Sunday, October 9, 2011


Returning to Chicago for my third year initially served as a post western states carrot for me. Since Jeff and David Lipke were both returning as well, it seemed like a great opportunity to go back and enjoy the race. My first Chicago marathon, in 30 degree temps, was anything but enjoyable. My second, last year's pr, was all business, work, discipline, and focus. This year, 2011, was an opportunity to just have a great weekend and enjoy the city and time spent with friends.

The weekend started off with a late movie with Cody, my 11 y/o little bro. We saw a Doliphin Tale which was unexpectedly good, particularly the child acting. I didnt even mind getting only 4 hours of sleep that night before hopping on the 7am flight to Midway. Lipke joined me at the gate and immediatley the entertainment began. As we approached the CTA station to ride the orange line, we decided to stop at the Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. After an extended discussion with all of the people in earshot, Lipke settled on a glazed and a long john, we both had coffee, and i went for a plain, dry, multigrain bagel. While that sounds perfectly boring as hell, the discussion preceeding the selection was anything but boring or ordinary. We hopped on the train and Lipke went to work befriending everyone in the car.

Acting as lemmings, we followed an Amy from Atlanta off the train, to the shuttle bus, and off to the expo. Amy climbs mountains, runs a marathon every month, and stays in hostels when traveling. After realizing we were soft and collecting our bibs and shirts, we went off to the hotel where Lipke proceeded to collect all of the free items available. Gotta love that guy! We made our way to the lobby bar to watch some Virginia Tech football and have a few beers, where we met up with Jeff and Becky as well as Lipke's sister, Lisa, and her pal, Lindsay. Lisa ran 2:50 last year at Chicago, and while that served as a family PR, she was here this year to hit the Olympic B standard of 2:45:59. I had signed on board to be her pacer, purely out of selfish reasons to put some meaning behind my effort. Lindsay planned to join us as well, and lets just say that I was definitely not upset about spending almost 3 hours in the company of such lovely ladies. Dinner, city navigation, and a fitful night of sleep ticked by and before I realized it, the 5:15 alarm woke me from some deep REM sleep.

Jeffrey, Me, Lipke

Walking to the race was very smooth this year, much closer than last year's hotel selection. Once at the race, however, the typical cluster ensued. I made it into the seeded corral ok, but i was too early this year, so I got to see many male and female bums squatting on tree roots, along with several fence climbers. I kept thinking that the race could do a better job with the seeded start corrals. Last year I had the privilege of being in the elite development corral which was a very nice step up from corral A, but this year the 7 second differential between my PR and the elite development cutoff kept me out, with the explanation that there would be too many people, so no exceptions could be made. I was bummed, but figured i could make my way up to the girls before the first mile marker and as it wound up, I had no trouble finding them.

Lisa, Me, Lindsay

Approaching the two from about 20 seconds back, I instantly started smiling. Mostly because I really do enjoy pacing, it fills my desire to be useful and relevant, while simultaneously allowing me to shred myself. I was extra appreciative of the opportunity to pace such gracious and fine looking female athletes. I dare say they both have fantastic muscle definition and smooth strides. I grinned as I settled into their pace.

The week before, at San Jose, I had to hold Jessica back. Based on last years's splits, I assumed I would have to do the same with Lisa. However, they ran even smarter than i could have hoped and we hit the halfway in 1:22:45 or so. I was actually quite nervous about that because I knew it was going to be a warm day and I thought it would be smart to have a 60-90 second cushion by mile 20. Lisa turned it on at around mile 14, and we started clicking off a few 6:10's which was all I needed to see to stop worrying. Unfortunately, we dropped Lindsay around mile 17 or 18 after a few of these faster miles, and it didnt seem like she was going to be able to bridge the gap. I ran past Chaz, Ashley, Marley and Thora and got a great boost from their smiles and positivity. I also was very grateful for the husbands out on the course, both Derik and Brian were everywhere and so helpful.

Lisa demonstrated a tenacious confidence over the final 10k, running tight to my shoulder and keeping the effort maxed out. I was throughly impressed and genuinely stoked for her, though I kept that to myself for fear that it might slip away. I gave her what I felt was just enough praise to keep her fighting, meanwhile I started to wonder if my legs would hold up in the heat. I could feel my hip flexors tightening a bit and general fatigue setting in. There was no question that I would ruin myself to give her that 2:45, it was obviously the right day, in spite of the heat. I wasn't about to let my own insecurities have any voice in my mental chatter.

We passed quite a few women over the final 5k. I declared victory at 1 mile to go when I caculated we had well over 7 minutes to make it to the line. Lisa crossed right around 2:45 flat and seemed both surprised and satisfied. I was very grateful to share that moment with her, one that I'm sure means far more to her than I can ever understand myself. Jeff arrived a few minutes later, but I didn't see him until we got our gear bags. Lindsay was close behind, running a very similar race to Lisa's 2010 effort. I am thinking 2012 might be Lindsay's year to get her B standard :). Lipke rolled through and we grabbed a beer, took some photos, met up with Jeff, and went back to the hotel to clean up.

Looking back on the race, I find myself very satisfied with this course. I've experienced a total meltdown (more like a freezedown) and a pr beyond anything I thought possible, and now I have added my first successful pacing experience for the Olympic B standard. I have to say, I love these experiences, even the really difficult days, because they show me sides of myself that I dont get to see every day. Chicago is such a wonderful city (when its not freezing) and I have such indellible memories here.

Looking forward, I'm thinking about NYC in 2012. I feel like that is an experience I need to have at some point, and I think I'd like to experience it soon. In the meantime, perhaps I will make Jeff suffer through a PR attempt at Honolulu in December.

I also want to mention how inspired I was hearing about how the day went in Kona before our race. I have so many friends who can put up such silly times at Ironman that I can't help but feel some of their energy from thousands of miles away. It truly is a gift to be able to do the things we do, and to feel that extra special "good pain" that we all love so much.


  1. 2:45 like it aint no thang. you hang with some fast people!

  2. your tally for pretty girls you've paced to great races is getting pretty high!!

  3. It wasn't that cold Easa...