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Archive for October, 2014

Adventures in Double-Dipping Part 2: The 2014 Chicago Marathon Race Report

Seinfeld Double Dip

Though I don’t have any hard data to back it up, I am pretty confident that the most consistent distance runners have short memories. How many times have I found myself slugging through a grueling race, saying to myself never again, only to have completely changed my mind moments after crossing the finish line?

The answer is: A LOT.

On October 11, 2014, during the Prairie State Marathon, I said it many times only to get up and do it all over again on October 12, 2014, at the Chicago Marathon where I would continue to say it, only to forget… again.

It was all part of the double-dip plan: to train my legs to run tired, to run hungry, to run smart (stupid as that sounds).

Of course, it was a pain-in-the-ass type of blast!

(For part one of this adventure, click *HERE*)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

2:30 p.m.

I get home from the Prairie State Marathon and chug some chocolate milk while drawing an ice bath. I am not a big fan of ice baths, but for an extreme endeavor like running two marathons in two days, I might as well try to limit the damage as much as possible.

Surprisingly, my legs feel pretty good. Of course, they are sore, but they aren’t injured, or shot, or anything other than fatigued as expected. Slowing down the pace this season has done my body wonders and I’m happy to say I’ve been healthy all year. If I can get through tomorrow, I know I’m ready for that hundo.

BRRRRRRRRR FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKK

The ice bath sucks, but I survive.

I follow it up with a hot shower.

I put on my compression leggings, eat a healthy snack of fresh fruits, a green salad and boiled eggs, allow myself one beer and prop my feet up on a mountain of pillows before falling asleep.

Finishers medal 2014 Prairie State Marathon

5:30 p.m.

I wake up and ready myself for Edna to come home and for my friend, Adam, to come over. Adam will be running his first marathon tomorrow and he’s crashing at my place tonight.

As I move around and start making dinner, I feel my stiff legs warm up.

Wow, not too bad, I think to myself. I guess I do have a pretty good shot at doing this.

I originally thought that I might be able to run two sub-4 hour marathons, back to back. However, after today’s 4:14 finish, I know that’s not happening. In fact, running a 4:14 tomorrow seems all but impossible, but I really don’t care as long as I cross the finish line. This ease of movement is a good sign for that to happen.

Still, I better get plenty of sleep.

7:00 p.m.

Edna is home, Adam arrives and the three of us eat dinner, chatting away any anxieties that might lie beneath the surface, or so I think. I imagine Adam is pretty nervous. I remember how paranoid I was the night before my first marathon. Still, he looks much more composed than I was back then, and knowing he has done the training only solidifies the fact that he’s going to have a great run tomorrow.

After dinner, I roll out my legs on the Rumble Roller, enjoying the pain, and by 8:30 p.m., I’m fast asleep.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

4:30 a.m.

The first couple of steps out of bed aren’t pretty, but after a few moments of movement, I’m feeling surprisingly well.

We’re really going to do this again today? I ask myself.

Yep. And we’re going to love every minute of it.

It’s Chicago Marathon day. In my house, it might as well be Christmas. And this time I’ll get to experience it in slow motion!

In solemn preparation, the three of us go through our regular pre-race routines and by 5:45 a.m. we are out the door.

6:00 a.m.

After a quick train ride, the three of us arrive at Roosevelt and State and walk towards the party. As we walk, I can’t help but smile a big cheesy grin.

I’m walking with ease, man! No aches, no pains! Holy shit!

We arrive at the Hilton, where we will drop Edna off to meet her Chicago Run teammates, and before I kiss her goodbye we run into our good friend, Frank.

I already know this, but it will be reemphasized today: running makes the world REALLY small!

The four of us pose for a quick pre-race photo before Adam and I break off towards our corrals.

Adam, Edna, Me, Frank. All smiles before the race.

Adam, Edna, Me, Frank. All smiles before the race.

Excitement is everywhere. The buzz, the adrenaline, the anticipation electrifies me, and while Adam and I walk towards Grant Park I feel like I’m floating.

“I can’t wait to hear about how your race goes,” I tell Adam. I watch him closely, reminiscing on how I felt before my first marathon. “You only get one first marathon,” I remind him. “Have fun! That’s the most important thing!”

I give him a hug and set him on his way before stopping at gear check and making my way to my corral.

7:15 a.m.

Safely in my corral now, I move all the way to the back. Unfortunately, this will not stop me from getting stampeded. I already know this.

I am in Corral A. I’m here based on my qualifying time (3:03) from 2012 that allowed me to bypass the lottery process for this year’s race. By the time I decided I was going to run a double-marathon, it was too late to switch out of Corral A, so here I am, stuck with the fasties.

Knowing that an onslaught of marathon snobbery regarding my unwelcome slow pace is coming, I put on my thick skin. I’m in the corral all of 30 seconds before the first runner approaches:

“What time you going for today?” the svelte, eager stranger asks.

“Umm….” I waffle, “Just trying to finish today.”

“Really? Why? This a training run for you?”

“Yeah, you could say that.”

“What was your Boston time?” another runner asks. Silly me. This is what I get for wearing my Boston Marathon shirt.

“3:38,” I reply. The dude’s mouth drops.

“What, were you injured or something?”

“Nah. Just took my time.” Like I will today.

“I’m going for a 3:15 today,” says the first runner again, assuming I care (I don’t), “though I’m probably not trained enough. Oh well, gotta try, right?”

“Right.”

“You thinking you’ll be around what… a 7:15 pace, 7:20?” he continues.

“Ummm… no.” I didn’t really want to get into this conversation but he leaves me no choice. “I ran a marathon yesterday too,” I say, “so I just want to finish today.”

“What? Are you crazy or something?” he asks with a chuckle.

“Pretty much, yes.”

I try to shake it off and go about my business with a humble heart. I’ve been on the competitive marathoning side — the side where you size up those around you and casually drop your personal best time, trying to not sound too much like a jerk (hard to do). But having been on the lighthearted, injury-free run-because-you-love-running side for the better part of a year now, I can’t help but feel embarrassed for having been like that before.

The reality is: no one really cares how fast I run the marathon. And today, neither do I.

The National Anthem is sung. The elites are announced.

And WE’RE OFF!

THE RACE

Zoom!

Woosh!

Vroom!

I take off at my I-ran-a-marathon-yesterday pace and try not to get bulldozed. I get clipped some — an elbow here, a kick on the back of the foot there — but otherwise, I just stay focused and let everyone else navigate around me.

“You okay, man?” someone asks.

“You injured?” asks another.

“Nope. Feeling good. Thanks for asking. Have a nice day!” I reply with a smile.

Every time someone makes a comment about my speed I just reply with a smile.

I feel good, man, and no one is going to take that away from me.

That is the honest truth. I really do feel good. I was told that the first 10k might be a little rough, but actually, all systems are go for me right now. There’s a little residual tightness in the legs and glutes, but otherwise, every step is better than I thought. I’m wearing my Hoka Bondi 3s again today, and each cushioned step is a reminder that these maximal shoes were a good choice. Even after running a marathon yesterday, my feet don’t hurt at all.

This makes smiling a lot easier.

Vroom!

Woosh!

Zoom!

It’s easy to keep cool with all these people flying by me. I imagine I look pretty cool myself, moving like a tortoise through a maze of hares. As long as I smile.

And how can one not smile?

I say this every year, but damn, the Chicago Marathon is simply AWESOME!

Just look around! I hear myself say to myself. A perpetual sea of people lining the streets of your hometown, cheering for you!

The roars and claps and whistles make me feel a hundred feet tall.

“Go Jeff Lung!”

I look to the left and see my friend Betty cheering on the side of the street. “Thanks!” I yell back, grinning big and wide. Out of all these people she just picked me out of the crowd.

Running makes the world small!

Continuing on, I realize this is people watching at its absolute finest. I make eye contact with an elderly woman holding a Mexican flag. “Ahuevo!” I shout. I hug the side of the street and offer high-fives to all the kids waiting to be a part of the action. I chuckle at the cleverness of some of the spectator signs. “Don’t Be a Pussy”, although not particularly clever, is one that stands out.

I see my friend Tina captaining one of the aid stations. We holler salutations at each other above the roaring crowd noise.

Does it really get better than this? I ask myself, chills running up and down my arm.

A couple of miles later as I head into Lincoln Park I hear another “Go Jeff Lung!” and turn to see my friend, Jen, decked out in her cheerleader garb, waving pom-poms and kicking her legs high with excitement.

BIG CHEESY SMILE, MAN.

This is a party! Indeed! The Chicago Marathon is a celebration of people, of communities, of triumph! I look around me, at all those striding forward with strength and determination, and marvel at the idea that each one of us has a story. And while our stories are surely unique — why we run, who we run for, where we’re running — there will always remain a commonality between us because we run.

That’s fucking cool, man.

“Hey, Jeff, good work!” I hear from Saxon, another friend from my running club, who magically appears beside me in the crowd.

“Hey, man, how you feel?”

“I feel good!” he says with an intrepid smile before darting off ahead of me.

Getting close to Boystown now and I see I’m being overtaken by B and C corral runners. Way to go, guys! I think to myself. Let’s party!

Boystown is always a party and I soak it all in as usual. In fact, I’m so distracted by the feverish crowds lining every step of this race that I haven’t even really processed how slow I’m going.

I’m just going. I’m going to finish. Do you need to do or prove anything else?

Nope, it’s all good.

Around the 10-mile mark I hear my name AGAIN. “Jeff?!? Hey, Jeff! What’s up!”

I look to my left and see it’s one of my favorite running couples, Matt and Tiffanie. They run marathons, ultras, triathlons. They are one of the power couples I look up to.

“Hey, guys! Great to see you! How you feeling?”

“Okay, so far,” says Tiffanie. We chat along for the next mile. They know I ran Prairie yesterday, so we talk about that and I learn that they too have been busy running marathons as they both paced teams at Fox Valley a couple of weeks ago. The more we chat, the more effort it requires for me to match their speed. Eventually it is too much. I wish them well and drop back to my snail pace until I hit the next aid station.

One thing I continue to do is walk through all of the aid stations. This makes me an even bigger target for being mulled over, but I figure it’s up to the runner behind me to get out of the way. I take my time, walking, eating (brought my own Gardetto’s and Muddy Buddies again), and drinking. I walk the entire length of each stretched out aid station, every time. This is my reward for kicking my own ass this weekend, I tell myself.

The peeing continues to be an issue too. I am stopping a lot. I stop four times in the first 13 miles. There’s nothing I can really do about it, since I’m not going to stop drinking, so I just use each break as an extra time-out for my tired body. I do find it quite funny how frantic the other runners become when approaching the port-a-johns during the race. While I take my sweet ass time walking to and fro, I have to be careful of not getting plowed over by the runner trying to conserve every second he can.

I know what that feels like. Glad I don’t feel like that today.

Of course, the trade-off is that my entire body is aching now and despite my best mental efforts, I can’t really get my legs to move faster than an 11-minute mile pace. I pump my arms. I listen to the crowd. I smile.

Heading west it gets a little quiet in spots, but this is expected and I just try to stay in the moment. I process the increasingly incessant aches in my lower extremities, thankful that there aren’t any injuries or acute pains, and realize that what I am feeling now is going to feel like nothing compared to what is in store for me at the Pinhoti 100.

That’s what you signed up for, brother!

The mind is a strange thing. All it took was the simple thought about pushing through pain to attain my goals to send the hairs on the back of my neck standing once again. Just the idea of transcending discomfort floods my brain with dopamine, my body with adrenaline.

I run and I run and I run.

And I smile.

I smile and I smile and I smile.

Then I hear “El Rey” as I enter Pilsen and I smile even bigger. For a few seconds I don’t hear my legs screaming, I don’t feel my glutes knotting. I just hear mariachi music and know I’m on the home stretch of this magnificent day.

The sun is shining, the sky is blue and the crowd is LOUD. I pump my arms a little harder down 18th Street and think about how often I run this stretch of the marathon in my own daily training.

Just a short training jog now, Jeff. You’re almost home.

As I process that satisfying thought, I see him: a bouncy fella holding a sign that says “FREE BEER FOR RUNNERS”.

Um, yes. Thank you, sir. May I have another?

I have seen and heard about plenty of runners chugging a beer during a marathon, but that never seemed appealing to me before. When you’re racing hard, chugging a beer seems like a pretty dumb idea. But when you’re running slow, back-to-back marathons and your legs are cement, it may be the single greatest idea. EVER!

I cheerfully stop, put out my hand and take the PBR. Chug-chug-chug-chug. *BURP*

“Muchas gracias, señor!”

I burp my way along for the next mile until I run by the gym where I work. Waiting for me there, as he has the last three years, is my friend Omar. I stop to give him a hug, and ask “You want to carry me the rest of the way?”

“Haha! No way, man! RUN!” he encourages.

I soldier on. Smiling. Lots and lots of smiling.

Chinatown is next and I power my way through it on the strength of the crowd support. At Sox Park it gets quiet as usual, but around mile 23, I see the Hash House Harriers and their beer stop and that only means one thing: chug more beer.

A young lady dressed as a princess hands me a couple of beer shots and I shoot ’em like it was my freshman year. In fact, I think the last time I chugged a few beers before noon it probably was my freshman year. I try to do the math in my head as I continue on, but between the belching and the fatigue, I find it too difficult.

Just smile and pump your arms, man. Let’s get done!

Around mile 25 I see a group of my ultrarunning friends (The Flatlanders) spectating on the sidelines and I high-five them all as I make one last attempt at speeding up my wheels. Turns out they really can’t go much faster, but I am able to trick my mind by pumping my arms harder. I am almost done.

Then I see a sign for “FREE JELLO SHOTS FOR RUNNERS”.

Yep. Gotta have me one of those.

Less than a mile from finishing back-to-back marathons and I’m swallowing a jello shot. This is the life!

Finally I reach the right turn onto Mt. Roosevelt. I suffer up along its stretched incline and summit knowing it’s the equivalent of a short jog around the track to the glorious finish line. The banner welcomes me with its worldly grandness.

I cross the finish line in 4 hours 38 minutes 15 seconds. I belch.

Then I head immediately towards the Goose Island beer truck for my free beer.

Post-Race

The body is an amazing machine. That I know. Despite running two marathons in two days, my legs felt pretty darn good afterwards. They were stiff any time I sat too long and tried to get up, but otherwise they moved pretty well.

Right after the race I went to the post-race party, had another beer (my fourth and final of the day) and chatted with some of the other runners. Running makes the world small. If you want to make a lot of friends out of complete strangers, start running these races. You will become a social butterfly.

After my last beer, I went over to the Hilton and rendezvoused with Edna, who had a great race, finishing strong and smiling (of course). We posed for this picture in the lobby:

Jeff and Edna Chicago Marathon 2014

We went home immediately after and I struggled to stay awake in order to watch football, but I finally gave in and conked out around 7pm. Then I slept. FOR ELEVEN HOURS. Straight.

I guess I was tired.

The next day I was up and moving pretty normally. I wasn’t limping. I wasn’t hurt. And other than some general tenderness, I wasn’t even really sore.

My body seems to have figured it out: we’re going to do a lot of epic shit.

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Adventures in Double-Dipping Part 1: The 2014 Prairie State Marathon Race Report

Seinfeld Double Dip

Though I don’t have any hard data to back it up, I am pretty confident that the most consistent distance runners have short memories. How many times have I found myself slugging through a grueling race, saying to myself never again, only to have completely changed my mind moments after crossing the finish line?

The answer is: A LOT.

On October 11, 2014, during the Prairie State Marathon, I said it many times only to get up and do it all over again on October 12, 2014, at the Chicago Marathon where I would continue to say it, only to forget… again.

It was all part of the double-dip plan: to train my legs to run tired, to run hungry, to run smart (stupid as that sounds).

Of course, it was a pain-in-the-ass type of blast!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pre-race

7:30 a.m.

I get off the shuttle bus and walk toward the Start/Finish line of the Prarie State Marathon. It’s quite chilly, with temperatures in the low 40s and my feet are soaked from a tromp through dewy grass.

We’re in… Libertyville. I think. Or close to it. Rosa Maria, the lovely robotic voice on my GPS, told me I’m close to Grayslake, IL, but to be exact, we’re at a forest preserve, surrounded by nature, toeing the line on a mix of blacktop and crushed limestone.

The crowd gathered is very small. There is a half marathon taking place alongside this marathon and the majority of runners seem to be lining up for the former. Still, the idle conversation of those gathered is peppered with the familiar pre-race nervousness, the type found at most road races, as I assume many runners here today chose Prairie State after failing to get in the Chicago Marathon lottery.

Lucky me. I get to do both.

Because my weekend goal is to survive and nothing else, for once I find comfort at a marathon start line, not obsessing over splits or prerace fuel or the possibility of bonking. Instead, I’m about as relaxed as I’ve ever been for an event, trying to set a Vegas over/under line on how many times I will have to stop to pee.

I’m gonna say 6.5 for the whole race, one side of my conscious says.

I’ll take the over, says the other.

Quietly, I move to the back of the pack, keeping my hands warm by sticking them in my armpits until…

WE’RE OFF!

Miles 0 – 7

Wow, this place is pretty.

We start off along the paved bike path and I can’t help but be in awe of the serene beauty of this forest preserve. I know we’ll be following parts of the Des Plaines River Trail today, an area I’m somewhat familiar with, but I didn’t expect it to be this breathtaking. Everywhere I look I see bright reds and yellows and greens. Fall is here, and nowhere has it been as quaint as right here, right now, as the fog rolls up off the lake, adding mystery to its splendidness.

That was some fancy poetic thought, I say to myself.

Yeah, and now I have to pee, I reply.

What?!? We’re only half a mile in! Good thing I took the over!

I know, I know. Jeesh.

This incessant peeing thing has been a part of my training all summer. I wonder if I have some sort of exercise-induced bladder control issue. I don’t know. But I do know that around every 2-3 miles of every long distance run I’ve embarked upon this summer, I’ve had to stop and pee. I expect I probably wasted at least a half an hour peeing during the 24-hour run. And now, here we are just 800 meters into a marathon and already I feel the urge.

Unfortunately, there a lot of runners around me, and though we are on a “trail” of sorts, this doesn’t seem like the type of race where it’d be acceptable for me to jump off the side and take care of business in front of the world. I’ll have to wait until an aid station.

I try to think about something else — my footfalls, my slower pace. I look down a couple miles in and I’m sitting steady on 9:30s. Nice and easy.

Suddenly, my friend Aaron picks me out among the crowd and is now running alongside me.

“Hey, Jeff, how’s it going?” he asks.

We start chatting. I know he has run the Prairie State/Chicago Marathon double before.

“I’m doing it this year too,” he assures me.

Sweet! Another crazy person!

“So, any word of advice? What will be your post-race routine?” I ask.

“Chocolate milk, ice bath, hot shower, compression, a nap. Make sure you elevate your legs. Eat a good meal. Sleep as much as you can.”

“Sounds like the perfect post-race day to me. Though I would like to throw a beer or two in there.”

The conversation seems to have quieted my bladder, so when we reach the first aid station, I run right through, thinking nothing of it.

Half a mile later, the urge is back. Ugh. I look around, but still, people everywhere. Oh well.

Let’s just make it to the next station — the ultimate ultrarunning mantra, though rarely related to a pit stop.

Aaron and I chat about all-things ultra, upcoming races, races past. When we finally get to the next station there is a john, so I stop, take care of business and get back on the trail.

Miles 7 – 9

Taking my time to get back into a groove, I walk with a purpose while chowing down on some real food. Since I’m treating this as a training run/experiment for my upcoming 100 mile race, I have opted to eat real food rather than stick to the normal marathon fare of gels and sports drink.

I brought along several sandwich bags of Gardetto’s snack mix and Muddy Buddies (a chocolate/peanut butter/Chex mix of sugary greatness). When I get to the aid stations I stop, walk and eat. I’ve been training like this all summer — eating on the run. Walking fast. Feels pretty normal now.

Having lost Aaron, I work my way back up to a 9:30 pace, all by myself, until I come up on another friend of mine, Rita. We run along together and high-five our friend, Siamak, as he comes flying toward us from the other direction. As usual, there are many familiar faces out on this run.

Running makes the world small.

Just before the 9-mile turn around I break ahead of Rita, trying not to think about how already I’m feeling a bit zapped and I have 17 more miles to go.

Man, this is stupid. Two marathons in two days? What was I thinking?

Of course, it sounded like a GREAT idea a few months ago. For some reason I always seem to forget exactly how much discomfort is involved in these ultra endeavors until I’m right in the middle of it all.

Too late now! Might as well just process the pain and be glad you’re alive!

Miles 9 – 18

Now on the “back” side of the 9-mile out-and-back section that makes up the first part of the race, I see all the runners behind me. There aren’t too many. I figure I’m somewhere towards the end of the middle of the pack.

I’m kinda tired. And a little bored. Wish I was doing something else.

Yikes! Snap out of it, man! Enjoy the scenery!

Beautiful as the scenery is, it doesn’t do much for mind, nor my turnover. Not that I want to run particularly fast (I don’t; I want to conserve energy if anything). It’s just that with no crowd stimulation and no signs to look at or sounds to distract, time seems to slip by slower than it usually does in a traditional marathon, which causes me to feel every, single, step.

I am alone with my thoughts, which are a jumbled mess right now, not focused on any thing in particular — a rarity in my experience. In a typical ultramarathon, I will at least have a warped sense of time rooted in the constant attention that must be paid to my surroundings. Single track trails require extreme attention to footing, to leg lift, to balance. Here, on this wide crushed limestone trail, with long straightaways and zero elevation, time seems to pass by very slowly.

I feel it.

Looking at my watch every minute or so just makes it worse.

I slug along. By myself. For miles and miles and miles. I walk all the aid stations. I eat. I move slowly.

Miles 18 – 22

FINALLY… people. I reach some sights and sounds and a crude false finish as I complete the 9-mile out-and-back, pass the finish line and go out for a 4-mile out-and-back.

Again, long, flat stretches of endless visibility makes this task seem slower and harder than it really is. Even my constant mind/body feedback loop seems slow. I notice I have a blister on my left pinky toe. I’ve felt a burn there for the last five miles or so but didn’t think anything of it until now, realizing that it is a blister.

Meh.

Just keep slogging.

And now it is a slog, no doubt. I’m moving, but not with much conviction. This feels more like a training run than anything else (thank goodness it IS!) and I make it feel even more so by continuing to walk and eat when I feel like it (which is often).

I am tired, but not any more tired than I would be if I were out running 20 miles on my own, by myself. The quietness of this race is challenging me more than the distance. I guess I am spoiled by equating “marathon” with raucous gaiety.

Miles 22 – 26.2

I hit the turn-around and quickly find myself running beside someone else.

Whoa! Company! I forgot what that was like!

His name is Ted and he’s from the city too. We chat for a bit and I find out he’s running his first ultra in a couple of weeks at the Lakefront 50. I gab on about ultras, making the time pass quickly (for once) until, just two miles from the finish line, I wish him ‘good luck’ and break off for what I hope is my last pit stop (7th total) of the day.

The over was a good bet!

As I get back to the Start/Finish area, I’m welcomed by another false finish that leads me on a short loop around where we started.

Finally though, 4 hours and 14 minutes after I started, I cross the finish line.

It’s my slowest marathon to date. But I will have plenty of time to go even slower tomorrow.

Siamak, still on a high from having run a marathon personal best time, greets me shortly after I get my medal. As we chat, all I can think about is going home and going to bed.

Crossing the finish line.

Marathon 1 of 2, DONE.

– – –

To be continued…