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!
I recently gifted myself a new gravel bike for my birthday this fall and I am enjoying getting on it and exploring some new trails that my triathlon bike could not take me on. What’s a gravel bike? Well, it mostly is a road bike with a couple features that allow it to ride on non-paved trails and other surfaces that a road bike would be ill-advised to ride on. Those features include a little more comfortable upright riding position thanks to a more compact frame, and a wider fork and frame to accommodate wider tires. It is very similar to a cyclocross bike I would think and would handle similar terrain.
So I thought that I would take rides on trails that I normally don’t get to ride on during triathlon training and posts some photos and thoughts about those rides. It’s getting a little late in the season, but hopefully I can hit a few more trails soon.
GRAVEL BIKE ADVENTURE: WAUPONSEE GLACIAL TRAIL & MIDEWIN TALLGRASS NATIONAL PRAIRIE
I have ridden portions of this trail before but not from one end to the other, so I was glad to get all the way to the end of this 22-mile trail on this late November day. Named after an ancient glacial lake, the trail itself is mainly a flat rail-to-trail conversion, although I saw no signs of previous rail usage until the end of the trail near Kankakee.
Due to some rough trail conditions of the trail located by the Sugar Creek Preserve where I would normally park and begin riding, and the trail closure just south of there to replace an old bridge, today I hopped on the trail near Manhattan and rode it to the end. That was about a two-hour ride total, with a small detour into the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.
As soon as I turned out of the parking lot I was met by a couple of walkers, one of which was a friend – Rollie! I shouldn’t have been surprised to see him as I see him all of the time on my local trail near home, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to run into him out here.
Riding south I had to shoo away a black cat and a raccoon, and I spooked some crows. I was a little concerned about passing a rider on a horse, but I made enough noise for both of them to notice me before making a cautious pass.
Turning around at the end of the trail was welcome as it seemed that was a slow and steady gradual uphill climb to this point. Another positive was having the sun now at my back which made what was left of the fall colors a little more vibrant.
About two miles away from where I parked I noticed a side trail of sorts that seemed like it was an actual trail heading into the Midewin National Preserve, so I decided to enter it and explore a little bit in there. Midewin is a huge expanse where the old Joliet Army Ammunition Plant was located back in the days of the Second World War. There are many reminders of the former plant visible from the trail, including bunkers where they stored the TNT that the plant produced. Lots of old roads and an old cemetery that is well cared for.
I would have explored further into the prairie but I saw a person walking alone up in the distance and then he disappeared, only to reappear as I got closer. He was wearing a trench coat and seemed a little too weird for me, so I decided that I had better play it safe and turn back.
All in all, it was a good ride. The trail is a little boring – straight, not much variety in scenery, but is well maintained and in good shape. I will definitely go back just to explore more in the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.
Last night I was enjoying a really deep sleep. Honestly, most nights I enjoy a really deep sleep. Now, you might ask how does one actually “enjoy” a deep sleep? Well, I’m not sure really, but when the bedquake hit, it jolted me from the deep sleep I was enjoying and I was now no longer enjoying it! A bedquake? What’s a bedquake?
A bedquake is something my wife Kari has invented in order to prevent me from having a really deep sleep. It’s a tactic she resorts to when the foot rub on my calf doesn’t work. The foot rub on the calf is only good to disrupt my sleep if I’m not that deep into it. One night I was just dozing off and could feel this strange calf massage thing going on. I thought, “huh, that’s strange,” and just rolled over and went back to sleep. But…
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.
I have been so busy training for Ironman Chattanooga and the Chicago Marathon this summer and fall that my search for an old car to buy has kind of taken a back seat to all of that. The summer and fall have been so busy that when I finally was able to not be burdened with all that training, I realized that summer has passed me by! And now that the summer cruise season is over I’m not sure I want to seek out a car to buy right now. But in my own defense, I have spent nearly every night looking at ads for old classics and searching for what might be that special one for me. It seems like I will be forever looking.
I haven’t ruled out any of the muscle car era classic cars at all, but I have really narrowed it down mostly to the 1967 Plymouth GTX and the Dodge Coronet R/T for some reason. Those two sister cars just catch my eye. We had a couple Plymouths when I was a kid, so maybe that’s why. I’m also limiting myself somewhat by also hoping to buy a convertible because that would be cool. However, there are only so many of that year/make/model out there in the 50+ years that have passed since they were created. And as I look at more and more of them I have really learned a lot about them. And some of them make me question their authenticity. Here is a story of a recent one.
BUYER BE QUICK!
I was scanning the Hemmings.com page like I do almost every night when I noticed a new listing for a 1967 GTX convertible for sale in Florida. It was somewhat of an odd listing because it only had one photo and not much detail regarding the car. I saw that it was listed as being from Lakeland, Florida, which rang a bell for me because there is a classic car shop there called Primo Classics. Sure enough, this car was one of their listings. Now I have looked at their listings before and am usually very impressed with the cars they have to offer and they present them extremely well. Maybe it’s the Instagram-type photo filters or something, but they really pop off the page when you are looking at them. But this listing was different. It didn’t go into detail and there was only one photo of the car from quite a distance away. That wasn’t in their typical style.
The car was listed on Hemmings for about a week and then it was gone. I went to the Primo Classics website and now there were a ton of really nice photos of the car, but the word “SOLD” was present at the top of the page. Still no detail about the car at all.
I would have loved to own this one. From these photos and the rest of the photos posted online, I definitely would have inquired into it. Just not quick enough I guess.
Being slightly puzzled by the quick post and sale of the car, I wondered what was going on with it. So I dug a little deeper and took a closer look at the photos and saw the fender tag.
Fender tags were used by Mopar to detail how the car was built and were usually just screwed into the inner fender well of the engine compartment. The numbers under the letters and the numbers along the bottom have special meanings and there are plenty of websites out there to help you decode them. So I went to one of the decoder websites, put in the above info and here’s what I found:
First line: g 0 is unknown; u 1 means the car was ordered.
Second line: R 1 is an AM radio; Y 1 means it has a black convertible top. So far, so good.
Third line: A 2 is a 2.94 to 1 axle ratio; H4X is a trim color code, in this case, vinyl black seats; LL1 corresponds to the exterior paint color, Dark Turquoise; UB I think means the upper door frame color, black in this case.
Uh oh, now we are starting to have some issues. The axle ratio was pretty standard for the GTX, but the trim color of this car is red, not black. Also, the car is clearly painted dark red and not turquoise blue, and also dark red instead of black on the upper inner door frame.
Fourth line: RH27 is the code for a Plymouth Belvedere II convertible; 31 is a 278 c.i. 8 cyl. engine; 5 is a 3-speed automatic transmission; 315 is the tire size, 31 means 7.35 x 14” black wall tires and the 5 means the spare had the same; 306 means it was built on March 06, 1967; 02025 is the production sequence number.
Okay, now there are a TON of red flags, most glaring is the RH27. The 1967 Plymouth Belvedere and Satellite were basically the same car with some differences in trim and options. The GTX was the top-end model of the Belvedere after the Belvedere I and II. A real GTX fender code would read RS23 for a hardtop coupe and RS27 for a convertible. If you look at the picture it shows that the fender tag is applied with a couple of Phillips-type screws, so these things could be taken off and swapped around very easily. This tag could have been original to this car with some GTX upgrades added later on, upgrades such as different paint and GTX trim to make it appear to be a GTX. One of the hallmarks of a GTX is that it had a special chrome flip open type gas cap, special to only this model in 1967. These can be added pretty easily, and to the untrained observer, it would probably be unnoticeable. Also, GTX’s only came with a 440 cu. in. or a 426 cu. in. HEMI engine. This tag doesn’t indicate either of those.
So is this car a Belvedere II cloned into a GTX or a real GTX? Let’s also look at the VIN.
Right away there is a huge red flag. As noted above, RS23 is the code for a Belvedere GTX coupe, not a convertible. So now we know that neither the fender tag or the VIN is accurate to the car being presented as a 1967 GTX convertible. My guess this car was originally a Belvedere II in Dark Turquoise like the fender tag indicates, with the VIN tag added from some totaled old GTX found in a junkyard somewhere. The rivets holding the tag on in the picture are fairly consistent with what Mopar used, but the tag almost looks glued on. Heck, the glue that was used to mount this VIN tag has pushed out along the edges and through the rivets, and the guy’s fingerprint appears on it where his glue-covered finger pushed it into place! Plus, if you Google Plymouth VIN rivets, you can see that they can be bought pretty easily. VINs and fender tags can be recreated too if you look hard enough.
I searched this car some more and found a listing for it in Carlisle, PA, a popular locale for auctioning classic cars. I searched their listings for auctions and found a Fall 2019 auction held in Florida, and there it was:
It’s a nice car, a well done cloned GTX, but it is being sold as a real-deal GTX and that upsets me. This is why you take your time and look into what you are buying. I’m not sure how this car even has a clear title. Sometimes I feel rushed into jumping on a new listing, but learning to slow down and do your research can save you a huge headache in the long run. Buyer beware for sure.
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.