Tuesday, November 10, 2015

2015 Chicago Marathon

Anytime I thought about Chicago or told someone about the race, a word I commonly used was "apathetic". This was my first peak race since Houston in 2014, where I felt like a caged animal going into.  But for some reason, I was really relaxed about this one and to be honest, I didn't have near the hunger that I expected. But I tried to spin that around as me being very cautious and conservative, which is a good thing for such a long distance.  I've learned from myself and others that when you are too amped up about a marathon, you attack too early, go from being on well-under PR pace and feeling like a million bucks, to having an up-close and personal experience with The Wall.

During my build-up, my goal was to run under 2:15.  It was very hard to get much volume at marathon pace living in such a hot and humid environment, but I trained harder for this marathon than any other one, so I felt prepared, especially with my extensive work at 95-100% of marathon effort. I really wish I could have done my marathon prep in some cooler weather so I could get in some workouts at actual marathon speed, but you have to work with the cards you're dealt.

The last several years, the race has had nearly perfect conditions: temperature in the low 40s, with not much wind.  However, the 2015 edition called for race time conditions of upper 50s with strong winds...not exactly ideal racing weather.  I was debating how to adjust my pace and was leaning towards slowing it down 3-5s a mile.  But I ran into Kevin Hanson and he said it wouldn't be too much of an issue and he doesn't think any adjustments should be made.  Since the Hanson's are marathon masters, I knew it was great advice.

And of course, I had other non-time goals.  There were a couple former Tennessee runners, Brandon Lord and Sean Keveren in the race.  It was their debut marathon, but they are both accomplished runners in the shorter stuff.  When I was a chubby cross country and track coach several years ago, Brandon was the top high school runner in Tennessee with a two-mile PR under 9:00.  He also ran 29:09 for 10k on the track this spring.

Sean is originally from Nashville and is turning into a killer on the roads.  He ran sub 63 in his half-marathon debut earlier in the year and has run sub 13:40 for 5k on the track. And ever since I took him out at the 2013 Boulevard Bolt on Turkey Day (who cares if he wasn't in shape, a win is a win!), I have vowed to only give him rematches in the marathon distance in hopes to keep my perfect 1-0 record, intact.

Normally, I would say those chumps would burn carbs at way too high of a rate for the marathon, but for their Chicago build-up, they trained with 2:13 marathoner, Rob Watson, so I knew they would be game (and would most likely smoke me if this was the 2017 edition of the Chicago Marathon)

Men's 4-miler
Sean and Brandon...the two former TN young bucks I was having a showdown with.  Sean should have worn white compression shorts to make this picture more of a ying-yang thing.

My other goal was to take out the usually faster and better looking Scott, Scott Macpherson.  Since it's not too common of a name and to be honest, is pretty much dead as a first name now (out of the thousands of kids I've taught, I've never taught another Scott), I like to take out all the other Scott's when I race them.  And unfortunately, with guys like Macpherson, Scott Bauhs and Scott Smith, it's an insanely difficult task and you'd most likely have better luck trying to defeat Battletoads on NES.

Other than beating the two former Tennessee punks and Macpherson, I wanted to push for a top 5 American spot, which also would be no easy feat.  I felt like I could potentially be anywhere from 2nd-10th but listed the American pecking order as Fernando Cabada, Luke Puskedra, Malcom Richards, Elkanah Kibet, Scott Macpherson, Nick Hilton, Sean Keveren and Tony Migliozi, with myself ranked 9th.

I got into Chicago Friday afternoon and after checking in, I found out I had my own room.  That was good news because I almost always lose to whoever I'm rooming with, I can also watch whatever I want on TV (Sam Chelanga gets scared of horror movies), don't have to worry about someone accidentally using my bar of soap and I can do everything on my schedule.

Shortly after checking in, I then met up with Tony Migliozi, who is a buddy of Newton Elite teammate, Nic Schweikert and we headed to our massage, followed by dinner at some place across the street.  It had an interesting set-up in that there were no waiters and you were given a card, which you loaded your orders on and then paid for it at the register before leaving.  There was a bar, brick oven pizza line and pasta line. Since the pasta line was insanely log and pizza really isn't that much different when you think about it, I opted for the pizza.  But the downside to having no waiters is that our seats got taken like 2-3 times whenever we got up.  But at least the food was good, which resulted in me eating there again the next night with Tennessee buddy, Brian Shelton.

I didn't whine to anyone about this yet, but late Friday night, I came down with one of my killer migraines where I get sick a lot.  And I forgot my prescription medicine, so it was a long Friday night and early Saturday morning.  I even debated flying home and switching to the Indy Monumental Marathon, four weeks later, but I've had great workouts in the past a day after my migraines and they don't seem to drain my body like a virus or something does.  And to be honest, I just wanted to be done with the race.  Finally, around 10am, I was able to eat a little bit of food and drink some coffee and my plan was to guzzle some water after my stomach would let me me.  But I was hoping being severely dehydrated less than 24 hours before my race wouldn't mess me up.

I think the problem was that we had meetings all day Friday at work and when it's not a normal school day, I don't drink any water (I don't carry my water bottle with me and I'm lazy).  I then left to go straight to the airport, jumped on my flight (I always get really dry when I fly) and ate a bunch of that salty pizza for dinner. So I went nearly the entire day without drinking much, which probably really dehydrated me and triggered the migraine.

Not much happened the rest of the day, other than going to the expo, doing a short run, and prepping my fuel bottles for the race.  I followed my normal plan of taping gels to water bottles filled with water and this time, I even got fancy and taped a McDonald's straw to each bottle as well.  Even bottles can be hard to drink out of for me, so I was hoping the straws would help out.

On a stupid note, my regular Newton Elite jersey wasn't approved since the logo size was bigger than the IAAF allowed.  Luckily, I brought my back-up Newton jersey that had no logo.

I ended up talking to Sean later and his and Brandon's plan was to go out with Rob in 1:06 flattish and see how it felt with hopes of building a 2:12-2:14 cushion.  That was way out of my pace range, so if I was going to catch them, I expected it to be after 20 miles.

For my warm-up, I jogged very easily for a little under a mile with Newton teammate, Amanda Scott, before doing some drills and then heading to the line.

The front row had assignments and after that, we could go wherever.  I lined up in the second row, behind some women and almost moved so I wouldn't get trapped behind them. In an ironic turn of events, I was behind a lady who cut myself and three other guys in line at a race once while we were waiting for our massage and then insisted she was there first.

When the gun shot off, as predicted, I got trapped behind the women for about 20 seconds and I couldn't get out.  The eventual second place runner stepped on some long wire or something that got stuck in the bottom of his shoe, so he frantically went to the side of the road and was trying to yank it out, which took several seconds.  But shortly before the first mile, I found myself in the third pack. There was a large pack up front, then another smaller pack with Malcom Richardson, Nick Hilton and Scott Macpherson and my group.

My group was Mitch Goose, Tony Migliozi, Chris Lemon, some tall guy with a goatee, and Ethan Shaw.  Because of the strong winds, we found ourselves in a single file line with Mitch doing the work.  My initial plan was to start around 5:10-5:15 pace and then chase people down the last 10 miles but I found myself running sub 5:10 pace, which was too fast but it was the lesser of two evils. If I ran 5:15 pace, I would be running into the wind by myself, which would be a sub 5:10 effort, even though I was running slower.  So, running a little too fast but getting some wind protection was a better plan.

At one point, Tony asked me if I wanted to lead the pack and switch-off the pace every mile but at the risk of sounding like a chump, I declined.  We were running my goal pace and if I took over the pack, I'd probably lose 5-10 "wind seconds" a mile, so I didn't want to wreck my race to help out the other guys.  If there was a time to be a selfish-jerk, it was today.

So Mitch Goose was still stuck with the pacing duties with us in a train-like line behind him.  At 10k, I grabbed my first fuel bottle.  I tried to untape the gel but it wasn't working.  I then yanked  and pulled on it but still had no luck.  That's what I deserved for being an idiot and using packing tape but after about two minutes of stressing out and pulling every which way, I was able to get my gel. The bad news is that I lost a few seconds on the pack, so I quickly closed that back up.

After a couple of miles, Mitch disappeared, so we bunched up as a pack because the wind was getting pretty bad.  We were gaining on Malcom Richardson, who started to fall behind Nick and the other Scott.  I made a joke that Malcom really was in the middle but no one thought it was funny.  I felt bad for the guy because he was in no-mans land and fighting the wind all alone, which isn't easy, especially when he's such a skinny dude.  We were also reeling in the former TN duo of Brandon Lord and Sean Keveren.

After catching Malcom, he hung out at the front of the pack, which showed some fitness and toughness.  Normally when you reel in a guy, he may fight for a minute and then falls behind, but Malcom wasn't going anywhere.  We went through halfway in 67:54, which was slower than I would have liked but was ok, considering my effort level and the conditions.

Within the next couple of miles, we caught Brandon and then Sean and the pack was down to myself, Malcom, Tony, Ethan and Chris.  For some reason, I had an idiot moment and left the group after I picked it up some about 16-17 miles in but then I realized I couldn't hold that pace for 10 more miles, so I relaxed a little bit and let the pack catch me again.  I was losing a little bit of focus but I heard some guy cheering for me on the sidelines and told me I just had a 10 mile tempo run left, which was a good mental note.  I appreciate people who cheer for you but I've always liked specific advice.  It momentarily causes you to reflect on things and reassess your mindset so you can make the necessary adjustments.

Because of the wind, we were running anywhere from just under 5:05 to just over 5:15 pace, depending on the miles. I was feeling ok but still struggling with that freaking packing tape anytime I grabbed a fuel bottle.  Our pack dwindled down to just me, Ethan, Malcom and Chris.  I was still mostly hanging in the middle of the pack and trying to be patient.  We rolled up some Japanese guy and then Nick Hilton.

Ethan was the next to drop, shortly followed by Chris.  I was feeling somewhat strong but on every downhill, my hamstrings would cramp up, so I knew the dreaded marathon wall could potentially be around any corner.  Malcom still seemed really strong and my assumption was right because he then left me as I was now running in the low/mid 5:20s.

Chris caught back up to me around 22 miles and mentioned that we need to work together to go after the 2:18 Trials time.  I told him I felt like an old man trying to pick a fight in the senior citizen parking lot, so I wouldn't be of much help.  I was running close to 5:30 pace now and was trying to figure out whether to maintain or push through.  If you're hitting the wall and fight really hard, sometimes you fizzle out even more.  So I tried to fight, while staying as relaxed as possible.  I'm not sure if that made sense, but it did at 22+ miles into a marathon.

Chris gapped me by about five seconds at one point but I caught back up and went by him.  I then powered on and caught a Kenyan guy, then Scott Macpherson shortly before 24 miles and figured I was on pace for the lower/mid 2:17 range.  At 24 miles, I tried to push again and dropped a 5:19, which may not sound like much but it was my fastest mile since the last five miles, which gave me some hope.

There was a sign telling us we had a half mile to go and I could see Rob Watson about 15-20s ahead of me.  I wasn't sure if I would be able to catch him but since he trained with Sean and Brandon and I talked some friendly smack talk to them over on Facebook and Strava, I was going to try and catch him. Right before the 26 mile sign, you run up a short highway bridge and I ended up catching him there. It looked like he was having some trouble, but I mentally prepared turning on the rocket boosters, just in case.

On the final straightaway, I picked it up some and I could see the clock in the 2:16:45 range.  It seemed too far away to break 2:17, but I pushed anyway.  Once I saw it hit 2:16:55, I knew I wouldn't break 2:17 and I officially crossed the line in 2:17:02.

It was a PR and a solid race considering how I stacked up to against others, but I was mad I was so close to 2:16.  If I could have run three seconds faster, I could call myself a 2:16 marathoner.  That stupid packing tape was the thing that probably cost me three seconds, along with getting stuck behind the women.

Malcom ended up beating me by about 100m to finish in 2:16:41, Tony rallied back to finish in 2:17:41, Chris Lemon barely missed the Olympic Trials time with a 2:18:06 (but I heard he got approved since he was so close), Ethan Shaw ran 2:19:33 and I don't know who the tall mustache guy was.

After the race, Tony, Malcom and I hung out for a few minutes before the long 1/2 mile trek to our hotel.  On the way there, some lady tried to offer me some pamphlet, but said "never-mind, I see your bib and can tell you don't speak English (my front bib had just my last name on it)."  Now, I know I have terrible English and typos in my blogs because I don't proof-read them but, whatever lady.

Overall,  I liked the Chicago course.  I didn't notice any hills, other than the interstate bridge shortly before the finish and there was a lot of long straightaways.  Crowd support was good, but I really don't remember a lot about the external aspects of the race because when I'm in race mode, I'm so focused internally that I don't pay attention to the things around me.  But it's definitely a really fast course and I rank it  a little faster than Houston and about equal to Indy Monumental.

All-in-all, while I'm happy with my individual race, I wish I would have run faster.  I really want to run a fast marathon before I back off the training but the bad thing is, you only have one race day for the marathon and so many things factor into the race.  I still think my 2:18 at Houston in 2013 was my best marathon because the weather was absolutely nasty and I feel like it was worth 2:15 or faster. I should have run sub 2:15 in 2014 at Houston but I ran like a moron and got really sick a few weeks before the race.  Hopefully I'll nail it one of these days. jshdksd

Random tidbits/data:


SplitTime Of DayTimeDiffmin/milemiles/h

Manual splits from the mile markers (26.36 miles on my Garmin 620 but the GPS wrecked havoc. But I'm not one of those nutso's who insist that not running the tangents adds up to a half of a's all GPS error)

5:08, 5:07, 15:19 (three miles), 5:06, 5:09, 5:18, 5:14, 5:12, 5:12, 5:12, 5:21, 5:04, 5:08, 5:09, 5:11, 5:16, 5:20, 5:11, 5:24, 5:22, 5:29, 5:26, 5:19, 6:21 (1.1 miles). 

Fuel: Four Blackberry Gu's (first time trying it because the expo didn't have my regular flavor)
Water: 30ish ounces?

Shoes: Newton Distance go to shoe for 15k and up races


  1. I was wondering if this report was ever going to show up.

    Good run, all things considered. You are getting into cool weather season, so I hope you bounce back from this and have a good build up to the trials. Rooting for you to pop that 2:15 (or faster!) in LA!

  2. Good race! Was waiting for this report.
    Let me guess, it was the same girl who cut in front of you at the 20k road race.

  3. I've become notoriously lazy with my recaps lately! I'm really looking forward to training in the cooler weather because 5:10 pace is 5:10 pace and I don't have to worry about making up some bogus heat/weather conversion.

    Wayne, I'm a Southern gentleman, so I'll never tell.

  4. The lady who thought you didn't speak English was an opportunity to respond with something golden but I guess you missed it.