That’s Probably A Bad Idea. Do It!

A local running/triathlete friend of mine advised me the other day that he has a friend who is considering racing an iron-distance race but has already signed up for a marathon that is two weeks after the Ironman.  My friend remembered that I had dealt with the same issue last year and asked if I wouldn’t mind if she contacted me to discuss it.  Of course, I didn’t mind, and I am flattered, but I haven’t heard from her yet.  But it got me thinking about what I would actually tell someone that is considering such a dumb idea.  As you read the below keep in mind that I am not a certified expert, not a coach, and really not qualified to tell anyone how to do anything.  It’s just my experience and how I dealt with it.

WHY DID I DO SUCH A DUMB THING AS TO SIGN UP FOR TWO BIG RACES SO CLOSE TO EACH OTHER?

In 2017 my teammates and I were debating about doing Ironman Louisville, which was on the same day as the 2017 Chicago Marathon.  I kind of wanted to do the marathon since it was the 40th anniversary of the race, but I knew if we chose to race the Ironman I would have no problem skipping the marathon, and that’s what happened.  I returned to the Chicago Marathon in 2018 because I have legacy status and want to retain it.

Although I was getting a little tired of running Chicago and figured that all I needed to do to keep my legacy status was to sign-up every other year, I signed up for it again because the window to apply was pretty short and I needed to make a decision.  Not long after that, my buddies decided we were going to do Ironman Chattanooga.  That put the late-September 2019 Ironman race two weeks prior to the October marathon on my race calendar.  Of course, I wasn’t going to skip the Ironman with my friends, so I thought that maybe I should defer the marathon to the next year for a small fee.  But then I figured that I would just race the Ironman and take a victory lap at the Chicago Marathon and walk away from it for a while.  So that was the plan, train hard and race the Ironman and take it easy for the marathon.

HOW DID I TRAIN FOR THE TWO DIFFERENT RACES?

That really wasn’t an issue for me, seeing that there is an actual marathon in an Ironman race.  So I followed the Ironman training plan that I always follow and just figured that I would use the two weeks in between the two events to recover.  Ideally, I would have preferred my marathon training long-run to be around 20 miles and three weeks prior to my marathon, but that wasn’t going to happen.  I just needed to make sure I utilized the two weeks between Chattanooga and Chicago for recovery and not overdo it.

SO WHAT HAPPENED?

My plan got flipped upsidedown.  And it resulted in a Boston Qualifier!  A BQ was never in the plan!  The weather turned extremely hot at Ironman Chattanooga, with day time temperatures hitting the mid-nineties with a “real feel” around 100 degrees.  Definitely the hottest day I have had to race in.  I had to adjust the race plan to fit the conditions of the day, but I only really did that because it forced me to do so.  The swim took me a little longer than I expected because the water was too warm to compete in a wetsuit, so I opted to swim without it.  The bike for me was right about what I normally ride for an Ironman – 6:47.  And Chattanooga has an extra 4 miles of biking than all the other Ironman races.  The marathon, however, was very humbling.  Right out of transition I stopped and told my wife that I felt pretty good, all things considered.  I started out with a good jog and started to head out of town and then it was an uphill grind in the hot sun. I slowed to a walk and was able to shuffle just occasionally.  And then the horrible hills hit and I walked some more.  I spent the first half of the marathon trying to recover and finish the race under the cutoff.  I was seriously doing the math in my head to make sure I knew what I had to do.  And then the second loop began and I started feeling pretty good.  I had rehydrated and refueled myself well enough to press pretty hard in the second half.  I finished pretty strong and felt really good.  The 5:11 finish time is my personal worst (PW ?) for a marathon, but I was pretty happy with my 13:37 overall finish time.   You can read my race report here:  2019 Ironman Chattanooga Race Report

I took it pretty easy and tried my best to recover from the Ironman prior to running the Chicago Marathon.  After a full week of rest I “eased” back into running with four runs of 5, 6.5, 10 and 4 miles and then rested three days before the marathon.  I can remember my muscles still feeling pretty sore but they felt functional enough to run pretty comfortably.  The 10-miler I ran was done at 8:34 pace and it gave me some confidence that I might be able to push myself in the race a little bit.  I decided that a sub-3:35 BQ might be reachable, so I planned to run 8-minute miles and shoot for a 3:30.

Things went pretty well during the race and I held pace until I started to struggle with it in the last 5 miles or so.  Although I kept at my nutrition well, I was getting pretty tired.  I knew the 3:30 wasn’t going to happen, but I kept pushing to hit that 3:35.  I turned and ran up Mt. Roosevelt until a calf cramp almost did me in.  Fortunately, the race was almost done and I made it in just under the BQ by 13 seconds!  3:34:46 was my time, and although a BQ-13 isn’t going to get me into the Boston Marathon field, I am now up to three BQ’s, with one really memorable Boston Marathon finish in 2018.  I can’t complain about that.

Here’s my race report from the marathon:   2019 Chicago Marathon Race Report

WHY DO I THINK I DID BETTER THAN I EXPECTED AT CHICAGO?

I think there are a couple factors at play.  The Be Iron Fit training program I follow for Ironman training is really good and it prepared me well.  I’ve never felt underprepared using this plan in my four Ironman finishes.  So not only was I prepared for the Ironman, I was also pretty well prepared for the marathon two weeks later.

But the real reason I think I did well was that the heat of the day at Chattanooga forced me to not overdo it on the marathon portion of the race.  By having to walk about half of it, it saved my legs to the point that the next day I sauntered down to the Ironman Village to buy my finisher’s jacket like a BOSS!  I felt like I hadn’t even run a marathon the day before.

SO WHAT IS MY ADVICE TO OTHERS THINKING OF DOING THE SAME DUMB THING?

I think you need to pick what race is most important to you.  If you have a specific time goal for a marathon or possibly a BQ, I would advise you to focus your training on that goal and not sabotage it by adding a less meaningful race that could possibly prevent you from doing your best in the race that matters more.  Pick your “A” race and use the other race to supplement it if you are convinced that you want to still do both events.

If you really want to also do the Ironman in the same year, maybe pick one that is a couple of months out from the marathon.  I read a post the other day stating that you should give yourself a couple of months of recovery between Ironman races; that is pretty sound advice that I would agree with.  I did Ironman Lake Placid in July 2016 and then raced the Chicago Marathon in October and got my second BQ and stamped my ticket to the 2018 Boston Marathon.  So for me, there definitely was some precedent in racing an Ironman and a marathon in the same year with positive results.

I did this when I was almost 56 years old.  It takes me a lot longer to recover from races than it did in my 30’s and 40’s.  So maybe a younger person might be in a better position to do an Ironman and a marathon a couple of weeks apart.  But if you are just out to enjoy both races, I have to admit that it can be done without ruining yourself.

Lastly, if this is your first Ironman make sure you are aware of what is involved with it.  Marathon training and racing are tough, but Ironman training is pretty intense too.  Also, if you think marathon entry fees and hotels are expensive, plan on the Ironman being nearly triple that cost.  Ironman is not cheap.

WOULD I EVER DO THIS DUMB THING AGAIN?

Nope.  Never.  Not a chance.  No way, José!

Actually, as I was typing this post I took a break to sign up for the 2020 NYC Marathon Lottery, which is three weeks past Ironman Louisville, a race I already signed up for.

Don’t tell my wife.

 

​2019 Chicago Marathon Race Report

2019 Chicago Marathon

October 13, 2019 / Chicago, Illinois

Time:  3:34:46

Place:  8487th Place Overall / 6610th Male / 243rd Male 55-59 Age Group

 

Another Chicago Marathon is in the books!  Here’s a “By-the-Numbers” look at my race.

– Number of Chicago Marathons I have started and completed.

21 – Total number of marathons run (including Ironman finishes).

3 – Where my finish ranks for the fastest marathon finish times for me (3:25 in 2016 & 3:28 in 2015, all at Chicago and all in my fifties.).

3 – Number of times meeting the Boston Marathon qualifying standard, all at Chicago.

13 – Seconds below the BQ at this race (3:35:00 is the BQ for my current age/sex).

0.000000000001 – Percent chance that I will get into the Boston Marathon with that slim margin.

0.0 – Percent chance that I will even apply for the Boston Marathon with that time.

2 – Number of weeks after completing Ironman Chattanooga that I ran this race.

97 – Minutes faster I finished the Chicago Marathon compared to the marathon split at Ironman Chattanooga (5:11).

27.1 – Miles that my Garmin watch recorded for the run.  It was off by 2/3’s of a mile by the halfway point.  It’s hard to plan splits when your watch gets off.

8:12 – Average pace minutes per mile (I was aiming for 8 min/mile).

7:13 – Best mile split, Mile 1

 

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Feeling good back downtown in the first half of the race.

 

8:56 – Worst mile split, Mile 26

3 – The number of seconds Emily’s grandfather yelled at me that I was wasting by stopping to kiss Kari when I saw her and the group of family and friends that came to watch Emily and I (okay maybe just Emily) race.  I wasn’t expecting to see Kari that early in the morning because she had a long night on Saturday.  So I took 3 seconds to appreciate that.  Worth it.  Should have spent four seconds.

1:45:00 – Halfway (13.1 miles) split, a perfect 3:30 pace split (Nailed it!).

 

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Just crossed the 13.1 Mile mark timing mat at exactly 1:45:00.

 

– Number of times I stopped for a bathroom break.

1 – Number of times I peed into an empty Gatorade bottle shoved discreetly down my pants in the start corral before the start.

4 – Number of guys who stood next to me in the corral and whizzed openly on the curb.

41 – Degrees Fahrenheit at the start of the race.

45786 – Number of finishers.

187 – Average run cadence/steps per minute for me.

156 – Average heart rate/beats per minute for me.  Seems high.  I wasn’t working that hard.

2919 – Number of calories burned, according to my Garmin.

51331 – Number of steps total for the day.

6 – Mile where you turn back south and get a whiff of the strong smell of breakfast being served at some restaurant along the course.  It makes me angry every time because I want to stop and eat pancakes and can’t.

1 – Number of times I said to myself during the race that I am not enjoying this anymore, somewhere around Mile 8.  Yeah, I know, pretty early on and it was due to the cold wind that was blowing on me all of a sudden.  The wind was pretty strong and cold at times.

2/3 – Portion of the race that I kept my gloves on for.

Numerous – Number of spectators I saw trying to cross the gauntlet of runners to get to the other side of the street, which is really a dumb idea and really ticks me off.

1 – Number of spectators I saw wipe out trying to cross the gauntlet of runners to get to the other side of the street, landing with a pretty hefty thud, which caused me to laugh and call him a dumbass.

2 – The number of Ben’s friends (Adam and Colin) still hanging out around Mile 22 that I saw and High-5’d.  It was a welcome boost.

4’9″ – The estimated height of the girl that I spent the majority of the race running with, usually behind her because she had such an arm swing going that I was afraid she would punch me with it.  It’s interesting that after a couple of miles into the race that you will be running with the same people for the majority of the rest of it.

3:25 – The finish time I was predicting for myself at the halfway point.

3:30 – The finish time I was predicting for myself at the 20 Mile mark.

3:35 – The finish time I was praying for with one mile to go so that I would be under the time cutoff for a Boston Qualifier.

 

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The finish line was dead ahead.

 

– Number of hills of any significance on this course – located at Roosevelt Road, AKA Mt. Roosevelt, which comes at Mile 26.  It’s a nothing hill but comes at the end and I started to cramp up and had to walk some of it.

0 – Desire to do this race again.

 

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Exhausted, glad to be done.  But the journey wasn’t over just yet…

 

 

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Okay, that’s enough of the numbers.  Here is the report in a nutshell.  The race went pretty well for me.  I was a little concerned that I would not have been recovered enough after finishing Ironman Chattanooga two weeks prior to running this race.  But seeing that Chattanooga was so hot and that I walked/jogged the vast majority of it, the Ironman didn’t really beat me up that much.  I actually felt pretty good after it.  So I decided to push myself in Chicago and shoot for a 3:30.

I had one layer too many on at the start and the windbreaker that was getting me too warm and making me sweat was handed off to Kari in the early miles.  The temperature was awesome, but the occasional gust of wind would jolt you pretty strongly.  I was taking on water and Gatorade as well as hitting the gels every 30 minutes, which I increased in the latter part of the race.  I felt that my energy level was good, but my muscles were just not responding and getting more tired and sore as the miles added up.

 

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Kari knows how to spectate this course.  She was able to catch me as I shuffled through the last mile toward the finish.

 

 

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I wouldn’t say that I hit a wall, but I did feel like the last 5K was a battle of will for me.  I really dug deep in that last mile and a half.  I could see that my pace was slowing even though I felt like I was giving it everything I could.  It seemed like I was passing a lot of people at the end, but that’s not unusual.  Then I finished and was relieved.

Now the fun part starts.

After crossing the finish I tried to keep moving forward.  My hands started to tingle and I could feel myself starting to get a little lightheaded.  I grabbed a water bottle and started drinking it.  A medal was placed around my neck by some bearded guy and I worked my way through the chute.  One thing about the marathon finish chute is that there isn’t any place to sit down.  That’s by design, they don’t want you to stop moving or it will clog up everything for the remaining runners coming in, and it is in your best interest to keep moving so you don’t start cramping.

It wasn’t long and a girl ahead of me dropped to the ground and started screaming in pain, raising her leg up.  Clearly, she was having a bad leg cramp, but the volunteers didn’t have a clue what to do with her.  As I stepped around her I assured myself that they would help her, and I did that because I didn’t want to BE her.  My goal was to make it to the Medical tent and be close to it if things went further south for me.  As I got there I was met by two guys, Jeff and Kyle, a couple of nice guys, probably med students, who started peppering me with questions.  I thought I was passing their test, but they decided to get me in the tent and get some blankets on me.   A doctor approached and peppered me with more questions, one of which was “what’s your bib number?”  Hell, I couldn’t remember it.  I don’t think I ever really committed it to memory.  It had an 11 and some 6’s and 7’s.  “Okay, let’s go sit down.”

They sat me on the cot in what I could tell was a pretty empty medical tent and made me lay down, and that’s when all hell broke loose.  My calves seized up and I began screaming.  Loudly.  Then they had a great idea to shove a foam roller under my legs and have two massage therapists grab my calves like they were squishing Play-doh between their fingers.  That prompted more screaming now fortified with some very strong expletives.  They were fighting me and I was fighting back.  I finally convinced them that I needed to stand up, which thankfully for them they allowed, because had they not I would have summoned all strength that I had to murder each and every one of them.

Guess what?  The cramps went away as soon as I was on my feet for a few seconds.  I apologized, they understood and we tried a different approach.  I was now shivering and blankets were piled on me.  After a little walking, I sat in a chair and they brought this thing over called a “bear hugger,” which was a warming blanket that was heated to 43 degrees Celcius.  They offered warm chicken broth and Gatorade and I did my best to get that in me.  It was now pretty clear, I was dehydrated and paying for it.  But at least I was now warm and toasty.

In retrospect, an IV probably would have done me wonders but I was reluctant to ask for one.  I had gotten them post-race before years ago with no issues, but one time at the Rockford Marathon I requested one and the next thing I knew I was in an ambulance taking a trip to the hospital.  I did not want that to happen, so I kept my mouth shut.  Also, getting an IV would have required me to lay down again and there was no way in HELL I was going to do that.

After warming up and doing some more walking around, they allowed me to leave.  Actually, I think it was more along the lines of they no longer needed to waste their time with me.  I asked where the Red Gear Check tent was and they offered to get me a golf cart to take me there.  Really?  After I called each and every one of you an MFer, you are going to cart me there?  Sweet!  So I hopped in “GOLF CART 1” as the lady driver broadcast herself into her portable radio, informing maybe the other two people listening that she was giving me a lift.  The ride was to the Red Gear Check tent was interesting.  Instead of putting me in a wheelchair and pushing me there in a couple of minutes, we instead drove what seemed like 90 MPH down the sidewalk along Lake Shore Drive for several minutes, while Helen Wheels kept blowing a whistle to get people to get out of her way.  I was crouched over trying not to get tossed out of the cart while still clutching the three blankets around me to keep me warm.  We passed the backside of the Red Gear Check tent at what seemed full speed and I really wished that I had just walked there instead, and then we pulled into an open gate while other workers looked at us like this was quite unusual.  She drove me as close to the Red Gear Check tent as she could without hitting other marathon finishers walking past.  I could read their faces – “How the hell did this guy get carted to the Red Gear Check tent?!  Must be a celebrity or VIP or something.”  Hardly, just some guy who just had experienced the strangest 60-minutes post-marathon of his life.  Then Helen Wheels barked into her microphone “GOLF CART ONE RETURNING TO THE MEDICAL TENT,” and that was the last I saw of her.

But wait, there’s more.

So I get my checked bag from the Red Gear Check tent and was so glad that I had checked a hoodie and some pants.  The warmth felt great after a 90 MPH ride in a golf cart with Helen Wheels on a now 48-degree day.

Then it hit me, I had to walk back to the hotel.  Not sure that it was even a full mile, but at the pace I was shuffling at it was going to take me a while.  Where the heck was Helen Wheels when I needed her?  I spotted some port-o-potties and peed for the first time since 7:15am, then I shuffled over and saw the Runner Reunite area, and since the big inflatable labeled G-H was nearby I made my way close enough to see if I could see Ben or Kari standing there.  That was never in the meet-up plan, so I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t see them.  Exiting Jackson Street back onto Michigan Avenue was miserable.  Tons of people all trying to squeeze out right there and now I was getting a little too warm.  Thankfully I made it to Michigan Avenue, turned north and that’s when I saw my tall son towering over the rest of the pedestrians.  He looked relieved to find me.  As we shuffled down Adams Street I apologized for my slow tempo, and I could tell things weren’t right.  I was getting nauseated.  When we got to Dearborn Street I spied a large planter next to the road and basically barfed up all of the liquid that I had just put in me in the Medical tent.  I instantly felt better.

Kari was walking to meet us and was briefed and we went back to the hotel where I showered up, put on some clean, warm and comfortable clothes, and then started walking to the car.  On the way, we offered a homeless person one of the blankets I had been given in the Medical tent, and it was gratefully accepted.  As we headed out of downtown Chicago I caught a glimpse of some runners still on the course running in Chinatown at Mile 21.

After some restless attempt at sleeping in the car on the way home, upon getting home I walked inside and said hello to my daughters Ashley and Rebecca and laid down on the bed and slept.  After eating some soup Kari picked up for me and some salty potato chips and sugary drinks I started coming around.

And my friends wonder why I declare after every marathon that I will never do another one.

Now they will wonder why I keep signing up.

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!

 

 

 

The Dreaded 20 Mile Training Run

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Preparing for a marathon means following a plan, a plan that takes you up in mileage over several weeks (16 for me) and gets you ready to tackle 26.2 miles.  This is Week 13 of 16 for me, and it was time to do the dreaded 20 mile training run.

This year I decided to join in with the local Frankfort/New Lenox Running Club that I have been following and run their 20 mile training run.  This club really did a great job putting on this event.  The route was run on my local trail, had awesome volunteers, plentiful aid stations with anything you could have needed, and even a local team of specialized volunteers called CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) aiding with traffic at several street crossings.

We started at the still sleepy hour of 6 am in downtown Frankfort, Illinois after a group photo in the dark that surprisingly turned out well.

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Photo by Susan Danforth

I don’t know why I get nervous before long runs like this, especially when I am doing them alone.  This was just billed as a training run, not a race.  But regardless, I still was a little nervous.  As soon as the photo was taken, I hit the trail.

I was in a pack of about 12 people at the start, but by the time I got 100 feet into it I was in second place.  Not that I was racing it!

The trail was in great shape for the early morning run.  Most of the brush clearing that the forest preserve does in the summer/fall seemed to have been all cleaned up, and the trail was not yet overrun with cyclists getting in their weekend miles.

I could see a couple of runners ahead of me and I could tell that they were pulling away from me through the first two miles.  The girl was moving super fast.  They caught another runner and the male dropped back and ran with her.  It wasn’t long before I caught them and realized it was a guy from the group named Pat that had also run the Boston Marathon in April.  He ran with me for the next two miles to the 4 mile turn around point.  We had a great conversation about Boston, running and triathlon.  He decided to drop out at the turn around and told me he was heading to the 14 mile aid station and would see me there.

It was now just me and the super fast girl ahead of me, when around mile 6 I was passed by another guy from the group whose name I learned was Gavin.  Gavin killed it.  He was moving too.  There’s some good runners in this club.

I got back to the 8 mile aid station, which was our starting point and filled up my water bottle.  I think they were slightly surprised to see runners already returning from the first out and back.  It was awesome to have the aid stations.  I probably could have left my water bottle at home, but I like to be able to drink when I wanted it.

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Stopping at the 4 mile water stop running with Pat.  I’m unsure who took the photo, but thanks to those that did!

Around the 10 mile mark I couldn’t take my sweat soaked shirt anymore and I took it off and wrung the sweat out of it.  It could have easily been a cup or more of sweat.  The day started cool enough, and there was plenty of shade when the sun finally made an appearance, but it was humid and I was sweating.  I kept up with my run plan of taking a salt capsule every hour and it kept me in good shape.

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Me holding my GU wrapper garbage getting ready to toss it in the garbage at one of the last aid stations.  This might be near the 14 mile turn around.

Soon after turning around at the 14 mile mark, I could see that another runner Dan Doyle had made up some time on me.  He was closing the gap and finally caught me at Wolf Road when I stopped one final time to top off my water bottle.  We ran the remaining 3 or 4 miles together.  He was planning to do an extra two miles but he said that he was starting to feel like he was going to cramp up.  He ended up doing an additional mile.  He’s looking to get a Boston Marathon qualifier in Chicago, and I think he has a real solid chance at that.  You never know with the Boston Marathon numbers game.

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Dan and I getting to the finish of 20 miles.  He went on to do another mile.  

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I wasn’t planning on writing such a long report for a 20 mile training run, but I haven’t posted anything about my marathon training so far.  I was a little concerned about how I was going to fare, seeing that Boston was a terrible run for me and that I came to the conclusion that I was way overtrained.  After Boston I dropped the 3+ year running streak I had and took some time off to let my body heal.  Missing out on those recovery days after hard efforts was killing me.  I think I trained pretty well through the summer to get to this point.  It’s kind of hard to know sometimes, as the hotter summer temps produce slower times even though I was putting in hard efforts.  What was clear about this run was this:  performance on race day is so different than when you are just out there working on a training run.  Even though this highly supported 20 miler was not a race, it had a vibe of one, and it allowed me to see where I stood.  The previous weeks’ 18 mile run was done on a much cooler day and I seemed to struggle to eventually finish with an 8:15 average pace.  Today I averaged 8:05 on a much warmer day and felt strong at that 20 mile mark finish line.  A great weather day in October for the Chicago Marathon will hopefully make for another 3:30 or 3:25 finish for me.  This run certainly was a confidence builder.  I don’t think I have much to dread anymore.

One last shout out to FNRC for hosting this run and doing such a great job.  The cold drinks and popsicle at the finish line was the best ever!

2016 Chicago Marathon Race Report

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

 

TRAINING

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

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

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

 

MARATHON RACE WEEKEND

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

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A selfie at the race expo.

 

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

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

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

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

 

RACE DAY

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

26.2 MILES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

POST RACE

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

RACE EXTRAS

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

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