Marathon 25 – 5 days away!

When I sit back and think about it, I am truly astonished!

The Quarter Century mark!  I know there are people out there who have run hundreds of marathons.  You know, those 100 marathon clubs, and such.  Well, with my marathon this weekend, I feel like I am really hitting a pretty significant milestone.

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The All American Marathon this Sunday will be my 25th marathon.  What began as a simple quest, pushing myself further than I ever thought possible, has turned into quite the passion.  It all began in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 2012.  My first marathon.  Races, places, I’ve been a few places since that first one.  My journey has taken me to 8 different states.  Of course I’ve run the majority of my marathons in my home state of North Carolina, but I’ve ventured out a few times.  ;). Tackling America’s Toughest Road Marathon in Virginia, enjoying plentiful neon at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas marathon in Nevada, running past Moose at Big Cottonwood in Utah, being cheered on twice by millions of spectators in Illinois at the infamous Bank of America Chicago Marathon, running high up in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, and most recently taking a running bite out of the Big Apple at the TCS New York City Marathon.  Many, many more inbetween.

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Yes, the journey continues.  Still loving it, still competing, and doing more pacing.  I’m not shooting for the elusive Boston Qualifier this weekend, I am pacing instead.  I will lead the 4:00:00 group to a fun finish for my 25th this Sunday.  I’m getting very excited!  The All American Marathon this Sunday is a milestone to celebrate for me.  It also kicks off a new chapter.  Where will the next 25 take me?  The possibilities are endless!  Cheers!

Abbott World Marathon Majors

Slowly but surely….

It may take a while, but with conviction and commitment, I will run each of the worlds major marathons.  What an accomplishment that would be!  To get to do what I love and mix in traveling to places I’ve never been would be a huge treat!

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As it now stands, at the beginning of 2016, I’ve run two of the six.  What started as a six year plan (when I first learned that I had made it into Chicaco in 2014) I thought about trying to run at least one of the six every year for six straight years.  Of course that plan could change at any time depending on when and if I qualify for Boston.  My best being only 7 minutes shy of my qualifying time, I know I can get to Boston!  When and where that lucky qualifying race will be is still in question.

So, in 2014, I made an epic start to the Six, in Chicago.  I followed that up with another run in Chicago in 2015, along with the second of The Six, in New York City.  My plan for 2016 was Berlin, but that fell through with a disappointing email that stated I didn’t get in through the lottery.  So, what to do now?  Is 2016 lost?  I think not!  My focus for the first part of 2016 will be really finding a routine again.  The last two months of every year are really tough on me work-wise. The holidays are just so tough, and busy it leaves me so little time to really run.  I usually just end up using November and December as full on recovery mode from busy racing years.  It typically works well to my advantage, as in years past when my racing commences the following year, I feel fresh and renewed.  My last few weeks of running have felt really good.

My 2016 plan begins with finding rhythm.  I am pacing three marathons and one half marathon over the next few months, and it all begins this weekend in Charleston, South Carolina.  My reasons for pacing are many.  First and foremost, I find pacing super gratifying because I can give back to my fellow runners.  Using the skills that I have learned through running over the past five years, and completing over 30 Halves and 22 Marathons, I feel very comfortable leading a group of runners to a certain finish time.  It’s a social event, too.  As a manager/director in real life, I am used to leading people.  Being the supporter, and helping people reach goals both personally and professionally.  This flows so naturally into my running, so my comfort level while pacing comes through.  Let’s talk, lets uplift and encourage, and get that PR.  Love it.

I will be pacing the Half and Full in Asheville in March, and then again pacing the Full at the All American Marathon at the beginning of April.  From there I have two more marathons planned before the Summer begins.  I plan on working on speed work, doing 800’s, and hill work during the Summer, and really pushing my own envelope when it comes to speed.  I need to if I want to really concentrate on getting a coveted Boston Qualifyer.  That race will be late summer if all things come together.  My tentative plans for Fall were a hopeful trip to Berlin, so I’ll need to focus on a new plan.  It will come with time.  I do know though, that I will keep focused on my plan of completing each of the Big 6.

Wouldnt it be amazing to be able to say one day that you completed all of the Abbott World Marathon Majors?  Boston, Berlin, London, Tokyo, Chicago, New York.  Wow!  That would be something, wouldn’t it?

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Have you completed any of these races?  Would love to hear your stories!

2015- My Racing Recap

I finally have a day off, with some time to actually sit down and compile a look back on another really awesome year in running.  It’s truly hard to believe that it just takes some dedication and good health to push out the kind of results that I have been able to achieve in just five years.

What truly began as a quest to help my son when he joined his High School Cross Country team, has become a passion of mine that would be hard to give up.  I don’t want to give it up, in fact, I am still striving for more.  Getting that BQ is really the only thing that I didn’t achieve in 2015, but that’s ok.  I had so much fun on the pavement, so let’s have a look back.

Hilton Head Marathon- 2/7/15. My first ever AG placement in a marathon!  2nd place!  Was thrilled with my performance in my first race of 2015.  Finish time 3:46:53

Asheville Half Marathon- 3/15/15. I paced the 1:50:00 finish group, on a beautiful day in the mountains of North Carolina.  The race is so challenging, yet running here evokes so much respect and history that even the hills are welcome.  Finish time 1:49:17

All American Marathon- 3/22/15. My second year in a row racing from Fayetteville to Ft. Bragg.  I had a really hard fall and got pretty banged up right before the race, so just finishing in one piece was a big accomplishment on the day.  Finish time 3:50:51

Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Half Marathon- 4/12/15. The intense marathon course here in 2014 prompted me to only take on the Half this time around, and then they changed the course, and left me wanting to run the Full.  Feeling a bit of a let down, a good race almost turned sour with leg cramps toward the end.  I pushed through it with the help of cheering supporters.  Finish time 1:47:46

New River Marathon- 5/2/15. A fist time running way up in the northwest corner of my state, the course was absolutely breathtaking!  Very challenging in parts, but a quiet, small event with so much to offer.  This race was one of the highlights of my year.  Finish time 3:50:13

Run the Quay 10k- 6/6/16. So much fun running my hometown event, and then watching my younger son run the 5k right after me.  Sub 8 minute mile pace on this undulating downtown course with about 35 turns.  Finish time 48:48

Aspen Valley Half Marathon- 7/18/15. Adding a new state in a 50 state quest that will probably never be completed, I paced the 2:15:00 finish group high up in the Rockies.  I felt privileged to be running such an awesome event, and the salad during the post race festival was amazing!  Finish time 2:14:41

Revel Rockies Marathon- 7/19/15. Taking full advantage of my weekend in Colorado, this challenge was a first for me.  A Half on Saturday, then this Full on Sunday.  Back to back.  The elevation and a lack of proper hydration killed my BQ attempt, but with ten miles of intermittent killer calf cramps, still managed to finish.  Finish time 3:46:46

Carowinds Run & Ride Half Marathon- 9/13/15. Pacing again for Beast Pacing, a weekend riding roller coasters with my son was reason enough to run this race.  Although the course was mega short, I made sure to get as many runners to the finish line in under 1:50 as I could.  Finish time 1:49:18

Marine Corps Half Marathon- 9/19/15. Ran this Half for the first time, and with my older son.  Been wanting to fit it into my schedule for a few years, and glad we finally ran it.  Race day’s weather was really tough, with temps way to hot and humid for a half marathon, but we both managed to win age group medals, so it was a father/son double.  Finish time 1:48:08

Chicago Marathon- 10/11/15. So happy to return to such an amazing marathon in one of my favorite cities ever!  I absolutely love this race, and would do it yearly if I was lucky enough to get in and had the travel funds.  Not my best race of the year, but certainly a blast with millions of spectators cheering me on by name!  Finish time 3:49:38

Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon- 10/18/15. Amazing event in downtown Durham, my son and I paced a race for the first time together in the same group.  An epic experience that we both really enjoyed.  We paced the 8:30 per mile group and came in just under goal time in 8:29.  We rocked it!  Finish time 1:51:14

TCS New York City Marathon- 11/1/15. What can I say?  The NYC Marathon was the crowning achievement of 2015 and my last race of the year.  One of the Big 6, this race has it all.  Big city, big production, millions of spectators, and too many bridges!  Having my Dad and Brother there cheering me on was the highlight of my year.  Finishing in the top 15% was more than I could hope for.  It was also my fastest marathon finish of 2015.  Finish time 3:45:23

 

All in all, just an amazing year of running and racing.  Six Fulls, six Halves, and a 10k sprinkled in for good measure.  Happy New Year to you all, and hope that your running takes you places in heart and sole, that you never thought possible.  Here’s to 2016!  Make it EPIC!

Chicago Marathon 2015- Race Recap

What can I say about thus amazing race that hasn’t already been said?  I’ve read so many awesome reviews, comments, posts and recaps.  It seems this race just does not fail to deliver a first rate, amazing experiences to runners from all over the world.  Here is my experience along with a few photos.

Back when I first learned that I made it into the race for the second straight year, there was really hardly ever a question in my mind that I would run it.  Yes, it’s expensive.  $185 just to secure your spot.  Then there’s travel expenses, and for me that includes, flights, hotel, food and various other things.  I knew it was going to be an expensive affair, but after my amazing experience in Chicago in 2014, I knew I had to go back for more!

My flight to Chicago left home early in the morning the day before the race.  It was a very easy two hour direct flight that landed me in Illinois at 8:30am.  I had been toying for quite some time about if I would attempt to just go directly to my hotel and try to check in, or to go directly to the race expo and get it out of the way.  Since I was just using train service again this year, I figured it just best to go on straight to McCormick Place and breeze through the expo.  We took the Orange train from Midway to Roosevelt, and then hoofed it about 1.6 miles lugging along baggage and carry-ons.  That was a mistake.  It didn’t look that far on the map.  Should have taken the Green line south one stop, but didn’t.  Lesson learned if I go back to Chicago for a third time!

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The expo hadn’t been open that long on Saturday when I arrived, but it was packed to the gills.  A huge expo, but such an amazing set-up.  So easy to pick up bib and timing chip, with a full walk through the convention center to grab race shirt and bag.  I was actually impressed with the shirt this year.  Last years was gray, and a bit lackluster.  I ended up choosing to wear last years shirt for the race this year, and painted my name on it.  I wanted to be cheered for!  Here’s a look at my race day shirt and bib.  I also painted “Lucky 21” on the back, since this was my 21st marathon.

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You’ll get to see this years race shirt with my medal at the end of the post.  ;). Since I spent a fairly significant amount of time at the expo last year, I really didn’t have a need to shop around or look at much.  I wanted to get out fairly quickly and get on to the hotel.

A three block walk from the convention center, we hopped on the Green Line train and headed to the Hampton Inn Downtown.  So close to the action, and so convenient.  The building used to be the home of the Chicago Motor Club.  It was built in 1928, and has recently been renovated and now my hotel for the weekend!

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Most buildings in Chicago are quite historic, and the we had a room on the top floor, with amazingly tall ceilings.  It was very comfortable.  Luckily they were ready for us to check in even though we were several hours early.  Once we successfully check in, and changed clothes, it was out to explore Chicago, and grab some grub!  What food do you think of when you think of Chicago?  Deep Dish Pizza, right?  Well yeah!  We headed out for Gino’s East.  Never ate there last year, so it was the first stop!

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Man, oh man!  They had the most amazing sauce I think I’ve ever had.  I filled up quite well I do have to say so.  With a fully carbed up system it was time to do some more walking.  Magnificent Mile is always fun, and we wrapped up the walking tour with a trip to Garrett’s Popcorn.  Certainly a Chicago institution, and always a highlight of my trips to Chi-town.  I think it was about 6pm when we headed back to the hotel for the night.  No, I wasn’t up late.  Marathon morning was a mere hours away, and I needed to get my feet up and rest.

If I am remembering correctly, I think I got up at 4:15am on Sunday.  Since I had fallen to sleep around 9pm the night before, I felt completely refreshed and ready for the marathon ahead.  I had been hydrating like fiend for days in anticipation of the warm temperatures that were predicted for race day.  I went down to the lobby, and stepped outside for a quick glimpse.  It was warm.  There’s always a breeze, if not full on wind in Chicago, so it felt pretty comfortable.  Tons warmer than last year, I knew I wouldn’t be cold heading to the starting line this time around.  With temperatures heading into the high 70’s though in the afternoon, I grabbed a Gatorade before heading out for the race.

A simple 10 minute walk had me nearing Jackson Ave., the site of my Corral C entrance.  I met a few friends for a photo op, and off we were into a sea of runners heading into Grant Park.  The process to get through security is a bit unnerving, as it is a bottleneck until you pass through the security check points, and on into the park.  I never felt like I needed to use the bathroom one last time until I had actually been standing in the Corral for about five minutes.  It then became quickly uncomfortable, and knew that at some point I would have to stop to relieve myself.

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As race time neared there is all sorts of fanfare.  The announcer spoke, the National Anthem was sung, and before you knew it we were off.  Off and running one of the biggest races in the country.  The feeling really is quite electric.  My goals for the race were really kind of vague.  Chicago was my “gotta do it” race for the Fall season.  A race where I didn’t really have any concrete plans for finish time or pace, I really just wanted to really soak in the experience and enjoy the crowds.  Hence, the reason I painted my name on my shirt.  With 1.7 million spectators lining nearly every inch of the course, I think I heard my name chanted no less than a few hundred times.  It was amazing!

The race course in Chicago is really unique.  You get to see everything!  North, South, East, West.

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Yes, this is an old map I found online, but it’s the same course we ran.  I felt good the first few miles, and thought I would be happy finishing under my time from 2014, but I knew as the day heated up, it would probably be tough to better my time this year.  I really didn’t care.  I opted to set a goal early on in the race to beat 3:50:00.  I knew the type of pace I needed to run, and I would stick with it.  The trip though downtown is amazing, the miles ticked by.  Lincoln Park came into view, and the trip north.  I felt good, but I was already warming up.  My pace felt slow for the beginning of a marathon, and I knew I just had to keep even, but have fun.

The sights, the sounds, the smells of each neighborhood is such an amazing experience.  Unique and special.  It really was amazing how quickly the first half of the race had come and gone.  I felt good.  My legs were good, and after I finally found a portolet, I knew I could just run.  As the temperatures rose, so did my sweating,  Everyone was sweating.  I knew I had to make full use of the aid stations so that I didn’t put myself in harms way.  I DID NOT want any legs cramps.  Not in Chicago!  Not this race.  My last marathon in July had been filled with miles and miles of debilitating cramps, and I was not going to let this happen to my Chicago Marathon.  Taking aid every two miles I know cost me some time, but it had to be done.  I think every time I passed a medical station there were folks being attended to.  I was too warm for a marathon, and I had to take this into consideration.

I love the hell out of this race though!  The crowds were amazing.  Certainly a highlight for me.  I trodded along, slow at times, but enjoying myself.  I would make it to the finish!  This, I had to keep repeating to myself, once I hit mile 20.  I felt the WALL this time.  It was the heat.  Normally I can push thought a race without much of a thought about hitting the wall, but this one did me in.  It was a huge mental and physical struggle that final 10k.  I just kept saying one mile at a time.  One mile at a time.  Eventually you’ll get there.  My focus was now to keep going to beat that 3 hour 50 minute mark.  It really kept me going. I would never give up, but my body kept telling me to walk.  I wouldn’t do it!  I would not walk.  I was rewarded for my efforts when I made the final turn and saw the cheering fans in the stands.  I had done it.  Two Chicago’s in a row.

My finish time?  3:49:38.  About eight minutes slower this year, but I didn’t care.  I grabbed that medal, and wore it proudly the rest of the weekend!  I earned that medal!  I earned that finish time.  My splits?  Yeah, completely affected by the day warming up as I ran.

10k – 49:15

Half – 1:47:07

30k – 2:36:26

Aside from a faster miles 3-6 than my first 3 miles, my pace slowly but surely rose as the race wore on.  It happens.  I was just too warm, and wanted more than anything to play it safe, and get to the finish in one piece.  I did it!  I love Chicago!  You MUST run Chicago if you haven’t.  At least once.  Hell, I love the city and the race so much I’ll probably (definitely) enter the lottery again next year.  🙂

Here are a few pictures from the rest of the day, and next before I flew home.  Another epic visit to Chicago!

image image image image image image image imageMy shirt and medal photo!

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Lucky # 21- Chicago Marathon 2015

Drinking a cup of coffee on my porch on a crisp and cool morning here in North Carolina, every thought in my head revolves around Chicago.

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As I listen to the birds, thoughts are swirling in my head about what to pack.  At long, long last, after seven days straight at work, I am finally on mini vacation!  I ran my last taper run last night, and my body feels good.  Today is all about the preparation.  Laundry to do, packing must be done.  I think I am actually going to run in my race shirt from last years Chicago Marathon.  Why not?  I usually don’t repeat races, so it would be a great chance to get some use out of it.

Our plane takes off tomorrow morning bright and early so today is all about tying off lose ends, packing and relaxing my feet.  Two days without running will get me to the starting line feeling fresh and motivated.  I haven’t decided if I will head straight to the expo once our plane lands or if I head there later in the day.  Starting in Corral C, I can’t wait to pick up my bib!  The Chicago Marathon Health and Fitness Expo is truly an amazing experience.  If you ever need to get motivated to run 26.2 miles, visit this expo!

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Since I ran Chicago last year, many of the “first time running a race” logistical nerves aren’t with me this time around.  I now know the city, know where I’m going and know how to navigate where I need to be and when.  It will be much more calm this time.  It’s probably why I haven’t even started packing yet.  This marathon gig, this destination race gig is so much more comfortable now.

I never quite know at the beginning of each year, how my race schedule will develop.  Of course I have certain races already paid for and a good rough sketch of the year ahead, but how those races pan out always depends on health and injury, work schedule, travel budget, etc..  Then you have to factor in races where just to get in you have to enter a lottery.  You can never plan too far in advance if you’re even considering an event on your calendar that requires a lottery to get in.  I was lucky enough to make it into Chicago again (two years in a row), and I never even started second guessing myself on if I should run it again.  Once I knew I made it into the race, I signed up for the race.

The Chicago Marathon on Sunday, will be my 21st marathon!  Lucky 21!  I can barely contain my excitement!

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I have been so blessed all throughout this marathon running journey I’ve been on.  I do feel very lucky to even have made it to my 21st marathon.  It’s only fitting I get to call this Chicago Marathon my 21st.  Back in Myrtle Beach 2012, as I toed the line for my first marathon, a thought of ever reaching twenty more marathons never even crossed my mind.  I am so fortunate that my, now 45 year old, body has withstood the test of marathon running to this degree.  It’s time for the dealer to shuffle the deck, and deal me my Blackjack in Chicago!

Oh, Chicago

12 days from today I will be running my second Chicago Marathon.  I can’t believe that the time has flown by so quickly since finding out I got in through the lottery two years in a row.  I had to jump at the chance to run it again.  It was such a blast last year, going back was a no brainer.

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I remember the race so well, even now almost a year later.  The sights, the sounds, the crowds and support!  The route, ever changing from neighborhood to neighborhood, welcoming me as I ran through it.  There was so much to see and enjoy during this race that my running almost felt effortless.  The race day weather last year was perfect, and before I knew it, all 26.2 miles were behind me in 3 hours and 41 minutes.

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Would I like to better my time from last year?  Sure!  Do I think I will this time around?  Probably not.  Why?  I just have this feeling that this time around that I will be taking in the scenery and crowd support even more than last year, and just won’t be as focused on my finish time.  We’ll see.  My best marathon this year has been a 3:46, so beating my time at last years Chicago Marathon would give me my best marathon in 2015 by a good bit.

Chicago, the city, made a huge impression on me last year.  Walking all over the city, eating the food, people watching, shopping, all great experiences.  It was a new place for me a year ago.  This time around I have some knowledge.  I already know some places I want to return to, and I’ve done some studying up on new places I want to visit.  My Official Participant Guide came in the mail yesterday, so it is all very real all over again.

At this moment, in 12 days I will be finished with the race.  Basking in the glory of my 21st marathon finish.  Two weeks from now I will be back home, and working on being completely focused on 22, the anew York City Marathon, which is 33 days from today.  Wow, what an exciting five weeks ahead.

What about you?  Will I see you in Chicago or New York this Fall?  Traveling to any races?  What’s on your calendar?

Garrett’s Popcorn & Deep Dish Desire & A Marathon

I had the most amazing time last October in Chicago.  It was my first ever trip there, and I enjoyed every moment.  Walking around the city, taking in the sights, the Pier, Magnificent Mile, everything!

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The food?  Oh yes!  The Donut Vault, Lou Malnati’s Pizza, Garrett’s.  All highlights for the foodie in me.  The reason for my trip last year was the marathon, and what an amazing race it was!  I enjoyed every moment of it, from beginning to end.  I remember thinking at the time that I would go back to Chicago to run that race every chance I had.

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Well, I made it through the lottery again this year.  I found out last week.  As of right now, I still haven’t confirmed my registration.  The deadline for me to sign up is tomorrow.  Why have I delayed signing up?  I want to make sure I can afford the trip again.  I am dying to just go to the website right now and complete my registration, but I must be sure.  I’ll be shopping around for flights this morning, and making sure I can take the time off at work.  I will decide by tonight.

This decision should be a no-brainer, so why isn’t it?  One answer, MONEY!  I am being adult by taking my time thinking this through first.  Have you ever had a hard time trying to decide on a race?

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The Chicago Marathon is calling me!  Chicago is awaiting my return… And I want to go back!

Chicago X 2

It’s all luck of the draw, right?

Here are some important facts…  I’ve entered four race lotteries in the past five years.  I put my name in the hat for the 2012 NYC Marathon, results?  Didn’t get in!  I put my name in the hat for the NYC marathon for 2015.  Results?  Didn’t get picked.  So, from the state in which I was born, my record is 0-2.

I entered the lottery for the 2014 Chicago marathon.  The results?

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I entered again this year, and BOOM!  The email came early yesterday morning, that low and behold, I am IN, again!  So my record for Chicago?  2-0.  Chicago must be my kind of town!

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I can go back!  I had the time of my life in Chicago last year, and I would love to return.  Now, I just have to figure out how I can do it.  I would love to be able to get lined up again with the thousands of runners, and experience the million fans alongside the course.  I just now have to look at my budget, and figure out if I can swing it.  And, I won’t in good conscience, head off to Chicago unless I meet my fundraising goal.

You see, for those of you that missed my posts about NYC.  My utter disappointment in the fact that I didn’t get chosen again for New York, I decided to look into running for charity.  I reached out to a charity foundation that had some meaning to me.  I reached out to the folks at the James Blake Foundation, a charity raising money for cancer research, and they accepted me onto their marathon team.

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I had to pay for my race entry (it wasn’t free), and I accepted the challenge to raise a minimum of $3,000 for this charity.  I kicked off my fundraising with a $100 personal donation to the charity.  To date, through the generous donations of friends, family and fellow runners, I’m nearing $1,000 toward my fundraising goal.

But, I can’t reach my goal without more help.  Help from folks like you!  People reading this blog post, folks I interact with through social media.  Will you please consider a donation in any amount to help this cause?

You can donate by clicking on the following link…  Thank you!

Chicago Marathon – Race Recap part II

I tried my best to forget about my stomach as I lay my head down on Saturday night.  I tossed and turned a bit, the usual for the night before a marathon.  I did however get good rest.  I woke up on Sunday feeling good.  No stomach issues.  I debated if I should have coffee or not, but my need for caffeine won that battle.

The forecast for race day was pretty much every changing the ten days leading up to the race, but it had been nothing but beautiful and cool since I arrived on Friday.  I went down to the hotel lobby and went outside to see for myself what I would be facing.  Much to my delight, the temperature was about 50 degrees, but felt even cooler because of the wind.  My 4 am wake up call, and strong coffee in hand I was now walking around the outside of the hotel getting a feel for race day.  Super stoked that it felt amazing outside.  Perfect for a marathon.

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After all of my normal race morning preparations, I walked to Michigan Avenue, and proceeded south amid a sea of marathon runners.  I opted not to wear a long sleeve throw away shirt, and regretted it for the walk.  The wind died down though as I got closer to Gate #1, my entrance into Grant Park for Corral D.  The sea of runners was now a full blown ocean!  Slowly we crept along into the park through the security checkpoint.  I have to give it to Chicago on this one.  There were plenty of security guards, and volunteers all checking us out.  Checking bibs and bags, making sure everything was in order, and that runners were in the right places.  It was about 7am at this point, as I made my way in the direction of the start corrals A-D.  A severe lack of portopotties at this juncture meant a mad dash for everyone.  We had to be in the corrals by 7:20, and as that time quickly approached the bathroom lines seemed to not be moving.  Guys formed lines along a fence because we had to.  Letting our junk fly for all to see.  The women?  Not sure how they managed.  I made it into my corral with two minutes to spare.

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Happy to be there, one in the crowd, I started some stretches.  The feeling in the air was electric.  Runners as far as I could see both in front of me and behind me.  Throw away clothes were flying everywhere as we all prepared for the gun.  At 7:30:01 a.m. the race officially started.  I just couldn’t believe that I was actually there, about to run the Chicago Marathon.  It was one of the best feelings of excitement ever.  After about six minutes we started moving, ever so slowly.  Roars and applause brought me to the starting line at 7:38.  My Chicago had begun.  Marathon #15 underway.  I was feeling loose, and ready to run.

The first mile took us north on Columbus toward Grand Avenue.  It was evident just moments into the race that I would have to be very careful with my steps.  So many runners meant very little wiggle room at times.  I almost never was cut off, but did have to severely increase and decrease my pace at times in the beginning just to move around the crowd.  The spectators were out in force from the very start.  Lining both sides of most of the route, I quickly realized that no matter what, I would always have someone cheering for me.

Just past mile 1 we once again turned to head south on N. State St.  That’s where my hotel was, and my cheering section would be for the first time.  Happy, running well, we waved and I moved on.  I was just absolutely blown away by the crowd.  Through thick and thin, I knew I was in for a real treat.  Thousands and thousands of adoring family, friends and locals, I have never experienced anything like it. It was energizing.

With another turn on Jackson and then back north again on Lasalle we neared the 5k mark.  I missed my cheering section at the corner of Kinzie and LaSalle.  Through the crowds it was almost impossible to get there before I did.  So I ran on.  I felt good, and full of energy.  We continued on and the miles progressed.  By mile 5 we were in the Lincoln Park Zoo.  Up until then I hadn’t even dared to stop at a water station because they were just too crowded.  I just focused on staying in the middle of the route to avoid as many tossed cups as possible.  By now I was good and warmed up, and really running freely.

The next several miles really went by pretty quickly, and I could tell that I was maintaining a very even pace.  I focused on taking in the views and the crowd support.  One thing that is incredible about the Chicago Marathon is that you get to run through many of the distinct and ethnic neighborhoods all over the city.  The marathon website states that runners pass through 29 unique neighborhoods.  You could almost feel the differences as you passed though them.  Different faces, unique shop fronts and smells from the local restaurants.  It was really cool.  From small four piece bands, to a singing Elvis, to the ROTC performing a rifle routine set to music, each area was so unique and different.  I enjoyed it all.  It made the miles really melt away at times.  We’ve all run races with boring sections, and there is nothing worse than miles and miles of boring views on a marathon course.  I can guarantee you that you will not find this true in Chicago.

As I started nearing the mid way section of the course I started to look for some more running friends.  A cheer section quickly approached on the right.  Friends of mine who I ran the Blue Ridge Marathon in Virginia a few years ago were to be there cheering on runners.  Sure enough, just as I was passing them, I saw Angie.  Quickly stopping to give her a sweaty hug, my way of saying thanks for supporting not only me, but everyone else out there running that day.  It surely gave me a boost!  She quickly flashed the sign she made “Go Paul Go”, as I disappeared back into the running crowd.

As I approached the 12 mile mark I once again began looking for Lance, who would be on the corner of Hubbard and Orleans.  He had texted me that he wasn’t going to miss me again after not being able to get to the three mile mark. I guess it was the mix of runners, and the increased crowd at this point in the race, that I flew by and completely missed him.  I did my absolute best to scan the crowds, but just couldn’t find him.  Another missed opportunity for a personal cheer section.  Oh well, I was disappointed.  I couldn’t believe that he made his way all the way to that spot, and then I didn’t get to high 5 him.

It was shortly after this, nearing the 13.1 timing mat that I looked at my Garmin to check my pace.  I glanced at it once, and then again.  What in the world?  Somehow it had reset itself (obviously I bumped it or something) and was now saying that I was only 1.5 miles into my run.  Argh!!  I was so pissed!  Total Garmin fail.  Now I had to run by feel.  I no longer had an accurate reading of my pace, so I just decided to go with my gut, and let the legs do the work without worrying about how fast they were moving.

The best way I can describe the second half of the race is that even when I felt a twinge of tiredness, my fellow runners and the spectators almost willed me along.  The entire course from start to finish I only took quick walk breaks through a half dozen water stops so that I could get my hydration without choking.  I never stopped otherwise.  I barely remember even being tired.  The electricity generated by the crowd was something I will never forget.

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I really enjoyed the second half of Chicago.  I can hardly say this about most marathons, but I truly did.  My legs and feet continued to feel great, no stomach issues, no pain whatsoever.  I just took in the sights and sounds.  The applause and cheers were amazing.  My favorite sign along the course was this.  Taken from the web because I couldn’t snap a picture in time…

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I think I laughed out loud.  I had never seen that one before.  I was just pure joy on race day.

As I was nearing the finish I snapped this picture….

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Yes, that is the finish in the distance,  sparsely populated with spectators due to Boston, but nonetheless an unbelievable ending to the race.  Look at that view!

I raised my hands at the finish, so happy to have completed this epic race.  Taking in some nourishment and wrapped in a foil blanket I stopped for a moment to drink.  Funniest and grossest moments of the day about to happen.  As I stopped, a beautiful blonde woman had also stopped to drink her Gatorade.  I was amazed at how awesome she looked, as she had just completed 26.2 miles.  She looked relaxed and put together.  Then, she turned to stretch her calves on the curb, and that’s the moment I knew.  She had shit running down the back of her legs, all caked on like it had been there for miles and miles.  She went from beautiful to nasty in two seconds flat!  Come on woman, stop to clean that shit up!

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I walked on, leaving previously beautiful blonde runner in the dust.  A sea of foil blankets, A beautiful medal draped around my neck.  My Chicago Marathon was everything I had wished for, and left me wanting more.  I shall return again Chicago, to experience your great city and people.  You put on one amazing marathon, and made me feel so welcome.  Thank you!

Unofficial results:

3:41:04

With over 40,000 finishers I am happy to say that I finished in the top 15%.

Chicago Marathon – Race Recap Part 1

So, as best I can, I will sum up the weekend in Chicago.  Knowing full well that I will forget details, I will throw together another quick recap once the race results are finalized and official, and the official race photos are made available.

October 10th- A 6:30am flight out of RDU meant a very early start that day.  Alarm went off at 3am.  Luckily I was feeling good, and had packed the evening before after my sons soccer game.  Everything went off without a hitch that morning.  It was a little tricky packing for this trip.  For example, it is still quite warm daily here in NC.  The high temps in Chicago were supposed to hover around the upper 50’s and lower 60’s all weekend.  I took shorts, and never wore them.  I did take jeans, and two jackets, which I wore all weekend.  I also took two pairs of running shoes since the forecast had a chance of rain.

Our flight was non-eventful.  Made it to Chicago in just under two hours.  We had decided to take the train into town.  Due to our arrival time in Chicago 7:30am, there was a pretty high chance that we wouldn’t be able to get into our hotel room until later in the day but still opted to go to the hotel first and drop off our bags.  The train went from fairly empty to completely overpacked in just a few short stops.  I hadn’t considered the fact that it was basically rush hour for the workday there, and that many folks take the train to work.  As our stop at State/Lake arrived we exited the train and made our way down from the platform to step foot in the city streets of Chicago for the first time.

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Just a few blocks away was our hotel.  The Langham Chicago, sits on the north side of the river next to the Trump Building.  First thoughts on the city?  Awesome.  Lots of people, beautiful buildings.  A bustling city.  Much to our surprise, upon arrival at the hotel front desk, our room was ready for check in. It was 9am, and I was so grateful that we could unpack, relax for a few moments, and put together a game plan without being in limbo waiting on a room.

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Let’s go eat!  Starving, and ready to explore this great city we headed out on foot.  TripAdvisor is a great way to find restaurants that people love.  When in a new city I find this is the best way to find highly rated places to eat, and we ate at several.  We headed to Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe about four blocks away.  The wait was about 30 minutes, but they had the best pancakes I have ever eaten.  Two thumbs up for Wildberry!  The perfect start to our time in Chicago.  Without going into too much detail, because this post is primarily about the race, not the food, also check out Lou Malnadi’s, Garrett’s Popcorn, and the Doughnut Vault.  Can’t miss eats at all three of places.  Deep dish pizza, Chicago mix freshly made popcorn and OMG delish doughnuts.

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Later on Friday, I knew I wanted to get to the race expo that opened that day.  Going early would allow me to miss most of the crowds, and leave my Saturday open for exploring without restrictions.  Being in Chicago without a car was absolutely the best decision I made for this trip.  The city is easily navigated on foot.  Make sure you have comfortable shoes though because over the course of the three days in the city, I put in over 30 miles walking.  Yes, that is without my miles put in on the marathon course!  I walked from my hotel to a shuttle stop for the expo, and soon enough was walking into McCormick Place for a huge expo.  Lots of runners were already there, but it was easy to move around and see the things I wanted to see.  I ended up purchasing two shirts, mostly because the official race shirt was pretty lackluster.  Dark gray with white logo and script.  Yep, boring.

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After about an hour and a half meandering around and chatting with fellow runners, I was ready to get back to the hotel and start exploring the city.  The shuttle bus back to the Sheraton Hotel was a bit of a cluster.  A long wait, and then other buses boxing us in, it was a wonder we ever made it out of there.  The bus driver was just coming on shift, and she didn’t know where she was going either.  She had to ask for her route back, and then still got lost.  Go figure.

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With the expo behind me there was nothing left to do but explore Chicago.  We headed out to Navy Pier later that afternoon and snapped a bunch of pictures of the city.  It was windy and cool, but felt so good.  I was totally in awe of just how beautiful the city was.  The skyline was great.  As the afternoon wore on, I was starting to get tired out.  It has already been a long day.  We called ahead and ordered a deep dish pizza, and brought it back to our hotel so we wouldn’t have to wait an hour for a table.  After that pure deliciousness, a relaxing evening with my feet up and an early bed time of 9pm.

The Langham Chicago was the perfect choice for our trip.  The location was great, and made getting around the city very easy.  The room was well appointed, and extremely comfortable.  We had a view of the river, which was a bonus, as well.

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A great nine hours of sleep, I woke up feeling rejuvenated.  The day before the race, excitement was building.  We went shopping, we walked on River Walk, went to see the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower.  We put over 13 miles on our shoes Saturday.  It was all worth it!  I worried that I over did it, especially the day before a marathon, but I had to see Chicago.  Here are some photos from the days travel.

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Pasta at Giordano’s was my evening meal, and perfect for pre-race. Once settling back in the hotel for the night I began getting my gear ready for the morning.  All of the sudden while getting ready my stomach started hurting.  I felt lightheaded, and really thought I was going to be sick.  I never feel this way.  Not sure what was going on.  I really wasn’t nervous about the race, as I’ve done this many, many times.  It must have been that the pasta meal just didn’t agree with me.  I went to bed early that night, fingers crossed that my stomach would settle down.  I had the Chicago Marathon to run in the morning, I certainly didn’t want my run to be affected by illness.

Stay tuned for race day… I thought I could get this post completed before work today, but just didn’t have enough time.  Race day events, photos and full details coming soon…..