Running up, over and through the cogs

Posts tagged “Chicago Marathon

Busting Quads, Skulls and Silence in 2017

14570409_1196042070441850_2652756153731223331_n

Oh my god let me check Facebook again. And again. And Instagram. And my blog ohmergerd. And my YouFace my FingerTag my Ramma-lamma-ding-dong.

One of my goals of 2016 was to stop spending so much time on social media and to start listening more to the actual, physical human beings around me. The result was expanding business as well as expanding mind. I learned to be a better listener, better partner, better trainer. Quieting the noise and finding solace in silence made me a better person.

It also made me a lot busier than before. Working as much as I have been, I wasn’t able to run as many races, and when I did run, I found it harder to etch out time to write about my experiences. I had an epic Mohican 100 finish, an all-day slopfest of fun with my wife at the Evergreen Lake 51 Miler and an over-the-top, joyous Chicago Marathon; but with such little free time from work, sitting down to write out my usual play-by-play of events seemed as daunting as it did tiring.

In addition to that, my yearlong semi-aversion from social media also led me to be more reserved about how much I cried out to the world about my racing and boxing experiences. In the past, I held back nothing in describing them, offering an open door to my soul with zero reservations. Surely there is value in that. I enjoy it. My readers enjoy it. Knowing that others benefit from reading my experiences is indeed satisfying. It’s exactly what I set out to do with this blog from the beginning. And that’s awesome!

Right now though I am enjoying a renaissance in reflecting my thoughts inward. I feel like when the time comes for me to shout out to the world once again, I will definitely know and I will be unable to hold back.

Considering what is on the schedule for this year in 2017, I expect some interesting storytelling to come out of it.

I plan on winning the Golden Gloves.

I plan on finishing Western States.

I plan on winning the Ringside National Tournament.

How many people out there box and run ultras?

There’s gotta be a story in that…

jeff-and-edna-training-pic

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Joys of a Journey that Never Ends

“We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry.”

E.B. White

jeff and edna namibia 2016 1

Me, greeting and embracing my wife, Edna, at the finish line of Racing the Planet’s 2016 250k Sahara Race (Namibia)

You won’t be able to do that forever, you know.

You’ll ruin your knees.

You’re too skinny.

I’ve heard it all before. Keep running like you do and you’ll be sorry.

WRONG.

I’ll be ecstatic! And guess what… I am!

Before I found running I was an overweight, depressed young man with little to look forward to. I was wandering the earth (from my couch) lost, disconnected socially, struggling to define myself.

Getting off my ass saved my life and sent me on a journey that has taken me all over the globe. It led me to start my own successful business. It’s how I found my wife.

You won’t be able to do that forever, you know.

You’ll ruin your knees.

You’re too skinny.

jeff-lung-before-and-after

Um… no.

I started this blog 5 years ago knowing on I was on the cusp of something special. The changes that were taking place in my body and in my mind were beyond positive. I was excited to wake up every morning, to see what great things I could do in my community, to see where the boundaries of limitations might be on any given day, only to push them back a bit further and transform into a better version of myself. I wanted to share my journey. I wanted to inspire others.

Though my posting frequency has dropped off a bit this year, I am happy to report that the journey is alive and well. In May, I accompanied my (now) wife, Edna Jackeline Vazquez, to Namibia as she raced another 250k across the desert. I tagged along as a race volunteer, much like I did last year in China, and once again, I was extremely impressed with the amount of love, strength and fortitude the ultrarunning community provides. The amount of individual accomplishments witnessed in just one of these 7-day stage races is enough to fill a lifetime. I have now been lucky enough to volunteer at two of them; and I must say I am now eager (and mentally prepared) to compete myself, someday soon. Meanwhile, my wife only has one more race to go, The Last Desert: Antarctica, before she becomes a member of the ultrarunning elite 4 Deserts club.

jeff and edna namibia 2016 2

In June, with just one hour and two minutes to spare before the 32-hour cutoff, I crossed the finish line of the Mohican Trail 100, arms raised, legs shot, brain fried. It was a grueling, soul crushing challenge that I never gave up on, despite not being in the best mental space. A full report is certainly in order, but the short version is that I had to adapt from the original race plan and dig deep to finish all on my own, without a pacer, fighting an overwhelming desire to sleep and the urge to quit entirely.

I also sat in a hot tub in my hotel after the race which deserves a report of its own. I highly recommend.

Jeff Lung Mohican 100 2016

In July, I got married! I married my ultimate pacer for life, Edna, whom I met through… yep, RUNNING… thus completing (and also starting anew) the continued life-as-an-ultramarathon metaphor. It was a glorious day filled with love, joy and Michael Jackson dance moves. Te amo, mi amor!

jeff and edna wedding

My business continues to make a difference in the lives of those looking for change. I am thankful to be witness every day to life altering hard work and dedication. Losing weight, getting stronger, being the best versions of themselves possible — my students continue to impress with their willingness to explore their limits on the paths of their own journeys. A young boxer I work with, Alex “The Bull” Garcia, is the epitome of such hard work and dedication. He comes to work hard every day, striving to be the best he can be, knowing that sport can be the door to an open mind and a brighter future.

Iron Lung Fitness boxing

In Alex Garcia’s corner of his most recent match which he dominated and won.

My own boxing career continues as well as I prepare for an October 1 bout in Libertyville (more details to come). Meanwhile, Edna and I are planning to make a reappearance at the Evergreen Lake Ultra (51 Miles), a race we thoroughly enjoyed back in 2014, as well as run the 2016 Chicago Marathon, together. The latter will be the ultimate combination of my favorite race meets my favorite person. We plan to run side by side the whole way.

I look forward to celebrating in the streets!

So to my fellow run crazies, the next time someone says to you:

You won’t be able to do that forever, you know.

You’ll ruin your knees.

You’re too skinny.

Just remember:

It saved my life.

It brought me my wife.

It gave me a reason to get up and be the best version of myself possible, each and every day.

jeff and edna wedding selfie

 

 

 


2014: Slowin’ My Roll, Runnin’ In Circles, Commitment

Jeff Lung 2014 Frozen Gnome 50k Butt Slide Hill

(Butt Slide Hill, Frozen Gnome 50k, 2014. Image by Scott Laudick, Runnerpics)

We did it! We made it through another year!

I started it out by sacrificing my footing in a frozen tundra.

A couple weeks later, I “ran” 21k through knee-deep snow, in the time it generally takes me to run twice that amount.

In the spring, I re-lived a dream to run the Boston Marathon, this time with no tragedies, floating atop the endless love and compassion from the good people of New England.

Not long after, I got cocky, raced a teenager and had to pull myself out of the game, flexing those mental muscles.

I recovered in time to run mad, around a .97 mile loop in a municipal park, setting a new personal distance record and fighting to stay on my feet for 24 hours straight.

In September, I experienced three distinct seasons over 50 glorious kilometers in the heart of my home state.

In October, I ran two marathons in consecutive days, and was back to work on Monday, walking around like nothing had happened.

And in November, I popped my century mark cherry by crossing the finish line of the Pinhoti 100, proving that through a sound, prepared and focused mind we can do anything we wish to do.

Throughout the year, I volunteered again at the Earth Day 50k/10k and the Des Plaines River Trail Races. I paced my good friend Siamak to a fierce finish at the Mohican 100 and Edna in her 100 miles at Potawatomi and 100k at Hallucination.

I also had the good fortune of getting another race report published in Ultrarunning Magazine (October issue).

I lived every moment, one footfall at a time, over mountainous trail and monotonous blacktop.

I ran. I laughed. I cried (more than you’d think).

I slowed down. I took it all in. I wrapped myself up in the trail, in the challenge of going far on foot, with pushing myself past any and all boundaries.

But perhaps most exciting of all: I got engaged! The thrill of sharing my life with the woman I love — a woman who shares my passion for adventure, for exploration, for making dreams come true — is more exciting than any race I’ve ever run. It’s a good thing we both love distance running, because life, my friends, is THE ultimate ultra run.

Happy New Year!

Jeff and Edna Powerade Maraton Monterrey 2014

(Un beso en la meta, Powerade Maraton Monterrey 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.


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…


The Good, the Bad and the WHY NOT

Jeff Lung christmas in july 2014 aid station

THE GOOD

In the days since my dizzying yet mind opening 24-hour jaunt around Lisle Community Park, my body has recovered in full, responding to the training bell better than I ever imagined. I can’t emphasize enough just how awesome it feels to be running at full strength again. After all the nagging injuries from last year, I wasn’t really sure how my body would respond to the big mileage races, but everything feels strong and solid right now, and that is a huge motivator.

The key, at least for now, seems to be pace.

When I run fast — and for me, anything under an 8-minute mile is something I consider “fast” — both of my Achilles flare up, stopping me for several days. I have tried different shoes, different strengthening exercises, different forms. All speed seems to lead to the same thing currently: stiff, bum, calcaneous flare ups that SUCK. So I’m just shelving fast miles for now.

Long, slow, FUN runs.

Everything I run now is to prepare for the grueling test of the Pinhoti Trail 100. I will explore speed another day. Ain’t no need for a sub 10-minute anything in a hundred miler anyway. Looking at the elevation profile only confirms that.

Long, slow, fun it is.

THE BAD

Being one of the most anal retentive slaves to organization one could ever meet, the following faux pas of mine is extremely embarrassing to confess; but this blog is just as much about failure as it is success (otherwise success would be sooooooo boooooooring!) so here it is:

Um… so that half marathon I am supposed to run in Mexico City next weekend… um… yeah… it was IN JULY.

I don’t know how I (nor my buddy who has been training diligently for it) missed that small detail, but I did. We did. I originally wanted to run the marathon, and bummed that it was sold out, quickly obliged to the website’s tempting me to run the half instead. Assuming that it would be on the same day — because that’s how it usually works, the full and the half are held on the same day, simultaneously — I gladly signed up. To my credit, as far as I can remember, there was NO MENTION of the actual date of the race during the sign-up nor the confirmation process. I double checked the confirmation email to make sure.

Then, last month, as a follower of the race’s Facebook page, I was quite curious as to why there was another half marathon, under the same race name, a month earlier than the one I signed up for. Still, I never did conclude that the half marathon pictures I was seeing were from a race I was supposed to be running. It just didn’t make sense. My Mexico City Half Marathon was going to be on August 31.

Except it’s not.

It was only after recently checking packet pick-up details that the mistake was realized.

Whoops!

Oh well. There’s not much I can do about it now. While I’m a little sad I missed out on my first international race, I am still excited about visiting La Ciudad and exploring whatever roads and trails it has to offer. Maybe my friend and I will run our own half marathon.

Why not?

THE WHY NOT

While I’m at it, I might as well run the Peapod Half Madness Half Marathon in Batavia this weekend. For the fourth year in a row. I won’t be running a personal best this year. In fact, I will probably have to work hard just to break two hours; but, in my opinion, this is one of the most fun, most charming races in all of Chicagoland: a scenic, challenging 13.1 miles through a quaint river town with all-you-can-eat pizza and all-you-can-drink Sam Adams beer at the finish line.

What’s not to love?!

And while I’m at the long, slow, fun running, I might as well enjoy twice the marathon action during the second weekend of October. At least, that’s what I was thinking when I recently signed up for the Prairie State Marathon. It’s the day before the Chicago Marathon, and should serve as a suitable warm-up to my favorite Sunday 26.2. Three weeks out from my first hundred miler, I figure back-t0-back marathons should be a nice way to start my taper.

Haha.

As if ultrarunners actually taper.


Distances Obscene In 2014?

jeff lung racing rocky

While I patiently wait for the Polar Vortex to subside so mother nature can give me a cleaner, safer surface on which to train, I continue to battle the elements the best I can. I’m approaching the end of my fourth week of Boston Marathon training and about half of my runs thus far have been on a treadmill.

Physically, I feel great. My body is working well. As I slowly build my endurance, I am getting regular sports massage, with lots of attention placed on those cranky calves. All systems are go for Boston right now, and while I continue to be conservative in my training, I still dream of running a sub-3 race come April 21, 2014.

That’s my “A” goal. That’s the dream of dreams, as it has been and will continue to be until I finally make that dream a reality.

But there is no denying that my conservative training approach (at least for now), may make running 6:50 pace for 26.2 miles on a challenging course more difficult than I’d hoped. Right now my speed workouts — hampered by sub-freezing temps and rusty legs — haven’t been ideal. The turnover is there, the leg and core strength is there, but the cardiovascular system has a long way to go to keep up with my demands. With 14 weeks of training left, I’m not sweatin’ it. I am going to give it my all on Patriot’s Day regardless, and that, ultimately, is all that counts.

But what about after Boston?

Yes, indeed, the time has come, my friends. In 2014 I aim to complete my first 100 mile race. The Pinhoti 100, on November 1, in Heflin, Alabama, will be the scene. Lots of New Leaf and M.U.D.D. friends will be there. I’m hoping to get my dad down there. Siamak the Beast has agreed to pace me. I’m ready to go further than I’ve ever gone before, mentally and physically.

Every race I run from now until April 21 will be training for Boston, and every race I run post-Boston will be in preparation for the hundo.

Here is my tentative race plan:

January 11 – The Frozen Gnome 50k
My good friends from the McHenry County Ultrarunning Dudes and Dudettes (M.U.D.D.) put on great events and this one looks to be no different. 30 inches of snow accumulation so far this winter? Freezing rain? Hills galore? Bring on the suffering!

February 2 – The Groundhog Day Half Marathon
4-ish mile loopty loops in bone-chilling, snow covered Grand Rapids, Michigan? Like Phil said: I’ll give you a winter prediction: It’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be grey, and it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.

March 2 – The Armadillo Dash Half Marathon
As one who seeks out opportunities where travel and racing can be combined, I found what looks to be a quaint half marathon in College Station, TX about a 40-minute drive from my dad’s place. And while Texas temps in March may not be tropical, they are almost certain to be warmer than anything I’ll find in the Chi.

April 21 – The Boston Marathon
No subtext necessary.

May 10 – Ice Age 50k
After the ass kickin’ I got last year, this is my 2014 revenge race. With some better planning and a good understanding of the course, I am hoping to go under 5 hours this time around.

July 18-19 – Christmas in July 24 Hour
What better way to prepare myself for my first hundred than running in circles for 24 hours? This race, put on by some friends of mine from the New Leaf club, is in my suburban backyard (Lisle, IL) and promises to be one heck of a fiesta. It’s on pavement. It’s on a short, one mile loop course. I’m looking forward to a post-race Frankenstein walk like I’ve never had before.

August 31 – The Mexico City Marathon
One of my best friends lives in Mexico City. I’m in love with a Mexican. The Mexico City Marathon, at 5000 feet of elevation, offers a scenic, challenging course. ¿Cómo no voy a correrlo? ¡Que onda, güey!

October 12 – The Chicago Marathon
Running my fourth straight Chicago Marathon proves to be the lone wild card in my 2014 schedule. Rumor (and history) suggests that this race is soon going to move to a lottery selection. I HOPE NOT! I remain hopeful that the registration process will be open like it has been. My steadfast ninja fingers are prepared to click forward the $170+ dollars as fast as they possibly can. For me, the biggest test with Chicago this year will be running it as a training run as opposed to balls-to-the-wall redlining.

November 1 – The Pinhoti 100
The holy grail. The heavy hitter. The big kahuna. For the greater part of 2014, my heart, and perhaps more literally my legs, will be focused on traversing 100 miles in one shot, for the very first time. And while I do feel a bit funny about throwing myself into a 100 miler that doesn’t even have a website (I’m told it is currently under construction), I have been assured by my friends — most importantly, Siamak, who ran it as his first hundred in 2012 — that this race is as challenging as it is breathtaking. I’m hoping it’s more breathtaking in the metaphorical sense, though in a 100 mile race it seems like there will certainly be some moments were even taking a breath seems impossible.

I don’t know.

But I’ll see.

Because THAT — the unknown, the adventure, the THRILL of it all — is what makes running long so worthwhile, fulfilling and fun!