I think most people will say “good riddance” to 2017, but as far as running and triathlon went for me, it was a pretty good year. As is the custom, I like to wrap it up with a year end summary.
2017 – RUNNING REVIEW
I wrapped up my third straight year of a running streak, managing at least a mile every day. There weren’t too many issues in maintaining my streak. Even the post-Ironman mile was no big deal the day after the race and a 4 hour car ride home from Louisville, Kentucky. I really felt like I could do 2 or even 3 miles that day, but I didn’t push it. Maintaining a streak takes some discipline to know when not to overdo it, and so I played it safe with just a mile.
I finished the year with 1682 total miles, 142 miles less than last year. Even so, it’s still pretty impressive to me. After 29 years of running, this brings my yearly average to 812 miles per year. So I have done approximately double the miles this year than my annual average, which is increasing every year.
One item of note is my average pace this year was 8:35 min/mile, which exceeds last year’s 8:47 min/mile average. Not sure why that is, because it wasn’t intentional, but I will take it. I have learned somewhat through training for Ironman and marathons that long, slow distance with occasional speed work thrown in is probably a better training method for performance than the constant tempo runs at faster paces that used to be my bread and butter.
Speaking of the running streak, last year I mentioned in my wrap-up that I might give up the running streak in 2017, but it didn’t happen. The main reason for stopping the streak at the end of 2016 was injury, mainly to my foot. But I managed to train through it fine. The reason this year for the consideration is basically the same. I’m pretty sore after another long season, and I just don’t think I have anything left to prove with keeping the streak going. At 54 years old, it’s not like I’m going to set a longevity record for streaking. I would have had to have started that in my teens probably. And with two big marathons on the calendar for next year, I think that I might benefit from having some rest days after tough or long workouts. If I do end the streak, I’ll write up a blog about how I felt it affected me. The original goal was to last a year – mission accomplished. I think year two of the streak I saw the benefits, and this past year I’m starting to see some diminishing returns with it.
My biggest accomplishment for 2017 was making the cut for the 2018 Boston Marathon! Of course I actually qualified for the race in 2016, but I had to wait until April to apply and then wait to see where the ax would fall for the cutoff to get in. I had a -4:51 BQ cushion, so I wasn’t really too worried about it even after missing the cut for the 2017 race by 28 seconds. When I got the email I was relieved. So, basically being patient and waiting was my biggest running accomplishment. Funny.
2017 RUNNING STATS
1682 TOTAL MILES – 32 MILES PER WEEK / 140 MILES PER MONTH
365 TOTAL RUNS – 7 RUNS PER WEEK / 30.4 RUNS PER MONTH
240 TOTAL HOURS – 4.6 HOURS PER WEEK / 20 HOURS PER MONTH
LIFETIME RUNNING STATS
23,549 TOTAL MILES – 812 MILES PER YEAR
4340 TOTAL RUNS – 149 RUNS PER YEAR
3124 TOTAL HOURS – 107 HOURS PER YEAR (Nearly 130 days spent running over 29 years!)
2017 TRIATHLON REVIEW
I had a pretty great year with triathlons in 2017. In all, I took on three races, finishing on the podium at Manteno, Illinois and once again qualifying for the USAT Nationals. I think that is my second time qualifying for nationals, and is always a big feather in my cap. The race will be held in Cleveland in 2018, and I will not attend seeing that I am already committed to the Boston Marathon in April, and the Chicago Marathon in October. Some day I hope to attend, especially if it is a little closer to home.
The ET Batavia Triathlon is becoming a favorite for me, and I did well this year, but did not place in my age group. I’ve already signed up for it again.
My big “A” race this year was 2017 Ironman Louisville. I had big expectations for this race and I put in a lot of hard work to achieve my goals. I PR’d every discipline this time around, lowering my Ironman personal record to 11 hours, 46 minutes, 55 seconds. The finish was awesome, but once again pales in comparison to the fun and experiences I had with my buddies training for and racing Ironman Lou. Lots of great memories.
2017 TRIATHLON RELATED STATS
119,174 TOTAL YARDS SWIMMING (67.7 MILES)
3308 TOTAL MILES BIKING
1682 TOTAL MILES RUNNING
I did six total races in 2017 and had fun in them all. Here’s a brief recap with a link to the race reports for each.
I’m looking forward to running my first Boston Marathon. I plan on following a 16 week beginner training plan for it, as I don’t really have any real desire to do this race as fast as possible. I kind of want to take my time and enjoy every step. The plan, although labeled as a beginner plan, has plenty of mileage and work in it for me to do well.
I’m already signed up for the Chicago Marathon in October and the ET Batavia Tri in June. In talking with my Gunner teammates, there’s a strong possibility they will be back at the Chicago Triathlon in August, and I am planning to join them this time. I’ve skipped it the past few years.
I ran two miles on January 1, 2018, so the streak is alive as I wrap this report up. But we will see. If I do decide to let the streak die, I will do so when the marathon training plan has rest days, and I’ll probably throw in some cycling or weight workout on those days.
Results: 56:33 / 5th Overall / 4th Place Male Overall / 1st Place M50-54 Age Group
This is the fourth time for me doing this race and it seems to have changed on me when I wasn’t paying attention. The first time doing this race was back in 2011 when I did it with Ben, and I really enjoyed it. 8 miles is a unique race distance, so it was fun to tackle something that I was for sure going to PR in. Race day in the past for this race has been sunny, frigid, windy and wet, thanks to a late October/early November race date. This time around we had wet for sure. The temperature was nice, in the low 50’s with not much wind, but it had rained the day before and early morning of the race and threatened to rain again. Fortunately, the rain held off while we raced, although Kari said she felt some during her 5K.
Which brings me to the 5K. They added one. There never used to be one. And that’s not all they added. The added another whole day. Confused? So was I when I went to sign up. I guess this little race that seemed to fly under the radar had become a little more popular. You could choose to run the 8 mile race or the 5K on either Saturday or Sunday, or both if you are crazy enough. Since we had some Saturday obligations, we opted for the Sunday race. I’m glad I did. Like I mentioned above, Saturday was rainy. I heard a local runner on Facebook say that they hated the race, but I can only assume she hated it because of the weather.
So why did they add a whole extra day of racing? 1855 total participants for this formally quiet little race! Saturday had 818 total runners and Sunday had 1037! That is a lot for this forest preserve limestone path trail. In comparison, in 2011 there were only 466 competitors in the 8 mile only race, 505 in 2012 and 640 in 2014. In 2016, they had a total of 1059 5k/8mi runners. Quite a difference. Did they add the day to accommodate more athletes, or to make more money? That’s a possibility because this race is put on by a company that seems to hold races all over the area. They do a good job for the most part, but you can tell by the way it is run that it’s just different.
Okay, enough with the details of the race. Time for the report! I told Kari that I was signing up for the race and told her that there was a 5K too. She said to sign her up for it and that’s the story I’m sticking to. I set my alarm for 5:45am and got up and ate so we could get there early and grab a parking spot in the spot limited lot near the race. I’m glad we did get there early, because everyone else was stuck with the shuttle bus option. Except for the guy with the huge tow truck. He decided to make me very nervous by parking next to me. The forest preserve police watch this lot like a hawk, and I thought this guy was there to tow people who violated the parking rules or something. This truck was huge, but he was wearing running gear, so my fears weren’t needed. Also parked near me was a guy in a black pickup truck with a Marine Corp sticker as well as a Brown University sticker. He got out and I immediately keyed on him as a potential challenger, i.e. he was old like me, and looked pretty fit. Kari said he was “ripped.” Thanks, Kari.
I brought a few layers along but after a quick warm-up run of about 10 minutes with a long sleeve over my short sleeve shirt, I decided I’d be good without it. I did put on a pair of cheap thin gloves to keep my hands warm and we walked to the start. Others though, they were dressed like it was going to be 20 degrees, not 50.
In the past the start and finish were at the same place, located on the grass track next to the parking lot, but they moved it and I got a little confused. I made my way to the front and waited for the start. For the start you funnel through a very tight space and I didn’t want to get caught up with a bunch of others slow rolling through it. I think when we started, I was probably in the same position as I ended the race in.
When the horn sounded we all took off and made our way quickly to the trail. I felt like I had settled into a nice pace, but I was starting to get passed by some questionable people. At the first mile mark I got passed by a girl who was not questionable at all and mentioned to her that she only had one other girl ahead of her. She replied that she’d give it her best to catch her. At the 1.5 mile mark, she did the 5K turn around and instantly became the top female, as the leading girl continued on to the 8 mile course. I guess that’s one way to take the lead!
After getting past that 5K turn around, things got thin real quick. Thanks to a meandering course through a wooded forest preserve, I quickly lost sight of the leaders and then the next person ahead of me as well. It’s a good thing that the course was adequately marked and that I had run it before, because I was all alone except for the wheezing guy behind me, and I can only assume he was trusting me to lead the way. Speaking of that guy, he was doing that breathing thing that runners do when they are well into Z4, and probably should dial it back a bit. I give him credit, he did hang behind me about 200 feet back for most of the first six miles. He was wearing a bright fluorescent green windbreaker and it was easy for me to keep my eye on him.
At the four mile mark I was just under 30 minutes and decided to start taking small portions of my gel. I’m glad I did because it certainly provided some quick energy for me and made me feel better. Instead of downing the gel quickly, I nursed it from mile four through mile 6, providing me with just enough energy to get to the end feeling good.
I kept my eye on the green jacket guy, but was surprised to see a light blue dressed runner had passed him. And if she had made up ground on the guy behind me, she might be making up ground on me.
But she wasn’t. Nor was anyone else. As a matter of fact, after that girl who passed me at the one mile mark and turned for home in the 5K, I passed no one and no one passed me. Well, that’s not entirely true. At the seven mile mark, I started catching runners walking the tail end of the 5K. Looking at the 5K results, I passed about 23 of them.
I made my way off the trail and hit the horse track for the run to the finish. I had done a warm up on the grass before the race, so I knew that there were some big puddles about halfway down the back stretch. I made my way to the rail and paced my way in. After a quick look back at the turn, I could see there was nobody immediately behind me that could catch me, so I coasted the last 100 yards into the finish. Kari cheered me in, and I was glad to call it a race.
After a short walk cool down, we headed back to the car as it was starting to rain. We changed clothes and grabbed an umbrella and headed back to the awards ceremony. It seemed like the rain was starting to make everyone edgy, even the event hosts too. I grabbed a cup of the “hot” cider I asked the guy with the microphone when the award ceremony would be, he told me just go tell the lady in the tent that you earned a medal. I did, she gave me my age group medal, and we split. Except for the runners still out there trying to finish the 8 miler, all of us were done with being there.
I was surprised to see that I had finished 5th overall. Had the Saturday and Sunday runners ran together, my time would have been good for 13th place overall. I still would have placed first in the M50-54 age group. Looking at my previous finishes, I placed better even though my time was third fastest.
2011 – 57:05 (slowest time) / 17th place (out of 466, top 3.6%) / 3rd place A/G
2012 – 56:13 (2nd fastest time) / 19th place (out of 505, top 3.7% – lowest placing) / 1st place A/G
2014 – 55:56 (fastest time) / 18th place (out of 640, top 2.8%) / 3rd place A/G
2017 – 56:33 (third fastest time) / 5th place (out of 300, top 1.6% – highest placing) / 1st place A/G
So it seems that I am destined to get third place in the age group next time (lol). With only 300 in the 8 mile field on Sunday, I moved up in placement quite a bit, finishing in the top 1.6% of finishers. I guess that makes it a pretty good day.
I went into the my fourth running of this race with low expectations. I haven’t really focused on any sort of short speed work due to training for Ironman Louisville, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give a 5K a try. And by try I mean gunning as hard as I can. But the race ended up being somewhat educational for me.
For this race I decided to wear my heart rate strap and monitor my heart rate through the 5K to see if my max HR is anywhere near the 220 bpm minus your age. This method is an easy way to determine your max heart rate, which you can then use to set your heart rate zones to train in. However, many don’t trust the calculation for some reason. I’m 53 years old, so using the 220-age formula I should have a max heart rate of 167.
So if you are going to use a 5K to see where your max heart rate is you should do a little warm up then go all out at max effort for 5K. So I strapped on my Garmin and the heart rate monitor strap and let it rip. Here’s what it told me:
And the 5K field test revealed a peak max heart rate of 169 bpm, with an average of 163 bpm. And the times that I glanced at my watch during the race I usually saw 166 bpm staring back at me. I guess the 220-age is accurate enough for me.
Okay, enough of the scientific stuff. Back to the race. I got there much later than I usually do and parked in the neighborhood next to the park where the race starts and ends near my friend Dian’s house. Lo and behold, Dian was actually outside! We chatted up ourselves a little bit and she thought the race had started already. Silly Dian. I explained that the runners will warm up prior to the race. She thought that was nuts. Gave me a chuckle though.
Over at the park, the usual suspects were there: Frankfort/New Lenox Running Club made a strong showing, Tinley Track & Trail was also present. Mr. Mustache Runner guy was there, with his shirt tucked in as usual. And many more familiar faces. It wasn’t until the race was almost ready to go when Nate Troester showed up at the start line, and I knew our eventual winner was finally here.
The guy that starts the race stands right in the middle of the road, orders us not to run him over, tells us not to start until he says “GO!” then proceeds to say “Okay, let’s go” prior to saying “On your mark, get set, GO!” Park district run races can be really strange. In the old days, races were run by runners who kind of knew what they were doing, and these park district guys don’t look like they run much. Anyway, at GO! we all took off and tried to avoid the dumb cherry picker thing in the path of the race route that has a guy up there with a camera. So dumb. You never see the pictures on their website or Facebook page, but damn, they got to have a cherry picker right on the road with a camera guy taking pictures that no one will ever see.
I had picked my mark, a guy named Chris S. who is in my age group and started just in front of me. I decided to hold his pace for as long as I could. That didn’t last long. I might have held on to him for about a half mile before I could tell I had maxed out my heart rate without even looking at my watch. I watched him pull away. That move of trying to stay with him got me through the first mile with a 6:18 split. NO BUENO! So much for the negative split strategy. He kicked my butt again, as usual.
After the first mile I decided to dial it back a touch and find my race pace comfort zone and found myself running with a guy wearing a Ironman Racine 70.3 t-shirt. We were pacing together pretty well. We turned off the path together and on to the side street to head back and about 1.5 miles into it we got passed by some kid. “Damn kids” I muttered, and Racine man agreed.
We ran together until the 2 mile split (6:47 min/mile) and he started to pull just a little bit ahead. I tried to match pace but I had spent too much energy on that first mile. He pulled ahead about 50 yards with about a 1/2 mile to go and that’s how it ended. The third mile split was 6:53 min/mile for me.
I checked the race results and learned Racine man was in my age group. He got 15th place overall, 2nd in the age group. Since this park district run race only awards the top 2 finishers in each age group with a medal, whereas most races go three deep, I knew I wasn’t going to add a medal to my medal rack this time around. You win some, you lose some.
Overall, it was a good race for me. I found that the 220-minus age max heart rate calculation is nearly exact to my actual field tested heart rate. I got to race some good competition. And there was pizza at the finish line.
When I show up for a 5K I tend to start scanning the people gathered around, looking for the usual suspects, the people I will key on as my competition. Since school was officially over for the high schools, I figured I would see a handful of high school age runners, fresh off of their track seasons, and there were a few. I also saw this kid who looked about 9 (the results indicate he was 11), and he had the “look.” Short running shorts, a set of wrap around sunglasses, and New Balance shoes that looked like racing flats. It was about 40 minutes until start and he went out for his warm up. I knew a runner when I saw one. I also saw a guy wearing a Calvin College Track Team singlet who looked fast as well (he was the eventual winner). It wasn’t until I saw Nate Troester, a local guy who wins every race, that I knew for sure that I certainly wasn’t going to win this race!
My wife Kari joined me in this race as it is walking distance from our house. We walked down to the park about 3/4 of a mile away and signed up. It was starting to get warm, and the race start time of 8:30 am was not helping. Much too late to start a summertime race, in my opinion. I tried talking Kari into gunning from the start, but she’s happy to run the race her way. I was already starting to build adrenaline for the start time.
I did some easy warm up and then headed to the start line. I’m always amazed at the number of slow people and kids at the front of the line. One guy said he’s staying back to let the rabbits go, but this guy was in the front as well. I dislike the tight corral type starts. They are too crowded, and filled with too many slowpokes at the front of the pack.
A couple of minutes later a horn sounded and we were off. I was surprised that many of the kids were holding tempo pretty good at the beginning, but by the time we got a half mile into it the first small climb appeared, and they started to drop off. It was also in that first half mile that I was surprised to see Nate Troester standing there clapping for everyone. I guess he was just hanging around. I was happy to see that I had just picked up a finisher’s spot!
At the first mile, a local kid named Merrigan was running along with me and not far off the first place female. We went through the first mile in 6:25 pace and I thought she would be good. But later I found out she had a sore knee from an earlier mishap and ended up dropping out. I kept pace behind the first girl for the next mile, as I also chased the one grey haired guy up ahead of me. He was moving pretty well and not showing any signs of letting up.
After the turn around, we climbed the few remaining hills and settled in for the last mile. I caught the first place girl and passed her. I could see the grey haired guy up ahead, but he was pulling away, as was the kid with the sunglasses. That kid knew what he was doing, running the tangents and basically picking off more and more runners.
I tried using the last downhill to pick up pace, using it to pass an 8th grade kid, and then accelerate through the last turn for the last 10th of a mile. I couldn’t catch anyone ahead of me, and there was no one directly behind me to worry about, so I glided in across the finish in 20:57.
I grabbed a water and dumped it over my head to cool down. I then walked back to the turn and waited with my daughter Rebecca for Kari to finish. She came by looking very strong, but I tried to tell her that she was getting out-kicked by a 5 year old! She didn’t care. To get beat by a 5 year old would have killed me.
When the results were posted I was surprised to see that I finished 10th, and first in my age group. I would have bet that the grey haired guy ahead of me was in my age group. It turns out he was 58! Smoking fast for 58! I also checked the results for Kari and learned that she medaled as well, taking 3rd in her a/g! Well done!
In all, it’s a fun local race, and I thoroughly enjoyed the run with my wife.
28 years of running are in the book! I say “book” in the literal sense, seeing that I have been logging my runs since 1989 and keeping them in a notebook. It’s becoming a behemoth! 28 total years and a crazy 21,867 total miles is what I currently stand at. I’m very proud of that. I’m glad I started logging them down back in 1989.
As it is the usual custom for me, I like to sum up the year and take stock of my accomplishments and create goals for the following year. I started doing triathlons in 2012, so I now include notes about my triathlon season as well. So here’s my 2016 Running & Triathlon Year in Review!
2016 was Year 2 of the running streak that I started in 2015. I really wanted to see if I could run every day for a year, but once I got past that first year, I just kept it going.
I managed to log 1824 total miles in 2016. This is 288 less miles from last year, which surprises me a little, seeing I did both an Ironman and the Chicago Marathon in 2016, and only the marathon in 2015. Both 2015 and 2016 were years in which I ran every day. I think the main reason for the smaller year end total was that in November 2015, I started to wonder if I could get over the 2000 mile mark, and once I did I kept it going hard until the end of the year, running a lot of 8 and 10 milers until I reached the 2112 mile mark. (Being a die-hard Rush fan, how could I not shoot for that number?) This year I developed a nagging foot issue in December and really cut back in hopes of making it to the end and keeping the streak alive. Now that I have completed the 2 year streak, I think I better take some time off and let the foot heal. Plus, running a mile the day after an Ironman and a marathon was a very hard task. I have a huge year ahead of me planned for 2017. You never know with me, though.
One of the stats in the photo above is the average pace of 8:47 / mile, which surprised me quite a bit. It was 8:12 / mile in 2015, and I have always been more concerned with pace than distance. But since I trained for both Ironman Lake Placid and the Chicago Marathon this year, I logged a lot of long, slow distance runs. I’m not one to remember the weather, but I do seem to remember a lot of long, hot runs which may have also slowed me down. I will review it again in 2017 and see if I’m still slowing down. At 53 years old, I kind of expect it. But after setting another marathon PR this year, I also question it.
As far as racing goes, I took it a little light this year, only doing five races, which is two less than in 2015. I have included a link to my previous race report blogs.
Total Lifetime Runs: 3975 (as of end of 2016) ~ 142 runs/year
Total Lifetime Miles: 21,867 (as of end of 2016) ~ 780 miles/year
Total Lifetime Hours: 2884 (as of end of 2016) ~ 103 hours/year
Notes: 2016 was a leap year, adding an additional day to the year. The averages are based on 28 years of running data.
2016 BIKE AND SWIM
The bike and swim went well for me this year. I more than doubled my bike mileage from last year, which was expected thanks to all the training I did for the Ironman. Swimming was way down from my other Ironman year of 2013, somewhat due to pool issues and also due to me thinking all that damn swimming wasn’t that necessary for me. I did 67K less yards this year and still took off about 12 minutes from my Ironman 2.4 mile swim time.
For 2017, I will swim about the same or maybe cut back just a little more. I think the training plan is a little too swim heavy, and I am completely fine with being able to swim the 2.4 miles in 1:20 or so. I will keep an eye on how I am progressing throughout the year and adjust it if necessary.
I’d like to get my bike average up to near 17 mph or more for Ironman Louisville in 2017. I think that is doable. IMWI and IMLP were very challenging bike courses, and I am hoping for a faster ride at Louisville.
I think 2016 went really well for me in my running endeavors. I was glad I was able to complete my streak, running at least one mile every day for two straight years. I also set two new personal bests in 2016 in both the Ironman and marathon.
I thoroughly enjoyed training with my Gunner teammates Dave, John, Jeff and Alex and completing Ironman Lake Placid with them. It was an awesome day. I also got to race with my son Ben in the one 5K we did together. That was a hot race.
But I think the most notable thing for me this year was once again qualifying for the Boston Marathon with another personal best at the Chicago Marathon. I lowered my time by another 3 minutes, and gave myself a BQ-4:51. Not quite a slam dunk sub-5 minute cushion, but with the cutoff to get into the race sitting near 2 minutes under the qualifying time, I think I have a pretty good chance at getting into the 2018 Boston Marathon.
The “A” race for 2017 is Ironman Louisville on 10/15/17. I look forward to 30 weeks of training with my buddies and sharing this experience. I also have the Batavia Triathlon sprint on the schedule, and will probably add the Chicago Triathlon too. It’s been suggested that we try the Triple Challenge again, and knowing my Gunner teammates, that’s probably what we will do. The Chicago Marathon is a no go this year, as it falls the week before the Ironman. Even I am not crazy enough to attempt that. I’m regretting it a little as it is the 40th anniversary of the marathon, but I will make sure that I maintain my legacy status and make sure I can run the 50th.
Other than that, I hope to stay healthy, and out of harms way out on the roads training for my planned races. See you in 2017!
After getting a personal best and a Boston Marathon qualifying time at the 2015 Chicago Marathon, and then missing the cutoff by a half minute, I felt like I had a score to settle after that disappointment. I knew however, that trying to improve on a marathon best that was ten minutes faster than my previous personal best was not going to be easy. But this year was shaping up to make me well prepared.
I usually follow a sixteen week plan for the marathon. The plan I follow was created by Nike and was promoted by the Chicago Marathon. I was already into Week 2 of the training when I finished up the Ironman. So I wasn’t really starting at the beginning, seeing that I just finished a marathon as the plan had just began. But I needed to dial it back a little for a post-IMLP recovery and it was easy to slide in to the plan where I needed to be. (Here is the plan I followed: https://assets-chicagomarathon-com.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2014_Advanced_Final.pdf )
So I eased into the plan, adding a few bikes into the mix, and kept checking off the weeks until race day. My longest run was a 22 mile run that I didn’t really want to do, but I got it done. Most of the training was pretty warm, and I struggled to train at a tempo that was near my goal of being under 8 min/miles. But I knew that training and racing were two different things for me, and the summer heat would hopefully be gone by race day.
MARATHON RACE WEEKEND
I went to the expo on Friday midday and found it to be very crowded. I usually buy some race day clothing at the Nike store, but after seeing how long the line was to check out (it actually went outside of their exhibit and wrapped around it!) and being disappointed at the junk they were selling, I almost passed on it. But I ended up buying a white event t-shirt and a new set of red shorts, along with a new visor.
Saturday was busy as usual for my family. I was glad that everyone was around for the weekend though. My son Ben didn’t have a XC meet and ended up coming home from college to watch the race. My daughter Ashley was excited to come home and watch the marching band home show that my youngest daughter Rebecca was involved with. I ate a pasta meal with the family at Gatto’s, and then made the trek into Chicago to the hotel.
My usual plan is to walk to the gate where I enter for the corrals just to make sure nothing has changed. Then I walked around a little, grabbed a muffin for breakfast, and a sub sandwich for dinner and headed to my room.
I walked through the lobby and got a glimpse of Joan Benoit Samuelson, which was pretty cool. I made it to my room and tried to find the Cubs playoff game on TV. Very disappointed to find the channel it was on wasn’t carried by the hotel. I tried to find it online, only to find that I could only get simple live updates on some dumb MLB website. So I monitored that while I pulled up the Ironman Championship live stream from Kona.
My alarm went off at 4:30 am and I got up and got ready. I made a cup of coffee, ate my muffin and started getting myself race ready.
I took my own advice and headed to the corrals at 6 am. In the past I have waited too long and had to stand in line waiting to get in. The wait was minimal this time. I walked to the corral area got in line for the toilets. Took care of that and then found a place to sit on the sidewalk outside of Corral B and just relax. People watching was interesting as usual. I saw actor/comedian Rob Riggle getting escorted to the front of the race even though he was wearing an E Corral bib. Must be nice being a celebrity. At about 7:10 am I ate a gel and drank the last of my Gatorade and then used it to inconspicuously pee into before entering the corral. Once in the corral we listened to the National Anthem, watched a group of geese fly over almost on cue, and started moving forward.
My plan had been formed by virtue of not making it into Boston. I would shoot for a sub 3:25 marathon, which meant holding about 7:50 min/mile pace. My strategy was to run even splits until either 5 miles, 5K, or less to go seeing how I felt at those times and then push as hard as I could to the end. Race day was perfect – temperature in the 50’s at the start and rising slowly into the low 60’s. There was a moderate breeze that concerned me a little, but I knew we were going to have a great day to run.
Mile 1: 7:36 split – I was running comfortably and wasn’t surprised at this split.
Mile 2: 7:41 split – Another good split, nothing out of the ordinary at this point except I felt like I had to pee again.
Mile 3: 7:44 split – This is the tempo that felt good and I hoped that I could maintain.
Mile 4: 7:43 split – Locked into that tempo. I was starting to sweat somewhat, which surprised me.
Mile 5: 7:39 split – Into Lincoln Park and moving along well. Could really feel the wind here and it definitely cooled me down with my sweaty shirt.
Mile 6: 7:46 split – Soon after leaving the aid station where volunteers were yelling “Gatorade” and “water,” we were met with a guy yelling “cigars, cigarettes.” Funny.
Mile 7: 7:40 split – Getting as far north as we would be, I was glad to be turning around. But as soon as you do, you get hit with the smell of breakfast. Gets me every year. Smells so good.
Mile 8: 8:20 split – Just before the Mile 8 marker I saw the toilets and saw my chance. I had the need to go since the start and I knew I would have to make one pit stop. As far as pee breaks go, this one was typical, but I think that it cost me the sub-3:25. I didn’t try to make up the time here, I just got back on the pace I had been running. I also took my first salt capsule at the aid station. I wasn’t thinking that I would need them today, but the amount of sweating I was doing made me commit to taking one.
Mile 9: 7:42 split – Somewhere in here I tossed the homemade tube sock arm warmers I had. I had rolled them down, but kept them in case it got cold. I kept my gloves, but just held on to them, mainly for personal memento reasons.
Mile 10: 7:49 split – Okay, for some reason the race would be a let down for me if I didn’t see Elvis in this mile. Upon turning onto North Avenue, I could hear the music. Normally he is right next to the roadway, but this time he was up a little higher and I wasn’t sure I would be able to get my fist bump. But I saw an opening and went over and yelled “Hey Elvis!” and he met my fist with his. Made my day.
Mile 11: 7:45 split – Mile 11 is pretty much a straight shot back into the Loop. Kept up my pace.
Mile 12: 7:45 split – Somewhere in here I found myself running with a guy carrying an American flag. He was a very popular guy. The crowd was making noise for him and I got energy from that as well. But after the flag hit me in the face a few times, I knew that Flag Man and me would have to part ways.
Mile 13: 7:44 split – Another very close split time and I got through the 13.1 mile marker in 1:41.49. A quick calculation in my head told me I was doing just fine and looking at possibly being closer to 3:20 than 3:25. I saw Kari, Ben and Ashley for the first time through this mile and it gave me a boost. I could tell Ben was following my splits closely and was cheering me on like I usually do for his races. Made me proud.
Mile 14: 7:42 split – A little faster, probably due to seeing the family and starting to head through the Cheer Zone of the route.
Mile 15: 7:38 split – Another faster split time as I headed into the Dead Zone of the race.
Mile 16: 7:58 split – Not sure why there is a 20 second difference. Maybe I hit the split/lap button too early in the previous mile.
Mile 17: 7:55 split – Okay, now I realize that I’m edging closer to 8 min/mile pace. As long as I kept it under 8’s I felt I’d be okay. I saw my family again and got another lift.
Mile 18: 7:53 split – I wasn’t feeling bad, I just couldn’t get back to the 7:45’s. I was walking a little more in the aid stations, making sure I was getting a good drink of Gatorade.
Mile 19: 7:46 split – Heading into Pilsen and feeling pretty good still. I could really feel the head wind now.
Mile 20: 7:55 split – At 20, I knew I was doing good but chose not to push any harder yet.
Mile 21: 8:05 split – Okay, lots of distractions in Chinatown – the music, crowds and of course the photographers distracted me enough that may have made this a slower mile split.
Mile 22: 7:50 split – It was at this point I made a choice to hold off until the last two miles before pushing hard. I made the same decision in 2015.
Mile 23: 8:07 split – (See note below) Just a 5K to go, and I got my last gel in me. Here’s where in your mind you are ready to turn to the finish line, but the course takes you south and then east for a block until you hit Michigan Avenue for the final stretch. I tried picking off runners that were ahead of me, one at a time.
Mile 24: 8:07 split – (Miles 23 and 24 were averaged as I missed the marker for Mile 23 and hit the lap button around 9:20 or so. I added them together and averaged them for the splits.) I felt like I was really pushing, but the effort was all in my head as it was taking that effort physically to maintain what I perceived as a fast pace. With two miles to go, I put my head down and started running.
Mile 25: 7:47 split – That’s more like it, although I thought I was running sub-7 at this point. Toward the end of this mile I saw a sign that read “800M”, meaning 800 meters to go. But my mind read it as “BOOM”, a saying my fellow triathletes had in the 2013 Ironman Wisconsin race. Either way, it was a positive for me.
Mile 26: 7:41 split – The fastest mile I had run since about Mile 14. I turned and climbed “Mount Roosevelt” and it seemed like an eternity. A quick left and I was checking my watch to see how close I was to 3:25. I sprinted with all I had left.
Mile 26.2/FINISH: 3:25.08 – Missed being under 3:25 by 9 seconds. But that really didn’t disappoint me at all. I had just gotten my second Boston qualifier, a BQ-4:52 as they say, which should be more than enough to get me into the 2018 Boston Marathon. If that’s not fast enough, I’m not sure what else I can do.
The finishing chute was a blur. I was really having a hard time moving forward, almost staggering and felt really drained. It wasn’t long and they handed us a bottle of water. I started sipping on it and then grabbed another salt capsule out of my fuel belt and downed it. I made my way to some misting fans and just kind of hung out there a little bit until moving on.
I chose an older lady out of all the volunteers to put the medal around my neck and wrestled with my emotions a little bit. Seems strange that after 16 marathon finishes, I still get a little choked up at finishing a race, especially when I set a personal best or have a great race.
I shuffled along picking up a banana, an apple and a bag of goodies and then saw the group of guys handing out the mylar blankets. They were pushing them like they were car salesmen or something. They were trying to get people to laugh and it worked. I got my blanket and headed for the gate. One last picture as I walked out and then I made my way back to the Hilton to meet my family.
After a quick shower it was a two block walk to Devil Dawg’s on State Street for the usual post event lunch. Another successful Chicago Marathon in the books!
Here’s some of the details of my race that helped me get another personal best and Boston Qualifier.
Running Gear: Nike 2016 Chicago Marathon Event shirt (not the participant shirt – that is a no-no in my book!) and visor, along with Nike Flex running shorts with the built in mid-thigh liner, all purchased at the expo.
Arm warmers made from new tube socks.
Skin Glide lotion for my feet to prevent blisters.
Two Band-Aid flexible fabric bandages to cover my useless nipples.
Louis Garneau Mid Ride cycling socks.
FuelBelt brand bib number belt with pouch.
ASICS Gel-Exalt 3 running shoes. I have been running in some of the cheapest ASICS shoes I can buy. They were great. I had broken them in two weeks prior to the race.
Three Salted Caramel (extra electrolytes, caffeinated), and four Root Beer flavored GU brand gels. I took one Salted Caramel about 15 minutes prior to the start, then one gel every 30 minutes. Two Root Beer, then one Salted Caramel until they were gone.
Four Salt Stik brand salt capsules. I took one at the hotel at about 6 am, and then took one every hour after the first hour.
One cup of Gatorade at every aid station, with an occasional water as well.
Timex Ironman 50 lap watch. I have a Garmin 910XT but don’t trust it. The Timex Ironman has never let me down.
To qualify and gain entry into the Boston Marathon you have to meet a time standard, what is commonly referred to as a Boston Qualifier (BQ). For my age group that means I have to run a sub-3:30 to even be able to apply. But since the Boston Marathon is such a popular and prestigious race, many runners want to vie for the 25,000 or so slots. So to keep it a competitive race, they award the faster runners first. Those that are 20 minutes under the qualifying times are shoe-ins. So are the 10 minute and 5 minute under runners that apply. I got my BQ at the 2015 Chicago Marathon, running a 3:28:19 on a somewhat warm day for the race. I had qualified! But I was a ‘squeaker’ – a runner that has a small margin of being under the cutoff. My cushion was 1:41. One minute and forty-one seconds. Today, the Boston Athletic Association announced the cutoff time – 2:09. I missed the cutoff by 28 seconds.
To say it didn’t affect me would be lying. But the disappointment of missing out on what is generally accepted as the pinnacle achievement by twenty-eight seconds stings somewhat. 28 seconds. Where could I have lost 28 seconds in my BQ run at Chicago? Did the weather set me back? It was warm, and it was definitely windy in the last 5K, but I had a personal best race that day. Did I not train enough? Where could I have gained 28 seconds? I had not stopped for any bathroom breaks. I had limited my time spent getting through the aid stations. I had hit my splits very well. I ran the tangents. My nutrition was all going to plan. Truthfully, I think I gave it my best shot.
As I finished the 2015 Chicago Marathon I glanced at my watch and saw my time. My reaction was very strange. I had a sense of overwhelming joy at being under my qualifying time, but I knew that the current BQ cutoff was a whopping 2:28 for the 2016 Boston Marathon. I realized that my time probably would not be enough. I had my own personal “ABC Wide World of Sports” moment – I was experiencing the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat all in the post 26.2 mile finish chute. I was both happy and upset. Then I went to Devil Dawgs and had a hot dog.
It didn’t take me long to get over it. I was proud that I had qualified, and extremely proud that I had just set a marathon personal best for myself by ten minutes! So I patted myself on my back and moved on to my 2016 racing season, with the expectation that I would apply for the Boston Marathon when it opened in September of 2016.
September arrived and I hit submit. I knew that it was long shot, but I have spent probably close to 15 or more years attempting to get into this race, so why not? And then this eternal pessimist started to become an optimist. I had come across a Runner’s World online forum that was discussing the cutoff time for the 2017 Boston Marathon. Among the contributors that were posting on this forum were statistics loving runners and stat crunchers who almost took joy in trying to guess what the cutoff would be. Amazingly enough, they were mostly predicting that the cutoff would be less than 30 seconds to even as small as ZERO cutoff! I absorbed it all. One guy I questioned as to what he thought my chances were replied that I was “definitely in”. All the stars were lining up for me. The previous year’s qualifying marathons had been hot, which meant many runners had difficulty qualifying. The 2017 Boston was to be run on the day after Easter Sunday, which would more than likely keep many more away. And they had indicated that the field size may be around 30,000. I waited for two crazy and stressful weeks. Then the email came. 28 seconds.
I left work at noon and had already talked myself off the ledge. As I was driving home listening to my typical classic rock radio station, one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands – STYX – came on the radio. I pulled into the driveway already rocking out to Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man) and I was struck by the chorus:
“GET UP! GET BACK ON YOUR FEET! YOU’RE THE ONE THEY CAN’T BEAT, AND YOU KNOW IT! AWW, C’MON! LET’S SEE WHAT YOU GOT. JUST TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT AND DON’T BLOW IT!”
I put on my running gear, and went for my planned marathon training plan run. I have the 2016 Chicago Marathon in ten days. I plan on taking my best shot at another BQ.