First time racing a triathlon since Ironman Chattanooga in 2019! It seemed a little different, but all things considered it was just like I remembered it.
I was a little apprehensive about this race. Any first-ever race, especially one that is not governed by USA Triathlon, can raise a red flag for me. But as more information kept coming I realized that the race director wasn’t a first-timer, and in the end it was a really well run event.
The Forge is a small to medium sized adventure style park located next to the old Illinois and Michigan Canal and the Lemont Quarries, where stone was mined to help build and then rebuild Chicago after the Great Fire. Lots of old quarries located in the Lemont, Lockport and Joliet areas. The park has zip lines, climbing walls, pump tracks and paths for cycling, and utilizes one of the quarries for swimming and kayaking. Lemont is a nearby community and when a link to this race was shared on a page I follow, I decided to give it a go. Okay, on to the race!
Getting up at 4 am is never easy, but I got up, ate, and then I drove to Lemont and parked at the Lemont High School parking lot, as the participant guide indicated that parking was limited at the Forge and it was really easy to park at the school and ride my bike to the park. Once that I got there, I found the rack for my bike and got my transition all set up.
After setting up I had some time to kill, so I walked to the swim start and exit, and walked back to transition to see where bike and run in/out were located. I jogged down the bike trail a little while to burn off some anxious energy and then used the bathroom and headed back to get my swim stuff.
The Swim – 11:28
I had swam on Friday and had a really good workout. Felt really strong and had no issues. I’m not sure why I couldn’t duplicate that here but I couldn’t. I was slow, felt like I couldn’t get enough air, and seemingly couldn’t get it under control. I was getting passed by a lot of other swimmers, but I finally settled in. Fortunately, the swim wasn’t long and I was out of the water soon enough.
I had planned for a non-wetsuit swim as the race director had said several times that the water temps had been high and that we should plan to swim without a wetsuit. Turns out, Friday night and Saturday morning were cool and it was wetsuit legal. I hadn’t even brought the thing. I kind of wish I had, but nothing I could do about it. There were only a handful of triathletes wearing them. I would have thought that the quarry would have been really deep, but there were several places where I could easily see bottom, and there were times where my hand was actually touching the weedy stuff growing in the water. I was in 76th place overall after that miserable swim.
T1 – 2:08 – Coming out of the water we had a thin, green outdoor carpet covering rocks, but I’m such a tenderfoot that it was a struggle for me. Then we hit the crushed limestone and I didn’t really enjoy that either, but eventually we got into transition where there was more carpet covering grass. I quickly grabbed my water bottle and rinsed off my feet and then made a decision that I later regretted – I decided to go sockless on the bike. I never do that but I didn’t want to wrestle socks onto two wet feet. 22nd overall fastest through T1.
The Bike – 37:52 – I had biked on Thursday and I thought that I could probably push close to 20 mph average on race day. Boy was that wrong. I ended up averaging about 17 mph, but it wasn’t for lack of trying to go faster. The course was new to me, and there were lots of slower riders ahead of me. But the thing that really affected my overall speed was the numerous sharp turns, as well as a few hairpin turns thrown in for fun. It was a difficult course, and even though there was a no passing mandate on a portion in which there was two-way riding on a six foot wide path, there was plenty of passing going on. But from the moment when my butt hit the seat, I was gunning hard and passing lots of the faster swimmers. I never got passed on the bike, and ended up with the 24th best bike split.
T2 – 1:25 – What I thought was a super fast transition from bike to run, it turns out I was pretty slow compared to the others. This is also where I realized how dumb it is to go sockless. My cycling shoe had worn the skin off a small spot on the top of my foot. Needless to say, I put on my socks for the run and won’t be going sockless ever again. The results had my T2 split at a questionable 164th place. Really? That surprises me because I thought I had done pretty well. But I guess having to put on socks is what killed my time.
The Run – 22:04 – Grabbing my visor and bib belt, I bolted out of T2 without yet putting them on, and I was on the trail for what is my strong suit – the run. I passed three very fit triathletes by 1/4 mile into it and was feeling great. I just kept motoring along, passing numerous other runners. I came up on one woman at the turn around who knew what was about to happen and stepped aside to let me go by. I thanked her and started trying to catch the next runner. Soon I saw another woman heading toward the turn around and I thought to myself that I bet she overtakes me soon.
Somewhere after the 2 mile marker, the course veered off the I&M Canal trail and headed onto a park trail. There was a hill and the volunteer standing there said “You’re welcome.” I said “I’m walking this damn thing.” And I walked up it. It was steep, but what goes up quickly came down as we meandered through the portion of the Forge where they have climbing apparatus and zip lining stuff. There were some pretty steep rocky stairs that I had to run down, but they weren’t too technical. Back up a couple more hills and it was back the the trail and over to where we had to pass the finish line and do a quick 1/4 mile out and back to the finish. The out portion was where the woman who I figured would pass me finally did. We went around the cone together, but she hit the gas and I couldn’t match her pace. I had the 16th fastest run split for the day and moved myself up to 22nd overall.
I cooled down, grabbed a banana and some water, put on a dry shirt, and kicked back by the quarry to wait for the rest of the triathletes to finish. The scrolling results on the projected screen would only show overall place and not age group place, so I had to wait until the awards to find out if I had placed. When the announcer announced my time first I started heading for the stage. I was slightly surprised at 3rd place in my age group, but I was glad to take home the award, even if it was an odd carabiner clip thing attached to a chunk of wood. I think I prefer medals. The Old Guy age group seems to be the most competitive group out there. 16 of the top 25 were over 40 years old, and most of the rest were in their thirties. Only two of the top 25 were under 30 years old, a 19 year old and a 29 year old.
Conclusion – The Forge Off-Road Triathlon was a fun event. It was different to have to actually think about riding on a course like this, instead of just hammering along in aero on my tri bike. I would do this one again, and would recommend it to anyone thinking about hitting the trails for the bike and run instead of what we normally race on.
Results: 22:20 – 19th Overall – 12/124 Place Male Overall – 3rd Place M56-60 Age Group
Racing is back! Not sure I am though. After a year plus hiatus from racing due to the pandemic, I decided to join three of my coworkers and jump back into racing. I felt some anxiety about participating in this race, which is the norm for me for any race, but it was mostly due to not really being prepared to race a 5K having done nothing but long and slow distance training for most of this year and last. But I figured why not jump in and test my fitness a little, so I did.
I had checked the race results from 2019 and saw that I had a pretty good chance to possibly crack the top ten in this little local race, but when I got to the race I could clearly see that the competition was going to be strong. People want to get back to racing I guess. When I noticed that Tinley Track & Trail was well represented, I knew that a top ten finish was going to be a challenge.
I arrived and did my usual warm-up, and it didn’t take too long as the temps were in the low 80’s for this Thursday evening in June. About five minutes prior to the start I took my place in the start area and waited for the gun. Instead of a gun though, the girl starting the race gave some unclear message about starting the race when she starts the music. Well, the music started and we where all like “do we go now?” Someone took off, and the rest of us followed.
My plan was to try to stick with a guy named Rich from the Tinley T&T squad, as he is a little faster than me and would help me pace to my best effort. Rich has become my main competitor (arch enemy) lately, as he is in my age group and I see him at most of the local races.
The race starts with a little uphill and then flattens off for a while. When I noticed that I was running at 6:50 pace I tried to dial it back and settle in and also realized that I was once again hitting it too hard out of the gate. That wasn’t my game plan, but I seem to always go out too fast for the first mile. I clocked a 6:54 first mile and just shook my head. Rich was still ahead of me but he was starting to build a little bit of a gap.
I used to have some dumb rules for myself about who not to let beat me in a race. I need to add mom’s pushing baby strollers to the list, as two of them passed me in the second mile. To their credit they were fit, but it sucks to get passed by anyone pushing a baby stroller!
The second mile came 7:19 and although that was a decent pace that should have been comfortable, it wasn’t because I had already burned all my matches in that first mile and that pace was being forced upon me. I had driven the course earlier in the day because I was unfamiliar with it and saw that the last mile had a good drop but the last half-mile would be a climb uphill to the finish. Once I made the turn onto that hilly portion I was maxed out. I retook one of the stroller pushing moms but knew others were chasing me down. I gave it my all but got passed by another runner named Kelly, who I know from the local running club. But I was just glad to be finishing the last mile in 7:22 and coming in at 22:16, according to my watch.
The awards were quickly posted online and I could see that being third in my age group would not get me a medal for this race that only went two deep for the awards. Rich finished a half-minute ahead of me and I couldn’t quite match the pace at the end of another guy, who beat me by about ten seconds. Oh well, I need to be a little more prepared for next time and just be happy that racing has returned. 19th place out of 281 finishers isn’t so bad.
Summary: Chasing the Sun 5K is a tough little course with lots of turns and challenging hills at the start and end. I may keep this one on the calendar. I kind of like races on weekday evenings.
The family was up north in Minocqua for Thanksgiving and four of us decided that doing the local turkey trot would be fun. Ben had already looked at the previous results from last year and figured he could easily beat the winner’s time by a couple of minutes. I was glad to see we could save a few bucks by signing up as a family, $90 for the four of us instead of $30 each on race day! What we hadn’t planned on was the snowstorm the day before.
The snowstorm caused the race director to alter the course and eliminate the trail portion of the run. The course was now changed to an out and back. The town took care of the snow for the most part, but the sidewalk and the streets we would run on still had some snow. Fortunately, due to the sand they throw around up there on the streets, the footing was pretty good.
So we all showed up, registered and then Kari and I went back to the car to keep warm while the real runners, Ben and Emily, went for a pre-race warm-up.
The start time approached and we all started gathering around the start banner. Ben had keyed on a kid wearing a Ripon College cross country shirt and figured he would stay with him until the end and out-kick him. Emily joined me and said she was going to run easy, which meant to go my pace, and I was glad to have the company. Kari took her spot away from the front and then the countdown began. 8… 7… 6… I hate when they do this because some guy always will jump the gun and go on 1, but here we were. 1… GO!
The race start was narrow and fed us almost immediately into a more narrow sidewalk, and that is when the festive mood of the race changed for me. A woman runner started to run almost directly at me from the left and I thought she was going to run into me so I held my arm up and kept her from bowling me over.
“YOU SHOVED ME, YOU ASSHOLE!”
For the record, I didn’t shove her. She didn’t even lose her balance. She just didn’t get to run into me like she was about to do. I explained to her that I was just keeping her from knocking me down, but damn, she was angry enough about it to call me an asshole. But now I was a little miffed. When you are a slow runner you shouldn’t be starting at the front of the race where the faster runners belong, and if you are going to cut someone off you better understand that the person you are cutting off isn’t going to like it. Why can’t these races just be fun and not end up with some weird, screwed-up occurrence? Happy Thanksgiving to you too, lady.
So with that incident on my mind, I tried to find a comfortable pace to run and try not to slip and fall on the snow-covered sidewalk. Emily and I made our way to the side street and to the turnaround point without any further issues. There were a couple of younger guys ahead of me wearing turkey outfits and I decided that I didn’t want to get beat by a couple of turkeys, so I started working on pulling them in. Emily had also decided to push ahead and leave me in her snowy dust. The first turkey I caught pretty quickly but it wasn’t until about a half-mile left of the race that I caught the second one. Another runner was ahead of me and I passed him as I was starting my last all-out kick, but he still had a kick left and then blew past me and started racing a high school kid up ahead that we were getting close to. I finished alone without any further challenges.
I looked at my watch and saw that the GPS recorded a distance of 2.90 miles and Ben and Emily said the same. The course was a little short, but no big deal.
Being called an “asshole” aside, it was a pretty good race for all four of us. Ben implemented his race plan and waited until 20 feet left to take the air out of the other kid and beat him by a second, winning the race. I think Ben enjoyed toying with his prey until the final moments. He won’t deny it. Emily was also first on the women’s side and both of them got turkeys for their wins. Kari was also on the podium with a 3rd place in her age group.
When we got home I was explaining to everyone what I did to get called an “asshole” and I demonstrated what she did with my daughter Rebecca. As I got close to Rebecca she instinctively put her arm up to keep me from running into her. There, I am vindicated!
Results: 57:32 / 9th Overall / 8th Place Male Overall / 2nd Place M55-59 Age Group
I started running this race in 2011 and this was my 5th time running it. It’s a fun race that is unique – an 8-miler, which you don’t see very often, it’s run in a nature preserve on mostly chipped limestone trail that meanders through some scenic Illinois prairie, and finishes the last half-mile or so on a grass horse track.
My goal for this race is always the same, finish the 8-miles in less than an hour and place in the age group and take home a medal. Mission accomplished!
I did a little shake-out run to see if I was dressed warm enough and was satisfied with what I had on. After a couple of bathroom trips and reading the paper in the car it was time to head to the start line.
The start line has this funnel start in which only one runner can pass through at a time, which is really an odd way of doing it, but there may be some method to that madness. Since this is a trail run and it’s only so wide, this gets the runners to spread out. The first banner in the starting area said 7-minute miles, then 8, 9 and so on. I came back from another quick heartrate boosting jog I took my spot in the 7-minute spot. I was by myself. I was looking around and it appeared no one else was going to join me. Really? None of you runners back there can beat a 56-year-old guy? I noticed one guy wearing a North Central hat and said get in front of me and he was turning me down saying that he really wasn’t in racing shape. Really? You’re a former runner of the top DIII Cross Country running school in the nation and you don’t think you have a chance of beating me or the rest of these guys?! I got behind him and told him just not to run too fast because I didn’t want to lose sight of him and get lost.
The guy doing the announcing yelled everything like it was the most exciting info you could hear and he always went up in pitch at the end. Things like how to line up, when the race was starting, etc., he made it sound exciting. He counted down to zero and an air horn blew and off we went.
North Central guy and I were 1-2 out of the gate and I was already throwing out my usual pre-race run plan, start comfortable and run negative mile splits. Nope, I redlined it from the start. After the first turn, I lost sight of North Central guy and started hearing the footsteps of others behind me. By the half-mile mark, I was passed by a group of 3 runners, including the top woman and was now in 5th place. Everyone ahead of me was younger until about the 3-mile mark when I finally got passed by another guy with grey hair wearing shorts. He was running at a good clip and put some distance on me in no time. And then I was alone again, which is where I find myself in every race.
At one point I passed a couple of high school kids monitoring the course to make sure that the runners don’t turn off course and they cheered me. I told them to cheer nice and loud for the next runner so I could get a feel how far back the next guy was. They didn’t let me down, and I heard loud cheering about 40-seconds later. Nice.
Around 4.25-miles into the race, I encountered a girl who was right ahead of me on the course, right after a point in the course where those behind were supposed to turn right and follow the loop. Since only one girl had passed me early in the race I knew right away that she didn’t make the turn. I asked her if she missed it and she said she decided to only run five miles of the course, pulled out her phone and that was the last I saw of her.
The rest of the race went pretty much how I expected it to go. I had brought along a gel, which seems kind of unnecessary for a race lasting less than an hour, but I couldn’t resist and started taking small nibbles from it. I’m glad I did because it did feel like I was suffering less.
When I would pass a turn I would look back and I could see a runner wearing a blue singlet behind me. He had been back there a while so I was hoping that the kick I had planned for the last mile or two would be enough to keep him at bay. Then I got to the portion of the course where the 5K turnaround was located and hit a wall of slow walkers not even halfway done with the 3.1 miles. This gets me going because they should know that they need to stay right and not block the rest of the racers. I did a lot of shouting “SHARE THE TRAIL!” at these people, and not in the same way the announcer dude was shouting stuff.
I finally made it to the horse track for the finish and was in the final turn when the guy in the blue singlet finally caught me and passed me. Got me riled a little knowing that he had been back there the whole time and waited to the very last 1/4-mile to overtake me, but whatever, that’s racing. I finished and was glad to be done.
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.
9 – 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
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!).
0 – 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.
1 – 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.
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.
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.
It was so hot that the loaf of bread I bought at the store was toast when I got home.
It was so hot that I started my clothes on fire just to cool off.
It was so hot that I saw a heatwave but I was too hot to wave back.
It was so hot that hot water was coming out of both sides of the faucet (in my hotel that was true!).
It was so hot that I jumped in the Tennessee River just to get wet, got on my bike and rode 116 miles just to have some wind blow on me, and then dumped ice down my pants for 5-plus hours as I ran through the streets of Chattanooga just because that’s the kind of weird things an Ironman triathlete does when faced with one of the hottest days I have ever raced in.
I am an Ironman Chattanooga finisher. A 2019 Ironman Chattanooga finisher. I don’t say that lightly. The race day high temperature reached 94 degrees from what I can see on the internet. Humid too, pushing the real feel heat index up over 100 degrees. Mostly sunny. No wind. No escape from the heat. It was hot. Chattanooga threw a heck of a day at me, and I am proud to say I was able to get the job done. Here’s a recap of how I survived this day and was able to become a four-time Ironman.
Once again, I followed Don Fink’s book Be Iron Fit to train for this race. It has served me well the past three races, and again I followed the 30 Week Competitive Plan to get ready. I did make some changes to the plan, mainly to the swim. The school I normally use for swimming changed their policy regarding daytime public access to the pool, so I decided to wait until I opened my own pool to swim, which meant I missed several weeks of swim training. And like I did when I trained for Ironman Louisville, I decided that the plan had too much swimming for my needs. So I reduced it to two 45-minute swims per week, and if I couldn’t get those two swims in, I shot for one 1-hour swim on my Monday rest day. Seeing that Chattanooga would be a current aided swim in the Tennessee River, I figured I would be okay.
Biking and running were done mostly to the plan and all went well. Once again I felt that Be Iron Fit prepared me well. My teammates Dave, Alex, Jeff and his sister Jan all followed the plan and we had a great time training together (mostly virtually) over the summer.
My wife Kari and I left for Chattanooga Thursday morning and drove the 9 or so hours with a few stops along the way. After checking into the hotel and grabbing a bite to eat, we waited up for Alex, Dave and his crew to arrive. Jeff and Jan were late arrivals and we met up in the morning.
We all met up had breakfast and then went to the Ironman Village to check-in. We attended the “mandatory” athlete briefing, and then it was back to the hotel to escape the heat for a while. We even opted to eat the pasta buffet that the hotel hosted on Friday just because it was an easy option and we didn’t have to go back outside.
Saturday we checked our bikes and dropped off our gear bags and then the group decided to drive the bike course to see what we were up against. We always make this mistake because experiencing the course from a car is nothing like experiencing the course from the bike and it usually scares the heck out of us. But Dave mentioned that since none of us came out and said anything really noteworthy about it, it must not be that bad. I agreed, it didn’t really seem that bad, just a bunch of hills repeated over and over again with some good downhills thrown in. It didn’t shock us like Wisconsin, Lake Placid, or Louisville did thankfully.
We later sat in the hot sun and attended the Welcoming Ceremony hosted by the Ironman announcer who does a pretty good Mike Reilly impersonation. I didn’t catch his name but he was fine. The video about what it’s like to sign up and train for an Ironman was pretty funny and got us in a good mood for tomorrow.
One thing I dropped the ball on with this race was that it was the host for the Ironman North American Club Championships. I regret that we didn’t register our team and compete against the other clubs and teams. I bet we could have beaten some of them, especially with our ringer, Alex gaining huge points for us.
After a dinner with the gang and our families, we headed back to the hotel and made plans to meet at 4:50am to head to transition. Ugh.
I slept pretty decent and got up feeling pretty good at 4am. After getting ready and downing a bagel, I grabbed my Morning Clothes bag and headed to the lobby. The Gunners all seemed awake and ready to take on the day. We walked to transition to check our bikes and bags and to get body marked.
I gave the tires the old finger pinch test and decided that they felt pumped up enough to not bother trying to find a pump to use. If anything they might be a little low, but with the heat, they would probably gain a little pressure throughout the midday ride.
We hopped on the school bus for the shuttle ride to the swim start and I took a seat with Dave, just like we did back in kindergarten 50 years ago. The bus dropped us off in the dark and we got our bearings and took a seat on the grass to await the start.
Dave and I opted to start in the 1:10 to 1:20 pace group, which turned out to be pretty appropriate for me. Alex started up in the first wave, and Jeff and Jan started in a few behind us. I pulled on my Roka swim skin and got my earplugs, goggles and swim cap on and that is when Kari and Ben found us. After a quick picture, it was time to start moving to the start.
We shuffled our way down the path to the dock, avoiding pee puddles along the way and jumped in. I wouldn’t see Dave again until the second loop of the run.
SWIM – 2.4 Miles / 1:16:14 / 57th M55-59 Age Group / 645th Male / 898th Overall
I realized as soon as I hit the water that the swim, the portion of triathlon that I usually dread, was going to be the easiest and most enjoyable part of the day. The water was warm, clean and wet, just like I like it. I reminded myself to start slow, start heading wide and just swim nice and easy. The kayakers and stand-up paddleboard volunteers monitoring the swimmers seemed to prefer everyone to stay on the left side of the buoys. I did that for the first two, but then moved over a little and kept the majority of the rest of them on my left because I wanted to be as far out in the river as I could to take advantage of a stronger current but I’m not sure it made much of a difference.
I had heard in the athlete briefing that when the buoys turn from yellow to orange you were halfway done. The last buoy was marked with a number 9 and I told myself to count off nine more. When I saw the last red turn buoy I relaxed rather than start sprinting to the swim out like I normally do. I was helped up the stairs by volunteers and gave a glance at my watch and saw 1:16. I was hoping to be closer to one hour but I think the lack of a wetsuit kept me from hitting that. My two 45-minute weekly training swims were plenty to get me ready for that swim.
Overall, it was a low-contact, uneventful swim that I kind of wanted to enjoy a little longer because I knew 116 miles of riding a bike in 90-degree temps was about to begin.
T1 – 10:39
I found my bag quickly and was off to the change tent. I rubbed a ton of Body Glide on my feet, grabbed my stuff, ate most of a Clif Bar and a gel, and took time to spray myself down with sunscreen before heading outside and having more sunscreen put on me by volunteers. I grabbed my bike off the rack and headed out.
BIKE – 116 Miles / 6:47:00 / 40th M55-59 Age Group / 505th Male / 641st Overall
After driving the course the day before, I knew the road was going to be rough, so I made sure I paid attention to the road. I found myself trying to hold back my pace but I was feeling super good. I was doing 20+ mph easily and that’s not how to start out on the day that was ahead of me. I finally decided to watch the speed and heart rate a little more and just relax. I found a good pace and settled in.
At the first aid station, I decided to refill my water bottle with GU Roctane drink mix that I had trained with all summer, but I ended up spilling most of it because the volunteer helping me put in too much water in my bottle. It made for sticky arm pads and aerobars, but I took another water bottle and washed it off. No harm, no foul. I needed to use the bathroom, so I handed my bike to a kid volunteer and went inside for a quick potty break. I pulled my tri shorts down and that’s when my first OH NO! happened. I had dealt with some saddle sores on my butt from training and I had remembered that I had this little 1/4 inch thick foam rubber pad that I started using to provide much-needed relief. I decided to put it in my shorts before leaving transition and it was doing its job. But as I dropped trou, the pad fell into the blue lagoon. For one hot second, I thought about reaching in and grabbing it! But I quickly came to my senses and just dealt with the fact that my butt is going to be sore for another six hours.
The bike course consisted of one little rolling hill after another and they just wouldn’t stop coming. But when you ride a course like that it kind of engages you and focuses your attention on shifting and adjusting to the effort, which keeps your mind off the heat or in my case, my sore butt. I always find it interesting that in a race with 2000 or so triathletes, you tend to end up in a group and stick with them the majority of the ride. It makes sense because sooner or later you are going to settle in with people riding at the same pace. I had some good conversations with a few of them. Most of the conversation was started because they liked the saying I had put on the back of our team tri suits: “I HATE THIS SPORT”. The other Gunners said they also got plenty of feedback from that saying. Alex made that saying our motto, and we always joke about it.
As for keeping up with my hydration and nutrition, I think I did pretty well. I stopped at nearly every aid station and got a fresh water bottle and Gatorade Endurance bottle, even if they weren’t completely empty. I grabbed some cut banana pieces occasionally and kept taking my gels every half hour. I did stick with a salt capsule every hour through the first half of the ride, but I added an additional capsule every other hour on the second half. I didn’t want to get low on electrolytes, but with the Gatorade, gels, and salt capsules, I think I was plenty fine on electrolytes.
I had one little incident with a bug flying into the slot at the top of my helmet which forced me to pull over and try to get it out of there because I didn’t want it to sting me. Otherwise, the ride was pleasant enough in spite of the heat. Truthfully, the heat never fully came to the forefront of my focus on the bike. Creating my own breeze at 18 mph, dumping water on myself, and focusing on not wrecking on one of the bad sections of the road was enough to keep my mind off the heat. My Garmin data shows that I averaged about 18.1 mph, but that doesn’t take into account the amount of time that I spent stopped at the aid stations. Garmin tells me that I had about 23 minutes of non-moving time, so you can see that I did spend some time in the aid stations. It also shows that I maxed out at one point at 37 mph, so there were some good downhills. The one difficult climb was the last part of the south section of the course on Cove Road, which was a very slow spin for a few minutes, but we were then rewarded with a quick downhill just before the hairpin turn onto Hog Jowl Road and heading back north.
I can remember thinking that this was the most difficult bike course of the four Ironman courses I have ridden, but after a few days of thinking about it, I don’t think it was as bad as I was experiencing during the ride. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m pretty sure that I don’t want to experience that course again.
T2 – 12:08
I grabbed a water bottle off my bike and made my way to the Run Gear bags. I sat down in the tent near the exit where the fan was blowing and emptied my bag on the ground. First up was to grab the wet towel I had stored in a bag and wash my face off. It was hot, but just getting sweat and grime off of me makes me feel better. Next, my socks came off and I saw that my feet looked a little pale and water-soaked but weren’t sore at all. I grabbed the Skin Glide lotion and emptied it on both feet and then pulled on fresh socks. I had put my fuel belt in my bag with a bottle containing energy drink, but after it sat outside in the sun all day I didn’t think I wanted to drink that. Plus it was heavy and I decided that just running with the bib belt was my best option. I opted for a running hat instead of a visor to keep the sun off my bald head and to have the possibility of putting ice in it if I needed to. My gel flask with my GU in it and an empty plastic bag to fill with ice on the course went into my back pockets and off I went to get some more sunscreen before heading out of transition.
RUN – 26.2 Miles / 5:11:48 / 24th M55-59 Age Group / 380th Male / 486th Overall
I may have managed to start out jogging, but when the course started to head out of Downtown Chattanooga it became an uphill grind in the sun for about 6 miles. My body was telling me that I wasn’t going to last very long if I tried running up the hills and in the sun. I walked. I walked some more. I stopped at every aid station and took on ice and cold drinks. I went to the water bottle I was carrying a lot, but only kept it about a third full so it wouldn’t be too heavy to carry. Refilling it wasn’t a problem. Miles 1-6 was a slog and I just was hoping to get from aid station to aid station. I grabbed some ice water-filled sponges and stuck them under my kit, redipping them at a few of the aid stations. I kept up the routine of walk and jog, and at the aid stations I followed the same routine nearly every time: eat some GU, drink the ice water, dump the ice into my tri suit somewhere, get some flat cola with ice and drink it, get three to four potato chips or pretzels and try to wash them down with some more water, fill my little plastic bag with ice and stick it in my pocket, then move to the next aid station and repeat.
Once over the Tennessee River, I got to meet a street called Barton. Barton sucked. I foolishly thought that once I walked up it that it would level off and that portion of the loop would be flat. Wrong. It went downhill even longer, then the loop portion had hills. So I walked when it went up, jogged when I went down and made my way around a nice part of Chattanooga. Lots of local crowd support out and about providing music and cheers for everyone.
As I returned back to the other side of the run course to begin the second half, a strange and unexpected feeling started to come over me. I was actually starting to feel strong and felt pretty good. The sun was starting to set and I told myself that I would prefer to get out and start heading back through the trail portion of the course before it got dark. I started picking up the pace, still stopping at the aid stations, but no longer lingering there. I was actually passing people. Actually, no one passed me while I was running that I can remember except for Jeff, but he did that much earlier.
Somewhere around Mile 18, I passed Dave. This was a moment that I had been chasing for four Ironman races now. Dave had beat his brother John, Jeff and me at all of our previous races and I really wanted to savor this moment. But I couldn’t. He was having a tough time. I almost made the decision to just run the rest of the race with him, but now I was no longer last, and Jeff wasn’t far ahead. So Dave and I chatted a little bit and gave each other some encouragement, and I began the task of chasing down Jeff.
Jeff started the race after Dave and me, so I knew I had a headstart on him, but how much of a headstart I didn’t really know. I figured about five minutes or so, but in reality, it was more like 20 minutes. I didn’t know it, but there weren’t really enough miles left in the race to make that up unless he walked and I kept up my now great pace.
Around Mile 23.5 I saw him ahead of me in the pitch dark. I thought maybe I could sneak past him like I tried to do in Louisville, but at that point, it was really just him and me on that road section. I caught him and gave him an emphatic “GUNNERS!” and we ran together and chatted until the next aid station, where we both walked and got our fluids and fuel and stopped at the port-o-potty. Barton was ahead of us and Jeff said he was walking it. I ran up it. I ran up it and felt great. I ran down it and felt great. I decided that I could skip that last aid station and motor on back in. Then Jeff passed me back. DAMMIT! We had a mile or so to go, but he ran out of gas and I passed him back. I tried to get him to run with me, but I think he was being nice and let me finish ahead of him. He knew that he had a better overall time and was in no way going to lose it in the final stretch. But I put down the hammer anyway, shifted into high gear and practically sprinted my way into the finisher chute, extremely glad to be done with this race.
One last note: Ironman Chattanooga run course was without a doubt the toughest marathon I have ever run. Hands down.
All five of us were able to beat the heat at Ironman Chattanooga. I’m so proud of my teammates and what we were able to accomplish.
ALEX – 12:44:30
JEFF – 13:25:11
DAVE – 13:58:23
JAN – 15:51:22
A couple others of note from the running club: Charlie trained his ass off and I marveled at his bike rides he would post throughout the summer. Unfortunately, Charlie came down with a stomach bug the day before the race and was in no shape to attempt the race on a super hot day. He was at the finish line and he told me what was going on and I felt awful for him. But he’s a prior experienced Ironman finisher and I hear he’s got another race coming up soon. And Charlie’s training partner Casey is also from the running club and took on Chattanooga for her first and crushed it in a little over 12 hours. That is impressive to do on such a hard course and a super hot day. Very impressive.
Many thanks to go around. First, as always, I’m super appreciative to have such a loving and supportive wife who encourages me and puts up with my crazy adventures. I can’t imagine doing these Ironmans without your love and help. These finishes are powered by your love. Thank you, Kari.
To my son Ben, who took time off from work to fly to Chattanooga and chase us guys around in 95-degree temps, thank you very much. You make me proud.
To my Gunner teammates Alex, Dave, Jeff, and Jan! Truly a pleasure sharing this lifelong memory with you.
Carla once again came through for us on the lodging and cheering. It’s an incredible relief to not have to worry about hotels and the stuff you arrange for us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
To Maxwell and Zachary, thanks for being good sons to your dad and providing some entertainment and distraction from the nervousness of the Ironman circus. Maxwell is a champion cheerer on the run course. Always has been. And many thanks to Kennedy for watching those two goofs and cheering us on.
Jill, you are one of the most cheerful people out there. Thanks for providing us with that lift every race.
To my coworkers who put up with my whining about training and bragging about Ironman. Hey, that’s what an Ironman does. Suffer for 140.6 miles, brag for a lifetime. A special thanks to Julie, who in spite of dealing with a flooded basement, still found the time to track me and watch me finish live online. Even sent me a screenshot. Thank you!
And thanks once again to my super fan Carl, who greets me every day with “GOOD MORNING IRONMAN!” You take a sincere interest in my pursuit of this dumb sport, and I truly appreciate it. I tried my best to spell out CARL in a “YMCA” fashion at the finish line. I hope that you caught that. It’s not easy to do after 144.6 miles in God awful heat.
I do dumb things. Not all the time, but when it comes to running I can make some terrible choices. This week I decided to race a local half-marathon, two weeks away from Ironman Chattanooga. Typically this would be a time to reduce mileage and intensity and coast into the “A” race feeling good and raring to go. My Ironman plan called for a 2-hour run for Sunday, and even though I had already decided that racing would be a bad idea, I went ahead and signed up for it anyway. This race benefits the local high school foundation and so I didn’t mind contributing to that cause. I figured that I would push comfortably hard, and if I sensed that I was overdoing it or possibly straining myself too much, I would dial it back and coast it home. Ha! On with the race!
I woke up to an absolutely beautiful day, temps in the mid-50’s with low humidity and hardly any noticeable wind. Perfect running day. I met up with my son Ben and did some pre-race chatting with him and then got ready.
The first three miles of this race are basically flat, and I felt awesome. I was floating along and at the 3-mile mark, I noticed my watch had a 22-minute split, which I felt would have been a pretty good 5K time! It wasn’t long until we hit the hills of the nature preserve.
The course is on my typical training route so I knew what to expect. I planned to take it easy up the hills and take advantage of the downhills. My first mistake was taking a gel right around the 4-mile mark, which was the beginning of one of the big climbs. I struggled to breathe as I was trying to swallow that junk. A little of it seemed to lodge in the back of my throat which caused me some irritation that lasted the duration of the race. It wasn’t killing me, but it certainly was annoying.
It was also about this time that I realized that I was once again the caboose of the front pack of racers. All the speedsters were ahead of me and I was bringing up the rear. Not a soul behind me that I could see. So I focused on keeping up with the group of three runners right ahead of me and tried to keep a steady pace.
Around mile seven I started to catch the group of three that had been ahead of me, but they then started to pull away. It was still way too early for me to start any sort of kick, so I just tried to keep them in sight. Around 9.5-miles into it I caught one of them and started working on the rest. By mile ten I found myself pacing behind another runner wearing an Ironman visor and I ran with him to see how he was feeling. I had just taken my last of three gels and the energy was starting to come back. I said to him lets get that guy ahead of us but he couldn’t go with me, so I started reeling in Mr. Pink Shoes. As I was working on that guy I could hear what I thought was the Ironman visor guy catching up with me, but when he passed me it was another guy that had caught me and was pulling ahead. I told him to “go get it” and he put some space on me. As we came to the big hill going over Route 45, I pulled him back in and we both passed Mr. Pink Shoes guy. I used the downhill after cresting the bridge to kick hard with about a half-mile or so to go and it seemed neither of those two guys had any kick left. I crossed the finish pretty much with no one in front of me and no one right behind me. I’ll take that.
Ben finishing in 2nd place
Repping FNRC and bringing it home
So, did the decision to race this close to an Ironman kill me? No. It was still not in my best interest to run it, but I’m glad I trusted my instincts and ran the race. Racing may not be the main reason I run, but it’s up there.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!