with bib numbers will be able to get through the gate.  The corrals open at 5:30am.  Wave 1 corrals close at 7:20am.  Don’t be stuck trying to get through the gate to get to your corral.  Also, they will only let people in with the correct corral assignment into the corral.  If you are in Corral D and your buddy is in Corral E, they won’t let either of you enter the gate that is not assigned to you.
  • HEAD TO THE TOILETS/GEAR CHECK – Once you get through the gate, you don’t have to head directly to your corral.  Getting there early will give you plenty of time to chill out.  If you are checking your gear, find the gear check tent and drop it off.  Find the line for the toilets and try to make one last attempt before heading into your corral.  Avoid walking through wet grass and getting your feet wet.  Wet feet = blisters.
  • ENTER YOUR CORRAL AND RELAX – Once I get in the corral I like to find a dry place to sit down and relax, but once it gets crowded there won’t be any place to sit.  Enjoy the circuses, conversations, and the Anthem.  It’s GO TIME!

 

RACING 26.2

Some runners will treat the Chicago Marathon like an event, and others will race it to the best of their abilities.  Whatever your goal, whether to just finish or possibly even qualify for the Boston Marathon, here are some tips.

  • RUN NEGATIVE SPLITS – Studies have shown that running the second half of the race faster than the first half will produce the best results.
  • HAVE A PLAN B – You can hope for an ideal day for the marathon, but that may not happen.  If it’s a going to be a hot day, you may have to dial back your expectations some.  Conversely, if the day turns out to be beautiful and you are feeling great, you may want to push a little harder.  Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
  • PACING GROUPS – There will be pacing groups that will be running in the race.  You can officially join one of them at the expo, or just latch on to one and try to hang on.  The leaders of these groups are proven runners and consistently hit their mile splits.  They will NOT be running negative splits, they will hit the average pace expected for every mile for the desired finish time (i.e. for a 3:30 finish they will average 8 mins/mile).  You will see them holding a sign with the finish time they are expected to hit.  But be aware that once the race starts they will drop the large sign and may carry a smaller version.  If they aren’t carrying a sign, they definitely will have the expected finish time bib pinned to their back.  Also be aware that there may be more than one pacing group for a specific finish time (i.e. Corral B and Corral C each may have a 3:30 pace group).  If you started with the Corral B group pacer for 3:30 and end up with the Corral C group pacer you won’t hit your time because the second group started later than the first.
  • RUN THE THIN BLUE LINE – Most people running the race, even those that have done it numerous times, are unaware that there is a painted blue line running the length of the course.  That blue line is the official race route.  If you stay on that line you will run the most direct route.  It’s hard to do at times due to the amount of people running with you, but running the tangents is always smart racing.
  • AID STATIONS CAN BE TRICKY – There are 20 aid stations and they are sporadically spaced apart.  Each will have tables on both sides of the road.  There will be large blue banners for water and large orange banners for Gatorade.  The common advice is to avoid the first few tables as they will be crowded, but if everyone is doing that then the back tables become crowded too.  I look for my opening and take it.  Make eye contact with the volunteer or point at them so they know that you are coming for their cup.  They may then try to extend it a little for you. There will be toilets at each aid station.  If you know you need to stop, try to spot them right away and head there or you might pass them by.
  • WATCH YOUR STEP! –  The aid stations can get very slick and you could easily slip with all of the water/Gatorade/gels/cups/banana/garbage on the ground.  Also, watch out for course jumpers.  These are spectators who have decided that they would rather be on the other side of the course and then just dart straight across.  You will cross the river four times in the downtown area on bridges that are made of metal grates.  These can be tough on your feet.  There will be some thin carpet laid down over a small section of it.  Head for the carpet if the footing bothers you.
  • ENJOY THE SIGHTS – What makes the Chicago Marathon so much fun is the city, crowds, and circuses of running through 29 neighborhoods.  There will be awesome entertainment along the way.  Take some time to enjoy the race!  My personal favorite is high-fiving Elvis around the 10 mile mark.
  • AVOID MENTAL FATIGUE – It’s easy to get physically tired running 26.2 miles, but this race can drain you mentally as well.  The crowds and the noise almost make me wish I had earplugs at times.  And unless you know exactly where to look for family, spending time studying faces in the crowd will drain you.  Try to know ahead of time where they will be.  Or pick a side of the course to be on and tell the family that you will be running on that side.  Also, try breaking the race up into small segments, for instance every 5 miles, instead of counting down each mile.
  • USE THE COURSE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE – If race day is warm, try to stay in the shadows of the big buildings of the early stages of the race.  Conversely, head for the sunshine if you are cold.  If there is a head wind or you feel cold, tuck yourself in behind a group of runners and use them to block the wind.
  • AVOID NON-AID STATION OFFERINGS – Somewhere near the last 10K of the race there will be a guy passing out cups of beer.  In Pilsen, there will be good intentioned people passing out orange slices and pretzels.  In my opinion, unless you really need a lift, I would pass on these offerings just because you just don’t know how they might affect you.  Nothing new on race day, remember?
  • SMILE FOR THE CAMERA – There will be several photographers along the course.  Sometimes there will be a sign that says “photographer ahead” and sometimes you will later see your photos and don’t remember them being there.  The common places are near Mile 12 when you cross the river, at about 21.5 miles in Chinatown, and a big group of photographers taking photos from above around the 23 mile area.  And of course, at the finish.  Here’s your chance to look like a champion!
  • WATCH OUT FOR THE HILL – How hilly is the Chicago Marathon?  It’s the opposite of hilly.  There will be a few up and down sections over bridges and such, but it’s basically a flat course.  But there is one hill of note, and it comes at the 26 Mile mark on Roosevelt Road.  You will turn right at the corner and climb this hill for about a couple hundred yards, then it’s a left turn and a downhill to the finish.  Just a minor nuisance really.
  • STOP YOUR WATCH – Don’t forget to stop your watch at the end.  And don’t be confused if the official time being displayed on the clocks is different from your time.  The official clocks start when the race begins, but you will be chip timed starting when you crossed the Start Line and ending at the Finish Line.

 

THE COURSE

You will be going on quite an adventure running through 29 different neighborhoods.  In truth, the road you are running on will be pretty much the same, with the exception of some rough feeling bridges, so there are not too many surprises.  Here’s some advice on how to handle the miles.

  • MILES 1-5:  You will be super excited and filled with adrenaline at the start.  Try to hold back your pace.  Let the rabbits go, resisting the urge to get caught up in the tempos of the other participants.  By the time you get to Mile 5 you should be in a comfortable pace, and no longer bumping elbows with everyone.  You will be tempted to bypass the water/Gatorade but you shouldn’t, especially if it is a warm day.  Don’t get behind on staying hydrated or fueled.  It’s too hard to catch back up.  There aren’t too many highlights through these miles, just lots of tall buildings.
  • MILES 6-10:  This section of the race will be exciting.  Lots of fans and entertainment on the course.  You will also be as far north as you will be on the course just after Mile 7.  From then on you are heading back into downtown.  By Mile 6 you will probably warmed up fairly well and might want to think about shedding a layer.  But if you are cool, wait until you get past Mile 8 because you will be heading south and there might be a change in wind direction that could influence your comfort.  Keep taking hydration and fuel.  The highlights in this section include Lincoln Park, and a glimpse of Lake Michigan near Lake Shore Drive.  Also, Wrigleyville and Boystown will certainly be entertaining.  Rifle spinners, cheerleaders, and other crazy stuff.
  • MILES 11-15:  As you head back into downtown, the crowds get very big again.  Old Town’s tree-lined streets can provide some shade in this section.  Coming up is the half-way point just as you turn west.  If you are running for a charity, you will see those cheer sections around Mile 14.  It’s a huge pick-me-up even if you aren’t part of their group.  Take a look around you – you will probably notice by now that you have settled in with a group of similar paced runners, and you will probably be with those same runners for quite some time.  After Mile 14, things change.
  • MILES 16-20:  After Mile 14 the crowds become very thin and sometimes non-existent.  You have entered the dead-zone.  But you will be prepared for it from all of those lonely miles you put in during training.  The scenery through here is pretty blah.  It will be quiet until you get to Pilsen around Mile 19.  If you haven’t taken an assessment of yourself yet, now’s the time.  Have you been hydrating?  Taking in gels or other food?  How are your splits looking?  How do your legs feel?  Make some adjustments and remember your race plan goals to see if you are still on target.  Also, around Mile 20 is the time when the dreaded “Wall” makes an appearance.  Actually, I find the wall to be easily overcome by just keeping yourself fueled with gels and other food.  Keep your energy up and you will not have to deal with the wall.
  • MILES 21-25:  Ah, Chinatown!  This is the section that is always the reminder that we are winding this race down.  About five miles to go!  But your mind can play tricks on you because you start heading further south at this point, farther away from the downtown finish line.  It’s not long until you hit Michigan Avenue and start heading north again.  There will be fewer crowds here as most will be wanting to be near the finish.  Just keep getting to each aid station and keep moving forward!
  • MILES 26-26.2:  Make the turn onto Roosevelt Road and tackle that hill!  You are almost home!  The trip down Columbus Drive will be very short, but you will want it to last longer.  Soak up that finish!  Great job!

 

THE FINISH

Hooray!  You did it!  You finished the Chicago Marathon.  Well done.  Your job isn’t over yet, though.

  • KEEP MOVING – You should definitely stop running (ha!), but don’t stop moving.  Keep the blood pumping until your heart rate comes back down.  There might be some mister-type fans for cooling if you need it.  And those mylar type wraps/blankets that they pass out will make a difference as your warm body cools down and you find yourself now slightly chilled.
  • AVOID SITTING – That curb may look like a great place to rest, but getting back up from it will be difficult.
  • GET YOUR MEDAL – This is what you came for, right?  It’s hard to miss the many people passing out medals, but I’ve seen more than one person backtrack to get one.  And please, only take one.
  • REHYDRATE AND REFUEL – Take a water or recovery drink and try to rehydrate.  If you can eat something, try some pretzels, chips or eat a banana to help get your sodium and potassium levels back up.
  • IF YOU NEED HELP, SEEK IT OUT – There will be course marshals in the chute sitting up high on stands monitoring everyone walking through.  If they notice that someone is not looking right, they will get someone over to them.  But if you aren’t doing so well, maybe feeling lightheaded or nauseated, there are areas near the Medical Tent that volunteer medical professionals will be at to help you recover.  Their goal is to keep you out of the main medical tent, which is not where you really want to end up.  If you make it there you are probably going to get an IV, or an ambulance ride to the hospital.
  • TAKE YOUR TIME GETTING TO THE EXIT – You probably are ready to go find your family, but make sure you are in good walking shape before leaving and meeting your loved ones at your previously agreed upon meeting spot.  You probably won’t be allowed back in once you leave.  Get your finisher photo taken again with your medal, use the bathroom, grab another water and make sure you are in good enough condition to make it to where you are heading.

 

That’s about it.  Thanks for reading and enjoy the Chicago Marathon!