Hot Chocolate 15k Race Report

Shame on me for not getting this out earlier, but here are some quick thoughts from the Chicago Hot Chocolate 15k race from back in November.

My goal going into the race was to definitely run sub 7’s, and stretch to try and go 6:50 miles throughout.

I had two good 5ks and a solid 10k in the months prior to the race, and my training had been going quite well. I was averaging about 35 miles a week in October and had switched my training around to incorporate a good mix of long intervals (1000s to mile repeats) and speed work usually doing 200s and 400s.

Race morning dawned clear and cold. Temps in the 40s. Perfect racing weather. This race has gotten quite big, but RAM wised up this year and changed the route downtown to all city streets. No more lakefront path cluster like in 2010. The start and finish in Grant Park now match what they do with the marathon and shamrock shuffle 8k.

Race time rolls around. I hooked up with Noxons and the Morgans in the start corral about 20 yards from the line.


The gun goes off and things open up real quick. The biggest issue with running downtown is that the Garmin can’t handle the tall buildings, so there are long stretches where it’s not accurately showing me my pace. In addition, the first mile starts with the lower wacker tunnel, so I have no idea how I’m doing. I’m holding back, trying to not go out too fast, and it turns out I overdid it as I go thru the first mile marker at 7:10 or so. Oops. Too slow. I picked up the pace to hit mile 2 at 6:41. From there I calmed down and knocked out 6:55 or so for the next 6 miles. I felt pretty good. I was working hard but not losing it.


At mile 8 I kicked it in gear and finished up fast averaging 6:44 or so until the finish. Total time: 1:04:15 for a 6:53 avg pace. Considering my time in 2010 was 1:08:40 I was pleased with the improvement. I was also pleased with the negative split, even though I may could have emptied the tank a little earlier and not gone out so slow.

Afterwards it was chocolate time with the girls!



RAM racing recently got ripped for putting on a crap version of this race in Washington DC. You can read one race report from DCRainmaker here. I was not surprised. I’ve always thought RAM falters when it comes to logistics and course management. They love fancy schwag, and they love cramming tons of people onto their courses (south shore triathlon=unsafe) and constantly spout off like they are the be all end all when it comes to race management. The Chicago course this year was much improved, but they have no idea how to do start corrals properly, insist on a narrow start lane funnel, and the whole day before packet pickup? Huge pain in the ass. Nothing worse than spending 2 hours hoofing it downtown from the suburbs so I can blow 20 bucks on parking just so I can spend 10 seconds grabbing my bib. I’d gladly pay 10 extra bucks to have it mailed and happily pick up my goodie bag day of race.

Back to the race I do have one final tip. If you are wearing a gps watch in a race downtown, turn off the autolap. If the signal is going in and out and you try to autolap at 1 mile intervals you are not going to get an accurate read on your pace. You just have to look for the mile markers on the course and trust they have them measured properly and manually capture your lap times. You can see my garmin file here.

Thanks for reading!


The Chi Tri

Very excited is how I felt prior to this race. My season officially ended the weekend before so this one was for fun. I really had no choice but to continue my taper last week so I was also eager to see if 1) this body could respond well to a 2 week taper 2) if this body could handle racing olympic distances back-to-back weekends. (Note, I would not have done this if my A race had been this weekend). The lack of 90 degree heat also had me thrilled. I knew high winds would be a possibility, but I’d take that over high temps any day. So, I’ll make this really short and sweet. Did the extended taper work? No! Did my body handle the back-to-back racing weeks? No! I realize the wind did hinder my performance some, as it did most of us,but there was more to it this day.

My swim was good, but my bike and run simply sucked. Ironically, I felt good on the bike and I had a great strategy. I just didn’t have the speed. The run, well that just hurt like crazy, my legs and my tummy. I can handle one, but both is much more difficult physically and mentally. My game was over. It happens and although I’m disappointed with this race, I am happy with my season. As much as we want to and think we can, we can’t race well all the time. Plus performing poorly just makes us appreciate the good races that much more. Same with everything in life right?

On the flip side, all of my athletes did really well. Some even kicked some major a** and had some of their best splits ever!!! And I need to give an extra shout out to Kim Morgan as she did the Triple Threat. She raced the super sprint Saturday morning, did the sprint distance Sunday morning, and an hour afterwards did the olympic distance and did it really really well. Three races within 24 hours! She is quite the trooper! AND people, this is one amazing woman inside and out! Congrats to you all! I’m very proud of you and proud to be your coach. Thank you for the privilege! As you know, it’s a privilege to have such a support system in this sport too. I really wouldn’t be able to accomplish everything without these major players in my life: Scott, my parents, Sandy, Kathy, Dick, Allie, Josh, Jenni, Runners High N Tri, Village CycleSport, Back to Life, my clients, and many friends as well. Thank you so incredibly much for your support and time! I appreciate it greatly!!!

Race Report: USAT Nationals

USAT Nationals was my A race this year, the big kahuna. Going into it, I knew not to have a time goal since it was quite a hilly course. Time goals aren’t really something to shoot for in this sport anyhow as terrain, currents, waves, wind and weather vary, distances are often a little askew, high temps can wreak havoc, transition lengths differ, a larger number of participants can slow you down (you get stuck behind or frequently have to weave around them), etc. Anyway, my main goal was to qualify for the World Championships which will be held in New Zealand next October. A side goal was to place top 5 in my Age Group as I placed 8th last year…I accomplished one and I am happy about that, especially with the competition being SO incredibly fierce this year across the board! And Burlington, Vermont was quite the venue for this fantastic event! The area was simply beautiful, the volunteers were incredible, and the food was wonderful too! Fortunately I was able to share it all with Scott, Dick, Kathy, and 4 of my clients pictured above; Bruce Noxon, Mark & Kim Morgan, and Stephen Ban. I really enjoyed spending some quality time with them and getting to know them a little better. How lucky am I to have such wonderful people and athletes in my life?!?

Race morning was awesome as our hotel was just a few minutes walking distance from the transition area. Plus we didn’t have to be out of it until 7am, late compared to most races so I was able to stay in la la land until 6:15am!!! Upon arriving at the venue, I soon saw Mark and he looked like a ghost! The poor guy had a blown tire so you can imagine where his head was. Fortunately, super sherpa Scott had an extra wheel in our car so he saved the day. As Mark’s coach, I felt badly though as I wanted to stay with him and calm his nerves while waiting this out, but I had to stick to my routine and get a warm-up in. Luckily it all worked out. Whew! It didn’t work out so well on the swim though. My stroke and speed were fine, but my navigation skills, well, not so much. This is really nothing new for me, I certainly lack in this technique, yet it always surprises me when I go off course. From the sidelines and start, the buoys always seem to be of such magnitude. It’s totally different in the water as they usually just look like other swim caps. For 2/3 of the mile, I was good, right on course, then we had to take a big turn right into the sun. Immediately I went from seeing several caps around me to just a few splashes about 15 yards away. Where did everyone go? I always oversight (look up very frequently) so how could this be? I looked everywhere and could not locate the next buoy, just the golden sun so I stopped. Did it help? Nope! I just put my head down and went in the direction of the few splashes I could see. Some may think this smart, but no, I just ended up going way left. Of course now that I am off course I can see the next buoy! In the scheme of things, I probably didn’t lose more than 40-60 seconds, but that can cost you, especially at Nationals! Oy, this scenario can really mess with your head, but I would not allow it. I got back on course and came out of the water 2nd…again. (There is a second place curse on me as that’s position I’ve come out my previous 3 times at Nationals as well as the last 2 times at Worlds and was beat by different people every time! So weird)! At least this time I was beat by a mere 7 seconds and by a former Olympian, Susan Williams, who placed 2nd at the 2000 Olympics in triathlon.

Screaming, that’s about all my legs did the remainder of the race.

Riding several rolling and some steep hills will do that to you. I didn’t ride too hard per se, but regardless at what intensity you ride hills, it’s going to hurt. This type of course makes it really difficult to get into a groove and attempt to pace. You just do your best to ride well, but not well enough to trash your legs for the run. And this one started with a pretty steep 1/4 mile hill. Ouch! Going into the race, I had it in my head that I would chill on the hill and then get into a groove soon after. Well, that didn’t happen. I just did my best to keep moving as I was in a bit of pain. Not wearing a watch, I had no clue what pace I was going, but I would have bet my life that I was holding at least 9 min miles or slower. By mile 4, I was going to retire after this race. My legs were in knots, my stomach was a mess, and I was just praying for the finish line to hurry the heck up and show itself. Finally….it did. I tried to pick it up a notch with all the spectators at the end, but I had NOTHING left. I crossed the line, immediately found a trash can, and released some bile! Ew! Ok, now that was a first! And at least I felt a little better. 😉 The result? 10th in my AG with a spot to Worlds! As badly as my run felt, I was no where near the 9min miles I’d suspected. I did 7:20 somethings, so not bad for me at all! This is why I always tell people not to gauge their races/paces strictly by how they feel. (I’ve had one of my worst run times feeling great on a flat course too). And although my 10k time wasn’t super for me, it was pretty good for this course, as was the rest of my race.

My fastest part? The transitions! They rocked! 😉

Even better, my clients laid it on the line too! I am so proud of them and their great races!!! I have to say though, the best part of the weekend was this: What a way to end it! And, the cold water really helped with our recovery…or was that the beer? 😉 A GIGANTIC shout out to Sandy who watched the girls the entire weekend…and they were really sick! 😦 A big thank you to Dick and Kathy for making the jaunt to cheer me on! It’s much appreciated!!! Love you! Scott, you are simply the best sherpa ever! You not only coached and supported me, but you took great care of my friends/athletes! Thank you so much!!!

The Husbands’ Race Report – Part 2

More from Scott on his race at the North Shore Half Marathon:

I got to the race site nice and early, probably 6:40 or so for the 7:30 start. Like I mentioned: perfect weather. Mostly cloudy with temps in the 50s. I went over to the info table and got switched to the A corral so I’d be close to the front at the start, then got a good 1 mile warm up done. Just some easy running with a few hard pickups. My right knee has been a little loosey goosey lately and popping and cracking a bit but I had none of that during the warm up so I felt good about that. I headed to the start to watch the 5k go off at 7:15. I saw Mark Morgan…he ended up having a great race. Once the 5ke’ers cleared the 2500 13.1’ers and I got in position. The start corrals are very narrow so we were packed in tight.

The gun goes off… The field spread out very quickly so I had plenty of room. The first half of the race is basically all a long very gradual downhill. I felt solid and tried to focus on staying relaxed and not going out too fast. My goal was 7:15s and I felt if I could keep myself no faster than 7:10s for the first few miles it would really pay benefits.

Now let’s talk about pacing. Any serious runner will tell you the way to a PR is to even pace, or slightly negative split if possible. It’s great in theory but very hard to actually implement and in every race I’ve ever been in almost everyone starts out to fast and ends up fading in the end. I saw the same thing on Sunday as dozens of people flew past me in the first mile…especially anyone under the age of 20…ahh the stupidity of youth. Most of them would all come back to me at the finish. The first mile marker approaches: 7:08. Thank god I’m not overdoing it. My Garmin had been slow to get things going but I was able to get it synced up at that point and that gave me one less thing to worry about. I saw Mary and my mom and the twins at mile 1.5 or so. Always great to see the cheering section!

From there I settled in and focused on staying calm and running the tangents. The miles start going by: 2. 7:10 3. 7:16 4. 7:08 5. 7:18 6. 7:13 Just before the mile 7 marker the course goes through a couple of S curves and drops 70 feet straight down towards Lake Michigan. From there you make a left-hand turn and go straight back up Park Ave. towards Sheridan. Because of the downhill I ran mile 7 in 7:02. Then it’s up the hill. I knew it was coming, but it hit me harder than I remember from the year previous. I tried to stay steady and stay under 8/min miles but it was tough. My heart rate spiked to 182 and I could feel my legs burning. The hill is steep, but short, and within 2 minutes it’s mercifully over. I felt a bit crummy but was determined to not panic and get back in my groove.

Mile 8 went by at 7:25, meaning the hill only cost me 10 seconds or so, which is totally fine. Mentally, however, I felt like I had to try and make up that ground, and started pressing a bit…which led to me running mile 9 at 7:05. Stupid. My average HR for that mile was 178, about 3-5 beats higher than what I had been doing the previous 5 miles. I could feel myself losing my mojo, and decided I had to calm the fuck down and get back to my goal pace. At this point the race has turned into Ft. Sheridan and between mile 9 and 10 the race winds up and around the parade grounds and under the clock tower. It’s a long slow uphill…very gradual, but a little demoralizing because it feels like you are going nowhere as the road slowly curls around.

I went through mile 10 at 7:12, and stabilized for 4-5 minutes, but the gradual incline got to me and I started scuffling a bit. My breathing got hurried and erratic and I started getting a nasty side stitch. I was far from comfortable. I checked the Garmin and the pace had dropped to 7:20 or so. I was determined to stay tough. I was so close. Less than 3 miles to go. I knew this was the race right here. Either hang tough and hang in and try to recover on the way back out Ft. Sheridan, or worst case this is where it starts to unravel. I was running with a group of 2 guys and one woman and I guess they were in the weeds as well here because in spite of my slowing I surged past all of them except one. That perked me up mentally. We also finally crested that hill and crossed under the bell tower and had a little slight downhill stretch. I started to recover, felt the stitch stabilize, grabbed some water and Gatorade at an aid station, and hit mile 11 at 7:19. I’d survived and not given up too much time.

As we came out of Ft. Sheridan I saw my cheering section again. I don’t think I even mustered a nod at this point. Right thereafter I hit mile 12 at 7:15. Home stretch, right? The problem with that was the whole last mile is a long gradual uphill. It’s a grinder. You just want it to be over…but it’s not…you’ve got about 30 feet to gain back to the finish. I worked on just keeping my cadence up high, cruised through the last mile at 7:13 and picked it up for the last tenth to cross at 1:34:28. Bullseye. It’s an amazing feeling when it all comes together. I beat my goal time by 32 seconds, and averaged 7:13’s overall. No complaints. I was elated. I planned my race raced my plan. Not easy, but very satisfying. What’s next? Maybe a winter marathon, but more likely I’m going to try and PR my 10k here in the next 2 months…then maybe try another half in the fall.

Thanks for reading! Scott

The Husband’s Race Report – Part 1

No racing for me this week so I’ve asked Scott to drop by and blog on his race at the North Shore Half Marathon. I thought a little different perspective and commentary might help keep things fresh around here:

Mary asked that I take over the mantle of family blogger for a day so I thought I throw in a little race report from over the weekend. For those of you who have no idea who I am or what I’m doing with myself, a little background. I’m Mary’s husband and coach. I’m a sometimes but not currently a triathlete. Back in the day (pre-kids) Mary and I would race tri’s together but post-kids we realized logistically it wasn’t going to work to have us both doing triathlon training full-time so I switched over to run-only mode. Believe me, I’m totally fine with that. I’m a mediocre swimmer (in spite of Mary’s exuberant attempts to rectify) and while I do miss the biking sometimes, I love the simplicity and solitude of running and have been quite content just spending the last few years chasing various run-only goals and personal bests.

Now let’s be clear. I’m not a “great” runner. I have very little natural athletic talent, so I have to work my ass off to get anywhere, but I’ve made some gains. I trained and ran the Chicago Marathon last to disastrous weather-related results, and while my ultimate goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon, that’s a little out of reach for me at the moment.

So this spring I decided to focus on getting a PB in the half-marathon. I always have to have a goal, and by goal I mean race to shoot for. I like training with a target in mind, and training with a structured plan to follow. Great race…did it last year. Beautiful rolling course mostly flat with one steep but very short hill stuck right in the middle.

My half-marathon PR is from back in 2004 when I ran the Seattle half in 1:36:38. Back in the day. When I was young and…young. That’s a 7:23 pace and my goal this time around was 7:15 even. If you run long enough, you get to really know (with the help of McMillan’s formula) what pace goals are doable or not. Throughout the last 3 years I’d been running shorter stuff regularly so I pretty well knew where I was and what I was capable of. I also ran this same race last year and did 1:36:46, in spite of some weird health issues that derailed my training but turned out to be an undiagnosed sodium deficiency.

This winter and spring my training has been going great. I was nailing all my training runs. I was injury free. My (normally) wonky IT band and ankle tendinitis were not flaring up. I also switched to Newtons and really liked them and that was also helping me improve my form and efficiency. Usually the thing that has bit me in the ass has been the weather. Either snow and ice (Shamrock Shuffle, Santa Sleigh Run) or hot as heck (every other race I’ve done in the last 3 years). This year for the North Shore – the weather was perfect. 58 degrees race morning, no wind, slight overcast. Going in it was like the stars were aligned. I felt great, the weather was ideal, and I was confident I could do my 7:15s.

Race morning arrives…to be continued.

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