Entries in Half Marathon (7)


Race Report: Inaugural Chicago Polar Dash Half Marathon

Getting up for this race was so much easier than any other race I have run so far. The race didn't start until 9:30am, and Mike and Liz were picking me up at 7AM. So I didn't even get up until 6AM! I know that just sounds strange, but to runners, they can totally appreciate it! Usually I am on the road by 6AM to head to a race. (Okay, weird thing to start a race report with but it is late, I am tired, and I want to get this report published before Monday morning)

The Chicago Polar Dash is a winter race. Meaning: it happens regardless of the weather (like the Post Office motto). Now the funny thing is that it was postponed (see previous post) from Jan 14th. Why? Because of cold temperatures, and probably because the race course wasn't sufficiently plowed due to a snowstorm 48 hours before. The ironic thing was: it snowed on the 20th, leaving more snow than the previous storm had, AND, the temperatures were LOWER on race day than they were on the 14th! Hello??? McFly??? Anyone HOME??? LOL

So I get out of the bed and fire up the Weather Channel App on my iPad to check the weather. It is 11 degrees outside with a windchill factor of ZERO! And lake-effect snow is likely downtown. How nice! So I get ready to go and I am layered up! I have my HRM, long-sleeved tech shirt, a fleece 1/2 zip, and my Disney HM running jacket up top. And, I have running undies, CW-X Compression pants, and my Nike running pants on. I have SmartWool socks and my regular running shoes. Finish up the ensemble with two pair of gloves (one thin, one heavier pair of Mizumos), and a balaclava hat and I am like "Bring IT, Chicago!"

And I had my secret weapon: Hand and Toe Warmers! The toe warmers stick to the top of your socks (on the outside), and the hand warmers go inside the palm of your gloves. They were awesome!!! When Mike and Liz came to pick me up, I gave them some as well. They were truly heaven-sent during the race! Take it from me! Do not run a winter race without them!

Breakfast was two pieces of toast with Almond Butter, some applesauce (no bananas in the house!), and a cup of milk. Then I packed my CARA Gear Bag with a spare set of dry clothes (for after the race), my GU gels, Yak Trax, muscle milk, and a few other odds and ends, and hopped into the car at 7AM when Mike and Liz pulled into the driveway. I brought my gym bag as well (cuz it had more stuff just in case) and threw it into the trunk. The drive down to Soldier Field was uneventful and it was nice to chat with Mike and Liz.

Of course, the first thing that we notice is that it is definitely snowing downtown. And not lightly! So I knew this was going to be an adventure for me! Runing when it is freezing cold and snowing! We walk to the course start, take a few photos, and then head to gear check. I decide not to wear the Yak Trax (which turned out to be fine) because the course looked plowed enough to be safe.

We timed it pretty well because once we got into the start area and picked the pacing sign we felt would work for us, the race started maybe 15 minutes later. We decided to hang between the 10:00 and 11:00/mm pace signs. We all decided we would take this race nice and easy -- no PR attempts here -- given that Mike and I had just ran at Disney, and, because of the weather and wanting not to get injured by slipping and falling or something.

The race started off slowly. In fact, we weren't even really sure when it started. I don't think there was a starting gun or horn (or if so, I didn't hear it). People started moving so we moved too. It was snowing pretty good at this point, and continued to snow for at least 2/3 of the race. Mike took the lead, with me behind him, and Liz behind me.

The first few miles were pretty normal as far as how it felt. The course in those first few miles did have some slushy sections where keeping your footing was tricky. But once we got past that, the course was pretty decent. Mike was well ahead of me and Liz. I kept to a 10:45/mm pace for the first 4 miles, not wanting to push it. At the 3.5 mile mark, the course doubled back unexpectedly (the course had gotten snowed over and wasn't passable) so I saw Mike coming back toward me. I took my first GU at 4.5 miles and took a walk break while doing so. I saw Liz and we high-fived as she was coming up on the turn.

Then we headed back to the race starting area. It turns out that they turned the course into a 10K "loop" to compensate for the route change. So we actually passed through the 'finish line' for the 10K runners as we then began the second loop of the race. This was strange to me.

In fact, when I got to the 7 mile marker, I made a mistake and turned right when I 'should' have turned left. There was no volunteer standing there to tell me this. So I turned right, ran up a HILL, and then when I got to the top I realized I was not in the right place. So I ran down the hill and finally found a volunteer who told me where to go. I was really PISSED OFF for losing time and wasting energy on a hill I didn't need to take. That was my first negative mark for this race.

Then I started to feel tired around Mile 8.5 when I had my next GU break. I walk when I eat/drink but when I started running again, my legs felt tired. It wasn't a 'bonk' feeling, just tired. I didn't eat anything 1/2 hour before the start of the race like I usually do so that might have had something to do with it. But I started to wonder if running a Half just two weeks after my very first Half at Disney had been a good idea after all. Doubt is a bad thing to let slip into one's head. So I was trying hard to dismiss the thought. I slowed my pace to 11:15/mm and started taking 1-minute walk breaks every 3/4 mile or so.

When we got the 10 mile marker, there was this HUGE slush puddle. Runners stopped to figure out how to get passed it without getting shoes wet. I gave it a try but ended up getting some of the water in my shoes. Yuck! The only thing that saved me were those toe warmers! My feet were wet but not cold!

Half Fanatic #825 Michael Hoyt took my picture as we ran togetherAround this time, I had been playing "leap frog" with another runner. I would pass him when I was running and he was walking, and then when I walked, he would run passed me. We kept doing this for about 1.5 miles. So at Mile 11, I was going to pass him but instead I walked alongside him and introduced myself! He laughed and we talked for quite a while, both running and walking together. Turns out he ran the Goofy at Disney! And, he was a Half Fanatic who just finished 52 Halfs in 52 weeks to earn his 10 Moons!

How cool was that! Especially since this race would serve as my qualifying race for membership into the Half Fanatics! So we talked about the group and his experiences. He said there were about four other Falf Fanatics running the race. In fact, he drove here from Indiana just to run this race. We ran together until about mile 12.5 when he said he would run ahead and finish so that he could take my picture at the Finish Line and post it on the Half Fanatics FB page.

He and I had passed the 2:45 pace group leader a while back so I wanted to make sure that they did not pass me before I reached the Finish Line. I don't know, I just didn't want to finish with a time slower than that. So I ran. When I got the Mile 13, I was running in a tunnel underneath Lake Shore Drive. I picked up the pace and finished pretty strong. Finish time: 2:44:09. Not even close to my finish time at Disney due to the amount of walking I did, but between the weather conditions and my energy level, I am more than happy with the results. I finished my second Half Marathon in 14 days! Wow! I didn't know if I could do it, and I found out I could! And, without injury!

Finishing the Chicago Polar Dash Half Marathon all smiles!Crossing that Finish Line (and yes, Michael was there with his camera) was exciting! It represented another milestone for me in my running, not only conquering the fear of running another Half so soon, but also conquering the elements in the process. Finishing a race really gives you a sense of accomplishment that comes from putting yourself out there where it is only you against the road. You have to rely on your own physical and mental strength to get you through it. It is hard to explain.

My running partner Mike was there when I finished and took this photograph. It was great to see him there since I had only seen him twice during the race. We both waited for Liz to finish and in our tired states, celebrated each other's accomplishment. But then I got hit with disapointment.

They had run out of Hot Chocolate!!! Seriously, folks???? After running 2 hours and 44 minutes you think I could at least enjoy a cup of your promised Hot Chocolate! That was my second negative mark for the race -- you don't run out of the Hot Chocolate! The warming tents were NOT very warm either. The food was okay (not the bagels tho) with PowerAde. Muscle Milk, bananas, peanuts, and string cheese.

The medal is very nice! I like the stained glass a lot! My only issue (and negative mark 3)? Why not have different medals for the different distances? The race had 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon distances but everyone got the same medal. That isn't right. I understand it keeps their costs down. But at least the Half Marathoners should have gotten a different medal with some kind of distance indicator on it. Dom't get me wrong -- I loved the race goodies (a nice polar fleece sweater and the medal, and I got a beanie hat too). Oh well...

When we got back to the car, we changed into our dry clothes (I wore the Polar Dash Fleece and Beanie) which felt so good, and headed back home. My legs were a little tight but not really sore. My knees and the pads behind my pinky toes were a bit sore this time, and I could tell my piriformis was tight. Good thing I had a massage scheduled at LifeTime Fitness that afternoon (and it was heavenly; it hurt so good!)

All in all, it was a fun experience and a good race! I learned more about myself and how I respond to situations, and how to work through that. I had a great time hanging with Mike and Liz (I look forward to more races this year with the two of them)! And I look forward to getting the notification back from the Half Fanatics saying I am "one of them"!

As for doing more races with the organizers of the race (Team Ortho), I will have to think about that. The postponement, the lack of hot chocolate, a few other little things, all kinda left a bad taste in my mouth. But then again, no one is perfect and I have heard good things from Mike about their other races. So we will just have to see.


Race Report: Disney World Marathon Weekend

Well the moment I have been training for over the past 4 months has finally come to pass. On January 4th, my wife and son joined me for a flight to Walt Disney World for the 2012 Disney Marathon Weekend in Orlando. It was almost like a dream that we were actually making this trip -- something I had been thinking about and visualizing for so many months. Yes, we were going to have fun at the parks. Yes, we were going to see Hogwarts at Universal Studios. Yes, we were going to enjoy warmer weather.

But for me, the big "Yes" was that I was going to fulfill a milestone I had set for myself last summer. I was going to run a Half Marathon -- 13.1 miles -- and it was going to be a Disney experience to boot! I was both excited and nervous. I mean I knew I would be able to finish the race because I had trained very hard for this race, avoiding injury and preparing my body for both the distance and the effort.

But there was also the unknown. I had never run on Disney property. I had never run in a race with a field of 22,000 other runners. I had no idea what the weather would be like (too hot or snowing). And there are always those nagging doubts that slip into one's mind, wondering whether the training was sufficient. But I cast those thoughts aside as we boarded the Magical Express bus to the Pop Century Resort. I was ready, and I was going to prove it!

Doug, Ryan, me, and Ciara waiting for the Fiesta 5K to start

Friday was the first big event. My son Ryan and me, along with my running partner Mike and my first cousins Doug and Ciara, were all standing in 45 degrees of foggy darkness at 6AM, waiting for the start of the Family 5K -- the Fiesta 5K. Thankfully, the weather warmed and the fog lifted once the sun came up. This race was not timed; it was a "fun run" for families of all ages to participate. Mike and I did not want to really 'run' the race because we wanted to save our legs for the Half Marathon the next day.

Being that this was Ryan's first race, he was nervous. He did not expect to run the entire distance and was worried that he couldn't finish it. I knew that he could. And in fact, he did a tremendous job! All of us had a lot of fun during the event, which took us through all of Epcot. It was cool running through all the countries. The park was empty except for Disney cast members who were cheering us on.

Unsurprisingly, Ryan ran at least 2/3 of the race! In fact, towards the end of the race, he ran to the finish so fast that he beat me to the finish line. I clocked our pacing with my sports watch and noticed that he was running at a 5:54/mm pace! That is FAST! I was actually surprised I could even run that fast! LOL

After the 5K, Christi, Ryan, and I went to the Kona Cafe to have breakfast with members of my W.I.S.H. (We are Inspired to Stay Healthy) Racing Team called the Hakuna Matada. With the exception of my friend Mike, this would be the first time I would be meeting the team in person (this is an online community within so I was excited to finally meet them face to face. It turned out to be awesome! They were all nice and welcoming! And breakfast was pretty tasty too!

While Christi and Ryan went to spend the rest of Friday at the Animal Kingdom park, I chose to spend Friday relaxing before the Half Marathon race the next day. Mike and I spent more time at the Expo, listening to John Bingham and Coach Jenny speak at workshops and meeting up with my friend Beth. Good times!!!!! Later, the 'larger' WISH racing team gathered for a photo at 4PM where I met even more cool people. Then it was time for dinner and then some time with The Stick to roll out my legs before an early bed time.

Vicky and Mike hanging out before we headed to the Corral CSaturday was definitely my big day!!! The alarm woke me up at 2:30AM so I could get ready, dressed, and out the door to catch a bus to the runner gathering area for the Half Marathon. I met up with Mike, Vicky, Dave, and Eva from the WISH team at the bus stop and we headed out. The temp was around 48 degrees but I had some throwaway warm-up clothes to keep me comfy until race start. I checked my gear bag and the wait began.

The first thing we had to do was walk about a MILE to the Corrals outside Epcot! I knew we had a bit of a walk, but I was not expecting it to be that long! It was kinda funny watching runners moving over to the trees lining the parking lot to take a quick 'pee' because they hadn't gone to the porta potties ahead of time. Believe it or not, women do it also.

So we got to our Corral (Corral C) about 20 minutes before our Wave was scheduled to begin. We watched the start of the Corrals ahead of us -- each Wave Start was kicked off by Donald Duck and then fireworks and fanfare! Really cool and emotional (I took some video of the start which I will put on YouTube soon)! I ran with the others for a while but eventually I started speeding up (they were keeping an easier pace to save their legs for the Full Marathon the next day).

I was keeping my pace around 11:00/mm for the first two miles to use that time as my warm-up after standing in the cool air for so long. Then I increased my pace to 10:20/mm for the next 4 miles or so until reaching the Magic Kingdom. The course we were on was the main road into the Magic Kingdom, and there were all kinds of entertainment along most of the way. Jumbotrons showing Disney cartoons, bands playing, DJs spinning songs, cheerleading squads, and Disney characters. Plenty of things to keep your eyes and mind engaged. (I had accidentally thrown away my earbuds when I tossed my throwaway clothes so I ran the race with no music of my own).

When I arrived at the Magic Kingdom (MK), I was really excited, and it gave me an emotional boost! There were several decent inclines as we ran through the parking ramps and backlots of the MK. We emerged in Tomorrowland! There were Disney cast members cheering us on EVERYWHERE! And there were lots of other people there cheering us on as well! It really brought a smile to my face! Running through the MK was something I will never forget, especially because it was still dark out and all the park lights were lit up, music blaring, and people yelling encouragement!

The Castle at night! Awesome!I tried to remember to take photos during the race, and I did take several while in the MK. I will post these on my FaceBook page later. It was simply an amazing part of the race. There were lots of Disney characters there as well. I chose not to stop to take character photos because most of them had lines and I was in a running groove I didn't want to interrupt.

Running through the Castle was especially awesome! I know that Brightroom Photography took photos of us all running through it, but because it was still dark outside, I doubt any of them will look decent. But it didn't matter! I was there; I was running strong; and that silly smile was still plastered to my face! LOL

Then we headed out of the MK and back on the long run back to Epcot. There was still entertainment on the road back, but it seemed as though there was a lot less on the road leading to the MK. The sun came out around Mile 7, so that offered a different view of the course. I was still feeling really strong. One thing I noticed is that my sports watch was showing that I had run farther than the course mile markers showed. I am certain this is due to all the back and forth "weaving" that I had to do as I navigated past slowed runners, manhole covers, etc. (In fact, by the end of the race, I had actually run over 14 miles)

During this long leg of the race, I talked to a lot of runners offering encouragement and receiving the same in return. I also found energy from the music I would hear as I ran, often clapping or singing a bit to renew my spirits and give me a boost! This was especially gratifying given that I couldn't listen to my own music.

My fueling plan worked out pretty well. I had Chocolate Outrage GU packets with me. I took one about 20 minutes before the start, and then another every 4-5 miles with water. I had my own water bottle with me so I only stopped at a Water Station when I felt the need for some PowerAde (which I usually did 2-3 miles after taking a GU). I never 'bonked' during this race which was a good thing!

When we got to about Mile 10.5, we hit the first real hill/incline. There was a Green Army Guy from Toy Story there, shouting out stuff like "Come on! Take this Hill! You can do it!" I was told about him ahead of time so I was looking forward to hearing him do that. Unfortunately, he kept taking photos with runners so his 'drill sargeant' routine kept getting interrupted. I took the first hill in stride. It tired me a bit but it was okay. Then that led pretty quickly to a second hill. I was not expecting that one. I ran that hill too, but then my heart rate started to climb into the upper range of Zone 4 so I decided to take a 1:30 minute walk break to bring it back down. That was fine, and soon I was back running.

Then about 1/2 mile later, there was a third hill! Okay so this time, I decided to walk up the hill and take it easy and then pick up running once I reached the top. By this time, I think I was at Mile 12.5 or something like that. There was no way I was not going to run my way to the finish so I got moving!

I finished my first Half Marathon!!!!When I passed the Mile 13 marker, I was all smiles! I knew I was home free! I picked up the pace and ran for that Finish Line! I heard the announcer yell into his megaphone "Hey there WISH Team! Good job!" And since I was the only one nearby wearing a WISH shirt, I knew he was talking to ME! How awesome was that!!!

I crossed that finish line totally fired up! Clapping to the music and everything! I got my medal and a mylar blanket and then walked over to get my Finisher Photo taken! Then it was on to get some water, PowerAde, bananas, a bagel, etc. I found Mike, who had finished a few minutes after I did and we both took a moment to rest and shove some food and drink into our bodies. I picked up my gear bag and headed out to find Christi who was waiting for us! It was so awesome to see her there! And she had a pretty, long-stemmed yellow rose with Mickey Ears in it that she gave to me. We kissed. The day was now perfect!

My final race statisticsThen eventually, we headed over to get our medals engraved with our names and official finish times. Mine was 2 hours, 29 minutes, and 1 second!!! I beat the 2.5 hour mark, which was one of my goals for the race! I have to admit that I was hoping for a faster time, but that in no way deterred from the weight of this accomplishment! I felt like jumping up and down -- but no way would my knees, legs, and feet have allowed me to do such a thing! LOL

I was so happy! I can't even tell you how much it meant to me to cross that Finish Line and complete a quest that I have been training for over the past 4 months. I have visualized this moment in my dreams for months. Now it is my reality. I didn't cry but the emotions running through me were powerful.

Mike and I got on the bus back to the Pop Century resort. I went to my room for a nice ice bath (thanks to Christi and Ryan for bringing in lots of ice) to help my feet and legs. Then I showered, dressed, and we all headed to Epcot for the rest of the day. First order of business: a great lunch at the San Angel Inn mexican restaurant! After that, we did rides and walked all over the park. That evening we ate sushi at the Tokyo Dining restaurant.

Our last ride for the evening was Soarin because we had a FastPass for it. Then we headed back to the hotel for a much needed sleep! Of course, I had to use The Stick before going to bed. But all the walking and the ice bath really helped with my recovery (and wearing my compression calf sleeves helped a lot too)!

My first Half Marathon is in the books! And it was AWESOME!!!! I trusted my training and everything paid off perfectly! I send a special thanks to Meghan my trainer because without her advice, help, and encouragement I would not have been able to do this today. And I want to thank my running partner and fellow WISHer Mike, who has been a constant source of support and friendship.

Okay, so what's next? Well I have another Half Marathon scheduled for next Saturday the 14th. Yeah, really I do. But more importantly, I have decided to return to Disney in 2013 to run all three races: the 5K, the Half Marathon, AND the Full Marathon. That's right! I am going for the Goofy Challenge of 39.3 miles (and the unofficial "Dopey" for doing all three races)!

I have a year to train and prepare. As my friends on the Klingon Homeworld would put it: Qapla'!