Rock N Roll Chicago – 2017 Edition

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The Rock N Roll Chicago 1/2 marathon is one that I keep returning to, year after year.  Not because timing is great for me (its my momma’s birthday weekend EVERY year).  But because my friends & family love this race.  Since I moved away from the Chicago area, this is a great excuse to come back & reconnect with some people I rarely get to see, plus Aby loves this race.  Its always been my MO to go where my friends go.  Racing with friends is always more fun!!  And for anyone under 30, MO is “method of operation”.  Apparently that’s not a common acronym at this point in time.  I was just informed the other day that Aby has NO idea what that means (and I use it pretty frequently).  Smile

Aby, Nicki & I hit the expo on Saturday at McCormick Place.  Always plenty of parking at McCormick.  Easy in and out.  We even received discounted parking this year which was a bonus!!  Plenty of vendors.  A couple photo ops. 

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Having to go downtown for the expo is a perfect excuse to enjoy the city by walking around, having a late lunch & Aby usually insists on ice cream.  Ghirardelli’s anyone?

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Race day starts bright and early to try beat the summer heat & humidity of the Midwest.  We got downtown around 5:15a for a 6:30a race start.  Temps were probably in the 70s and not nearly as hot & humid as normal.  Thank goodness!

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And we are ready to ROCK!  Nicki for the 10K.  Aby for her 3rd half marathon & as for me, well, I was just there to have fun.  I’ve probably done 30 some half’s at this point.  Not my race distance of choice currently but Chicago offers a 5K, 10K & half marathon.  Great for the whole family & a great girls weekend where there is something for everyone!  I particularly love races that have multiple distances so its more inclusive for runner friends at all levels!

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It took about 2 miles before I realized that I was going to have to say goodbye to my “little” runner girl.  Aby had a poor buildup for the race.  Lack of motivation after losing her favorite running partner this summer!!  But race day brings magic and well, she was ON FIRE.

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Good bye, girl.  I must admit, the miles kinda slogged on from that point.  I wasn’t tired or hurt but had just come off the IM 70.3 Muncie the week before and I was facing down 2 half ironmans within the next month.  I didn’t want to put too much effort into this race.  I want to be healthy and that means that I can’t give it my all every time I hit the pavement.  I’m at that point in life, and age wise, where I have to train smarter, not harder.   So I slogged thru the miles.  Slowly. 

The course winds thru the streets of Chicago.  I’ve ran the race several times at this point so I know the course.  The spectators were concentrated at key intersections but it was otherwise  a pretty quiet day.  Like a training run with lots of friends! 

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Highlight was that I knew I had a chance of seeing Aby around mile 9, where there is a short out & back on MLK Drive between miles 8.5 & 9.5.  So unless she had gapped me by over a mile, which was a real possibility, I had a chance of spotting her.  And had I been even a few minutes slower, I would have missed her.  But I saw her briefly, shouted “great job” and she shouted that she was going to try to “break 2”.  I said, “Go get it!!” and she was off again.  She broke 2 on her 3rd half marathon!  1:56 for her!!!!  Great job, Aby!!!

Once we finished the out & back on MLK Drive, we head toward McCormick Place & the last 3 miles of the course.  There is always a giant inflatable Brooks Running guitarist at the 10 mile mark.  Happy to see him, as usual.  Then on to finish the race! 

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Finished! 

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Aby was flying high from her new PR.  We all agreed that the race was great.  Well ran.  Plenty of aid stations.  Lots of places where the City of Chicago had opened hydrants to cool off runners.  Amazing volunteers, great course support, great crowd/traffic control.  Overall, if your going to run a race in mid July, in the heat & humidity of the Midwest, this is one of the best.  Thanks Chicago for continuing to support the Rock N Roll Marathon series & their quest to bring one of the best running races to Chicago, each and every year. 

SWAG – Gender specific technical tee & race medal below.

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Next up, the Ironman 70.3 Ohio.  So I’ll be back next week to tell you all about that race.  Have a great weekend & I hope you ROCK your runs, no matter how big or small, at whatever distance YOU love! 

** Rock N Blogger – Amanda – TooTallFritz **

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Ironman 70.3 Muncie – 2017 Edition

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Saturday brought the 2017 edition of the Ironman 70.3 Muncie event in Muncie, IN.   My third time participating.  I must say I’m not even sure why I signed up because my first and second experiences at Muncie were less than stellar (torn tendon in my foot in 2012 & ruptured discs in my back + a broken bike in 2016).  But several of my friends were going.  Peer pressure?  No.  Its just more fun to race with friends.  So I signed up with mixed emotions.  Spoiler Alert:  Muncie delivered a good race for all of us!

Muncie is a Saturday event.  So we went down Friday afternoon to get our packets.  It rained the entire drive.  Some thunder.  Some lightening.  Lots of rain.  We got to the venue.  It was REALLY muddy but not raining.  We parked pretty far away and hiked in so that I had a chance of not getting stuck.  Quick check of the water to see that the buoys were out and the water was calm.  Pretty normal for Muncie.  The swim is in the Prairie Creek Reservoir, so warm water without much chop is the norm.

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Packet pickup was smooth & easy, as are all Ironman events that I’ve ever done.  Packet, check.  Event bag, check. Race shirt, check. Activate chip, check.  Then we hit the mandatory pre-race meeting and had a hard time paying attention because the skies were turning black and a new storm was rolling into the venue.  We ended up cutting the meeting short & hiking back to the car, just in time to pull out as the thundering rains came down.  Rain.  Thunder.  Lightening.  Hail.  Downed trees.  Tornado sirens.  This went on for hours & Ironman ended up shutting down packet pick with a  plan to resume early before the race start on Saturday morning.

Opening packet pick up early, really affected all of us, not just those who didn’t have their packets.  Although transition didn’t open until 5a, they were opening the venue at 4a for packet pick-up.  Since the venue was really muddy before the big storm on Friday night, there was an extra level of anxiety for some of us, okay ME, that we would struggle with parking and/or get stuck getting parked or getting out to go home!  Although many people did get stuck on Saturday morning, the boy scouts were helping push people out.  And we parked further back, where there was less traffic and we got in pretty easily on race morning.

Transition closed at 6:45 since the first swim wave started at 7a.  We left our shoes, grabbed our swim gear and wetsuits.  The bonus of a stormy Friday was wetsuit legal temps on race day!  First workout of the day, wiggling into our wetsuits!  Then my wave took off at 7:45a.  Get ready to swim, bike & run!!!

Swim started with five minutes between each wave.  But it was a madhouse as usual.  128 ladies in my division/swim wave.   I was pretty much right in the thick of it when I would have preferred to be swimming alone.  I breathe bilaterally, which works in my favor cuz I can see who is trying to beat the crap out of me on both sides.  I’m not a fast swimmer but I can swim a long time.  I don’t need to start at the front but if I start too far back, I get trapped.  Placing myself in the swim is never fun and I never seem to put myself in the right spot.  I held my own with the fist swimming ladies in my age group.  Let the fasties go, and we started swimming up on the wave in front of us pretty quickly.  That’s when things get dicey.  We got to them about the same time the fasties in the age group behind us got to us.  Lots of extra traffic.  But I was just swimming from buoy to buoy & looking at all the kayaker lifeguards to see if any of them were my friend Sheryl.  Didn’t see her.  Sad smile

Swim course was set up like an inverted triangle with 2 long sides and a short “leg” in between.

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As we swam around the second turn buoy, heading back to shore in the final leg of the swim, the sun was in our eyes.  So blinding.  I’ve done this race 2 other times but the sun seemed so much brighter this time.  I couldn’t see the buoys at all.  Had to stop several time to see if I was on track.  This last leg should have been where I picked it up but I didn’t since I couldn’t see.  In fact, I was so blinded that about half way thru that final leg, I swam up on a gentlemen from one of the waves in front of me.  Scared the poo out of me.  I froze, popped my head up & apologized.  Well, I must have really tightened up when I hit him because my left calf cramped  & I was dead in the water.  Quite literally.  Clutching my cramped calf in one hand, trying to swim with one hand out of the way of all the bazillion swimmers who were fighting to get around me once I stopped.  Not fun.  I couldn’t get the cramp to pass & was trying to massage it in the water.  Hundreds of people passed me as I was sidelined & then I was eventually able to start swimming again & get out of the water.  Yes!  Victory.  Back on land.  Better yet, there were wetsuit strippers!!  Life savers because with my back in its current state of disrepair, I really struggle getting out of my wetsuit.   Super thankful for the lady that helped me & helped pull me back up off the ground since I was struggling there too!

Muddy run/walk up to transition.  Found my bike.  My friend Sara got out of water at the same time as me and was particularly speedy.  I felt dull in transition, like I didn’t know what to do.  How many times have I done this?!?!?.  Put down my swim stuff. Thanked the Big Man (once again) for my end spot in transition. Put on my bike glasses.  Sprayed myself with sunscreen, put on bike shoes.  Grabbed my helmet.  Started to open a bottle of water but realized I would have plenty of time to drink on the bike.  Go, Go, Go!!  And Sara zipped by me at this point as I was getting my bike off the rack.  Side note:  I always struggle getting my bike off the rack because my bike is so much bigger than most.  I have to tilt it sideways to get it in and out and be careful to not mess up anyone else’s transition area.  I also have to be careful  to not lose my nutrition in the process.  Not graceful.  Not fast. But at last I’m rolling.

Jogging out of T1 with my bike, hop over the giant river of mud to the road, roll to the Mount Line.  Hoping there isn’t a lot of mud stuck in my bike cleats to prevent them from clipping.  Finally I’m clipped in and rolling.  Slowly.  Everyone is flying past me.  My legs feel heavy.  I wonder what the day will bring and if my legs will shake out.  I’ve felt nothing but heavy & fatigued on the bike for about a year now.    Ever since I ruptured 2 discs in my back last summer.  But recently, I had been feeling better.  Then I had 2 really bad rides the week of the race after vacation.  Maybe I’m not getting better?  Maybe it was wishful thinking?  Hmmmm, only time will tell.

Rolling.  I knew I had about 6 miles of rougher type roads before we hit the main drag where we would loop 2x.  I just settled in, took in some Tailwind for calories & tried to relax.  The work would start on the main drag & I felt like it wasn’t worth wasting too much energy hitting it too hard before the road smoothed out.

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Once I hit US 35, the main drag, there was new pavement, spectators & other riders hitting it hard.  Relatively flat course with a few rollers.  Total of 1021 ft of elevation gain for entire bike course.  First section on 35 before the turnaround was from mile 6-17.  I wasn’t really sure how far it was to the turn around (rookie mistake!!) and I thought the wind was at my back but I wasn’t sure about that either.  I should have been pushing way harder in this section but I was still riding pretty easy.  Once I hit the turnaround, somewhere after mile 17, I started looking for my friends, fighting the wind & figuring out my strategy.  Yeah, a little late, right?  Miles 17-28ish.  Into the wind.  Hit the turnaround for the final loop around mile 28 & then I put the hammer down.  My legs had come back.  Like many endurance athletes, the beginning of a run or ride may be yucky but the body knows what’s up and will eventually get on board, once it warms up.  Just takes me awhile!  So I pushed a lot harder on the second loop and passed some people.  I grabbed water at every aid station.  As always, the volunteers at the bike aid stations impress the heck out of me.  They are smart, pay attention to the riders & deliver into my hand whatever I call for as I’m approaching.  Great job, volunteers!!!  Thank you!!!

I was hoping to get my bike split back under 3 hours but I started too slow to make it happen.  Decent bike though & the best bike split I’ve had in over a year so I was happy  and know what to do for next time.  No back pain during the bike!  HUGE win!!!

Transition 2, back to my lovely end spot.  So lucky!!  Tilted my bike to get it under the rack.  No need to worry about losing my nutrition and my rackmate wasn’t back yet so I didn’t need to worry about disrupting her bike/gear.  Shoes. Sunscreen.  Visor.  Race belt.  Go, go, go!   I left T2 in a jog.  A jog is about all I’ve got these days regardless if I want to go fast or slow.  So away I went in my one and only gear.  Slow.

I was looking forward to the first aid station on this run.  Last year they had a water hose & were spraying people down.  I saved my “thank a volunteer” bracelet for whoever was on the other end of that water hose.  It was heating up.  Probably close to 80 by the time I got to the run.  The temps were cooler than normal for Muncie but still hot for me.  I knew the run course had some rolling hills.  Nothing too bad, only 161 ft of elevation gain, but one of the issues with my back is that nerve damage prevents me from raising my feet off the ground too far when I’m running, so hills are a challenge. Even little ones.  My plan was to just keep moving, regardless of the pace.  Just keep moving.

Course was an out & back.  Aid stations & potties about every mile.  Closed course.  Lots of spectators.  Decent roads.  Some shade.  Slight breeze at times.

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I love a good out & back course because I get to see my friends.  Racing is about challenging myself, staying motivated to push my limits, & the friends I meet along the way.  An out & back lets me see those friends who are racing with me!  Yay!

The finish eventually presented itself. Finish Line = Pure Joy!   It was a good day of racing for me & the people I knew who went to Muncie.  Bonus, the wind that slowed us a bit on the bike, and cooled us a bit on the run, also dried up a lot of the mud so we could get out of our parking spots.  Yes!

Shout out to my bestie, Julie M.  She completed her first half ironman only 5 weeks after her first EVER triathlon.  Racing with this chick makes things fun.  So happy she drank the Triathlon Koolaid!

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Shout out to FNA Bicycles.  They hooked me up with a badass Felt bike this year.  I had to save my pennies for a long time for this bike but it was worth it.  The geometry on this bike is so much better for my body.  And the electronic shifting ….. worth the $$.  It still amazes me that when I shift, even under a load, everything just moves.  So nice to have equipment that works!

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Lastly, thumbs up for Muncie.  They continue to deliver a great race, year after year.  Amazing volunteers.  Great venue.  Best post race food in the Midwest on the IM 70.3 circuit.  If you are looking for a race that is good for beginners & experienced racers alike, Muncie might be for you.  It is in the middle of nowhere but its worth the trip.  Expect a non-wetsuit legal swim, flat bike with a few rollers, and a hot/humid run with some hills.  And the SWAG is below.  Cute bag, cute gender specific shirt & I’m loving the medal this year!

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Next up, Ironman 70.3 Ohio – 7/30/17.

** Give It a TRI ** Amanda – TooTallFritz