Tuesday, June 25, 2019

2019 MSC Welland Long Course Recap

Posted by CheapRunnerMike

Double Triathlon Weekend! Rose City Long Course Triathlon for me on Saturday and the Wilmot Aces Kids Triathlon on Sunday for Jackson.

My weekend started early Saturday morning as I loaded up the Jeep and I hit the road just before 5am. I had a nice drive up to Welland and arrived with plenty of time to pick up my kit and set up transition. I wouldn’t say I was nervous by any means, but I really didn’t have a clue of what to expect from the day. I thought about the time that had passed from when I last raced a triathlon and realized it has been 21 months, nearly two years, since I did Barrelman in 2017. That’s a long time between swim bike run. I felt good though and believed that I was in decent shape…my swimming has been going really well having been in the pool more than ever since joining Balance Point Triathlon and swimming two mornings a week with them along with open water swims at Splash n Dash and out at the Balance Point lake. My bike workouts haven’t been as long as they should be, but they have been high quality workouts designed to build strength and speed. My running has been good as well as I was coming off a new half marathon PB just over a month ago at Forest City. The racing should be good but you never know until you get out there how the three disciplines will work together.

The race start was at 8:30 and I was in wave 2 5 minutes later. I was also racing in the 40-44 age group for the first time, arguably the most competitive age group out there. I put my wetsuit on and hopped into the water for a little warmup before getting myself ready to go. It was race time.

Swim – 2000m
31:22 (1:34/100m)

I took my place at the front of the swim beside Luke Ehgoetz and some other fast swimmers and waited for the horn to go off. Once it did I broke into a strong sprint to get out front in order to cut across to the buoy line that runs under the water at the Welland Flatwater course. They use this course for rowing and the underwater rope line is amazing to swim with as you just stay on it and there is no need to sight…you are guaranteed to swim the shortest distance possible. I cut across in front of the swimmer beside me a bit too soon and was rewarded with a punch in the eye. My right goggle pushed right up against my eye so tight I couldn’t even open it. I was surrounded by swimmers though so there was nothing I could do except flex my eye socket to try and pop the goggle back out. Shockingly, it didn’t work. I slowed a bit and in a few meters I found a bit of clean water, so I flipped onto my back so that I could take my goggles off and fix them, then took off after the front pack that had now gapped me.

I settled into my breathing and pace and just worked my way back, swimming just on the inside of the rope line. I had lots of clean water and was pulling swimmers back one by one. It wasn’t long before I hit traffic when I caught up to the back of Wave 1…always a good sign when you catch the earlier wave before the first turn. I weaved through the crowd and worked my way around the turns to begin the swim back towards the Flatwater Centre. There was a north wind when we started so we swam into some choppy water to start but now that same wind was giving us a nice push home. I swam out to the turns at a high 1:30’s pace but dropped it down to high 1:20’s with the wind assistance. I continued to fight traffic and was passing some blue caps from my wave as well as the wave 1 red caps, so I had caught some of the swimmers that gapped me while fixing my goggles at the start. I made the final turn and then crossed the canal to the swim exit…I jumped out of the water and made the run in front of the stands of people and up the stairs into transition. While running I heard Steve Fleck on the PA saying, “If anyone needs a clinic on how to get out of their wetsuit, this is how it’s done”, and he proceeded to point out how I unzipped the back and pulled the top off in one fluid motion…made me smile. I also heard Steve call out Luke’s name as he exited the swim and I was already at my bike pulling my feet out of my wetsuit, so I knew I must have had a good swim coming out ahead of him.

Bike – 56K
1:26:36 (38.8kph)

I slipped into my bike shoes, donned my awesome new pink helmet and ran my bike to the mount line. The bridge that we used to cross to get out of town on this bike course no longer exists so Multisport Canada had to make some changes to get around the canal. This meant that we hit a small, 300m stretch along a fitness path which would be a no-passing zone. We passed through here on the way out and the way back and I had no issues at all…just a minor inconvenience. Not long after coming through this section I heard the womp-womp sound of a disc wheel bearing down on me and Luke tore past. He was nice enough to thank me for towing him along on the swim but wasn’t nice enough to return the favour and tow me along on the bike…he was gone. I pushed hard on the pedals and cruised along at a good speed, just a touch under 40kph. I noticed right from the get go that my power meter wasn’t showing me the numbers I expected to see, they were way too low (like 150’s instead of 230’s). I could tell by the effort that something was off so I would have to race more on feel and use my cadence numbers instead…old school.

There was minimal wind out on the course and it made for some great biking. I picked off athletes from wave 1 and made my way up through the field. The only guys passing me were pretty beastly and I had no chance of keeping up with them, and unless they had a number between 40-44 on their calf I didn’t even care. One guy from my age group did go zooming by and I put in a halfhearted effort to stay with him, but when I realized it was Randy Cooper I knew it was only going to hurt me so I let him go. Smart decision as Randy had the fastest split in the age group and was 3rd quickest overall…I didn’t stand a chance.

I made the turn when I hit the shore of Lake Erie and began the ride back…just a touch more wind in this stretch but still nothing to worry about. My speed was still holding real steady a touch below 40. I came up to the bottle exchange at 32K and tossed my Gatorade and grabbed a new bottle of F2C. The volunteer and I botched the first exchange but I was able to successfully grab a bottle from the next guy.

The bike back to T2 was pretty uneventful but it did have a pretty funny moment…when the course merged back together about 15km to the end I saw one of the athletes still on his way out. He was riding along eating what appeared to be a submarine sandwich…there’s a guy who’s got the right idea! It sure made my Honey Stinger chews seem unappealing. I made my way across the fitness path for the second time and then slipped out of my shoes to jump off the bike…I was off the bike well under an hour and a half and my average speed of 38.8kph was my fastest bike ever. I’ll take it!

Run – 15K
1:05:01 (4:20/km)

I zipped through T2 and hit the run course hard. What little wind we had during the swim and bike was gone completely, which didn’t bode well for what was going to be a hot run. The course is nice, taking you up and down both sides of the canal, but there is no shade at all. We had full sun and the heat was creeping in…it felt hot right away. I passed a couple of people right away and according to my watch I was running fast despite what my legs were telling me. I had done a couple of short runs off the bike over the last few months of training, but nothing really prepares you for race day other than race day experience. I was through my first kilometer in 3:52, much faster than I should have been running. I took my foot off the gas a bit but was still going quick, down in the low 4’s. I felt okay but at the same time I knew the second loop of the run was going to be a challenge. On the bright side, I was getting all kinds of cheers and compliments on my Tri Sirena Pina Colada kit…it was certainly a big hit. I may not have won the race (spoiler, I know…), but I might have won ‘best costume’. The first aid station had a big sign as I ran up to it saying that it was being manned by the Parrot Heads In South Niagara (P.H.I.N.S.) and my kit was pure Margaritaville…I hit the aid station and yelled out to them, “Fins to the left! Fins to the right!”...it got a laugh out of them. Sorry for any non-Jimmy Buffett fans reading this, this likely makes no sense at all.

The nice thing about a two-loop out and back run is you get to see lots of people out on the course, and there were plenty of familiar faces out there. I was cheering friends and teammates on as I ran along and was enjoying the support from the spectators and other athletes as well. One young guy that I was near the entire run kept telling me how much he liked my kit and was calling me “awesome-kit-guy” every time we saw each other.

Still cruising along, I came to the 5K marker and looked at my watch…19:50-something. I did not feel like I was running a 20-minute 5K pace and I knew I didn’t have that left in me for another 10K. I was starting to feel the fade coming. I was going back and forth with another 40-44 age grouper and passed him at the second turnaround…I asked him if we were going to pace off each other the entire run and he said “Only if you’re slowing down”. Prophetic words. I came through the first lap in 30:06 but the wheels were beginning to fall off and each kilometer was getting slower and slower. I thought back to the early stages of the bike when I realized my power meter wasn’t working properly and wondered if I rode too hard. Probably, but nothing I could do about it now except hold on for one more lap.

It was a bit of a sufferfest on the second lap but I managed to hold on. There were a lot more people on the course now and I couldn’t tell if I was passing people ahead of me or a lap behind me…one of the worst things about multi-loop races. I had at least put a little bit of a gap between the other guy in my age group from earlier in the race but he was still hanging close enough to keep me honest. I saw even more people I knew on the second loop and it helped me push through. After the final turnaround the young guy behind me said, “Let’s go Awesome-Kit-Guy, just 2K to the finish. This is what we train for!” Then he blew past me. Youth. I stayed close though and then he said something about making the last kilometer our fastest and I just laughed. He was serious though and found another gear. Yup, youth. I did dig deep though and tried not to embarrass myself too much, ending with a solid finish line kick.

I came home in 3:05:34, a time I was very pleased with considering I had no idea what to expect from the day. I last did this race back in 2016, my Ironman year in Ironman shape, and I put up a 3:15 for 2nd in my age group and 20th overall. 10 minutes faster didn’t exactly translate to better results though as I ended up in 6th place AG and 21st overall. Lots of talent in M40-44, deep deep pool. I learned a few things out there though and know where I can improve for next time. Need to get my legs back in triathlon shape! I didn’t stick around for awards since I had a long drive home and wasn’t collecting any hardware unless ‘Best Costume’ was an actual thing.

Fast forward to Sunday morning and Michelle, Jackson and I were on the road again to the Wilmot Aces Kids Triathlon in New Hamburg. Jackson was racing in the 10&11 year old group as a 10 year old, but he was hoping for a good result himself despite taking on the older kids. His last triathlon he came in second place but had a few obstacles to overcome, namely counting his swim laps properly (the volunteer at his first race made him swim an extra 50m in the pool) and being calm and relaxed in Transition (he was really flustered after coming out of the pool behind a kid he knew he had lapped).

We got to the pool and had plenty of time to get his kit and set up transition before running into his Balance Point teammates. We cheered on one of his buddies to a win in 8&9 year old girls and then it was Jackson’s turn. He was a bit nervous but once the buzzer went to start the swim he was all business. He made quick work of the 150m swim, getting into T1 in just 2:22 (fastest swim in his AG). T1 was much better this time around and I barely made out in time to catch him flying by on the first lap of the bike. He had a bit of an issue at the first bend in the road as the kid in front of him had tried to turn around (it wasn’t a turnaround) and took a little spill. Jackson started to turn around himself and then realized there was plenty of course still ahead. He took off after the slight slow down and had a great ride the rest of the way.

He jumped off his bike after his 4K with a 10:30 split, second fastest behind his Balance Point buddy. Another quick transition and he was off for his 2 lap run through the woods. We love trail running together and while this was a stone-dust path and not what we run on, he still loved being in the shaded woods. He told me that at one point he came up with a kid who had a ‘19’ on his calf (for wave 19…Jackson was in wave 23), and when the kid saw him he started sprinting as fast as he could. Jackson had no problem staying with him and the kid quickly ran out of steam and Jackson went by him. When Jackson made the pass he heard the kid say, “Oh F---!” Too funny. We didn’t get to see Jackson running through the woods but he didn’t take too long to pop out and make his finish line sprint. He finished the 2K run in 8:30 (4th fastest) and his finish time of 21:22 was good for 2nd place, right behind his Balance Point buddy. Great day for the BPT Kids Club!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

2019 Forest City Road Race Half Marathon Recap

Posted by CheapRunnerMike
I’m back. After taking most of last year off and suffering the fitness consequences, it was time to once again don the Sparkle Visor. I did get to do a few races in 2018 but they were all ‘fun’ races…it was now time for me to get competitive again. I have worked hard to get myself back on track in 2019, hopping back on the bike and getting my butt back in the pool. Jackson also wanted to get more serious with triathlon so we joined Balance Point, a local club that offers a kid’s program. We’ve both been able to enjoy some of the group training offered and it has been a good motivation for both of us.



First race up on the 2019 calendar is one of my favourites, the Forest City Road Race Half Marathon. It is my hometown race and this would be my sixth time running it. It is also the race that I set my current PR at back in 2017 so I know I can do well here. I had some extra motivation as well as I turned 40 late last year so I would be competing as a Masters athlete for the first time, beginning a new chapter of my athletic life. To top the day off, Jackson would be running the 5K all on his own. We had a really good training 5K run a few days earlier and he had his eyes set on a new PR.



The forecast was not pretty heading up to race day with predictions of rain, snow, wind and cold temperatures, but as we left the house to head downtown the weather was looking just about perfect for racing. It was still cool but there was very little wind and most importantly it was dry…a great start to the day. We arrived at Victoria Park and Jackson and I went for a short little warmup run to get the legs ready to race. We met up with some other friends, caught up with some folks I hadn’t seen since last season and then headed over to start line. I took a quick look at the guys up at the front and knew right away that they would be out of sight in no time…with Josh Lumani, Seth Marcaccio, Matthew Farquharson and Brandon Laan all toeing the line it was sure to be a fast race up front. There were a few older guys kicking around that were sure to put up a good challenge so the race was going to be tight.

Start to Western University (1K-5K, 19:23, 3:52/km)

The horn went off to start the race and sure enough the four rabbits were off and quickly out of sight. I was 5th off the line but before we even made the second turn around the park another young guy went by me, seemingly huffing and puffing already, so I paid him no mind. I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to last and the gap never grew too much. I checked in on my pace and I was where I had wanted to be for the start, clocking a 3:41 opening kilometer. I was shooting for a steady 3:55/km overall pace but I knew I would always go out quick on this course as we get a nice steady descent for the first couple kilometres heading out of downtown. I kept the pace rich as we made the turn onto Wharncliffe and the climb up towards the University. It was around this turn that I started to hear some feet behind me and a few cheers for another runner as well. Fast Out of the Gate Guy was still up ahead but well within reach. I ran through the intersection at Oxford Street and Michelle was there in the Jeep cheering me on...it was a nice surprise seeing her there and spurred me on as I ran through one of the bigger climbs on the course up Western Road. It was great running along this stretch though as the road was finally repaired last year and unlike years past I didn’t have to dodge any potholes…it used to be like craters of the moon it was so bad, so this was a big improvement!



Western to Old North (6K-10K, 19:24, 3:52/km)

I made the turn into Western University and grabbed a high five from Ken Eastwood to power me on my way. I cruised down the hill at a good clip and used the elevation change to up my pace a touch…I was now almost entirely caught up to Fast Out of the Gate Guy. I grabbed my first energy chew of the day knowing that we were about to hit an aid station and choked it down. When we turned out of the University and came to the aid station I ran past the first few cups and then asked for water…apparently they decided to have Gatorade first/water second at the first aid station that we had already run past, but water first/Gatorade second at this one. Great. I made sure to ask for water right away and not assume anything every time I drank the rest of the race. We entered Gibbons Park at this point and those steps that I could hear behind me were now right on me. A runner pulled up beside me and we introduced ourselves. My new running partner was Brian Murphy, a guy I knew of but had never actually met. He’s a super-fast Masters athlete, way faster than me, so I knew I would have my work cut out for me if I was going to hang with him. Together we ran through the park and chased down Fast Out of the Gate Guy, who was flagging a bit just as we were passing the London Pacers aid station/party and about to hit the meat of the run…the St James Street hill and climb through Old North. We hit the hill and reeled him in up towards the top of the climb, all three of us now running together. The Police and volunteers were doing a great job throughout the course controlling traffic for us but as we came up to the four-way stop at Waterloo Street I noticed that there wasn’t anyone stopping traffic here. I was right beside Fast Out of the Gate Guy and saw that there was a Porsche SUV coming across the intersection in front of us…my runner’s instinct kicked in, having seen this situation too many times before. “Watch that car”, I said, “he’s going to go.” Sure enough the SUV went, then stopped, went again and finally decided to actually stop. He must have seen the stream of runners coming and figured there would be too many witnesses. It didn’t slow us, just a little bit of a hitch and most importantly we were through safely. At the next corner there were two volunteers along with a Police Officer and I told them that the last intersection didn’t have anyone on it and cars were going through…not sure if they sent anyone back but I had done all I could.



Old North to Western (11K-15K, 19:45, 3:57/km)

Right after turning off of St James Street Brian and I left Fast Out of the Gate Guy in our wake. We were running side by side and despite the good paces we were putting out we both seemed strong and in control. We wound our way through the beautiful Old North neighbourhood and down streets I have run plenty of times over the years and took in cheers from the people that live along the route. I heard the familiar sounds of the bagpipes up ahead as we made our way down Victoria Street and my Scottish heritage came out in a big grin…I can’t hear the pipes and not think of my Grandad, always good memories. In typical runner fashion, Brian and I were talking about upcoming races we had on our schedules. He mentioned that he was doing the Ottawa Marathon in about a month’s time and this race he was just going to run at marathon pace. I told him I was feeling good about my pace and then he dropped that on me, to which he then decided to mention that he had already done a 6-mile run before the race. Wow, this guy is a beast. I didn’t really expect his legs to get too tired either given that he was nearing the end of marathon training…this was like a Tuesday evening shakeout run for him! We made the left-hand turn out of Old North onto Adelaide Street and hit a little bit of wind for the first time all day really. It was hardly anything though, certainly nothing to worry about and less than I had ever experienced in my six years doing this race. Then all of a sudden we had company…another runner had caught us and neither Brian or I even heard him coming. We introduced ourselves and it turns out we knew who this guy was well, Paul Travaglini, and I had a pretty good idea that he would leave us behind pretty quickly. We chatted as we made the turn onto Windermere Road and predictably Paul was gone in no time. Brian and I kept right on each other’s shoulder though…occasionally one of us would pull ahead but the gap was never more than a stride or two. Brian lead the way through the corner of Windermere and Richmond as we headed back towards the University and there was the strongest headwind of the day to greet us. For the first time all day I wasn’t really able to answer and I was just hanging on to that stride or two gap. I was trying to respond but at 16K my legs just weren’t having it. My will kicked in and I didn’t let the elastic snap and pulled myself back up onto Brian’s shoulder as we turned back into Western.

Western to Gibbons (16K-20K, 19:15, 3:51/km)

A quick jaunt through Western and then we ducked back into the park system again. Whatever my legs had felt a couple kilometres ago was a memory as I was feeling pretty good again. Brian and I weren’t chatting as much anymore as we were both working hard and I’m sure he was feeling the extra miles he had put in earlier in the day. As we came down the little hill near the Gibbons Pool I gave the slightest of pushes and upped my pace just a touch…and I didn’t hear footsteps. I was pretty sure I had opened a small gap on Brian but there was no way I was going to look back to confirm. I ran through the Pacers aid station for the second time and heard cheers for Brian just a bit further back than they had been before and I kept pushing at the slightly quicker pace. Truth be told he probably had more in the tank but he was sticking to his coach’s plan of holding marathon pace, so I knew I couldn’t let up. I pushed up the hill and left the park at Ann Street towards the final big climb to the finish.



Talbot to Victoria Park Finish (20K-21.1K, 3:43/km)

Onto Talbot Street and I merged in with the tail end of the 5K race. I weaved through the runners and cheered them on to their finish and they cheered me on in return. I felt like I was slowing but knew that the climb was nearly over with as I turned onto Central Ave. I dug deep when I saw the 20K sign knowing that there was just a loop of Victoria Park between me and the finish line. I still didn’t know where Brian was and I wouldn’t hear footsteps anymore with so many other runners around, so I couldn’t let up at all. Running up to the final turn I could hear Michelle cheering up ahead. I think she was actually heckling me, telling me that I was lazy and the winner was done over 10 minutes ago. I made that final turn though and gave my best finishing kick. I saw the clock turn over 1:22 and was pleasantly surprised…I hadn’t looked at my time at all and didn’t realize it until now but I was going to have a new PR! I came across with a time of 1:22:07, which gave me 6th place overall and the Masters win. I turned after the finish and saw Brian coming down the chute, about 30 seconds behind. I congratulated him on a great race and thanked him for pushing me all day. Another minute later one of my Splash n Dash buddies, Matt Feltham. came through to round out the Masters podium.



Michelle and Jackson were at the railing waiting for me and I got to hear all about Jackson’s race…he kicked some 5K butt and ran a 23:38, his fastest 5K ever by a big margin. Awesome result for a 10 year old and one that a lot of adults would be proud to have! I was super happy for him. I came through the food area and got myself cleaned up before heading over to the event tent for the awards ceremony. I was able to catch up with a few other running and triathlon friends, then went up on stage and collected my $100 winner’s cheque. After that we packed up and went off to the Singing Chef to grab some brunch…some well-earned brunch! Let’s just say Jackson made short work of his Smurfberry Pancakes and my Denver Benny Bowl didn’t stand a chance.



Thanks for reading and consider yourselves warned…since I am back to racing that means I’m also back to writing long-winded race recaps!


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Chicago Marathon 2018 Race Recap

Posted by CheapRunnerMike

So I need to start off with a confession…2018 has been an absolute s**t year. It started with me battling back from injury in my last race of 2017 and actually getting myself into decent running shape, but never really to the point where I actually felt good. I raced a half marathon in April at much less than 100% and still managed to get a 1:24 so I figured things were on the right track. A few weeks later in May, Michelle and I ran Ragnar Cape Cod and had an amazing time…it was an absolute blast running with our Florida friends and the course and organization were top-notch, restoring my faith in Ragnar after the South Beach debacle in late 2017. I even got to run the ‘Wiked Hahd’ leg and crushed it. Just a lot of fun.

capecod

Unfortunately the Spring wasn’t all roses. There were some big changes at work that resulted in a lot of extra responsibilities falling on me. I have been in my job for nearly 20 years and have always enjoyed it. This year is the first time that I have actually hated my job. Stress has been through the roof, I’m unhappy, overworked, underappreciated, and oh ya did I mention stressed? Just not fun. And it has taken a toll. I haven’t had much in the way of time and that has meant things don’t get done. Both kids are super busy with swimming and I am the one that takes them to all of their practices and meets, and I do not begrudge that one bit…but it is just another thing that consumes my time. Running just hasn’t been a priority and when I actually have time to get a run in I am already exhausted before I even start. To top things off, Michelle’s Mom, who has been quite sick on and off for a few years now, passed away in August. Just a rough time for our family. Running and racing weren’t even a blip on our radar.

We were dealing with Michelle’s Mom’s passing, cleaning out her place, taking care of the estate and before we knew it we were into September. Oh right, we are both signed up for the Chicago Marathon in like a month’s time…maybe we should start training??? I did the bike and run legs in a Sprint triathlon relay with my daughter and we both had a good time and that was sort of a catalyst for me to get going for Chicago. I started adding the miles and getting in some long runs to try and build fitness but I’ll be honest and admit that it was really tough. My longest training run was 17 miles and for most of my “training” I was doing run/walk…I was seriously considering doing run/walk for Chicago. My fitness had just fallen so much and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I had always prided myself that I could basically roll out of bed on any given day and run a half marathon, and run it well. Not true. My base that I had worked so hard to build over the last 5 years was gone.

The thing that perhaps bothered me the most had nothing to do with my race goals. I had reached out to Billy, a Disney running friend, back in late 2017 and offered to help him run a BQ at Chicago. That meant a sub-3 marathon and there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to do that. Just as I was getting ready to go to Billy with my tail between my legs he sent me a message saying, “So I won't hold it against you if you'd like to do your own thing on race day. Neither will I hold it against you if you choose to drop me sometime mid-race. I aim to do my best on that day whatever my body will give me. But just wanted to put it out there that you've got no obligation to run with me if you'd prefer otherwise.” I quickly let him know that I had no intentions of dropping him and also made sure that he knew he was free to drop me if that’s how the race was going. I admitted that my fitness was way off and told him I was realistically looking at a 3:30. We decided that we would stick with the plan to run together, at least at the start, and I think we eventually settled on the goal of ‘Might not suck’. That sounded like it might be the best goal for me going into race day.

Cue Sunday October 7 and it is suddenly race day. Michelle and I walked down to the race start from our hotel and said our goodbyes before heading to our corrals…I was up in B with Billy and Michelle was in L, the last corral. After dealing with bag check and bathroom lines I met Billy in the corral about 20 minutes before the race started. We quickly caught up with each other and decided a bit on race strategy. Billy was aiming for a negative split and wanted to run fairly even splits, blind running of course as he doesn’t typically look at his watch during his races. I said not to worry, I would call out every split for him…although I would be running in kilometres so he would be really worried when I gave him splits starting with 4’s & 5’s. Elites were announced, an anthem was sung and we were off.

The first few miles took us through the tall buildings of downtown, effectively destroying GPS pace reliability for the rest of the race. It was coolish, but also incredibly humid and I was sweating right from the get go…a bit of an odd sensation to be honest. The clouds were ominous and the sky was low…wet weather was a certainty. Billy and I started out nice and easy, with seas of runners flowing past us. We just stuck to our pace and chatted away, knowing the tough miles would come eventually. We crossed the river a couple of times and began our trek north towards Wrigley Field. As we headed up LaSalle I knew we would see my Mum and the kids shortly…they were right around the 5K point. Sure enough I could hear them calling my name as we approached, so I ran over once I spotted them and gave everyone big kisses.

A quick little burst and I caught back up with Billy and settled back into our easy steady pace. We were cruising along at about an 8:30 mile pace as we hit Lincoln Park and the rain began to fall. Just past the bagpipers I decided to duck into the port-a-potties as I couldn’t hold it any longer. After the pee that Would. Not. End. I took off and weaved my way through the crowd to find Billy a little ways up ahead. We made our way out of the park and made the turn back towards downtown. Running through Old Town was one of my favourite experiences the first time I ran Chicago back in 2013 (my first marathon) and it didn’t fail to recapture those great memories this time. Despite the less than ideal conditions, there were still plenty of spectators out supporting all of us runners. The streets were lined with people and there were plenty of high fives for kids as we ran past. Billy was getting lots of shout outs for his Wisconsin singlet while I received cheers as well for my getup…it usually went something like this…”On Wisconsin, go Badgers! Oh, and go Hawaii!!”

0018

Billy got to see his pineapple-balloon toting family through this stretch, which was completely fitting given my pineapple jersey…we had a bit of a laugh about this. He received his boost from their cheers and we started to up the pace a little bit around that time…nothing much, but enough that I could see we were now booting along at sub-8:00 miles. I didn’t tell Billy though since he was busy playing Blind Man’s Bluff…I just let him keep setting the pace. It was still seeming quite easy for me at this point and I felt like I would be able to run forever. We crossed the halfway point as we came through downtown once again and our time was 1:49:28…Billy’s negative split goal was certainly within reach. We turned west towards the United Center and continued to drop the pace hammer, getting down in the 7:30 mile range. It was raining very steadily now and it was cool. The wind also picked up a few times around this stretch and I realized that I wasn’t sweating very much anymore. I had been drinking plenty of water and Gatorade at the aid stations but because I wasn’t working super hard, along with the cool conditions, I wasn’t sweating out my fluids. Yup, time for another pee break. It is rare that I ever have to stop during a race, but twice? This was different. Another post pee break sprint and I caught back up with Billy. We were not coming through 30K and I was finally starting to feel the run a bit. I told Billy that he could probably tell that it was starting to get a bit harder for me because it was at this point that I began to get really chatty. We talked about Disney, running, food and whatever else came to mind…just distractions to what was going on with our bodies. I was past the point I had run in any of my training and Billy was long past his as well, so we knew that there would be struggles ahead despite the conservative pace we were holding.

0027

Speaking of our pace, it was creeping up again, back into 8:00 miles. We were on our way to Chinatown and I heard someone call out “Hey Canada!” (I was wearing Maple Leaf compression socks) and I turned and called back, “Hey Joe!”. It was a local runner I know and was cool to see a familiar face on course. We chatted a bit and wished each other luck before him and his buddy took off ahead of us. Around this time Billy was really starting to show signs of slowing…the race was definitely taking it’s toll. I kept the chatter up and wasn’t getting much back so I knew he was boarding the struggle bus. I tried to keep it positive and gave us some short term goals to work for, Pac-Manning other runners and stuff like that. I also told him that right around that spot with 5K left to go was all new territory for me, since I don’t really remember anything from my first Chicago after Chinatown. Billy was really labouring now so I asked him a few questions…”Are you hurt?” “No.” “Are you injured?” “No.” “So you’re just tired?” “Ya.” “Well, you can run tired so let’s finish this thing. You know what Zelly’s Chris says right?” “Ya.” “What does Chris say?” “F**k tired” “That’s right, F**k tired. Let’s do this.”

As we made the turn back towards Lake Michigan I noticed an impromptu beer station set up across the road…I pointed it out to Billy “Look Billy, BEER!”, to which he said go get it buddy, or something to that effect. I darted across the road to the table and picked up a Dixie cup of beer and slugged it back with a Dixie cup pinch and everything, just like a real water station. It was actually pretty awful, probably PBR or some other swill, but I was able to check off my only real race goal of drinking beer on the course.

One last turn and we were onto Michigan Ave, home stretch time. The crowds were back out in force cheering everyone on and it looked like a giant block party. The conditions on the street itself weren’t quite the same party atmosphere as there was quite a bit of carnage all around us. Billy was focused on just putting one foot in front of the other and he was actually looking better than a lot of the other runners out there that we were passing, despite our pace slowing into the 9:00’s. I saw one poor guy doubled over at the side of the road so I came by to pat him on the back and give some words of encouragement only to find he wasn’t doubled over in pain, he was puking. Yuck. Another woman went cruising by us saying she was going to keep running to Boston and it made me smile thinking happy thoughts for her…it’s always great seeing people meet their goals. The final mile seemed like an eternity and then we were greeted by the ‘big’ hill at the end, but I greeted it with joy as I saw my family again at the turn and knew we were finished. Billy and I made the climb into the park and crossed the line in 3:41:16, which was a great result given the training we both suffered through and the conditions on the day. I was able to grab a delicious Goose Island 312 Dry Hop, which was specially crafted just for Chicago Marathon finishers, DELICIOUS!

Goose 312

After that Billy and I grabbed our bags and made our way to the ‘Q’ runner reunite area, where I met up with my family and was also able to celebrate some amazing results from Christian and Kris (BQ WOO HOO!). I changed out of my soaking wet run gear and my Mum suggested that we head back onto the course to try and see Michelle. Based on her little map she thought it would be a good idea to walk back to Chinatown to see Michelle come through around 22 miles and then a quick scoot back to Michigan Ave to see her again around 25. I was like, “Okaaaaaay….” Knowing the area enough to know that was a solid 2 mile walk, plus the walk back of course, after I just ran a bloody marathon. So off we went and 45 minutes later we arrived in Chinatown and waited for Michelle. And waited. And then waited some more. Finally I asked a stranger if they could do me a favour and pull up a runner on their phone for me (I couldn’t grab a wifi signal and I am too cheap to pay roaming charges).

phone

She was somewhere around 16 miles and the app said she was well overdue for her latest checkpoint. I decided to be not-quite-as-cheap RunnerMike and turned on the phone to call her…she was running with her phone along with cash and a credit card in case things went pear-shaped. And pear-shaped they went. I asked her how she was doing and she said “Fine…I’m just waiting at ‘Q’ for you guys”. Turns out she pulled the plug at 16, she was done. I felt awful for her and we went back (another 2 miles/45 minutes) to the runner reunite to find her. We finally got there and she gave me the lowdown…

Michelle’s training was even worse than mine. Her Mom’s passing was hard for me but obviously much harder for her, and the work that fell on her was also way more than I had. We got out to run together a few times and her longest runs were in the neighbourhood of 10K. I was proud of her for even starting and giving it a go. She ended up walking towards the end of her day and the final straw was when she neared 15 miles the water stations were gone, shut down. She was by no means alone as there were plenty of other runners around, many asking her to run/walk with them, but that was it, she was done. She said that mentally she couldn’t continue under the conditions, knowing that there was no more support ahead, and also realizing that she didn’t deserve to finish with the training she had put in . She was realistic and at peace with her decision.

She decided to grab a cab back to the finish area and started to walk off course to find one. About three blocks later a police officer saw her with her bib on and asked if she was okay…she said yes and explained the situation and he got his phone out and ordered a Lyft for her on his account…super nice of him. He put her in the car and told the driver to take care of her for him. Thank you officer Chris! In talking with Michelle she is totally at peace with her decision…it was the right move and the way she puts it she probably put in 10 miles more than she expected. The good news is that she has a bit of a fire in her to take on Chicago again with proper training…this year just wasn’t meant to be. I’m proud of her for her effort and even more so her attitude in defeat.

After heading back to the hotel for well deserved showers we went to Lou Malnati’s for some Chicago deep dish (and beer) and then we hit Cantina Laredo for our traditional post-marathon margaritas. A great way to end the night!

Thanks for reading folks!