Race Report: 2019 Manteno Triathlon

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When:  Saturday, July 27, 2019 – 8 am

Where:  Manteno, Illinois

Distance:  Sprint – 14.21 Total Miles

Results: Official time 1:04:30 / 17th Overall / 2nd Place 55-59 Male Age Group

Results Link:  Manteno Tri 2019 Race Results

Third time racing in Manteno and I am sure I will be back again.  I have done this race two times before and it is super fun.  It’s a great way to start a Saturday.

 

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The required transition set-up photo.

 

I talked with some of the great people I know from FNRC who were there to do the race, then I got my transition area set up and had Kari snap a picture and then it was time to get ready to race.

 

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I offered James (right) some advice for a first-timer and met with Dan (left) for a quick photo.

 

SWIM:  400 Yards, 9:45, 4th in A/G, 57th Overall

I don’t bother bringing the wetsuit to transition for this race because the past two years it has been a non-wetsuit race.  I found the water to be pretty warm and comfortable during the brief pre-race swim.  I waited for our silver cap wave to start and then waded into the water.

Two things usually occur for me when I start a triathlon swim:  I either freak out about the pace, start hyperventilating, and then pray that I will finish this swim, or I will start thinking about my bike strategy.  After passing around the one turn buoy, I found myself thinking about the bike.  Much better than thinking about drowning.  I must have been swimming at a good pace.

I swam strong and as I sighted into the sun for the Swim Out exit, I pushed the pace a little harder.  I was a little surprised that I was a little slower this year than last year, but not too bad of a swim for me.

 

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Exiting the swim always makes for a pretty happy camper.

 

T1:  1:07, 2nd in A/G, 29th Overall

I ran pretty quick to my bike and messed around with socks, again.  This time was a little better because I used the little no-show type socks and they went on pretty quick.  I felt a little under pressure because there was someone spectating by the fence watching me go through T1.  Maybe they were trying to pick up pointers and learned that wearing socks on the bike is a waste of time.

BIKE: 11 Miles, 30:44, Average speed 21.5 mph, 3rd in A/G, 18th Overall

 

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Hammer time!

 

I had decided while swimming to bike as hard as I could, so I hit it hard out of the gate and quickly pegged my heart rate to the max.  It wasn’t long until I realized that I better back off a little, and fortunately, there was a strong tailwind heading out aiding in my bike hard plan.  My bike computer was showing 25 mph and I was like – wow, this is fast.  I passed a couple of riders who were just a little slower, but a lot younger than me.  Whenever I pass someone I always wonder if the gauntlet that I am throwing down will be picked up and have my face slapped with it.  This time I did get passed back by these two riders just before the first turnaround before the third mile.  But here’s where they ran into trouble.  The first guy did this hairpin u-turn in a hard gear and struggled to get back up to speed while I had planned for that and easily passed him again.  The other guy was a little more ahead of me but his issue was he was riding a road bike and we were now riding into a pretty strong headwind with me taking full advantage of being on an aero bike and riding with a full rear disc wheel.  My speedometer was showing 18 mph now.  I passed him and I figured if he lasted this pace he might catch me on the run because he looked pretty fit.  I never saw the other guy again.  This is where aero makes all the difference.

T2:  0:46, 2nd in A/G, 18th Overall

I forgot to hit my Lap button on my watch but I realized it right as I was running out with my visor and race belt in my hand.  The reason I forget is mainly due to my hands being busy holding the handlebars of my bike and I would have issues if I tried messing with my watch while running with my bike.  But in the end, it was one of my fastest bike-to-run transitions.

RUN:  3.1 miles, 22:06, 7:07 per mile pace ave., 1st in A/G, 16th Overall

I settled into a comfortable pace and tried to keep working on catching the next runner ahead of me.  Within the first half-mile, the guy that I had passed twice on the bike caught me and passed me hard.  There was no way I could go at that pace.  He was moving.  The running was going well.  At the first aid station, I grabbed a cup of water and threw it on me, which startled the little kid that handed it to me.  I did manage to grab another and get a quick drink.  I did the same thing at the second aid station and got a similar reaction from the teen that handed it to me.  #winning

At about 2.5 miles into the 5K, I saw my nemesis – Michael B. – ahead of me.  I was catching him.  But at the next turn, he took a look back and saw me and then the race was on.  I was slowly reeling him in, but as we passed the 3-mile mark, I had nothing left and he crossed the line four seconds ahead of me.  I had spoken with him before the race and asked him if he was “going to kick my butt again.”  He started in with some lame excuse about some lame running injury and I just said to keep your excuses, Mr. Soul Crusher.  I wonder where I could have saved four seconds?  He’s a much faster swimmer than I am, we are pretty even on the bike, and I was a minute and a half faster on the run.  Then it dawned on me – socks.

 

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Me and my 4 second stealing, low-cut socks trying to chase down Michael.

 

 

 

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My second place would have been third place in the age group this year, but the guy who was tops in the M55-59 A/G was the overall Masters M winner, so he was taken out of the A/G standings, thank goodness.  Four minutes separated me from the guy next to me.

 

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The top 21 finishers.

 

 

 

Race Report: 2019 Short Run on a Long Day 5K

When:  Wednesday, June 19, 2019 – 7pm

Where:  Frankfort, Illinois

Distance:  5K – 3.1 Miles

Results:  21:31 Official time / 25th Overall / 2nd Place 55-59 Male Age Group

Results Link:  Race Results

I could make this an easy, two paragraph wrap-up, but why make it easy on myself?

Race day morning a coworker who works out at a local fitness club advised that a man had died while working out at her club the day before.  Knowing that I have a history of running she was quizzing me about why I thought he had died.  I could only speculate, but I figured that he probably had cardiac arrest related to heart disease and was triggered by exertion he was unprepared for.  She wanted to be assured that she wasn’t going to code out as well, so I dug up several articles about deaths at fitness clubs and found that the majority of exercise-related deaths are due to exactly what I had thought, they were not fit and had a history of heart disease.  But exercise in moderation is one of the best ways of preventing such deaths.  Her fears were soothed and said she won’t worry about dying on the treadmill.

But the conversation kind of stoked my fears a little.  My father died of heart disease at the age of 52.  He was a smoker, my mom fried a lot of our meals, and did no exercise whatsoever.  I took note of that at the age of 15 and have tried to live my life without such outside bad habits, and I started running in my early 20’s.  But I often find myself running short, high-intensity races at high heart rates which make me feel like I’m maxing myself out and wonder if I’m going to blow up my heart.  Thankfully, that hasn’t happened, and I am aware of the warning signs.  But it’s always kind of in the back of my mind.  As I stood on the starting line the thought of blowing up wasn’t even on my mind.  It was time to beat as many as I could.  Enough of the doom and gloom, on with the race report.

For a race that celebrates the first day of summer with a Wednesday night 5K, it was anything but summer-like.  Air temp was about 63 degrees and it was drizzling.  I debated as to whether I should race in a singlet or not but decided to do so.  I joined the local running club group photo and then did my warm up.

 

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I donned my new FNRC visor for the picture! (photo credit I believe goes to Susan Danforth’s phone – borrowed from Facebook.)

 

The course was changed this year, pretty much running it in reverse from previous years I have run this race.  I didn’t mind the change, except sometimes when you are seeing things you normally see in the latter parts of the race early on it kind of messes with me for some reason.  I put that behind me and tried to settle in without going out too fast, but as usual, I failed.

There’s a guy that runs this race pushing his handicapped wife in a racing stroller and in the past he has kicked my butt.  It’s always humbling when he beats me, and I marvel at his strength and ability.  He quickly jumped ahead of me and I decided to jump in behind him.  On the flats, he would put a pace or two on me, but when we hit the little rises in the road I would pull him back in.  As much as I try to hold back early in a race and run negative splits, I never do because I can’t turn off the competitive aspect of it.  I feared that he was making the same mistake that I was, heading out too strong, and we were going to pay for it later.

A little before the first mile I passed him and then worried about him the rest of the way.  I went through the first mile split in 6:42 according to my watch, and decided to pull back just a touch as we headed up the road and onward to the bike trail.  I was passed by another runner that had recently had a kidney transplant and said to him that it was me usually chasing him down.  He laughed and I asked how his health was and was said he was great and thanked me for asking.  Then he pulled away.

I went through the second mile split at 6:53 and was satisfied with that.  A girl passed me and I said “go get it” and she encouraged me to grab on and go with her, but I told her I was waiting for another 1/2 mile before kicking.  I mistakenly thought the course would continue on the path a little longer, but we turned off and hit the streets again.  After a couple of turns, we made it to the ending straight to the finish.  I glanced back at the trail and could see the stroller pushing runner not far back.  A quick look at my watch showed that I had about a 1/4 mile left so I kicked hard up the hill back to the finish and was all alone.  My watch showed 21:25, which is always quicker than the official time at this race.  I’m not sure why that happens, but the official time is always slower than my watch.  I was maybe five steps back from the starting line at the start, so there’s not much of a time difference there.

 

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I cooled down and then went and joined some others from the running club to cheer on the rest of the runners.  After a while, I got a little cold and went and changed into some dry clothes and waited for the results.  Glad to hear my name called for 2nd in my age group.  There’s lots of great competition at this race and to get an A/G medal is special.  I had a pretty good race.

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2019 ET Batavia Triathlon Race Report

When:  06/09/2019 –  6:30 am

Where:  Batavia, Illinois

Distance:  Sprint:  400 yards (~.25 miles) Swim, 16.1 Mile Bike, 4.1 Mile Run

Results:  1:24:47 – 27th overall, 1/16 M55-59 Age Group

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This race is one of my favorite sprints triathlons to race.  It’s a race that is well executed, has a beautiful locale in the Western suburbs of Chicago, and it has the right balance of distances that play into my strengths as a triathlete.

I skipped this race the morning of the race last year due to a nasty storm that rolled through the area.  I was even heading there in my car when I convinced myself that it was for sure going to be canceled.  I came home and later found out that they eventually waited out the storm and held it anyway.  I was mad at myself for bailing, so this year I was for sure going to race come rain or shine.

 

PRE-RACE WEEKEND

I really overloaded my weekend leading up to the race.  I bought a used boat on Friday and was dealing with that new purchase (Fun!).  On Saturday, my Ironman training plan called for a 3.5-hour ride followed by a 30-minute run that I did with two of my Gunner teammates Dave and Jeff (Fun!).  And if that wasn’t enough, I went with my wife and friend John to see Cheap Trick in concert and stood the whole time (Fun!)!  I was definitely setting myself up for a rough race on Sunday morning, especially after standing at the concert, getting to bed late, and having to get up at 4 am to drive to Batavia.  I spent the concert thinking about what I will need to do to convince myself to get up at that early and go race a triathlon.  I set the alarm and told myself to see how I feel in the morning.

 

RACE DAY MORNING

The alarm went off and I jumped out of bed.  I felt great and was actually excited about racing.  I checked the radar and could see that there was a chance for some rain, but not an orange and red blob on the radar screen like last year, just a friendly green blob.  Green means GO!  I got dressed, grabbed a scone that my daughter had baked and a cup of coffee and I was off.

I know how to drive to Batavia, done it many times.  But I set my GPS for the location I usually park just so I didn’t have to worry about it.  What did I do?  I completely missed the exit ramp for I-88 westbound to Aurora!  I had to drive an additional couple of miles up to Butterfield Road and turn around.  I’m so dumb.  I think I was distracted by a radio program that was talking about “This Day in History” and it was pretty interesting.  Anyway, I realized my mistake soon enough and there was no harm, no foul.

I found a spot to park, unloaded my bike and made my way to transition to get body marked, which I will always contend is the dumbest thing ever.  I will be wearing a number 60 written on my shoulder and my age on my left calf in Sharpie for the rest of the week.  Maybe I will try some of my daughter or wife’s make up remover wipes.

I was pleased to find that my bike would be racked in the second row of bikes, really close to Swim Out.  I like to rack next to the legs of the bike rack, it keeps another bike from being too close on that side and gives me some extra space to throw my transition bag down, because I am still bringing too much junk.

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My bike and all of my junk.  I thought it might rain, so I put my backpack into a garbage bag.  The Ironman bag had my wetsuit in it.

After setting up the bike and my stuff I took a bathroom break and headed to the swimming hole to check out the water.  We were told that the water temp was 70 degrees, and it felt slightly cold to me.  I don’t usually wear a wetsuit for this race because it is short and the water last time was about 74 degrees.  I decided that after dipping my toes into the water I would wear the wetsuit.  I put it on, all by myself for a change, and swam a couple easy laps as a warm up.  I always try to warm up for the swim to get used to the water and to remind myself of the pace I want to keep.

The swim is two loops in a smallish park district swimming hole, which was a former small quarry of sorts from what I can gather.  The bottom is all sand, and on the backside of the loop, I found my hands hitting bottom.  In the past, most people will just start walking this part of the swim and I have done that too.  I try not to run it because it raises my heart rate too high.  I made a mental note that I would probably walk it and then I got in line for the time trial start.

 

RACE TIME!

SWIM

Time:  6:15 – 1:25min/100 yds. – 3rd place AG

PRE-SWIM STRATEGY:  Start easy, don’t go too fast, relax

SWIM REALITY:  GUNNED IT AS HARD AS I COULD!

The race asks you for your predicted time when you sign up and I usually put 8 minutes because I typically swim at about 2 min/100 yds.  When I seeded myself in line I saw a sign for 6 minutes and just joined in.  I knew I would be wearing a wetsuit and might be a little faster, but I wanted to get the swim over with quick and get out on the bike course before it got too crowded.

The race started promptly at 6:30 am right after the National Anthem, and we slowly started getting fed into the water at about five-second intervals.  I was pretty calm and relaxed before getting in, but as soon as my face hit the water after about ten strides I was GUNNING it hard.  Why do I do this?!  It’s like doing an interval in the pool without the benefit of a break afterward!  Anyway, I did rein myself in a little bit, caught a little bit of my breath when I walked a small portion and then calmed myself for the second loop. I must admit, I was expecting a lot of swim traffic, seeing that it’s a two-looper and that there are roughly 30-40 swimmers in the water at one time.  I didn’t have much contact at all.  A few tickles on my feet, but pretty much contact-free.  I got up on my feet on the shallow part a little sooner or else I would have swam into a bunch of walking swimmers ahead of me and started unzipping my wetsuit and made my way out to T1.

I’m glad I seeded myself where I did, and I was a little surprised to see that 6:15 finish.  But I was wearing that wetsuit and it definitely did make me quicker.  The swim finish put me 3rd overall in my age group.  The two triathletes faster than me were 45 and 30 seconds quicker.  Not too shabby of a swim for myself.

T1 – SWIM TO BIKE

TIME:  1:38 – 3rd place AG

PRE-T1 STRATEGY:  Don’t waste time, be methodical, get out quick

T1 REALITY:  GET PUZZLED AS TO HOW THE WATCH I HAVE OWNED FOR TWO YEARS ACTUALLY WORKS, WASTE TIME DRYING OFF FEET TO PUT ON SOCKS ON MY TENDER FEET, GET ANXIOUS ABOUT HOW MUCH TIME I WAS WASTING!

As I ran out of the swim and crossed the timing mat I realized that I needed to hit the button on my watch signaling the change from swim to T1, but I couldn’t remember which button to press!  I guessed and it was the correct one.  Next up was getting the wetsuit off, which typically does not go quickly for me.  But I was using my new XTERRA wetsuit and it’s a little bigger than my old Blue Seventy.  I got it down to my ankles and just gave it a swift pull with my hands.  Came off pretty easy.

For some reason, I don’t fly through transition.  The race announcer was jokingly chiding many of the age group award runner ups who had lost positions to those ahead of them by one or two seconds that they should have spent less time in transition.  I took that to heart.  I need to stop messing around.  The wetsuit is a major time sucker, and then I take the time to dry my feet, attempt to pull on socks over wet feet, and put on my cycling shoes, glasses, and helmet.  I need to forget about socks, not wear a helmet and leave my shoes on the bike and just do a flying mount.  Yeah, two of those three won’t happen, as no helmet gets you a disqualification, and flying mounts are not something 55-year-olds should be taking up.  There’s a reason there are so many folks spectating at BIKE OUT, it’s to see crashes and the stupidity that goes on!  I guess I could bike without socks like some uncivilized knuckle dragger.

I realize I give away some precious seconds to others in transitions, but I was slightly surprised to see that I was once again the 3rd fastest in my age group.  They were 37 and 9 seconds faster than me.

 

BIKE

Time:  46:46 – 4th place AG

PRE-BIKE STRATEGY:  GUN IT AS HARD AS I CAN!

BIKE REALITY:  GUNNED IT AS HARD AS I COULD!

I hopped on the bike and off I went.  There are some plywood covered speed bumps that you have to navigate over right at the start that requires being a little cautious with, and then it’s a left turn and up a short, sharp hill.  This hill surprises a lot of first-time racers at this course, but I had the right gearing and spun up easily.  Then it’s flat and fast for the most part.  There are some hills here and there but they are pretty short-lived, and the downhill portions more than make up for it.

 

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Bike elevation.  The tough climb came around mile 13.

 

There was a girl who was ahead of me wearing an ITU tri suit with her name on the back and I attempted to keep pace with her.  That lasted maybe 3 or 4 miles and she started to pull away.  Her calf showed she was 43 years old, which was certainly impressive to me.  I hoped to catch her later on the run.

With that first hill climb, and the adrenaline of starting the bike I was maxed out on my heart rate and breathing pretty hard.  It wasn’t long though until I settled into my comfort zone and was riding comfortably hard.  I passed a ton of riders in the first half of the ride and had a few overtake me in the second half, but overall I think I did pretty well on this ride.  I had misplaced my bike computer and so I was racing without really having my speed available at a quick glance.  It was kind of a blessing riding by feel and not getting caught up in my pace.  I was a little surprised to see at the end that my watch was showing about 19 mph average, but the official race results have me averaging 20.1 mph.  I’ll take it!

The bike course is usually about 14.5 miles long, but due to construction, they added a detour that increased the course to 16.1 miles.  I didn’t notice it at all really.

Coming back into transition there are some sharp turns at the end of some hills, so you have to have a little caution with that, but I gunned it on in any way.

I dropped to fourth place on the bike segment, with only about 70 seconds separating me from the first place age group bike finisher.

 

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End of the bike ride, coming in hard and fast.

 

 

T2 – BIKE TO RUN

Time:  1:27 – 3rd place AG

PRE-T2 STRATEGY:  Don’t waste time, be methodical, get out quick

T2 REALITY:  Didn’t waste time, was methodical, tried to run on rubbery legs

Nothing surprising here, rack the bike, take the helmet and cycling shoes off, put on running shoes, grab the visor and race belt and put them on while exiting transition.  The only thing I did that robbed time from me was I had a gel flask lying there and I took a quick squeeze from it and a swig of water to wash it down.  There were only 18 seconds between the first place guy and me.  Not too bad.  I’m always quicker in T2, as long as I’m not messing around with socks.

 

RUN

Time:  28:41 – 2nd place AG

PRE-RUN STRATEGY:  Try to hold 7-minute miles, pick off runners one at a time

RUN REALITY:  Held 7-minute miles!  But I got passed by as many as I passed myself

I left T2 and hit the trail and got myself up to a comfortably hard race pace.  I checked the watch a couple of times and saw 6:55/7:05/7:10 pace looking back at me, which I was content with.

Not more than a half mile or so out on the run course there was a turtle on the side of the path taking stock of the parade that was passing him by.  There’s been a lot of turtles this year for some reason.  My first thought was to not get snapped, and then I thought how fast can a turtle be?  I decided to press on as the hare, and stop thinking about the wildlife.

The turnaround on this out and back always seems farther away than it should, but it was about 1.5 miles out.  After turning around and picking up my pace again I saw the girl that had pulled away from me on the bike course.  By mile 2 I caught and passed her, just like I had hoped.  I realized at this point that she was racing the duathlon and not the triathlon, so I wasn’t really competing against her.  She was the overall female winner of the duathlon.  But I had reeled her in just like I had hoped to do.  ALWAYS BET ON THE RUNNER!

It was about 3 miles into the run when a guy sporting a 59 on his calf blew by me like I was standing still.  He was either a duathlete or he had a really slow swim and/or bike.  Since I was second overall in my age group for the run, I assume the guy ahead of me was this 59 year old.  He did, in fact, have a pretty slow bike.

I started kicking around 3.5 miles and finished strong.  The official results have me averaging 6:59 min/mile pace!  Win!

After averaging 4th place or so on the different stages of the race, I moved up to the top spot in the age group after the run.  ALWAYS BET ON THE RUNNER!

 

 

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I was spent at the end of this one.  It might explain why I came home and immediately fell asleep on the couch.

 

 

 

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FIRST PLACE 55-59 MALE AGE GROUP!  ALWAYS BET ON THE RUNNER!

 

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Here’s the link to the official results:  Race Results

 

 

2018 Chicago Marathon Race Report

2018 Chicago Marathon

October 7, 2018 / Chicago, Illinois

Time:  3:52:07

Place:  11629 Overall / 8508 Male

 

For my 19th time, I hereby do declare I WILL NEVER RUN ANOTHER MARATHON AGAIN!  This time I MEAN IT!

This Chicago Marathon will definitely go down as one of my most memorable.  The race was my third long distance race this year that was run in the rain.  It brought back memories of Boston last April, cool temps, wind and rain.  This was a light version of Boston though.  The temperature was near 60 degrees instead of 40, and the rain wasn’t pouring.  The wind was only noticeable when running certain directions, and only briefly.  Thankfully, Boston taught me how to manage crappy running weather, but you can never be fully prepared.  And it turns out I’m not sure I was fully prepared for this one.

I was looking forward to running Chicago, as my son was going to be running it as his first marathon.  Notice I didn’t say that we would be running it together.  He’s fast, I’m not.  Well, not as fast as he is anyway.  But I looked forward to sharing that experience together.

Here’s the lowdown on how the Chicago Marathon went for me.

TRAINING

After finishing the Boston Marathon I needed to give my body a break.  I was beat.  I showed up at Boston way overtrained and worn out.  The day after Boston I ended my three year running streak of running at least a mile everyday, and told myself I had to get myself right again.

After a trip to the doctor, I learned what I was kind of assuming, that I had thyroid issues.  Blood tests confirmed it, and now I’m taking a synthetic thyroid medication for the rest of my life.  I had thought that it might change things for me metabolically, but my doctor buddy said not to expect miracles.  He was right.  I really struggled to lose the ten pounds I had gained over the winter and spring.  Eventually, I did drop a few pounds, but nothing like what I had expected.  One positive was that I wasn’t as tired as I had been before, so that is a plus.

In mid-June I began following the same 16-week advanced training plan that I usually use.  I also had been doing some triathlon related training, hoping to throw in a couple of races before the longer mileage weeks started to kick in.  I ended up doing a sprint triathlon in June and the Chicago Triathlon in August.

I was a little nervous about the training after struggling with the Boston training and the race itself, but it actually went pretty well.  The highlight for me was the 20 mile training run I did three weeks out from the race.  I was able to hold my 8 min/mile pace fairly easily through that run and it really gave me a confidence boost.  You can read about it here:  The Dreaded 20 Mile Training Run

 

RACE WEEKEND

I took Friday off and headed to Chicago to attend the expo with Ben and his girl friend Emily.  Every year that I had gone to the expo I would see proud Boston finishers parading around in their Boston Marathon jackets and be somewhat envious.  This year, even though I didn’t really need a jacket, I decided I was going to peacock the hell out my one Boston Marathon finish and sport that damn jacket at the expo.  I wasn’t alone.  I saw numerous Boston 2018 celebration jackets.

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Me, Ben and my jacket heading to meet Emily and go to the expo.

 

We ended up getting there around midday, and man was it crazy!  I had never seen it so crowded before.

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For a minute I thought I was in the corral of the actual race.  This was just the holding area to get in and pick up the race packet.  I had never seen it this bad before.

Ben and I got our bibs and started the trek through the expo.  We ended up spending money on mostly disappointing official Nike marathon gear and other odds and ends.  We caught a glimpse of Deena Kastor and then decided to get out of there.  The expo can be overwhelming after awhile.

Saturday, we all met downtown in the late afternoon and met at our hotel, the Chicago Palmer House Hilton.  The hotel lobby was impressive, the rooms not so much.  It’s location to the race start area was ideal, but a little bit of a hike from the finish.  The Chicago Hilton is a better option for being closer to the finish, but I didn’t book it fast enough and had to settle for the Palmer House.  I will say there were better dining options nearby, and I opted for the Corner Bakery and got some loaded baked potato soup and bread for an evening carb load.  I had already eaten some pasta at home around 1 pm, so I think I had enough carb loading for the day.

Ben and I talked some race day strategy and I laid out my options for what to wear in the race.  I had already kind of chosen the outfit, but I had brought some options in case I changed my mind.

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Only thing not showing is my matching grey with red Hoka Cliftons.

Sleep went well except for a weird moment in the middle of the night where I found myself sweating like crazy.  I got up, used the bathroom, and went back to sleep.  The alarm finally went off, and I got myself ready for the day.

 

RACE MORNING

Ben met me at the room and after some last minute assurances, we decided it was time to head to the corrals.

 

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It wasn’t raining yet, but we wanted to keep warm.

We were advised to go into the corrals by entering into a specific gate based on our corral assignments, but I wasn’t having any of that.  The first and closest gate was at Jackson and we got in line.  Just as we were getting near the inspection point this Chinese guy cuts in front of us.  Then he couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t let him carry in his sling bag because only the clear plastic gear bag was allowed.  Fortunately, they let him put it into his gear bag, which he should have done in the first place.  Off to a great start, but we weren’t done with him yet.  As you pass security, there are event photographers ready to take your pre-race photo, so Ben and I decided to do so.  Just after the guy takes our picture, we realize the guy photobombed us.

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We made an international friend!

I’m smiling in the photo, but I was laughing right after it when I realized he was in the photo too!  Here’s one without Mr. E10796:

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Still laughing about our friend.

Ben and I got to the split where Corrals A and B went one way and C through E went another.  I told him that I loved him and that I was proud of him and that I don’t tell him that enough.  We hugged and I headed straight to the toilets.

Once in the corral I found it pretty empty as I was there pretty early.  So I headed to the front of it to the rope that separates the C corral from D and just hung out.  I used my portable urinal (my nearly empty Gatorade bottle) under my plastic bag three times before the race started which surprised me, as I had used the port-o-lets twice before getting into my corral.  Nerves I guess.  After the anthem the start horn blew and I pulled the plastic garbage bag off and tossed the bag and bottle over the fence, and we started the 7 minute shuffle to the start line.  Ben said he crossed the line within 10 seconds.  It took me 7:18 to cross it.  I gave him a head start.

 

RACE

Start to 5K:  Overall Time:  0:25:12 / Ave. Pace 8:07 min/mile

I started off well and felt pretty strong, although my first split was about 8:15 min/mile which surprised me a little.  It is hard to concentrate on pace right at the start because we are still packed tight a little, and you spend more time getting through the field than thinking about pace.  It was in that first half mile that my Garmin lost track of me as we were under Randolph Street and Wacker Drive and put my split a couple of tenths off at each subsequent mile marker.  Ben was going to hit his lap button every mile, but I’m done with that business.  I had decided I was warm enough without my homemade tube sock arm warmers and stuck them in my shorts in case I needed them again.

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Ben (in blue) coming thru the 4K area where our cheer crew was waiting.

Our Cheer Crew was amazing.  Kari and Rebecca, along with our friends Jeff and Jill were there, plus Emily and a couple of Ben’s running buddies from Loras College braved the wet day to cheer us on.  Although I had told Kari to stick with Ben, I saw Jeff and Jill up through the half way point, and then Jeff at a few other spots.  Seeing everyone was always a big pick-me-up.

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Me greeting the Cheer Crew.  

 

5K to 10K:  Overall time:  0:49:03 / 5K Split:  0:24:31 / Ave. Pace 7:54 min/mile

It was raining pretty steady now but I wasn’t cold really.  I managed to get my pace under 8 minute miles and was feeling good.  Nothing out of the ordinary through here, just still going north.

 

10K to 15K:  Overall time:  1:14:29 / 5K Split:  0:24:27 / Ave. Pace 7:59 min/mile

Miles 6 through 9 really had nothing remarkable about them.  Right about the 10K mark the 3:25 pace group went by me and I took note of that.  I usually see an Elvis impersonator through this stretch, but I’m guessing that he wasn’t into the rain this year. I did start to sense I was getting a blister on my left pinky toe from my shoes being soaked.  That was a little surprising because I had lubed up my toes very well.  Kept my average pace near 8 min/miles.

 

15K to 20K:  Overall time:  1:39:55 / 5K Split:  0:25:26 / Ave. Pace 8:11 min/mile

As I neared the halfway point, I started to tell I was slowing a little.  The effort was getting harder even though I was on top of my nutrition plan.  I felt okay, but that would change as I passed the halfway point.

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Wet, but still content.  (This photo won’t stay center justified for some reason!)

 

Halfway:   Overall Time:  1:45:42 / Ave. Pace 8:29 min/mile

I hit the halfway and felt not so great.  I was only 45 seconds over my intended split of 1:45:00 for the half, but I knew that I was losing it.  My average pace dropped from 8 to 8:30 min/mile and I really didn’t see how I was going to maintain it.

 

Halfway to 25K:  Overall Time:  2:06:32 / Split:  0:20:51 / Ave. Pace 8:36 min/mile

At the 14 mile area I saw Jeff and Jill and said I wasn’t feeling good any longer.  It seemed like I was being drained of my energy.  We had just passed a couple little inclines downtown, but I don’t think that was a factor.  I was starting to realize that this was going to be a get to the finish line in one piece marathon for me.  My time goal of 3:30 was slipping away.

 

25K to 30K:  Overall Time:  2:34:01 / 5K Split:  0:27:30 / Ave. Pace 8:51 min/mile

I generally call this section the Dead Zone and it was no different this year.  It’s mainly just runners along this portion as it is the farthest west part of the course.  I will say though, that I expected the rain to drive away the crowds this year and in reality, the course was pretty populated with cheering fans.  My time is creeping closer to the 9 min/mile average.

 

30K to 35K:  Overall Time:  3:03:47 / 5K Split:  0:29:46 / Ave. Pace 9:35 min/mile

Running through Pilsen and Chinatown are highlights of the race usually, but not this time.  I just wanted to get past the 20 mile mark and know I had 10K to go.  It was in this section that the 3:30 pace group passed me by like I was standing still.  I was resigned that my goal of finishing 3:30 was gone, and I also knew that being sub-3:35 for a Boston Marathon qualifier was pretty much out the door.  I was a just finisher now.

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Mile 21 – Chinatown

 

35K to 40K:  Overall Time:  3:37:22 / 5K Split:  0:33:35 / Ave. Pace 10:49 min/mile

Hello 3:35 pace group.  Goodbye 3:35 pace group.  I was walking the aid stations now and willing myself to keep moving forward.  In 2016 I was passing these zombies, this year I was one of the un-dead.  Along this section I did get a pick-me-up though – I saw the guy that is always at Ironman Wisconsin on Old Sauk Pass wearing the orange afro-wig.  He was cheering us on here as well.  I stopped and said hello to him because we spent some time with him on that course cheering for Jeff and his sister Jan.

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I wish I had a good side, but sadly I don’t.  This definitely isn’t it.  I feel bad for E8772, having my dumb ass in his photo.  

 

40K to the Finish:  Overall time:  3:52:07 / Split 0:14:46 / Ave. Pace 10:50 min/mile

I saw Kari and Rebecca waiting for me after the 25 mile mark and I stopped to say hello.  Not much longer and I would be done.

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Saw Kari and Rebecca and I headed to their side of Michigan Avenue.  

I started to press forward and make it up Roosevelt Road and head to the finish.  As I was climbing Mount Roosevelt as we marathoners call it, a volunteer said to “Fight up the hill!”  I told her I was a lover not a fighter.  She laughed and then I heard her yell, “then Love up that hill!”

As I headed toward the finish I heard my name get called out from the stands.  I turned to look and saw Calvin Jordan, a fellow runner from New Lenox that I had met this fall.  I made a beeline over to him and said hello.  I think he thought I was nuts not sprinting for the finish, but I was glad to end the run with a friendly face and hello.

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Wrapping it up.  
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Finally done with 26.2 miles.  

 

Conclusion

The goal for me was to take advantage of a 10 minute Boston qualifying cushion that I would receive just by turning 55 years old.  But in September, the BAA decided to reduce the qualifying times by 5 minutes.  So I went from needing a 3:40 marathon to 3:35, which didn’t seem to be out of the possibility for me seeing that I had ran a 3:25 in 2016.  But this just wasn’t my year.  I wanted to join Ben and Emily in Boston in 2020, but instead of being in the field, I will happily go to be a spectator.

I think my main issue this year was volume, and essentially too much of it for a guy in his mid-fifties.  When I finished Boston in April, my body was beat.  Everything hurt.  So I dropped the 3+ year running streak I had and worked on rebuilding myself.  I was really feeling pretty good again come summer, and when I did my 20 mile training run in late September, I held that 8 min/mile pace well.  Just wasn’t my year this year.

But I must say I’m very proud of my 3:52:07 finish.  Being sub-4 hours is always pretty cool.

 

Ben made me very proud.  He crushed his first marathon in 2:47:11!  After the race he seemed like it was just another day of running to him!  Not tired at all.  The next day I went out and got my Chicago Tribune and saw that he was in the banner photo at the top!

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I also found this photo of him online.  Not sure where that hard left turn is, but seeing that the field is pretty spread out and the sparse crowd, I’m guessing toward the latter part of the race.  It could be up near mile 8 though.  

 

We wrapped up race day back at the Corner Bakery with some hot soup and then headed for home.

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The Trump Tower was off to the left of me and I was trying to pull Ben over to get the sign in the photo, but he wasn’t having any of that!  Proud dad with his running boy!

 

 

 

2018 Chicago Triathlon Race Report

When:  08/26/2018, 7:32am

Where:  Chicago, Illinois

Distance:  Olympic/International:  1500 meters (0.93 mile) Swim, 40 Kilometers (24.8 mile) Bike, 10 Kilometer (6.2 mile) Run

Results:  2:53:43 – 756/2238 overall, 24/36 M55-59 Age Group, 171/483 Males Over 40

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The Chicago Triathlon is always fun to do, even more so when your Team Gunner friends join in on the fun!  WE LOVE THIS SPORT!!!  Especially Gunner Alex!  He loves it more than anyone!

I thought I’d let the pictures tell the story this time – so buckle up!  Here we go!

Team Gunners started trickling in and I started taking selfies.  The expo was where we all met and sat through the mandatory course talk in order to pick up our race packets.

I was kind of disappointed in the expo.  I usually buy an event tri kit to wear in the race but they were almost completely sold out, save for a few size small tri tops.  What guy wears a size small tri top?  Nobody, that’s who.

After a quick discussion upon leaving the expo, we decided that we would take advantage of pre-racking our bikes in transition the day before the race.  Here’s a few shots of what the transition area looks like.  The photos don’t show the 7,000 plus bikes.

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It’s a good idea to make a mental note where your bike is located.  It’s behind that tree about 50 yards.

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One final group selfie after everyone had there Gunner-mobiles racked and toured Bike Out.

For dinner we went to Jeff and Jill’s house on Michigan Ave. and were treated to a wonderful spaghetti dinner.  It was great, as was the conversation.  Their view of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan is amazing.

 

RACE DAY – SUNDAY MORNING – 4 AM and the alarm goes off.  I had written down that Dave said we should meet at the elevators of our floor at 4:40 am, but for some reason my mind registered to meet at 4:20 am.  So there I was, 20 minutes early wondering where everyone was.  Triathlon makes you dumb.  The crew finally arrived and off we began our trek from the Chicago Hilton to transition again to set up the rest of our race gear.  This is a long walk, and we were regretting not having our bikes to ride there.  But honestly, the racks were so packed with bikes that I doubt I would have found room to rack the thing.

Upon leaving I saw three of Rebecca’s music teachers who were racing the Olympic distance as a relay team.  I chatted them up and they seemed pretty excited.

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Alex was first up.  His wave started at 6:16 am.  Lucky him.  Did I mention that he loves this sport?  He was racing in the Collegiate division with his buddy Brandon.

 

 

More pictures of Alex in the water.  Nice sunrise photo, too!  Thanks Kari!

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The remaining Gunner boys met up one final time before our individual wave starts.

 

It was Jeff’s turn to go next.  He really loves this sport too.  He’s on Week 28 of 30 training for Ironman Wisconsin.  Fun times.

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Down to 3 Gunners!  One last selfie before Dave and John abandon me.
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It’s 7:08 am and now it’s Dave and John’s turn to jump in to Lake Michigan.

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This cutie was next.  This year Elizabeth and her friend Claire were in different waves.  So Lizzy and Claire had to go it alone.  I’m not sure if they love this sport too.

 

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Somehow we missed taking pictures of Claire getting in the water, but I found this awesome photo on the race website.  Go Claire!!!  I’m guessing that she doesn’t enjoy this sport as much as we do.

 

 

 

 

 

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My turn has finally come.  What was I thinking about you ask?  I was looking at these 55-59 year old men and thinking about how we all grew up listening to the same music, wearing the same types of clothes and doing the same stupid stuff back in the 70’s and 80’s.  We’re the crew that somehow survived that period in one piece.  Deep stuff man.  Actually, I was fretting about how hot I was, that I had to pee, and that the run was going to suck.  I love this sport.

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Time to get into the water.  This photo is just after I punched myself in the lip trying to get my wetsuit on. I really enjoyed that.  
Triathlon=Love

 

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7:32 am – Horn blast and off we go!  I’m on the left side in the back.  See me?  I was just giving the others a head start, you know, to make it fair.
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THAR SHE BLOWS, MATEY!!!

SWIM:  1500 Meters – 32:03 – It was a pretty good swim for me, seeing that I had done practically NO swimming the entire summer.  I was worried that the water would be warm – a week prior the water temp was 80 degrees. But thanks to some strong wave activity this past week, race day water temp was 70 degrees.  I was surprised when I jumped in at how cold it felt.  The water was perfect, very calm.  I stayed wide of the fray and avoided contact.  It was a pleasant swim.

T1:  5:40 – The distance from Swim Out to T1 seems like 1/2 mile.  It’s a long way to go.  I got my wetsuit off quickly, grabbed my bike and headed for Bike Out.

BIKE:  24.8 Miles – 1:13:49 – The bike course takes you north on Lake Shore Drive and although it can have some rollers, it’s pretty flat and fast.  I’ve done about as much bike training as I have swim training, but I was moving along pretty well at an average of about 20.5 mph.  Seeing that I was in Wave 24, I knew that there would be plenty of slower riders I had to pass around.  I passed Elizabeth and then passed one of the Becca’s band teachers.  I probably passed Claire too, but I didn’t see her.  After coming back down LSD, you head into Lower Wacker Drive, and then the fun starts.  I felt like I was riding a motorcycle.  You loose GPS signal on Lower Wacker, so I really don’t know how fast I was going, but I assure you that I was easily getting over 25 mph.  Love that section of the race.  It’s was a lot cooler under there as well.  The last third of the bike course is no fun.  It’s on a bus only, two lane road and gets pretty crazy down there.  I saw the aftermath of a crash with one guy still on the ground.  I just wanted to get through it without any trouble, keep my average speed up, and get to the run in one piece.

T2:  3:27 – I’m kind of surprised that this isn’t longer, as helped a guy find his bike that he couldn’t locate, and I took time to shove an empty Gatorade bottle down my pants and pee into it as I walked from my bike to Run Out.  Gotta love triathlon.

RUN:  10K/6.2 Miles – 58:46 – The run was a literal “hot mess” as the kids say.  The race results listed the temperature at 93 degrees.  It felt hotter.  I started picking off other runners right away and got into a good pace.  My split for the first mile was 7:42 and I knew I was not going to be able to hold it.  By mile 3, I was walking the aid stations and just shuffling along.  I felt like I had enough nutrition, I had taken 3 salt capsules leading up to this point, and I seemed like I was hydrated enough, judging from the color of my pee in that Gatorade bottle in T2.  (I know, too much info.)  My real concern was heat stroke.  I could feel myself getting really hot.  Fortunately, the aid stations had plenty of water and I kept putting it in me and on me.  One table around the 4 mile mark had ice and I stuck some in my jersey pockets.  By the time I passed by the 5K sprint turn around, they were sending all athletes back.  The Event Alert System had gone to RED.  Miles 4 and 5 were my slowest, notching a run/walk average pace of 10:35 and 11:03 respectively.  But I think it was smart race management on my part.  At least I didn’t end up like this girl:

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Kari snapped this picture of another racer trying to prevent this girl from face-planting.  She got medical assistance.  The guy ended up in Dave and John’s race finish video.  Kuddos to that guy.

I told myself that I would pick up the pace for the last mile and ended with a 9:27 pace for that mile.  I’ll take it.  It was brutal.  Probably the hottest running race I have ever done.  I can’t remember a hotter one.

 

 

 

My race finish video.  I’m on the far right.  If you watch it, turn the volume down.  You’ve been warned.

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Coming down the stretch to the finish.
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Glad to be done and still upright on this extremely warm day.

Time to wrap it up:

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Here’s Alex thoroughly enjoying his run.  If you look at his leg you can see where he donated some skin to the pavement on Lower Wacker.  I got to hand it to him – in spite of the signs saying to slow down for the turn, he went FULL GUNNER into it and wiped out.  HE LOVES THIS SPORT!!!

 

 

 

 

 

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Here’s brothers John and Dave finishing together.  They finished the race with the exact same time.  John is tipping his hat in a show of respect to the sport he loves so much.  Dave is like me, I always zip up nearing the finish line as well.  That’s a pro move, baby!
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I got my medal and my popsicle.  I have to say, getting a popsicle  was the highlight of the race.  Just another reason to love this sport.
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Many thanks to this lovely lady for being there for me and my Gunner teammates today.  And thanks for walking the extra couple of miles to transition and back to get all my junk.  That may have been the hardest part of the day.  I really was contemplating quitting triathlons and running at this point.  LOL

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Until the next race, Cheers to you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 Manteno Sprint Triathlon Race Report

When:  07/28/2018, 8:00am

Where:  Manteno, Illinois

Distance:  Sprint:  400 yard Swim, 11 mile Bike, 3.1 mile Run

Results:  1:05:03 – 23rd overall, 2nd place M55-59

I thoroughly enjoyed this race when I did it for the first time last year, so there was no hesitation about signing up again this year.  Kari joined me for the race this year again too, doing the duathlon.  We got up around 5am and headed to the race.

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Looking fairly happy pre-race.

As soon as we walked our bikes into transition I was met by a lady who recognized me and said she had read my blog from a previous race. She follows the same local running group that I do, but I was surprised that she had read it.  I only share it on my page, so I’m guessing someone else must have shared it.  Anyway, I kind of felt like a celebrity after that!

We ran into many familiar faces and we shared race day strategies and advised each other on who to look out for!  Seems like a very close knit group.  Even my wife remembered some of the duathlon competitors.

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With transition all set up, it was time to race.

SWIM:  400 Yards, 9:31, 3rd in A/G, 68th Overall

The swim temp was 77 degrees, barely wetsuit legal, but I only saw one guy wearing one.  I opted to not even bring it from the car.  I had a really good swim.  Last year I was a touch faster, but I remember laboring more too.  This swim had zero contact and was issue free.  Some commented post-race that they thought the course was longer than 400 yards.  My watch showed 511 yards, but I forgot to hit my lap button as I exited the water and headed into transition.  Official T1 time was 1:14, which isn’t too bad.

BIKE: 11 Miles, 30:53, Average speed 21.4 mph, 3rd in A/G, 25th Overall

Like last year, I opted for the full aero disc on my bike and went all out from the start.  I was pushing hard through the whole 11 mile ride.  I didn’t get passed by anyone this year, and I was blowing by lots of other riders.  The wind was much lighter this year and it was also from the west, so it only affected a mile or two of the ride.  Moved up several spots after the bike.  Official T2 time was 1:27, slower than T1 because I sat down to put on socks.

RUN:  3.1 miles, 21:56, 7:04 per mile pace ave., 2nd in A/G, 20th Overall

I had not trained for triathlon much this spring in summer.  This time last year I was already 10 or 11 weeks into Ironman Louisville training.  When I got off the bike and started the run, my legs were rubber.  Very apparent to me that brick workouts make a world of difference, and I hadn’t done hardly any this year.  But all things considered, I settled into a comfortable pace and just started catching the next runner ahead of me.  I must have passed a lot of duathletes, because I only moved up 5 spots from the bike.  I started pushing a little harder at the 2 mile mark and just kept up the effort until I finished.  I was greeted by a guy named Mike, who I beat last year and he asked what had taken me so long.  Oh well, try to get him next year.

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Kari and I both got 2nd in our age groups.  Kari’s group seemed to be having more fun.

Overall, a little slower than last year, but I was not as prepared this year as last.  Very fun day.

Link to the 2018 Manteno Tri Race Results

Amita Health/Fit America Half Marathon Race Recap

WHEN:  SATURDAY, 7/21/2018 – 7:30am

WHERE:  HOFFMAN ESTATES, IL

DISTANCE:  HALF MARATHON – 13.1 MILES

RESULTS:  1:38:53 – 53rd OVERALL, 7th in Age Group M 50-54

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I signed up for this race last week in hopes of improving my corral seeding at the 2018 Chicago Marathon (CM) this coming fall.  Otherwise, I avoid summer half marathons like the plague!  Too hot, muggy and miserable!  But I was on a mission.

Although I have legacy status for the CM which guarantees my entry, I ended up getting into the race based on a qualifying time from the 2016 CM race.  At the CM, they seed you into corrals, which are now separated into three waves.  Being in the first wave is pretty awesome, as you are with the faster runners who finish under 3 hours and 45 minutes, and generally with those that will be running the same pace as you.  In 2016 I was seeded in the B corral, which was like being an elite for me.  When the word got out that we had been assigned corrals for this years race, I found that I had been moved to the E corral.  Talk about a blow to my ego!  Still in the first wave though, which is really the goal.  Being in the first wave is preferred because there will be less people, less congestion, and no fear of the supplies of water, or Gatorade, or gels, or whatever running out.  But even so, my qualifying time of 3:25:08 should have put me in the D corral to begin with by their own time standards.

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2018 Chicago Marathon Corral Time Standards

I sent an email requesting to be moved to the D corral, and it was approved.  But I thought I would give it a shot at trying to get into the C corral, which would require me to run either a <3:20:01 marathon, or a <1:35:01 half marathon.  Since there’s no way I’m attempting to run a marathon in July, I found this local half marathon race in relatively nearby Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

 

Amita Health/Fit America Half Marathon Race Recap

PRERACE

Of course it was raining.  Since running the in pouring rain at the Boston Marathon in April, it seems like every race I sign up for is going to have rain.  I even skipped a triathlon in June because of the storms that morning.  But today it wasn’t too bad, just misty, and that only lasted for about 30 minutes.

I took my spot in the start corral area and found my pacer.  This guy and everyone around him all looked young, tall and thin and more than capable of being sub 1:35.  I tapped his shoulder and asked him what the 6.55 mile (halfway) split would be, just to see if he did his homework.  He did the math right there and I was satisfied.  He also had a pace chart on his wrist.  He did ask me if that was what I was intending to run, with sort of doubt in his expression, which always makes me chuckle when people doubt me.  I may look old, fat and slow, but there is nothing more pleasing than surprising them with my effort.  I said I was shooting for the stars today, hoping I would be able to hang until at least halfway.

Someone with a mic started a countdown:  10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3… and on 3 the guy with the airhorn started blaring the thing.  We all laughed and off we went.

(Note:  I’m a newer user of Strava and I find the data and info from it interesting.  I added screenshots of each mile split for reference and to help me recall things that happened during the race.)

MILE 1 – (7:13 Split) – I was afraid that 7:15 per mile was going to feel like 5K race pace to me, because I don’t normally train at that pace (usually I’m running 8:40 or so in training!), but our pack settled in behind our pacer.  I actually felt pretty good.

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MILE 2 – (7:12 Split) – By this mile my heart rate was in Z4 and I started to feel the intensity of the pace.  But still I felt good, hanging with the group and feeling and looking like I belonged.

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MILE 3 – (7:09 Split) – This split time is a little surprising, because Mr. Pacer was pretty spot on with his pace.  There was only a handful of times when the group slowed going uphill, but we all picked it back up to 7:15 pretty easily.  There were warnings of puddles to avoid, and I mentioned to the girl running next to me that Boston was all puddles, and she said she had run it too!  Conversations were happening in the group and I sensed the group was feeling good.

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MILE 4 – (7:16 Split) – This is where it all fell apart for me.  I hit a wall and I hit it hard!  Who hits the proverbial wall 4 miles into a half marathon?!  Me, that’s who.  I think the problem was I grabbed an energy gel at 30 minutes and started ingesting it.  Between that and a water stop, my heart rate soared and I could feel myself starting to struggle.  We were also starting to hit more of the hillier sections of the first half, and that was adding to my issue.  The group wasn’t too far ahead, but I didn’t think I could keep pace any longer.  I figured that the halfway point might be where I would falter.  I was a little surprised that it was hitting me now.

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MILE 5 – (7:22 Split) – Okay, a little relief from the energy gel.  It usually takes about 5-10 minutes to get absorbed and it was starting to give me a boost.  I worked on trying to pull myself back up to the group.  We hit a turn around at this point and Mr. Pacer offered a thumbs up.  But the hills were starting to take their toll on me.

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MILE 6 – (7:33 Split) – Running alone again.  Every race, every time.  This middle mile of the race is like all middle miles of most any race.  It’s the point where I find myself running alone.  Although it was becoming splintered a little, the 7:15 pace group was a good football field or two ahead of me now, and there was no sign of anyone behind me.  This happens all the time to me.  The official timer had a split mat at 10K and I hit it at 45:51, which was still looking pretty good for me, but I had another half of the race to go.

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MILE 7 – (7:44 Split) – I don’t remember much about this mile other than it was the straightest of the miles.  Just doing the work at my new, more comfortable pace.

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MILE 8 – (7:47 Split) – This is the mile I had originally planned to start a finishing push.  You can see by the slower split time that it didn’t happen.  Interesting mile though.  I started eating my last energy gel, just kind of taking a small amount each time.  I wanted to make sure it lasted a little longer.

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MILE 9 – (7:37 Split) – I was starting to feel energized again.  A young college kid passed me wearing a UW Stevens Point shirt and he had the look of a classic cross country runner.  Tall, thin and running easily.  I figured he must be just pacing through a training day and not racing at all, because there was no way I should have been leading that kid through 8 miles.  But I was wrong.  I saw him and his mother at the finish and I asked him if he was just taking it easy, and he claimed it was his first half marathon and he didn’t run at UWSP.  Shame.  He definitely looked like he should have been in the top 10 today.  Looks can be deceiving.

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MILE 10 – (7:59 Split) – As I passed the 9 mile mark I noticed the ball of my foot was getting sore, and I guessed that I was starting to get a blister.  That was a little surprising, because I had lubed up my feet pretty good with Body Glide.  My feet were soaked however.  This was my slowest split and I’m not sure why.  There was a turn around, but I didn’t mess around there.  With only 5K to go at the 10 mile mark, I started to push again.  I was slowly starting to catch people.  I think I overtook 3 other runners in this mile.

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MILE 11 – (7:43 Split) – I wanted to keep pushing but the path started getting hilly and curvy again.  Hoping to push a little more but save enough for a strong last mile kick.  Definitely could feel that blister forming on my right foot.

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MILE 12 – (7:41 Split) – Just after passing the 11 mile marker you come to a turn where there is a water station, but I almost made a wrong turn there.  That’s the fear for me when I get stuck in no-man’s land.  Fortunately I chose correctly, grabbed some water and kept going.

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MILE 13 and End – (7:29 Split) – I finally got out of the forest preserve and back on the road heading back to the finish.  I had been looking over my shoulder and could see a guy in a blue singlet pulling me in.  I’m pretty sure he was in the early 7:15 pace group with me.  He caught me with a little less than a half mile to go.  I latched on and we paced together until we were handed American flags about 200 meters from the finish.  I was with him at that point and encouraged him to push.  He did and was able to beat me to the line.  I crossed the line waving that flag, relieved to be under 1:40 and to be done.  He congratulated me on a good finish, and I him.

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Overall I was pretty happy with my sub 1:40 time of 1:38:53.  I was hoping for that sub 1:35, and I was optimistic about it for the most part, but I really would have needed a perfect day and course to get that.  Corral D, here I come!

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My Garmin HR Zones for the race.  Z4 is hard, but over the years I have found how to exist there in races.  I never spend 95% of my time in Z4 in training.  More like 0%.

 

COURSE INFO

hoffmanestates_ffasf_halfmap – PDF of course map

The course was more challenging than I expected.  It had about 650 feet of elevation gain which is notable.  Rolling hills, but nothing too terrible.  The course is all paved, some on road but most on bike trail.  There were five switchbacks and a lot of turns.  I would rate it challenging, but still capable of producing a good finish time.  The race organization was outstanding.  The volunteers were plentiful and were awesome.  The medal seemed a little cheaper than other races I have been at that this race organization hosts, but I still liked it.  I signed up late and paid about $70.  I highly recommend this race and most races hosted by All Community Events.

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Most ‘Murica thing I’ve done ever!

 

RACE RESULTS LINK

All Community Events 13.1 Race Results – Overall Results

Fit America – My Results

 

 

 

Race Report: 2018 Short Run on a Long Day 5K

When:  Wednesday, 06/20/2018 – 7 PM

Where:  Frankfort, IL

Distance:  5K

Results:  21:31 – 30th Overall, 1st M50-54 A/G – Link:  Race Results

To sum up this race in one word:  strange.  Of all the 5K’s I have done, this one always has a weird vibe to it.  The anxiety is different for me here.  I’m always a little more amped up for this race for some reason.  Today was no different.  There’s usually some good competition here, especially for a Wednesday night race.

First of all, this was my first hard effort in a race since running the Boston Marathon, a race I did not do very well at.  Oh sure, Boston had some extreme conditions, but I never really felt prepared for it and it seems that I had struggled with effort since.  My expectation was that I was not going to be able to run my typical sub-21 minute 5K.

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I joined in!  I’m next to Forrest Gump.

Then there’s the club vibe at this race.  The competitive aspect seems high for these clubs.  I follow the Frankfort/New Lenox Running Club online and have interacted with a few of the members, and tonight I decided to sport the club singlet and represent.  Although I tried to interact with them pre-race, I just kind of felt like an outsider.  That’s mostly on me, as I don’t really run with them much, mainly because they schedule their runs in the evenings when I’m doing dinner with the family, or early on Saturday morning when I would rather take my time getting up and around.  But I do value associating with them online.  The Tinley Track & Trail club is always competitive at this race, and I noticed a few other clubs this year as well.

I did my typical slow warm-up, a few quick up-tempo strides and then got in line at the start.  Ben and Emily joined in on the fun this year, and I positioned myself behind them.  The guy with the bullhorn started the race, not from the middle of the road this year for a change, and off we sped.  We weren’t a 1/4 mile into it when an 8 year old kid went in front of me from right to left.  He had his arms raised, flexing his muscles for some reason and we clipped feet and down he went.  Immediate dread filled me and I stopped to see if he was okay.  I hadn’t even got turned around and he was already up and running.  Must not have affected him much, because he finished in 32nd place.  Yes, the 8 year old kid that I accidently tripped when he cut me off almost beat me.

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The evidence clearly shows that number 9611 shoved this kid to the ground, your Honor! (photo by Jill Yott – Facebook)

Back to running again I found that I was pegging the heart rate into the red, in my typical fashion.  Not sure why I can’t hold back at the beginning of this race, but I go out too hard every time.  At one point I glanced at my watch and it said I was running sub-6 minute pace per mile.  Oops.  I dialed it back and hoped I could salvage a couple of miles around 7 min pace.

I saw Todd Street spectating somewhere near the 2.25 mile mark and said hello.  After that I was all about trying not to get passed, but it was happening with regularity.  I saw a couple grey haired guys pass me and I had the feeling that I wasn’t going to finish in the money.  With about a half mile to go we crested a hill and I used the downhill to make a final push.  The last 100 yards or so is uphill slightly, and I pushed as hard as I could while still checking my shoulder for the guy I passed.  I was able to hold him off.  I could see the clock and saw that I wasn’t going to break 21 minutes, which deflated me a little, but I was more worried about place than time at that point.

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My cardiovascular system really wanted this to be over at this point.  (photo by Todd Street)

I found Ben at the end and he said he had won the race.  Very proud of him.  He’s finished this race in 2nd way too many times.  Nice that he got the trophy this year, even if it is the most annoyingly big 5K 1st place trophy ever.  Emily did well too, grabbing 1st in her age group and 3rd overall for the females.

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Ben, myself and Emily looking happy post-race.
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Ben with another huge 1st Place trophy!
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The guy kept saying “look at Dad.” Is that prophecy?!?! At least he didn’t call me Grandpa.
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For the longest day of the year, the light was fading fast as they finally got to the old guy awards.

 

So I finished in 30th place, 14 places later than last year’s 16th place.  There were less faster old guys this year and a lot more kids.  There were 7 men in their 50’s in the top 30 last year, and this year there was just two.  Last year I finished in 20:45; this year more than a half minute slower.  It is a little bit of a head scratcher for me, as it seems that I am still feeling the effects of being over-trained the past year, or old age is just catching up with me.  I’m not really training to race 5K’s, but I do like to push myself and race them.  I just don’t like getting slower as the years pass.

Here’s last year’s recap for comparison:

Short Run on a Long Day 2017 Race Recap

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Of course Ben didn’t want to take the trophy home, so I was forced to do so.  Add it to the collection, I guess.

I was reviewing the race on Strava and saw this really cool Flyby feature that shows other Strava using runners in the race and how we ran.  Fun to watch.  I hope the link works.  Click on the orange start button to make it work.   Strava Flyby of the 5K

See you next year!

DNS – My First “Did Not Start”

“Well I tried to make it Sunday, but I got so damn depressed, that I set my sights on Monday and I got myself undressed…”    –  America – Sister Golden Hair

I should be typing a glowing race report for the race I had signed up for today, but I’m not.  I find myself typing words of regret, because for the first time in my history of doing races, I failed to start a race I had signed up for.  A big fat DNS – Did Not Start.

I had every intention of doing the race.  I was genuinely looking forward to doing it.  ET Batavia is a sprint distance triathlon held in Batavia, IL.  It’s an easy swim in a park district swimming hole, a gently rolling ride through town and outlying farms, and a tree lined run on the Fox River Valley Trail.  I really enjoy the course and after racing it four or five times now, I was pretty familiar with it.

I set the alarm for 3:50 am and when it went off I got up with the full intention of getting ready and heading to Batavia.  I could hear that it was raining outside, so I pulled up my weather app and saw this:

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Lovely.  Just like the Boston Marathon in April.

 

I dressed, ate and asked a now awake Kari if she still wanted to join me for a morning standing in the rain.  Surprisingly she said “yes,” and we hopped in the car to head to the race.

I switched on the local AM radio for the weather and they were saying it was bad, and I new it wasn’t an exaggeration because it was raining hard on us.  I got about 5 miles from home when I said “What am I doing?”  I turned around and told Kari I’m pulling the plug on this one.

All things considered, as a triathlete I shouldn’t really worry about rain.  You get wet in the swim for Pete’s sake.  And I have raced two times now in heavy rain.  I joked at Leon’s Triathlon the year we did it that it was interesting how the swim portion of the race was the driest part.  It poured on us.  And the 2018 Boston Marathon was not only rainy, but throw in cold and windy as well – the whole 26.2 miles.  I wasn’t afraid of pulling out of the race because of the weather really, it just seemed ridiculous that I was about to drive 45-50 minutes to stand in the rain only to be told what my gut instinct was telling me – the race would be cancelled.

I got home and unpacked and checked Facebook for updates and there it was:  “Race start at 7:40!!”  REALLY?!?!  Now I had regret.  Knowing that I decided to pull out when others stayed with it just kills me.

Kari went back to bed.  I ate another breakfast and read the newspaper until I fell asleep.  Then I moped around the house until the skies stopped raining and I went for an 8 mile run.  I ran hard, punishing myself for skipping a race I shouldn’t have.  Oh well, I will be back next year – weather permitting.

 

 

 

My First Boston Marathon

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I am a Boston Marathon finisher.  I never thought that I would be able to say that, but after running through some of the harshest conditions for a race I have ever run in, and possibly the harshest weather in the race’s history, I finished the 122nd running of the Boston Marathon.  It wasn’t easy getting there, and I should have known it wasn’t going to be easy being there.  But it made for a lifetime memory.

Here’s a marathon worthy recap of what got me there, the few days beforehand, and the race itself.

 

The Pursuit of Boston

When I began running in 1989, marathons weren’t even really on my mind.  I started to run mainly to keep my weight down, and because I was bored.  I bought a pair of MacGregor brand running shoes from Kmart and put on a t-shirt and gym shorts and started an evening ritual of running around the apartment complex.  A mile or two turned into five.  The crappy MacGregor’s were replaced with Nike’s.  It wasn’t long until  I entered a couple of road races and caught the competitive running bug.  I was hooked.  Within a year and a half, I ran my first marathon in 1991.  That lead to a few more, and I eventually came to know about the grand daddy of all marathons, Boston.  I wanted to someday run it.

But they don’t just let anyone who wants to run it do so.  You have to earn your way in, you have to qualify.  Oh sure, nowadays the fourth and final corral holds about 7,000 charity runners who don’t have to meet the qualifying standards that the others meet.  They have to raise a significant amount of money for a charity, which is a noble thing.  I will gladly run along side them and congratulate them as a finisher. But for those who want to count themselves as one of the select few, meeting the standard that the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) sets for it’s marathon is the only way to go.  It was the only way I wanted in, but there was a catch – I was no where near fast enough.

Getting in isn’t easy.  In order to keep the race competitive, the BAA has time standards which you have to meet.  In the early days, the standards were simple and very fast – only a very select few could do it.  As interest in the race grew, and the race itself grew larger, the BAA set the standards we have today, standards they could change any time they want to.  For me, a male runner in the 50 to 54 age group, I had to be under 3.5 hours.  Over the years I had perfected finishing marathons typically around three hours and 45 – 50 minutes, which meant a younger me probably had to run 30 minutes  or more faster than I was able to do.  It seemed impossible to me.  But as you age, the standards get a little bit slower.  As I neared 50 years old, the standard started getting closer to my ability.  I was now about 8 minutes away from qualifying, and I was also getting faster.

The possibility of actually qualifying for the Boston Marathon started to become realistic for me when I made some changes and additions to my running.  First off, I stopped winging it and started following a marathon running plan.  Concepts like periodized training, and building mileage gradually with the addition of speed work were methods I had not known of or I had ignored in the past.  I usually just ran and ran as comfortably hard as I could.  That only got me so far.  Training with purpose improved my times significantly.  Secondly, I became a triathlete and an Ironman.  Ironman training was very detailed and methodical as well, and the addition of the cross training activities of swimming and cycling made me more of a complete all-around athlete and runner.  Third, I started a running streak in 2015, running at least a mile every day.  It added more miles to my weekly totals, taught my body how to deal with a large workload, and how to adapt to tired legs and endure.  Lastly, after completing my first of three Ironman races, I started to believe in myself.  I believed I could do it.  I was very close.

In 2015 I finally qualified, running a 3:28:19 at a course known for being fast, the Chicago Marathon.  It was bittersweet however, because not only do you have to meet the qualifying time, there are too many runners who do so than the Boston Marathon can host, so they take the fastest of the qualifiers first until the field fills up.  I missed the cut by 28 seconds.  Disappointing, but I knew that after getting that rejection to my application in September of 2016 that I would be running Chicago again the following month.  Now I was determined.  I had finished Ironman Lake Placid in July 2016, which would also prove to be a wild card in my build up to Chicago.  I was a lean, mean running machine and ready to do it.  At the 2016 Chicago Marathon, we were given a beautiful day for a race and I improved my time to 3:25:08 – 4:51 minutes under the qualifying time.  I was in.

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Race Week – April 12 – 16, 2018  

Here are the pre-race week activities.

 

Thursday, April 12

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Trying to make the emotional rollercoaster fun.

Kari and I flew in on Thursday and I was already a bundle of nerves because of the forecasted weather, and the fact Ashley and Rebecca were flying on their own for the first time.  But thankfully I have the best life partner in the world, Kari, and I let her handle all of the side circuses that were occurring.  We tried to settle in and wait for the whole crew to show up.

The flight in will always be memorable because of this dope I was sitting next to.  He was definitely trying to prove he was the alpha dog, hogging the armrest in the manner he was doing.  He also wanted to be upgraded to first class and wasn’t getting the satisfaction he was seeking.  He finally got up and pretty much tossed his seatbelt into my lap.  I flipped him off as he went into first class, and took his seatbelt and fastened it back together.  I thought he was gone, but he got rejected in first class and made his way back to his seat.  I had already placed my elbow on the arm rest and decided I wasn’t budging.  He started pushing very hard.  I had to apply pressure consistently back until I decided that I’m a better person.  I moved and focused on my wife instead.

When we finally deplaned, I headed to the bathroom and the only urinal available was next to this jerk.  I waited for another spot to open.

We got our bags and took a cab to our hotel.  The slightly annoying rush hour traffic was only trumped by the fact that the trip from the airport to the hotel was mostly through tunnels.  Pretty boring, but we made it.

After check-in, we headed over to the finish line, which was about 2-3 blocks away.  I wanted to see Boylston Street where the race finishes, and visit the running stores there. Upon entering the store I was impressed with the history lining the walls.  Lots of old pictures, old running shoes and the like.  And then Boston Billy walked in.

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Maybe the most famous Boston Marathoner ever, Bill Rodgers.  I was too embarrassed to bother him, let alone let him see me take a fanboy picture!  

I couldn’t believe that multiple Boston Marathon winner Bill Rodgers was in the store at the same time.  He came in to drop of a framed photo to the staff, made some quick small talk with them and was gone like he was making a break from the lead pack for the win. Next time, I will assert myself and ask for a photo!

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At the finish line.

After some more finish line area sightseeing, Kari and I opted for dinner.  What do you want to eat in Boston?  Lobster, of course.  We inquired at the hotel and a local place was suggested, but when I saw the prices, this guy who grew up knowing money didn’t grow on trees opted for the lobster roll sandwich instead.  It was still lobster, and it was pretty good.

I had my first freakout of the weekend walking back to the hotel.  The restaurant was cold inside, and I was also cold from having walked around.  By the time we made it back to the hotel I was shivering.  If I was shivering now, how was I going to handle race day, with it’s cold and rainy forecast?  I got back and warmed up and watched some Bruin playoff hockey to get my mind off of it.

 

Friday, April 13

Upon getting up, I opted for a one mile treadmill run in the hotel gym to keep my running streak alive.  After showering up, we tried another suggested restaurant for breakfast that really wasn’t built for breakfast.  We should have opted for a Dunkin’ Donuts, as they are practically on every street corner in Boston.

My life long buddy Dave and his wife Carla were the first of the Cheer Crew to arrive.  Dave wanted to join in on the fun at the race expo and check out the excitement.  John Hancock, the major sponsor of the race provided a bus from downtown to the race expo and we took it over there.  As race expos go, this was pretty typical.  Stand in line, prove who you are, get your bib number, get your event shirt, walk through the expo and buy junk.  We did just that.  Kari was a trooper and stood in line to pay for the $300 worth of Adidas junk I wanted.  The must have at this race is the Celebration Jacket, which oddly enough people wear as soon as the receipt is printed.  I wanted no part of that until the race was over, but I did make sure I got mine.

After the expo, Kari and I met up with Dave and Carla at a burger joint halfway between our hotels for a late lunch.  My burger hit the spot and everyone was excited about the evening plans.  Kari had the great idea of taking in a Red Sox game, and fortunately for us we were able to get great tickets for the Sox vs. the Orioles on the nicest day of the weekend.  After a trip back to the hotel for a while, we all walked over to the oldest baseball park in the league, Fenway Park.  Not sure why I expected it to be more run down than it was, but it was a really great looking ball park.  The seats though were designed for the small people.  My 6’4″ buddy was a little scrunched, but we endured.  Red Sox won 7-3.  After the game we made the easy walk back to our hotels.

 

Saturday, April 14

I needed to burn off some energy, so the first thing Kari and I did was get dressed and run three miles around the area, including down by the banks of the River Charles.  Very nice riverfront they have there, with a nicely paved path.  Saw some serious runners doing the same thing we were doing, only doing it much faster.  The weekend also included a 5K race, and there were several runners heading there as we made our way through Boston.

Upon getting back, we opted for an overpriced breakfast at the hotel, which at least was better than what we had the day before.  Then we hopped into a taxi and headed to the airport to pick up our two daughters.  While waiting there I saw a girl carrying around an Ironman Louisville 2017 backpack and told her that I had done the race as well.  We shared stories of that race and talked about our nervous energy about the marathon.

With the girls collected and lunch finally consumed after a lengthy delay waiting for our food, we did some more sightseeing.  We walked the finish line area and went inside the Boston Public Library, which had some really cool old murals and stuff.

It had been 5 years since the 2013 finish line bombings in Boston.  Lots of events and memorials occurring over the weekend.

A highlight of the trip included a Boston Duck Boat tour, which I really enjoyed.  Our guide was funny and made sure we saw most of the important sights of old Boston.

Dinner was at California Pizza Kitchen, which was accessible by hamster trails from our hotel, meaning we didn’t have to walk outside.  I wasn’t expecting much, but the loaded baked potato soup was outstanding, as well as the pizza I had.

Back to the room to relax and turn in for the night.  I woke up around 2:30am with some acid indigestion, which I always feel like it is a heart attack happening.  Kari woke up as well and brought me some Pepcid or something which did the trick.

 

Sunday, April 15

Back to the hotel gym for a mile on the treadmill first thing in the morning.  We ate breakfast again at the hotel, and waited to meet up with the rest of my Cheer Crew, my in-laws Gary and Darla, and my buddy John.

We all ate at an Italian place near Paul Revere’s home and did a little walking around the area.  We also took the Trolley Tour, which also highlighted several great spots in Boston.  It’s a nice tour because you can ride and get off at various spots and hop back on at any time.  The only thing I wanted to do was to walk the Freedom Trail, a self-guided tour of Boston’s historical area, but I wanted to limit walking at this point, and the weather was getting cold, wet and crummy.  A sign of what was to come.

Back at the hotel I planned out my strategy for what to wear the following morning and for the race.  It took a while, but I finally decided on using various layers with the option to shed whatever I wouldn’t need during the race.  This is what I chose:  a sleeveless tri top, a very tight long sleeve cycling jersey with pockets, a long sleeve tech shirt, a polyester windbreaker for the top half;  a pair of track tights/shorts, long running pants, calf compression sleeves for warmth, and a pair of socks;  a pair of cheap liner type gloves and a pair of nicer Brooks gloves.  For my head I opted for a visor and a beanie.

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Not the most efficient marathon outfit, but I needed layers for warmth.

Before bed I had a good chat with Ben about pre-race nerves and then it was lights out.  One of the nice things about the Boston Marathon is that it starts mid-morning, so I didn’t have to get up super early.  That was a good thing, because I didn’t really sleep very well.

 

Marathon Monday, April 16

Even though it’s Patriots Day in New England, the locals and in particular anyone associated with the race refers to it as Marathon Monday.  The alarm went off at 5:20am, and I was already awake.  I got up and took a peek outside the window.  Yep, just like they had predicted for the past two weeks, it was raining and it looked cold and miserable.  If it had been any other race, I might have passed.  But knowing how much it meant to me to get there, the amount of cash I dropped on being there (!), and the fact that my Cheer Crew had also came to provide support, there was no chickening out.

After the bathroom, I started in on fueling myself for the race.  A banana, a bagel and a coffee was a good start.  I was concerned for my feet, as my fingers and toes will prune up in the shower.  I decided to coat my feet first with Skin Glide, a lotion form of Body Glide.  Then I hit the entire bottom of the feet with Body Glide.  Finally, I added copious amounts of Vaseline all around my toes.  That combo has worked pretty well in the past for most marathons and Ironman races.  I got all the aforementioned running junk on and then donned the rain gear.  The marathon is a point to point race and you are bused out to Hopkinton, Massachusetts and wait until the start.  That means an hour long bus ride to the high school there, and then an hour or two of sitting around waiting for your wave to start.  All of which meant, I was going to be doing that in the rain and cold.

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As we walked in the rain, the absurdity of it all started to make me laugh.
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Standing in line to enter the area to catch the bus.

To keep me warm and dry for the morning commute to the start line I was glad I layered up with a sweatshirt and pullover, along with a zippered/hooded rain coat.  For pants, I found a pair of “sauna pants” in Walmart for $8 which were perfect.  I covered my shoes with crime scene booties that I stole from work.  I hope my boss doesn’t read this far.

The bus ride sucked.  Having all that gear on made me warm, but I wasn’t going to complain.  School busses are designed for little kids, and leg room was at a minimum and was uncomfortable to say the least.  I tried to make small talk with my seat mate, but he advised he knew little English and told me he was German.  I told him that I had been to Munich, and he said he had qualified for Boston at Berlin.  He was eating “brot und wasser”, which are literally the only German words I know.  I should have said that, he might have been impressed.

We finally arrived at the high school and we were immediately met by the most friendliest of volunteers, cheerfully directing us where to go.  I’m still scratching my head as to why any of the volunteers or spectators showed up on such a miserable day.  I guess New Englanders are a hardy bunch, and they are definitely proud of their marathon.

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By 10am, that mass of weather would be at Hopkinton and stay for the duration.

It was raining pretty hard.  I made my way to one of the lines for the scores of portable toilets lining the field.  The wait was easily 20 minutes, but once inside I made sure I took my time and got the job done.  I hated to leave the shelter of the port-a-potty, but I figured one of the three large tents would offer some good shelter.  Wrong.

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Inside the tent on the baseball field. I felt like I was at Woodstock.
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The guy behind me in the blue was from New Jersey. He told me that. Twice.

It was pretty crowded, and the drier grassy spots were filled with runners from Wave 1.  Once they were called to the start, it cleared out pretty well, and I found a mat/blanket thing to sit on until it was my turn to head over.  I ate another bagel and most of a Clif Bar and drank a little Gatorade while I waited.

At 9:45am or so, the announcer made the dreaded announcement:  “Wave 2 Runners!  It’s your turn to start heading to the start line!”  I waited about 10 minutes and then made my way to a set of port-a-potties that were behind the tents that no one seemed to be using.  There was no wait.  I’m glad I made that last stop, and then I trekked through the mud to the street for the 3/4 mile walk to the starting line.

As we walked there were ample opportunities to shed the pre-race clothing that people had donned to keep warm.  I figured I would hold on to mine as long as I could.  I finally got near the corral entry point and decided to shed the shoe covers (NO!!!) and the vinyl rain pants I was wearing (NO!!!).   I kept the rain coat hoping to stay warm and a little dryer.  There was no turning back now.

Small talk was made, announcements were announced, and I felt the group moving forward.  We were starting.  And the wind, rain and now a wave of emotions hit me.  I was crossing the start line of the Boston Marathon.

 

Miles 1 through 5:  Hopkinton – Ashland – Framingham

“I’m finally here.  I’m running Boston”

We runners tend to have a lot of deep thoughts when running.  I’m certainly no exception.  Most of my ideas for my blog posts come from runs.  And I can tell you, I had plenty of deep thoughts on this run.  Mostly negative.  I’ll share what I can remember.

The first mile was exactly like I had been warned.  Yes, warned.  It’s a tight, two lane road that is all down hill.  Most of the advice from others was to not to start fast on those first down hills.  As I started, I gave some quick reflection as to my race plan for the day.  I had options.  I could try to run hard to justify my being there.  Nah.  The hard work was getting into the race, there was no requirement to justify anything.  I could run hard and try to re-qualify for next year.  Yeah, right.  Even though I would gain an extra ten minutes of cushion for qualifying just by turning 55 in the fall, I think I will take a pass on this kind of torture next year.  I could take my time and take a bunch of selfies, or even go live on Facebook.  In this downpour?  Not going to happen.  What I wanted to do was run faster than the Kenyans, and get this misery over with quick.  That is very definitely not happening, even if I wanted it to.  I decided to take it easy and run comfortable, keep track of the little nagging pain in the sole of my foot that has been an issue for a few weeks now, and just try to stay dry and warm.

“Puddles are everywhere.”

I spent the first mile also trying not to keep pace with those evenly matched runners around me and not get swept along at the groups’ pace.  Every once in a while someone would yell “PUDDLE”, but there were so many that after the first 5 minutes, my feet were soaked and I stopped worrying about stepping in any puddles.  I did try to stay in the middle of the road where the crown of the road meant less water, but it didn’t matter.

“My legs are getting soaked”

It was nice having the blue rain coat on at the beginning because it was doing its job of keeping me dry, but since the rain was running down it that meant my running tights were getting soaked.  By Mile 3, I stopped for probably a minute and struggled to get the rain soaked tights off of me while still wearing my running shoes.

“There’s running junk everywhere.”

People were tossing off all kinds of good running gear.  I had already lost my tights and I was contemplating tossing the rain coat.  By the fourth mile I needed an energy gel, and couldn’t get to it under the rain coat.  Bye-bye rain coat.

“This sucks.”

It wasn’t long after losing the rain gear that I decided to take off a pair of cheap liner type gloves I had on under my main gloves.  My hands were getting warm and I didn’t think I needed them any more.  I got my good gloves off, tossed the other gloves and went to put the main gloves back on and realized I only had one.  I had dropped one by accident.  I turned around and saw it laying about 10 feet back.  I would have to act like a salmon and swim up stream and get it.  How apropos.

I retrieved my glove and immediately the wind blew my visor off.  Time to back track up the river again.

 

Miles 6 through 10:  Framingham – Natick

“This quite possibly might be the worst thing I have ever experienced.”

It was getting real.  Six miles in and 20 miles to go.  In the worst weather I have ever run in.  I had really hoped to enjoy the crowds, the landmarks, and whatever other experiences the course would offer, but I spent most of it with my head down, shading my face from the 20 mph head winds and rain.

“Looking good!?  Thanks for shouting that to me from your sheltered front porch, lady.”

Somewhere in this section my watch alerted me to a text that Kari sent informing me that they would be near the 14 mile mark, on the left hand side.

Yay!  Something to look forward to.”

 

Miles 6 through 10:  Natick – Wellesley

“Welcome to NAY-TICK” said the guy on the side of the road as we strolled into the town of Natick.

“Now I know how to pronounce Natick.”

 

Miles 11 through 15:  Wellesley

After getting through some of the town of Natick, we ran through a pretty heavily tree lined area.  Lots of rolling hills but pretty boring.  Then I heard it – a distant roar, still probably at least another mile away, but I could hear it.  I was getting closer to the ladies of Wellesley College and the famous “Scream Tunnel.”

Right around the half way point you pass through the campus of Wellesley College, an all women’s school with notable grads such as Hillary Clinton, Diane Sawyer, and Madeline Albright, that comes out to the course and screams their lungs out.  Can you image Madeline Albright as a college girl screaming at marathoners?!  I didn’t know this as I ran through, but it’s kind of a right of passage for graduation for the girls to get kissed by a runner.  Had I known that, I might have spent a little more time there.  I’m just kidding.  I did high-5 many of them with a big smile on my face.  It was a huge pick me up.

“I’m half way there!”

Immediately after leaving the Scream Tunnel I remembered that Kari and the Cheer Crew would be somewhere around the 14 mile mark, so I started scanning the sides of the road.  Usually I avoid this because it drains me mentally, but I only had to look for them on the left hand side, so I slid over to the left more and kept looking.

“Damn, the town of Wellesley goes on forever.”

It wasn’t long until I saw the gang.  Another emotional moment for me.  Having Kari, Ashley, Rebecca, Gary, Darla, and my two best buddies Dave and John there standing in the rain waiting for me was such a great feeling.  I stopped and gave them all a big group hug.  I may have mentioned to John that this was the worst thing I have ever experienced.  I didn’t spend a long time there because I knew if I did I might get chilled or possibly cramp up.  So, I said goodbye and headed down the road.

 

 

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I was never so happy to see my family and friends.

 

Miles 16 through 20:  Newton

“Mile 16 – only 10 to go.  Only 10.”

The next town was Newton, known for a couple of things on the course.  First there is a right turn right by the big Newton Fire Station.  Lots of activity going on there.  The crowds had picked up again and you could feel the excitement.  The second thing about Newton are the hills.  They aren’t hard, but they just keep rolling at you.  And you keep thinking that the biggie is coming.

 

Miles 21 through 25:  Newton – Brookline – Boston

“This must be Heartbreak Hill.  Whatever.”

Between mile 20 and 21 I finally came to the most famous part of the the Boston Marathon course, Heartbreak Hill.  They say many a runner has lost the race here, but for a middle of the pack guy like me, I just shortened my stride and made it up in no time. It’s only about a half mile long, but I wasn’t attacking it like an elite runner set on winning would do.  There was this one old guy who passed me going up it chanting “YES, YES, YES!”  He was determined to kick Heartbreak Hill’s ass.  He did.

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Heading up Heartbreak Hill.

“This sucks.”

“I don’t think I can feel my quads any more.”

Somewhere around the 22 mile area I realized that I really couldn’t feel my legs any longer.  They were cold, sore and numb.  I had been seeing a lot of runners stopped along the course at this point walking or stopped and stretching their quads.  I tried to take a status check of my legs, but all I could determine was that they were still moving and I didn’t think they were going to cramp up.

“I think I’ll skip this last gel.  It’s only 5K to go.”

I thought about the fact that there was only 3 miles to go and that I was feeling pretty good, so I decided to skip fishing a gel out of my back pocket, which had been a hassle all race long.  Kind of a mistake.

“I wish I had eaten that gel.”

After getting by Heartbreak Hill, we had been going downhill pretty steadily with some pretty good drops.  My quads were killing me.

Around the 25 mile mark I was starting to wonder where I was, I knew I was now in Boston but wasn’t sure.  I had been watching my step quite a bit, as there were plenty of trolley rail type tracks in the pavement and lots of small lakes of water on the road.  I took a second to look up and there it was – the giant CITGO sign.  I almost missed it!  I had made it to Boston.  I looked over and saw Fenway standing there empty, not because the game on Patriot’s Day would have been over by now, but because the game had been rained out.  I knew it was just a mile or so more to go.

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Heading down Commonwealth Blvd.  The final stretch.

 

Mile 25 to the Finish:  Commonwealth Boulevard to Boylston Street 

Running down Commonwealth Boulevard reality was starting to hit.  We were almost there.  Along this stretch there were a few little jogs to the right and then back straight.  Not sure why, as they were slightly annoying, but the scenery was getting better.  It won’t be long.

“Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston.”

As I said that to myself in my head, I repeated it out loud.  “Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston.  The last and most notable of directions that this fairly straight shot course had, and I said them over again.  Once on Boylston, the crowds came alive.  The uninitiated may not have known, but it’s about a third of a mile down Boylston.  On one hand I wanted this race to be over, but on the other I wanted it to last a long, long time.

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“I am a Boston Marathon Finisher!”

 

The Finish Area and the Marathon Back to the Hotel

Emotionally, I was ecstatic.  I was smiling and very happy to have finished my first Boston Marathon.  But I was also ready to be done with being outside.  I felt really good for some reason.  Normally I would kind of pass the Medical Tent slowly until I was sure I was good, but I just blew past it.  I found the medals and had a lady put one around my neck.  My next stop was to get a mylar wrap to keep warm.  I was surprised however to be given a really nice and thick rain poncho with the marathon logo all over it.  A firefighter standing by the fence helped me get it on, and I then I saw the mylar wraps and wrapped one around my waist under the poncho.

My plan was to retrieve the sweatpants and sweatshirt that I had dropped off in the morning at the Gear Tent, but I said forget it.  I felt pretty good and I wasn’t shivering, so I decided to head to the family meet-up area.

“WHERE THE HELL IS MY FAMILY?!?!”

I made it to the family meet-up area, but apparently my family didn’t.  They weren’t there.  I figured that maybe they were having trouble getting through the crowds, and my path to the area was pretty short.  Fortunately, there was some shelter there and one of the volunteers helped me get my phone out.  Kari called and informed me that they weren’t back into Boston yet.  Uh-oh.  There was no one there to help me get back.  I was on my own.

I asked the volunteer to show me how to get back to the Marriott Copley Hotel, and she told me which way to go.  So I went.  I got about 2-3 blocks and then the phone rang again.  It was Kari.

“You’re going the wrong way.”

“What the FUCK!!!”

Kari was following me via the Find My iPhone feature.  I was lost, no one was there to help me, and I was starting to shiver.  Fortunately, I pulled my shit together and let Kari turn me around and get me going the correct way.  It wasn’t long until I saw a landmark I was familiar with, and I headed indoors to begin the walk through the mall that lead back to the hotel.  I got back to the hotel lobby at the same time everyone else did.  Hooray!  All was good again.

Back at the hotel room, it was a frantic scramble.  I was trying to get undressed to take a hot shower, but was too sore to be very efficient at it.  And Kari and the girls were gathering their bags to hop in a cab to get to the airport to catch their plane home.  We all figured our issues out, said goodbye and parted ways.

“The last thing I want to do is to warm myself up with more water.”

After being wet for the last four plus hours, I didn’t want anything to do with water.  But my best bet for a quick warm up was to take a hot shower.  It did the trick.  I toweled off, got dressed, including putting on my new Boston Marathon Celebration jacket, and cranked the room heat to 85 degrees.

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Managing a smile in my nice warm jacket and hotel room.

Kari got back from the airport and we headed back over to the California Pizza Kitchen.  I had some really good tortilla soup and split a pepperoni pizza with Kari.  Plenty of finishers in the restaurant reliving the race.  It was a good finish to the day.

 

THANKS

Many, many thanks to pass out to everyone who cheered me on.  My co-workers Carl (always my Number 1 fan!), Julie, Mary, Tracy, Micah, Lou, and all of the gang that took even a polite interest in my path to this day.

I can’t forget all of those friends on Facebook that offered such great words of encouragement and congratulations.  I have read each post and they are greatly appreciated.

Thanks to my daughters Ashley and Rebecca, for being brave enough to get on a plane by themselves for the first time, and miss some school just to stand in the rain to watch me run by for 10 seconds.  I’m glad we got to see some real American history in Boston.

A huge, huge, HUGE thank you to Ben for getting Ashley from school and making sure the girls got to and from the airport.  I felt bad that my number one favorite runner couldn’t be there, but I certainly carried his running spirit with me.  Let’s qualify at Chicago in October and run Boston together in 2020!

Gary and Darla – thank you for coming up from sunny and warm and dry Florida to watch me in that crazy weather.  I think you probably would have preferred a tropical storm to that mess.  Thanks for flying instead of driving as well.  Smart move.

Oh my God!  My life long friends – Dave and John – and Dave’s wife Carla, thank you so much for sharing this with me.  I can’t tell you how much it meant to me.  Your presence made for a fun weekend, as well as got my mind off of the impending doom that was coming.  I got through the race bolstered by your presence.

And finally, thanks to my awesome partner in life Kari.  She is by far the most important part of my journey in the marathon that is my life.  Thanks for carrying me through not only for 26.2 miles, but also for almost 26.2 years.  I love you.

“Thank You!”