Monthly Archives: October 2010

2010 Chicago Marathon Race Report – 1 – 13.1

In hindsight I realize my coach did everything but come right out and say it. “You are not going to qualify for the Trials this race.” Three days before the race we addressed this concern and he did what any good coach should do, close the door on completely unrealistic expectations, but leave it cracked open the tiniest bit to allow in the light of the “off-chance”, the perfect day. Problem was, I ignored the door of reality and experience slammed in my face and only concentrated on that sliver of light illuminating my hard-fought hopes. My coach knew this. He knows my mentality and knows I work from a foundation of mental intensity, and I don’t think he wants to discount the power of doing so. As I’ve said numerous times before, the marathon is a distance long enough that amazing things can happen and I truly believe those with the proper mental perspective can overcome so many physical obstacles the marathon brings upon us. That is what I was bringing into this race, the notion that despite so many obstacles in my way, I still had that sliver of light to guide me into an amazing performance.

Like a broken dam, hundreds of “Elite Development” athletes poured through a small opening in front of Corral A and made their way into the empty rectangle of pavement, one side blocked in by the start line itself. I stepped into the free space and started a slow jog past the start line to loosen up any muscles that might not be prepared for the race just yet. I made it past the start line and suddenly found myself in a pool of elite celebrity athletes. I almost ran into, literally, Sammy Wanjiru (who is, by the way, TINY. I was looking DOWN at him.), then passed by Desiree Davila, Deena Kastor (who was announcing) and Magdalena Lewy-Boulet before turning back around to head back into the corral. Seeing them up close was quite surreal, like I was still looking at their glossy faces in a magazine spread, but this time they were animated. I felt a little self-conscious and made my way back behind them and to the other side of the corral where I could stand on the start line myself.

I stood next to a couple of my teammates also wearing neon-yellow singlets, the street open before us and the skyscrapers looming just past the first bridge. Spirits were high, but determined, and we all went inward as we prepared to enter the streets in the next couple of minutes. Then after the announcer informed us that we had 90 seconds to the start, everyone in the corral went quiet. As we stood there with our hearts already pounding in nervousness, the only sounds heard were periodic shouts of encouragement from the crowd. “Go Jeremy!” “All the way guys!” I rocked side to side in nervous anticipation. “30 seconds guys!”, the announcer called out. My body froze and I readied myself to go forward, one foot in front and my finger on my watch. “Runners set!”, WHHAAAAAAA!, the airhorn filled the empty space and the first line of 45,000 runners pushed into the beginning of 26.2 empty miles of pavement.

I had one goal this race, go for the Trials. A longshot right now, yes, but not as long as one would think. In order to do this I had to run 5:18 minutes per mile, average, for the entire distance. Last year, without such a definitive goal, I managed to average 5:34 per mile. If I managed to hold on the whole race it was going to be an incredibly small window of time to come in, so losing any momentum or missing pacing through a few miles would prove to be a disasterous problem and this meant my first mile was going to be crucial. One of the keys to running a successful marathon is going out slower in your first couple of miles and then making up the time further into the course, whether that is soon thereafter or in the second half for a negative split overall. After long consideration I figured I could go through the first mile anywhere between 5:23 and 5:25 and be safe. I wanted to hit 5:23, but it seemed like such an awkwardly specific time to come through at, especially without an 800 guage to work from.

The line moved ahead up the street and, as I expected, a grouping of about 30 – 40 runners moved out ahead of me. I caught sight of my teammate Jesse, who was also going for the Trials qualifier, move a step ahead of me and I ran alongside him for the stretch. We ran into and then came out from under a darkened underpass before heading over a short bridge. Going up the bridge I was concerned. I was concerned because it felt slow, but not the slow I expected from the start of the race, but a slow that meant a severe error in judgement. I really felt we were running 5:40 – 5:45 pace. I tried not to panic and continued moving on just a step behind Jesse. We took a turn towards the first mile marker with 50 or so runners all around us and I caught sight of the time clock up ahead. I kept my eye on it as we moved closer and closer, judging my pace that felt so incredibly slow. I saw the tape on the street that marked the exact mile point, stepped on it and hit my watch. 5:23….on the dot. Whoa! I couldn’t believe it. That felt so easy….of course, I still had 25.2 miles of pavement to cover, but at least I started out properly.

I was a little worried finding the 5:18 per mile group was going to be difficult to track down after the first mile, but sure enough, a mass of about 20 – 30 runners sat right in front of Jesse, myself and Poray, who had joined us in the first mile. I knew I needed to be hanging on the back of the pack, so when I saw the group I was right where I wanted to be. The first pace truck that wasn’t leading the elites sat right in front of us ticking away the seconds that would bring us into the next mile. I hung onto the back, still moving with ease, but certainly a noticeable speed and unable to see much but brightly colored singlets and any number of feet flicking forward in front of me. We ran in between the skyscrapers on either side of us like a metal river and I caught sight of the mile 2 clock. I hit the tape and then my watch, nailing the second mile in 5:19, slowly but surely moving into my goal time.

I was a bit uncomfortable sitting in the back of the pack as I couldn’t see much of anything in front of me and my control freak tendencies urged me to move out to the sides where I could get a good line of sight, but my coach rightfully warned me against doing this. For one, I’d be losing the ability to draft off the other runners, but I’d also be wasting precious energy moving back and forth in the pack. I stuck to his advice and held to the back, trusting the other runners to pull me where I needed to go. Then suddenly, without that open view and lulled into the pacing, I was taken back when the group suddenly broke apart and I realized we  were rolling through a fluid station. I quickly jostled for position and managed to grab some liquids before the group formed back again and I held to the back. Then, just as suddenly as I missed the fluid station approaching, I saw runners hit their watches and before I had time to react I missed the mile marker. I quickly did the math in my head and figured what I would need to go through the second mile to stay on 5:18 pace.

The group continued to move ahead at a pace that wasn’t as easy as I was hoping it would be and required fairly consistent concentration to maintain. I wasn’t overextering my body by any means, but if I found myself lost in my thoughts, I would also find the pack moving away by a couple strides and I’d have to work my way back up. I knew right then I needed to stay focused on the task at hand for as long as I could maintain. Just then I heard one of my friends yell out encouragement for the first time. I felt good and smooth and casually threw him “the horns” to let him know as much. We rolled into the next mile marker, this one I was able to see, and when I hit my watch I was relieved to find I was still right on time. Things were going well, even if they took concentration to maintain.

The group ran along, now a bit out of the shadow of the buildings and into the ever rising sun that would prove to be quite an obstacle for the day. I held just one stride off the back of the pack, knowing that position kept me rolling through at 5:18 pace, exactly where I wanted to be. We ran on and I think some guys started to get anxious. I heard teammates urging others to relax while positions started to switch around in front me. I remained calm sitting off the back, but then things got hectic. We went through another fluid station I was unable to see and the pack broke apart again, this time I found myself having to drop behind a line of runners just to get in position to grab fluids. I managed to do so, but when the group reformed I was in a scattered group of runners who had also been broken from the tight pacing ball. The group must have lost focus during the fluid station as it took a concerted effort to get back up with everybody and I could tell the pace had quickened. We entered back into an area of the city and when we went through the mile marker my watch read 5:14. That was certainly too fast to sustain, but I knew part of that was the mess at the last water stop, plus I m ade up a significant portion of the time I needed from the first mile. I was feeling taxed to get to that point, but I knew it was only a temporary feeling as our pace slowed back to a manageable 5:18.

At this point Jesse still ran next to me, sometimes moving up a runner or two in the pack and I continued to hold off the back. Poray was somewhere behind me, but I didn’t catch sight of him in the group. Our group continued to move on into the city and the lines of crowds filling the streets, screaming us onward. The pace truck still sat just ahead ticking away the time and I sat in the back still unable to see much ahead of me, but the grouping of runners and their feet flicking ahead, the bright colors on their shoes like the flashes of a firefly.

We ran over some quick inclines and declines, back into the shadows of the city’s skyscrapers and with concentration I continued to hold onto the back of the pack, though at this point I was starting to wonder how long I could hold this mental effort before I found myself struggling. I knew something was coming. It was just after 10k I found myself having to really work to stay with the group. I would hang off the back, but more frequently have to make efforts to move back up. I debated sliding into a pocket in the mass and hope the proximity would carry me on further, but I didn’t want to risk running that close to anybody and going down. Good thing too, because it was somewhere in mile 7 that things started to get out of hand. I don’t know if it was the increasing exertion everyone was beginning to fight, but each fluid station started to get more and more problematic. We were running at such a high pace, with such a large group that making the break to the sides of the street and then succcessfully grabbing the cups of fluid in outstretched hands became quite a mess. We jostled for position, grabbed at cups that splashed all over the volunteers, the street and us, then tried to make our way back into the group in the middle of the street without losing pace.

In one of the more exciting moments of the race for me, somewhere near mile 8, I was running behind a line of guys into a fluid station when all of a sudden the runner directly in front me makes a frantic leap to the right and has to lift his leg over a fallen runner who had been tripped or slipped in the liquid soaked street. The move was so quick that I had no time to react at the pace I was running and had to spontaneously hurdle the fallen runner. The problem was, he had started to get up at this point and so my hurdle turned into an absurdly high jump directly over the top of him, where I still managed to clip the top of his head with the bottom of my foot. Somehow…and I mean SOMEHOW I landed with momentum and continued on at pace, managing to grab a cup of fluid and get back with the group, a bit stunned at my successful reaction. I know that was a show for the volunteers at that station! Maybe even more amazingly, the runner I hurdled picked his sunglasses up off the ground and blew past me to get back up with the group!

Moving into mile 9 things followed the same pattern as they had up to this point. I hung off the back of the pack, but found myself being slowly dropped at which point I had to make a concerted effort to get back up with the group. Each time the effort to get back seemed to take longer and longer and I began to realize I was weaking with the effort, which didn’t necessarily surprise me, did catch me off-guard that it was this early in the race. I was expecting to have to fight, but not THIS early. We weren’t even halfway! I continued to fight, putting my efforts on staying with the group and managed to miss yet ANOTHER mile marker, just hoping I was still holding on. Fortunately, I DID see the 15k clock and was relieved to see I was still holding to Trials qualifying pace, even though I suspected things were getting out of hand.

Then, where I SUSPECTED things were getting out of hand, after passing the 10 mile marker, I KNEW they were getting out of hand. I had dropped ever so slightly off the pack going through the marker and found that I had clocked a 5:24 mile…definitely NOT where I wanted to be. Maybe that pacing snapped me into a new awareness, but I was then very conscious of small pains throughout my body and other telling sensations. I felt the pounding on the soles of my feet. My right hip felt like it was taking a lot of force. And worst of all, my singlet was weighted with sweat. I knew what was happening….it was getting hot. Initially I thought my effort had everything to do with it, but as I would find out later one, the temperatures at the start of the race sat at 67 degrees and climbed into the mid 70’s at the finish. This wasn’t just “less than ideal” running weather…this was performance sapping weather. This was “re-strategize your race plan” weather. Too little. Too late.

I ran through mile 11 and then 12 without getting mile splits, but could tell I had started to weaken and my pace followed in suit. The pack had now begun to move away from me further and further and there was no point in trying to regain contact at this point in the race. I started to fall back on my Plan A.2, which was to hope. To hope my body would experience a second wind or somehow recover to the point where I could make another attempt to finish absurdly strong in the second half, even if it wasn’t a qualifying time. I wasn’t done yet.

I had missed the previous mile markers, but I was coming up on halfway and would get a good indicator where I stood in the race as I ran away from the city into more spectator-deserted areas of the course. I crested a small bridge, frustrated that it sent my heartrate upwards, and rolled down the other side past the 13.1 clock. 1:10:16. “Hey…that’s not so bad!”, I thought to myself. I knew my best chance to qualify was going through at 1:09:30 and thought 1:10:00 might be risky, but although anything slower was going to be quite a second half, that still left me in decent position to make a strong showing……if plan A.2 kicked into action, however that was mysteriously going to happen.

Reality is for losers.

“Colleen! Shut up! Marathons aren’t won on reality…marathons are won on daydreams and excessive delusion!”

Yesterday I had my strategy session with Coach Matt. We talked a lot about race strategy, race preparation and his perspective on my ability to qualify for the US Olympic Marathon Trials….our ultimate goal. Before we met he mentioned discussing a “Plan B” in case the effort needed to make the trials starts to go South to the point that I can’t mount a recovery. I joked that “Plan A is to make the trials….There is no Plan B” or that “…Plan B is to MAKE THE TRIALS!” So when we started the conversation he pointed out that he saw my post that mentioned this statement on facebook, and was glad to see we were on the same page as far as a necessary race mentality. Then he went on.

And on. And on. And on. He is a wealth of knowledge and experience, so was able to offer me all kinds of first-hand information about what to expect in a pack the size of which I’ll be attempting to run with. He warned me about the initial pacing, how some runners will react in the pack when things get too slow or if things get too fast. He advised me on how often to fuel, options to consider if things get bad, on not panicking through slow miles or fast miles. He commended me on going for the Trials. We both agreed there was really no reason not to make the attempt. It was what we’ve been training for and I’m close enough that to make the attempt is a legitimate endeavor.

Then he said some other things, that after the fact, I realized said a lot more once they all sunk in. He mentioned that I’m probably going to need not only an A day to make the trials, but probably an A+ day. He mentioned some of the other guys on the team have yet to show any results in training that prove they should be able to qualify for the trials. And he mentioned the importance of a Plan B, where if the Trials fall away, I still salvage the opportunity to cross the line quicker than last year, therefore cutting down the number of minutes I need to gain in order to make the trials and mentally set myself up for the next effort. There was a sufficient amount of talk about future attempts, despite the recognition that I had a shot at THIS attempt. We both agreed it would take a lot of pressure off the both of us if I made it this time around.

A lot was said and I walked out of the session with a lot of great knowledge that will help tremendously in the race Sunday. I also walked out with an even greater fortification of will, of readiness to really, really fight against my body when things start to get bad. I expect to feel beaten down early, but I think I’m ready to keep that in perspective, to hold onto the hope that I can turn that around. I think, after last years experience, I’m ready to feel the pain that comes with this distance and keep turning it on, knowing I’m not going to crumple into a pile of exhausted flesh. The magnitude of this fight sat both heavy and determined inside me.

I walked away from the session with another dose of intensity for the effort, but the longer I thought about our conversation I really started to understand what Matt was trying to tell me. He was struggling with the duality of this attempt as much as I have been and his advice was tempered with this reality. On one hand he wanted to give in to the impossible success of the marathon, where anything can happen (for better or worse) and gave me the encouragement to really go for it. I think he also understands my mental determination and knows how powerful that can be at this distance. I think he wanted to encourage me to believe in the impossible and go all out, no matter what, no matter how I feel, holding to the hope that I can fight through the fatigue and make a comeback if things get bad….or just hope they never get bad at all.

On the other hand, it’s his job as a coach to prepare me for the highly likely inevitable. It’s his job to temper my hope with a dose of reality and this attempt I’m about to engage in is absolutely smothered in reality. He knows he has to prepare me for a physical crash during the race and give me a way out if it comes to that, not to throw in the towel, but to instead look toward the future, to come out of this race without an overwhelming sense of defeat and demoralization, but instead a tempered sense of accomplishment that will add to my longer-term marathoning arsenal. Another step closer to the Trials podium. It’s not a romantic perspective…not at all, but it’s incredibly important.

I heard him loud and clear.

At one point during our discussion I assured him that I DO have a Plan B, but to give voice to it so early is too dangerous, it gives me too much of an out before I even get to the point that it becomes a necessity. I can’t afford have a fall back plan. I told him I’m even resisting thinking about any of my plans AFTER the race, but making sure I’m continuously concentrating on what happens race day, going through the number of potential scenarios and how I’m going to overcome them. But I didn’t want him to think a Plan B was completely out of the picture. No, it’s there….but I’ll address that IF I have no other choice….but no sooner.

I hear him though. I know the reality of what I’m about to attempt. I know the forces stacked against me. I know the very physical reality of what this distance will try to do to my hopeful goals. But I’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Because I still have to believe in my day dreams. I still have to believe in my excessive delusions. The power of those can take a person so much farther than you or I can ever truly understand. I romanticize the attempt to myself, I know this, but this impossible distance demands nothing less.

Coach Matt doesn’t want me to come out of this broken, dejected, demoralized, and so he gave me a healthy dose of reality, of doubt. And I appreciate that, but he also knows I can fight, and part of that fight demands believing in the impossible, holding onto daydreams and delusions of grandeur.

I don’t know what’s going to come of this attempt. This has such a great potential to turn out bad…real bad. But there will be at least one victory, of the attempt. I’m going for the Trials and I’m believing in the success until the potential reality of the effort comes crashing in. Until that happens though, this race is won in my head.

Let’s do something amazing.

Do something amazing every day.

I have a lot of reasons to be concerned about this marathon. A lot.

There are those 2 1/2 to 3 months of training I lost this Spring when I was trying to diagnose just what the hell was going on with my leg, leaving me unable to run.

There was this summer’s stifling humidity that really forced our team to alter our workouts and killed a lot of our plans for tempo and long runs with quality.

There is the fact that some of my workouts this year have actually been SLOWER than when I did them last year, for reasons as yet to be determined.

There was my hopes that I would run significantly faster than my 1/2 marathon PR this August, during which I actually ran a minute plus slower (again, more an indicator of the weather we have been dealing with).

Then there was the last 15k road race where, again, I hoped to lay down a solid PR, of which I did, but not nearly as fast as I hoped or felt I was capable of doing.

Then finally, there is my projected goal time of 2:19:00 or less….of which it is going to take a seemingly super human effort to achieve. It is not at ALL lost on me that in order to run the US Olympic Marathon Trials “A” standard, I’m not only going to have to run a 1/2 marathon PR during the race….but I’m going to have to do it TWICE……BACK TO BACK. Am I being excessively worried in my concerns…I don’t think so.

The picture I paint is somewhat dismal, I know, but let’s get something straight here…I’m a distance runner and this is a marathon. I’ve trained and trained and trained for this goal time. Despite all the setbacks and unavoidable obstacles thrown into my path, I have never adjusted my goals and have continued to train for them through it all. That holds a lot of power if you ask me. And again, this is the marathon, which for those who understand, ANYTHING can happen. For better or worse. That distance is comprised of so many unknowns, both in the distance and within each individual runner, how we approach the effort and how we perform in the midst of it all. In the marathon, AMAZING THINGS CAN HAPPEN.

And this is the thing….distance running to me isn’t just something I do for my health. It isn’t something I do for “goals”. It isn’t something I do to “clear my head”. It isn’t something I do to pass the time. Distance running is what I do to HONOR EXISTENCE, to rail against the memes of passivity that flood our lives, to take every waking second of life and know that I’m making the most of it before those seconds run out.

At this extended moment in my life, distance running is my way of recognizing the temporary reality of my being and not giving in to the mundane routines that can come with that realization. It is about taking daydreams of absurd proportions and making them reality. It is about living in exclamation points. It is about living in exclamation points!

Every morning I wake up, I have the option to drag  myself out of bed, drag  myself to work, come home and quietly read the newspaper, surf the internet and give in to the comfort of routine and lack of effort. Or, every morning I have the option to drag myself out of bed (there’s not really another option there) and GO DO SOMETHING AMAZING. EVERY. DAY. At one point in my life that meant writing essays of hopeful importance. At another it meant contributing in some way to other’s lives. Yet another it was just being a good person. But now, it’s about a very physical reality, a very tangible effort at doing something amazing. Running, for me, has given me that opportunity EVERY SINGLE DAY. When I go and knock out no less than 1o miles a day, sometimes over 20 and at mile 18 feel myself getting faster and faster, I can’t help but realize that something AMAZING  is taking place….even if it’s confined only to my reality. It is still amazing. And so every night I can go to bed with the comfort that at SOME point of the day, if even for only an hour or so, I made the most of my existence. I didn’t just stroll through the day, getting by, keeping my head down. No, I displayed huge typefaces on my shirt. I lived in exclamation points. I did something AMAZING.

And so we have the marathon and the long, slightly uphill path paved with concerns that lead all the way to this point. The starting line. Stacked against my confidence are so many of these concerns, working to erode my armor of effort I’ll carry onto the streets of Chicago. But, again, this is the marathon. And in the marathon AMAZING things happen. People run outside of themselves. They run beyond the abilities they thought their bodies housed. They find the will to run faster and faster despite the blanket of lead that seems to grow upon their bodies. They find a strength they didn’t think they had.

And sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the effort is too much or the margin of error too great. Sometimes, amazing things DON’T happen. But right now, that is neither here nor there.

Right now I’m going to the starting line of Chicago, putting aside all the concerns that brought me to this point and making the attempt to do one thing and one thing only….to DO SOMETHING AMAZING. I have yet to know how that is going to happen, how this is going to play out, what forces might influence this….but this is what I’m going to do.

Dear friends, marathon or not. Do something amazing every day.

Gearing up

The week leading up to the marathon is about making sure I’m ready both mentally and physically, but also laying out all the little details that add to my race arsenal. My race uniform gets washed, expo directions printed out, etc. etc. One of the most important of those details is making sure I’ve painstakingly created an epic marathon mix that I will not only listen to on the subway ride to the start area, but also give me some songs to play in my head during the race as I’m trying to pass through some of the less challenging miles earlier on. It sounds trite, but trust me, this is a crucial part of my race efforts.

I’ve been obsessed with music since I was a little kid, playing it the second I got up and falling asleep to anything and everything from the moment I was given my first boom box as a kid. I absolutely drove my sisters nuts with my choice of music and how often I played it. As I got older music was central to forming my identity and I developed some of my first solid friendships around it. Later on it became a main influence to my personal politics. And now, it has become a fundamental motivator and complementary expression of my running.

As important as music is to my daily life and running routine, oddly enough, I never run with music…directly anyways. I often have a song in my head if the daydreams just aren’t coming quickly enough and this is most prominent during race efforts. The right song gives you the right motivation, the right influence and sometimes even sets a good pace.

Some of the other guys I run with also use music for their running in one way or another, but completely opposite to me, they prefer something soft and calming before a race, something that gives them “happy thoughts” as it was explained to me. Yeah, I don’t get it. My vision of my running and the effort it takes to run fast involves a lot of aggressiveness. Something calming is the LAST thing I need leading up to a race and so I prefer to listen to the most fitting music selection for this purpose…..METAL. Nothing else will do. Nothing else will give me the goosebumps I had the second I walked out the door last year in Chicago and the first notes snaked their way into my ears. I was so ready  and the music was so pumped I wanted to sprint into downtown chicago, smashing windows all the way. I know….bad idea. Fortunately, I was able to temper my aggressiveness and held a couple songs in my head for when I needed them most during the run….and I think it worked.

Anyways, all this is to say I have compiled a list of motivational songs (not repeating any from last year…don’t want to repeat last years time!) for my subway ride to the start area and will carry some of them with me onto the course. Unless you are metal head or hardcore kid of some sort, a lot of this might be foreign to you…regardless, this is my list:

Bring Me The Horizon – Diamonds aren’t forever
Oh, Sleeper – The new breed
Arch Enemy – I am legend, out for blood
August Burns Red – Marianas Trench
Slayer – New faith
Goatwhore – Apocalyptic havoc
Metallica – Broken, beat and scarred
Strife – Blistered
Unearth – Black hearts now reign
As I Lay Dying – Falling upon deaf ears
The Dillinger Escape Plan – Farewell, Mona Lisa
Black Breath – Black sin (spit on the cross)
The End – Throwing stones
Have Heart – Have heart
Bring Me The Horizon – The sadness will never end

Honestly, with a playlist that brutal…how can I lose?!

As was pointed out by a commenter on my last post, the runner tracking is now available. If you want to follow me on race day in real time (this means you’ll have to get up EARLY on a Sunday!) you can sign up here. Just put in my bib number (#422) and you’ll be all set. It’s pretty cool to follow actually.

http://www.textinterface.com/pls/text/TF_BACM_DT

Ok, one more week and we are ready to go. Thanks for following along friends. Rock on.

Indiana Jones and the racers of the lost marathon

You know the opening scene from Indiana Jones where he slides underneath the slowly closing stone door, just narrowly getting crushed while still managing to snatch his precious hat at the same time? I’ve been trying to find that on YouTube, but come up empty every time. I wanted to post it here because that scene most aptly describes how I feel about my marathon goal time. I know, it must be getting old hearing me talk with such concern about running as fast as I’m hoping to run. It would probably be more entertaining to read excited and overly-optimistic rants about crushing the marathon distance and achieving new heights of accomplishment, but forgive me, I’m bound by my honesty. Regardless, that scene is a perfect metaphor for my attempt to drag my chip across the line no slower than 2 hours, 18 minutes and 59 seconds. And those seconds are crucial to list.

See, it would be different if I had been training to run 2:14 or 2:16. If I knew I had that sort of speed and endurance in my body, I’d be training well beyond the 2:19 cutoff, knowing that even if things went south I’d still have a solid chance of coming under the qualifying time. But that’s not where I’m at. I’m training to run seconds, literally seconds, under the qualifying time, because right now that’s what I feel I have in me. Right now, that’s where my body has progressed to. This might change in the coming year (for better or worse), but as it stands I’m still a 2:25 marathoner training to become a 2:18 marathoner.

What that means is if everything goes right 9 days from now, I’ll just barely squeeze in under the HUGE STONE DOOR of qualification. There won’t be a miraculous 2:16 finishing time, leaving me a great margin of error, as if the stone boulder was released a minute late and I was able to walk out the front door carrying the golden statue before it had even begun to close. Heck, my hat wouldn’t even have fallen off! No, this means that when I come across that line, again if everything has gone right, I will have managed to avoid any minor mishaps, overcome physical obstacles and mentally pushed through the last 6 miles and effectively conquered that microscopic margin of error….but I’ll still have to sprint my ass off and slide under that door at the finish.

Ya never know, if I’m feeling good enough (yeah right), maybe i’ll LITERALLY slide across the mat Indiana Jones style, reaching back across the line to grab a dropped Gu packet.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First I have to outrun the massive boulder of physical fatigue that will chase me into the last 6 miles of the race. If I win that battle, then we’ll take on the ever-shrinking stone door of qualification.

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In fear of this summer’s constant humidity, I’ve been watching the extended forecast leading up to Chicago, primarily the morning temperatures. Last week we were looking golden with morning temps hovering in the low 40’s, which probably translates into the upper 40’s at start time…..perfect. Today was the first day I could look 10 days out for the actual race date and as it stands morning temperatures will be 52 and the highs at 66. Being the midwest and all….this could all change quite quickly, but let’s just hope it doesn’t get any hotter. These temperatures are doable, even acceptable, but I won’t lie that I wish they were a bit colder. I’d feel MUCH more content if we were looking at the 40’s, but again, this could all change. At the very least, we’re not looking at 70’s or anything, so no reason to think we should bag the attempt and run elsewhere. So Chicago it is!

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Finally, I emailed the  marathon asking about runner tracking. It isn’t available on the site right now, but I was assured that if you want to follow any runners along the way (like me!), that feature will be available by next week. All you have to do is sign up and input my bib number. I did this for Jesse Davis during the Boston Marathon and it was really cool to watch. I believe you’ll get my 5k times along the way and my overall mile pacing, which I hope to keep at 5:18 to the end. Here is the info you need

Scott Spitz
Bib # – 422
Pace per mile – 5:18 (to hit my goal time)

Let’s do this.