Rock N Roll Las Vegas Marathon … Strip At Night … Race Review + RNR Discount Codes

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This weekend I was at the Rock N Roll Marathon Series Las Vegas event.  Otherwise known as “ The Strip At Night”.   This was my first time at Rock N Roll Las Vegas and I was pleasantly surprised.   I haven’t been to Vegas for a long time but its relatively easy to navigate by using the monorail, cabs/uber or walking.   The expo is just steps from the monorail at the Las Vegas Convention Center and was open from Thursday thru Saturday.  This is one of the largest RnR events with over 40,000 registered runners!  They offered several races throughout the weekend:  5K (8249 finishers), 10K (5498 finishers), Half (22,052 finishers) & Full marathon (2655 finishers). PLUS there were 230+ people who participated in the Run Thru Wedding during the half & full marathon.

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Packet pick up was quick & easy.  However, if you wanted to purchase race gear, the lines were long, unless you were a Tour Pass Holder or a VIP.  Medium sized expo that could definitely cover you for anything you needed or left behind.  I was in and out because I had hubby in tow and didn’t want to thoroughly bore him but the expo looked fun!

Las Vegas to hubby & I is all about the sights.  We spend a lot of time walking around the strip, downtown, various casinos & checking out exhibits.   So by race time on Sunday night, I already had 70+ miles of walking on my legs.  If you want fresh legs for your race, I’d recommend getting to Vegas right before the race, then staying afterward to see the sights.  The Vegas event has some additional obstacles too.  It’s  a “must do” race because the course features the legendary Las Vegas “Strip”, at night, when all the casinos are lit up.  They only shut the strip down to vehicular traffic 2x per year.  For New Years Eve & Rock N Roll Las Vegas.  Its something to see and a huge event for runners, visitors & locals alike.  But do be careful of what you eat & drink leading up to this late afternoon race so that you have fun running & not running to the potties!

The half & full marathon started at 4:30pm on Sunday night.  Four different wave starts.  Numerous corrals in each wave.  I started in the first wave since I was a marathon runner.  Each wave started with a burst of fireworks. 

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This event is definitely crowded off the start but thinned out quickly.  It seemed like everyone was very excited and many people wanted to run fast.  Like really fast.   The sun was just starting to set when we began to run & it was cooling off.  Kinda nice. The first thing to be seen on course was the Vegas sign.  Welcome to Las Vegas.

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After passing the Vegas sign we were headed toward the more well known parts of the strip with lots of casinos and flashing neon lights.  This is only about 1.5 miles into the race & you can see that I already have plenty of road to run.  I didn’t feel hindered by the crowds and could run the pace I wanted. 

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2 miles into the marathon & half, the Luxor & Excalibur.

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Mile 3 – Planet Hollywood & Paris

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Mile 4-5, Mirage & Treasurer Island

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There was definitely an excitement in the air.  I think this race was about so much more than running to many of the participants.  I heard a lot of chatter about this being the first time at a particular distance.  So many spectators.  So much energy.  It was dark.  It was cool without the sun beating down on us.  It was beautiful.  The night was lit up with all the beautiful lights of Vegas.  It was an experience like no other.  This was my 36th marathon and I must say, it will stand out in my memory for a long time to come.

At mile 6, near the Stratosphere, we were welcomed to Downtown Las Vegas. 

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Around mile 8, Meb passed me.  Fast.  I heard someone shouting that Meb was passing & to say “hey”.  And then he was gone.  No pic for me.  Boooo!  Mile 9-10 down Freemont Street for a peak at the lights. 

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And as the lights of Freemont Street faded behind me, I knew that the “fun” was almost over for the marathoners.  As the half runners were joyful & close to their finish, we turned off around mile 11 into the darkness.  Away from the lights.  Away from the crowds.  Away from the “fun”.  Some streets were lit with streetlights.  Some not lit at all.  Random bands were out on the marathon route and since we were weaving in and out of parallel streets, in a very close vicinity, I could hear a band multiple times at various places on the course.  We still had a clear path, no question as to where we were headed or where to run.  It looked really confusing on paper but the route was well marked and there was never a question as to the direction we were headed.  I was impressed with the volunteers & the volume of Las Vegas PD Officers who were out on course helping us.  I can’t imagine the number of people it took, all working together, to make this a successful event. 

Miles 13-18 were all in and around the World Market Center.  Getting in and out of this area is where you will find the only “hills” on the course.  It was kinda nice for some varied terrain.  I really loved this section.  Looking at it on paper looks insane & confusing.  I couldn’t picture it in my head at all.  But we ran around the World Market Center several times in roped off “pathways” created by organizers.   There were a lot of lights & music that could be heard throughout the complex.  Cool area. 

Miles 19 & 20 were non-eventful.  Then we hit the strip for a millisecond at mile 21 near the Stratosphere.  We were on the strip for maybe 3/10ths of a mile before being directed off, toward the back lots of Circus Circus.  I now understand that this was the 5K route.  So if you ran the 5K, then you know the route of which I speak.  There was loud music & a huge display of fireworks with lots of neon lights.  By this time, I was not having fun.  My stomach was upset & I had some abnormal aches & pains.  I was ready to be finished.  Headed out of the back lots & back to the strip for 3/4 of a mile, then we were once again directed off strip for our final detour before the finish.  Mile 25 & we were about to return to the Strip for our final 1.2 & what we were all awaiting:  the finish. 

And the finish was sweet.  I was so happy to see it.  #36 was in the DONE column. 

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We received a spinning, glow in the dark Finisher’s Medal!

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And a gender specific Finishers Jacket with reflective accents.  I used my New Orleans Finisher Jacket on the left (below) so you can see both the back & the front; however,  I only received one jacket for finishing the Las Vegas race.  The race tee is in the middle.  Gender specific.

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I really loved the first 18 miles of this race.  I’m sure the miles that I had logged walking around Vegas the days prior to the race didn’t help me get thru the last 8 miles swiftly.  But I ran conservatively and tried to enjoy it.   Just kept moving toward the finish.  It doesn’t matter how many marathons I run, it still all about patience & surviving whatever the day & conditions bring me.  And trying to enjoy it, no matter what.  Smile

This race had 14 aid stations on the marathon course, 18 music stations (many which you could hear from multiple locations), and 3 medical stations.   They also handed out Glukos gels & gummies 3-4x.  It was a well supported race.  Clear direction as to the race course.  Members of the community, even in less populated areas were out and cheering on runners.  Great race but if you came for the party, stick to the half marathon because you’ll see everything & maybe still get back to hubby before he breaks the bank. 

Sound fun?  They are doing a early pre-sale for 2017 RnR Las Vegas HERE.  You can register thru Sunday, 11/20/16 for $99 for either the half or the full. 

If you loved Vegas and/or are trying to squeeze in a couple more RNR events, feel free to use my $15 off discount code (TTF2016)  for these upcoming events:  RnR San Antonio (12/4 – I’ll be at this one!!), RnR DC (3/11/17), RnR Dallas (3/19/17) & RnR Nashville (4/29/17).

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** As always, Happy Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon ….. 2016

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Saturday was the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.  This was my 3rd time running this marathon.  First at the inaugural event in 2008, 2015 & then this 2016 version.  The race has grown by leaps and bounds because its well ran and has a reputation for being flat and fast.  This was my fastest marathon for 2015 and my 2nd fastest this year (and I’m not at all in good shape right now).  Its small enough to feel intimate but big enough to feel fun and like a real road race.  I really love it.

The expo is medium sized.  Local vendors.  We found some good deals from a local run store that had 30% off everything, even high tech winter run jackets!  Packet pick up was smooth & fast.  They also give a commemorative poster which lists every registered participants name.  Nice touch.  This is last years poster (hard to see with the glare in my sun room, sorry). The one this year wasn’t as cool and I doubt I’ll put it up but I love that they do this.

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The Monumental Marathon is a downtown Indianapolis race.  We stayed downtown so that we could walk to the expo, dinner and the start/finish line!  I think we left our hotel 30 minutes before the start and had plenty of time. There are start corrals but they are not policed so as always, plan for slower runners to find their way to the front.  Its inevitable.   The first mile is very crowded and slow.  If you are looking to hit a particular pace from mile one, that’s difficult and I’d encourage you to start closer to the front, or plan accordingly for that first mile to be a minute slower.  Try to take it all in before you put the hammer down, enjoy the city and the crowds and the remember why you run.

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This is a race where I normally have a lot of friends running with me, so we just start behind the corrals and enjoy ourselves.  We don’t rush.  We don’t push.  We just run.  Things definitely thin out after a couple miles but really, there are quite a few runners until the half marathon turns off around mile 7.5.  This year my crew had 3 high school girls in tow.  They were running the half.  One for the first time.  Two for the second time.  So I just stuck with them and had fun.  I love watching the enthusiasm of young runners.  These 3 ran Cross Country for their school this fall and they have a lot of spirit.  They entertained the crowd around them the entire time by cheering, yelling & singing.  I loved every minute of it.  This is what running is to me …. fun, fitness & friendship.  M, A & Aby (on the right). 

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They are getting ready to turn off for the half.  Good luck, girls!!

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The half and the full sold out this year. 2016 was the biggest year so far.  They had 8,154 finisher for the half.  2,762 finishers for the 5K.  And 4,237 finishers for the full.  There was also an extra medal for the runners who ran both the Indianapolis Half Marathon earlier in October, in addition to the Monumental Half.    More Bling = More Runners!

As the half turned off, the road opened up in front of me and I think we all sighed from relief.  I love the energy from the half runners but its nice to get down to business and start focusing on my race.  I remember feeling the same way last year.  It doesn’t scare me that the crowds thin.  We still have ample spectator support.  There were still a lot of runners out there.  I was never alone, just free to run whatever pace I wanted. It was a great day.  Warmish.  I saw several bloggers report that it was in the high 30s when we started but it wasn’t that cool according to my AccuWeather app.  It was 47-50 degrees by the 8am start time. No wind. And the sun was coming up. My crew had on arm sleeves and could have gotten away without them.  I was very comfortable pre-race in shorts, a tank & arm sleeves.  And it was going to heat up as we ran.  Time to get down to business and run.

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After the half split, we headed to the State Fair Grounds.  Then a long straight stretch down Washington Boulevard.  Love this part.  Lots of room to run and it’s a night straight stretch that doesn’t require much thinking.  Not a lot to see.  Traffic on the other side of the road but many motorists cheer us on as they wait in traffic.   Then onto Broadripple.  Riverview, which is short but scenic.  Meridian Drive.   Butler University.  Beautiful campus.  Lots of older alums hanging out but where are the students?  Indianapolis Museum of Art.  Lovely area.  White River Parkway.  Burdsal Parkway. Miles 21-22 ocne and go, that always seem to be a challeng.  Fall Creek Parkway.  Back on Meridian and heading back downtown, we are getting close!!!  We can see Monument Circle in the distance and keep pushing forward.  Finally, mile 25.  Then 26.  Then the finish.  That lovely finish.  Another one in the books.  Thank you, Lord.  Thank you, body.  Thank you, mind for pushing me thru another finish.

In all, this is a great race.   I’d love to run it again next year if it fits into my schedule.  Lots of water & potty stops, plus medial about every 1-1.5 miles.   20 aid stations in all.  They also had at least 5 food/fueling stations.  Plus so many kind spectators that set up their own personal aid stations offering Halloween Candy, beer, water, pretzels, oranges, etc.  Great race.  Great community & spectator support.  Thanks, Indy! 

Swag:  Gender specific tee, finishers hat & medal.  Last year we got a hat too.  That one had the year embroidered on the hat.  This one was more “generic”, probably so they can use leftovers for years to come. 

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Great race, hope to see YOU next year!

** Run Indy, Be Monumental ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

TBT … Inaugural Indianapolis Monumental Marathon Race Report – 2008

Thanks to my Facebook “Memories”, I found a race report that I published on Facebook, prior to inception of the TTF blog site.  It was published on this day (11/3) back in 2008.  This was my 2nd marathon.  It was during a time when I only ran one marathon a year, poured my heart into training & frequently was disappointed on race day. 

 

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The Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in 2008 came after a very long TRI season.  We were also trying to conceive Mr. Michael, who arrived on 9/7/09.  I was tired.  And emotional.  Two things that can make a marathon difficult at best.  Smile

 

Indy Marathon (11/1/08) – Race Report

November 3, 2008 at 12:06pm

Indy put on a great race this weekend! The weather was perfect, the course was perfect, I fueled properly……so why did I do more walking than running?
I’ll never know why certain race days end in utter disappointment and tears. Saturday was such a day. I had my miles in, I had a good attitude, I was ready to run, unfortunately my body didn’t get the memo!
I knew I was off almost immediately as my pace was slow and I didn’t have anything more to put into pushing the pace faster. I tried to convince myself that since the weather was cold I was just a bit sluggish and that as soon as I warmed up then I would be able to settle in and start pacing properly. Realistically, when looking at 26 miles, a slow pace isn’t really too big of an issue, I can pick it up later or just run slower. No big deal either way because to me the marathon distance is really about personal achievement and not the clock time.
Things just never came together and they went from less than ideal to pretty bad. I was upset not because I was slow but because I felt bad all over, from my head to my toes! I was upset that I normally can run, even if it is slow, through all my training runs and now it was race day and I not only didn’t want to run, I didn’t even want to walk! Had I been close to home or on a training run, I would have scrapped the day. Some days just aren’t for running and I am old enough to know and accept what I’m given. However, I wasn’t in a situation where I could just get in my car and go home, or call Mick and have him come rescue me. Sigh….so I finished, not because I wanted to but because I didn’t have another reasonable option. It was a 4:50 finish; I was 2:09 at the half, so the majority of the walking did come in the last half. I ran/walked a 4:54 in Memphis last December and felt a whole lot better about it than I did the Indy finish. Not sure why but my emotions took a huge toll on me too, which I think just made it that much worse. And I know I have the ability to run in the 4:15 to 4:30 range…..but that would require that I actually keep moving the entire time! Smile
Looking back, I am thankful I had the desire, motivation and ability to train for another marathon. I am thankful I had a great friend (Abby) awaiting my finish to give me a tissue and commiserate with me! I am also thankful for the great people I met along the course, some who were having good days, other who weren’t.
I’m super sore today, obviously my ego has been bruised badly, and I’m gonna take the week to relax and realign myself mentally. Hopefully by Friday I will be “back” and looking forward to a Saturday long run and maybe even possibly the Tecumseh Trail Marathon.

Cheers to being “upright and moving forward” regardless of how we feel. Amanda

2008 & 2015 Indy Monumental Finisher Medals

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I always say that “time changes almost everything”.  And I still believe that.  If you had told me after I wrote this race report, that in 8 years I’d be going back for my 3rd Indy Monumental Marathon AND that it would be my 35th marathon in all, I’d have told you that you were nuts.  But apparently the joke’s on me.  This Saturday will be my 3rd Indy Monumental Marathon.  And it will be my 35th marathon. 

** Cheers to Whatever Adventures the Future Brings ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Interested in more posts on the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon?  See the links below.

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon Then vs Now – 11/5/15

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon ….. 2015 Version – 11/10/15

Marine Corps Marathon (2016) …..

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The 41st Marine Corps Marathon was held Sunday, October 30, 2016.  This is a race that I’ve heard so much about over the years.  It’s a “bucket list” race for many.  A “must do” for others.  Its called the “People’s Marathon” because they do not offer prize $$ to elite runners and they are currently the largest marathon which holds back on that cash prize.  This year there were 24,965 runners who finished (19,897 for the marathon, 5,068 for the 10K).  Its  advertised as a great race for first time marathoners.  Fifty percent of this race takes place on National Parks land.  Its organized and ran by the US Marine Corps with Marines marshaling the course, working the aid stations, cheering & encouraging runners. 

That’s what most people know about MCM.  Now the personal experience of it.  Marine Corps was my 34th marathon.  So, I’ve ran a few.  Some are super easy to navigate.  Others aren’t.  Anytime you add a big city into play, then the logistics will be more difficult.  This was no exception.  I drove to DC from the Ft Wayne IN area.  So we had a car.  This enabled us to pick  a couple ladies up from the airport.  Drive to the Expo.  Then drive to our hotel.  If you plan to fly to this race, plan to be dependent on Race/Hotel Shuttles, Metro or cabs/uber.  Everything is spread out and you can not plan on staying in a hotel then walking to the expo & to/from the race.  We did well driving BUT I drive in Chicago every week, traffic doesn’t stress me out AND I have a great group of ladies who all take part in navigating so that I can focus on driving. 

The expo was at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at the National Harbor (MD).  Isolated area, used for conventions & touristy stuff.  Shops, restaurants, Ferris Wheel, tours/cruises.  Expo was crowded but packet pick up was smooth.  We were able to quickly get our race bibs & packets.  However, if you wanted official race merchandise then the wait for that Brooks gear was 45 minutes to an hour.  We skipped the official merchandise.  Grabbed a few pics.  Toured the rest of the expo which was tight but a decent size. 

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After the expo, we left the car parked for a bit and had lunch and walked thru the National Harbor area.

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Back in the car to head to our hotel, which was in the Courthouse area, south of Rosslyn.  Initially I was concerned that we were too far out without Metro or shuttle service, both of which started after we needed to be at the start area.  But alas, we were in a great spot and able to hit the back security entrance for the marathon.  TIP – Pick a hotel in the Rosslyn area & you’ll be even closer to the finish (and back entrance for the race, which is at Meade Street & Marshall Drive).  

Race day started early.  Up at 4am.  Out of the hotel by 5am.  We walked to the race site & were “trying” to find that back security entrance.  Fortunately, we hooked up with a local couple while we were walking and they knew exactly where to go!  We were thru security and basically sitting at the start line by 5:40a.  Race started at 7:55a. The pre-race festivities, gear check & the main security entrance were all in the Pentagon North Parking Lot, which was about a mile south of the start.  We never did go down there since we had already walked 3+ miles by the time we got to the start area.  So we sat.  We were close to the start and close to a large group of potties.  It was a long wait but we had heard that it might take over an hour to get thru security so we had planned basically for an hour for security, an hour for the potty line & then a bit of extra time for walking & getting where we needed (including getting lost).  Always better to be early than late but the temps were cool in the morning.  About 48 degrees.  I was cold & my hands were numb by the time we started running and I was tired.

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The race started on Route 110 beside the Arlington National Cemetery, just north of the Pentagon, running north toward Rosslyn.  The first 5 miles were hilly but the majority of hills were in the first couple of miles.  I actually walked up my first hill in mile 2.  Hills aren’t my friend at this point.  I’ve had a damaged hamstring/glute for about a year now.  Its connected to my damaged back (ruptured disc) so I don’t stress when my body feels stressed, I just walk.  This was my 34th marathon.  If I feel like I need to walk, I walk.  End of story.

Race course was crowded.  No official “start corrals”, just signs to indicate that we should line up according to predicted finish times.  But most people didn’t do that.  The buzz in the air was all about the time limit to “beat the bridge” at mile 18.  Nobody wanted to start at the back and then have less time to get to “the bridge”.  Pretty chaotic as a result.  So we had a race course packed full of runners of varying paces and huge spectator crowds.

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Race moves thru Rosslyn, thru Thrifton Hill Park with fog hovering & onto Spout Run Parkway.  Very magical and one of my favorite areas of this race.

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After the Park we merged onto George Washington Memorial Parkway and ran beside the Potomac River to prepare for our first bridge crossing into Georgetown on the Francis Scott Key Bridge.  You can see tiny runners on the bridge in the pic below.

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By this time, I was starting to see a pattern.  Aid stations were spaced pretty far apart for a road race.  Most major marathons have water stops between a mile to 1.5 miles apart.  At MCM, the first waters stop was at approximately 2.2, the next at mile 5.1, the next at mile 7.7.  These are approximations but I’m pretty close on the distance.  We had a total of 12 water stations for 26.2 miles.  Each water station had Gatorade Endurance and water, potties & medical was close but not always with the aid station.  

I’m starting to get thirsty about the time I leave Georgetown and head to Rock Creek Parkway, miles 6-8, but the views of the Potomac were awesome.  We passed the Kennedy Center but I missed it or couldn’t identify it.  Then the Lincoln Memorial, which I could barely see.  Those were miles 8-9.  Mile 9-10 passing the FDR Memorial.  Definitely couldn’t see that from my spot on course but we were by the Potomac & had a breeze and nice views of the river.  Still lots of spectators.  Mile 10-11 was the Wear Blue mile.  Emotional.  Both sides of Ohio Drive heading south toward Hains Point were lined with photos of fallen soldiers.  Name.  Age.  Rank.  So many under the age of 24.  Men.  Women.  Black. White. Hispanic.  People of our nation who fight for our freedom each and every day.

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Around Hains Point.  Mile 13-14 Jefferson Memorial (from the opposite side).  I can pick that one out.  J told me to take a pic so she could grab a breather.  Smile

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Then the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, DC War Memorial & Korean War Memorial – Miles 14-15.  I couldn’t see these from my vantage point on course.  If you didn’t know they were there (and I didn’t know their specific locations since I’ve only been to DC 2x previous) then you wouldn’t even know to look for them.  What I could mainly see was the Washington Monument at various points, thanks to its height, a course loaded with runners and streets/roads lined with amazing spectators.  The spectators never stopped, they lined the entire course.

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After passing the Washington Monument (and the WWII Memorial, which I couldn’t see from course), we entered the MCM Gauntlet.  This is the first cutoff point.  Runners must reach this section, around mile 15.5 by 12:38pm or they will not be allowed to run the National Mall campus which passes all the various Smithsonian buildings & the Capitol.  Possibly the coolest part of the course, so stay focused so you can get thru the Gauntlet. 

Mile 15 thru 18 is where you can get up close and personal with all the museums on the National Mall Campus, really see the buildings, their specific architecture and actually read their names if by chance you don’t have the layout of DC memorized.  I certainly don’t so I really enjoyed this section.  National Museum of African American History & Culture.

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DC War Memorial.  National Museum of American History.  Natural Museum of Natural History. 

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National Gallery of Art.

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US Capitol

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National Museum of American Indian, National Air & Space Museum, Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Castle (below), Holocaust Museum, US Dpt of Agriculture, US Dpt of Treasury.

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By this point, I was very thirsty.  I was getting cotton mouth between water stops.  I had Tailwind on me for nutrition and I was trying to be very careful and not take it all in as “fluid” vs using it as my fuel source.  Finally finished my Tailwind around mile 17 so I could use my bottle for water.  I was really behind the ball on fluids at this point and could only take so much in at one time.  I was using salt tabs too in order to help my water absorb.  I thought I was doing well.  I felt okay, was just thirsty, no sloshing tummy.

Mile 18-19 – Beat the Bridge.  Second & final cutoff.  Runners had to be to 14th Street bridge by 1:15pm or they will not be allowed to finish.  This section isn’t fun.  We hit the 14th Street Bridge and it was forever long.  We crossed the Washington Channel first, then over the East Potomac Park which we ran earlier for the blue mile, then we crossed over the Potomac River.  In all, we didn’t get off the bridge until after mile 20.

From 20-21 we looped the Pentagon area.  Nothing to see. I must have drank too much water at the previous aid station.  I got sick.  Vomited my water & Tailwind.  Nothing solid.  I didn’t feel bad, just couldn’t stop it from coming up.  I ate some pretzels to settle my tummy, grabbed a gel & refueled.  Off to Crystal City (miles 21-23).  Lots of restaurants and shops so there was a big crowd of spectators.  Fun area.  Then we were headed to the finish, past the Pentagon again (yes, super tired off seeing the Pentagon), past Arlington Cemetery & up a big hill to the finish at the US Marine Corps War Memorial, AKA the Iwo Jima Memorial.

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Cool medal featuring the Eagle, Globe & Anchor with a center piece that opens to reveal the Iwo Jima Memorial.

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Unique SWAG, a green thermal mock tee for cold weather & a 41st MCM patch.

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Overall a cool race.  Water stations & potties were spaced too far apart for me (and many others).  Four food stations and so many spectators who offered food to the runners that fueling should not have been an issue.  The route hit a lot of really cool things but there were a lot of things that were “advertised” that I couldn’t see from the run course.  I’m sure this entire race was a security nightmare for the Marines and I was impressed by how welcoming they were to us.  Very respectful, I’ve never been called “Ma’am” so many times in one day.  They did a great job with this race.  Very organized but not as easy to navigate as some venues.  Bottom line, each race is different.  If you are going to run a lot of races & travel to some, expect the unexpected.  Go with the flow.  Have a good attitude & just enjoy what the day gives you.  And expect a few “extra”  miles on your legs by the time you are finished with your race and back in your hotel.  We ran/walked 33 miles on Sunday.  Smile  Fun day but a whirlwind trip.  If you have MCM on your bucket list, I hope you have a few days to spend enjoying the area.  Lots to see & do in Arlington, VA & Washington DC.  Go, enjoy it!

** Run With The Marines ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

River City Rat Race 10K …. Ft Wayne, IN

On Sunday, Aby & I ran the River City Rat Race 10K in Fort Wayne, IN. 

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They offer both a 10K and 5K.  It’s a downtown Ft Wayne race that runs thru the streets, a few neighborhoods, local parks and hits some of the Rivergreenway trails.  In fact, Runners World magazine noted this as “One of the most scenic 10Ks” ever ran by writer Hal Higdon.   Impressive statement and I was looking forward to the race.  Plus, this is the first race that Aby & I have ran together in years.  Fun!  Let’s get started!

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The race started at 2pm on Main Street.  Sunny & 70.  Amazing October day!!  Packet pick up was directly across from the start line.  Easy, quick.  In and out.  There were a couple portable toilets outside but there were also bathrooms inside that were available to us.  Win!  Race started on time with the boom of a cannon.  Away we went down Main Street headed for Columbia Avenue. 

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Route was crowded in spots.  Corrals were well marked but as with most small races, runners just jump in anywhere.  Aby & I had planned to stay together and run an easy pace.  We had ran 9 miles at sub 10 min pace the day before but still wanted to come to experience the Rat Race, even though neither of us were conditioned to race it.  We locked in between 9:10 & 9:20 and just stayed together and enjoyed the run.  We were definitely playing it safe but Aby is coming off an injury and well, my back is pretty crabby and I have to stay pretty upright and in control to keep it from hurting when I run.  Better safe than sorry, right? 

Race Route:

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Lakeside Park & the Rose Garden:

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Before we knew it we were half way, passing thru the Old Fort and dropping the 5K runners.  I really loved how they designed this route with us all running past the 5K finish.  This worked out great for parents who wanted to run the 10K but knew their kids could only do the 5K distance.  The kids went off the 5K finish & mom/dad went on for an additional 5K.  Kinda cool.  They also have one price for this race.  $30 for both the 5K & 10K.  If you choose to downgrade to the 5K due to injury, scheduling, etc., no need to do an official race change.  The race officials were specific that you would be timed for the race you ran, and would not need to make an official “race change”.  Nice touch.  Made it easy for everyone. 

Official Race Photos, anyone?  Free.  Posted to Facebook.  Parking was free too, if you’re keeping track.  Smile

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Off for the final 5K.  It was heating up.  I know 70 degrees isn’t hot and I wasn’t running hard but it was definitely warmer than I would have liked!  I believe there were 3 or 4 water stations and I utilized each one. 

Once we headed out of the Old Fort, they turned us onto the St Mary’s River Trail portion of the Rivergreenway.  Very scenic.  The entire run was scenic.  I really enjoyed it.

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Then up and out to head back downtown to tour some of the local businesses.  Harrison, Berry & Columbia Streets.  It was fun running thru this downtown section on a Sunday with everything quiet.  I must say last time I was on Columbia Street, I was much younger and it was nighttime.  Cool to see it in the light of the day.  Calm & peaceful.  This was definitely my favorite part.  And it was shaded.  Lots of room for running too.  Bonus!!

On to Headwaters Park.  Lawton Park.  Then back to the Old Fort for the finish.  Upon finishing, there was a big spread of food.  Mini sub sandwiches, apples, bananas, granola bars, pretzels & fruit snacks to name a few items.  Then awards on site. 

I run a lot of marathons now.  Not many shorter distance road races.  But what I love about these small local races is seeing all the runners I know.  Its awesome to see so many runners show up in the middle of a Sunday afternoon for no other reason than to run and socialize.  Running is about so much more than the miles.  Its about fun and fitness and camaraderie.  This race embodies all of that.  A great race for the whole family and I loved seeing so many families participate together.  I’ll definitely go back for a repeat run. 

Great race.  Great organization.  Great volunteers.  Great highlight tour of Ft Wayne.  I’d highly recommend this race to others.  If you want to go fast though, start toward the front.  If you don’t care about pace, then no need to stress about some of the tighter sections of the course.  Definitely worth running. 

Long Sleeve, performance tech, Brooks race shirt below.  Unisex sizing.  I love long sleeve tech shirts, hoping it fits okay. 

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** Run Fort Wayne **  Amanda – TooTallFritz

Unrelated side note:  My GoMacro giveaway is still going on thru 10/31.  Enter HERE to win an assorted tray of GoMacro THRIVE Bars (12 bars – $26.28 value). 

Chicago Marathon …. 2016

I ran my 5th Chicago Marathon on Sunday!  What a beautiful day!!  I arrived downtown early because Aby & her friend were volunteering at the 12.5 mile water stop.  They had to set up in the dark and wait for the runners to arrive.  They had a 6 hour shift, longer than it took most to run the marathon!!  Thank you, volunteers!!

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After getting the girls off to their volunteer spot, I want and sat for a bit.  I was in the second wave this year.  Corral J.  While the marathon started at 7:30am, I didn’t have to be in my corral until 7:45.  I started running at 8:30am.  Plenty of time for pics!!  I even managed to connect with Diana & Sarah from my local TRI Club!  Congrats to Sarah on completing her VERY FIRST marathon! 

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Finally, we were closing in on the start line. I wasn’t nervous but ready to run.  I must say as much as I love Chicago, I really appreciate those races where I can stumble out of my hotel and onto the start line 5, minutes pre-race.

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But Chicago and its awesome city keeps calling me back, time and time again.  So it was Chicago where I ran my 33rd marathon.  I wasn’t sure how it would go.  If you have been following along all summer, you know I’ve had a rough TRI season.  I’ve stayed after it even though I felt crappy.  I kept up the swim, bike, run but if you have done any of those things with me, you know I haven’t been 100%.  Not even close.  I would struggle getting into and out of my wetsuit.  Couldn’t bend over to get it on/off.  It took 2 wetsuit strippers at Cedar Point to get me off the ground.  If I’m up and moving, I’m ok.   If I have to bend, sit or lay down, things don’t go well.  So upright and moving forward and everything is okay, right?

I started slow. Most of the spectators by the start had moved on by the time I went thru.  There wasn’t one person on the bridge above Columbus after the start.  I knew I was running the Chicago Marathon but it was like I had gotten to the line late and was trying to catch up.  I knew so many people running, spectating and volunteering.  I was watching for all of them but didn’t see many.  The miles clipped by slowly.  The first half of the marathon is by far the most exciting.  The temps were cool.  We were downtown.  The tall buildings kept many of the streets shaded. Lots of spectators.  Columbus Avenue, Grand Avenue, State Street, LaSalle Street.  So many people.  Then we headed north toward some of my favorite areas.  Lincoln Park.  Passed the Zoo & the Arboretum.  Headed toward Boys Town.  I wonder what performance we would see this year.   Old Town.  Dancing, singing Elvis.  Sedgwick, my favorite part of the route.  Such an awesome neighborhood.  Looks like an amazing place to live.

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Wells Street.  Headed back downtown.  Maybe I’ll get to see the girls at the 12.5 mile water stop?!?!   Can’t wait!

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Hit a water stop right before 12.  Ugh oh, no girls.  No way there will be another water stop at 12.5.  My gosh, I’m going to miss them too!!!!  20K, not quite half way.  Aid station ahead.  There they are, cheering, yelling, whooping it up!  LOL!  Yes!  Best part of the run, right there!

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On I go.  Half way.  The course gets congested.  So many corrals ahead of me.  So many people already starting to suffer.  They are slowing down.  They went out too fast.  I’ve been there.  I felt for them but honestly just wanted to keep moving.  I’m weaving now.  Around the masses who are slowing.  I’m not going fast, just need to keep running.  The longer I’m out on the course, the tighter my body gets.  My back is already starting to tighten and I feel some soreness popping up in my hips and my right glute.  Need to keep moving.  West Loop.  Greek Town.  Wish I had some saganaki, like hubby & I used to get at Nick’s Steakhouse.  Hmmm… my friend Penny just wrote about Saganaki in her new book Worry Knot.  Saganaki.  Must get some Saganaki soon.  Yum.

Charity Row.  Why is RMHC never on Charity Row?  They are back preparing the tent for our arrival, that’s why!  I love RMHC.  United Center.  Always so dead around this section.  Miles 14 –15 are always boring for me at Chicago.  Halsted.  Little Italy, where are you?  Ashland.  UIC.  Ahhh, Pilsen, I hear you!!  I’m coming!!  Best party on the Southside!  Everyone is out cheering.  Old people.  Young people.  Kids.  Businesses.  Lots of food.  Orange slices.  Beer.  Candy.  Pretzels.  Chips.  Thanks, Pilsen, you get better each and every year!  On to China Town.  Slow this year.  Quiet.  China Town, what’s up?  Mile 22.  My hips are tight.  I can no longer move laterally amongst the walkers.  I’m slowing down.  4 more miles.  I can do 4 more miles.  More BioFreeze, please!!  Sox Park.  US Cellular.  No idea what they are calling it today.  Why do these parks & fields & stadiums keep selling themselves off to the highest bidder.  So stupid.  Ugh.  35th Street Bridge.  Thank you, I’m heading back to the finish now!!!  Hello, Michigan Avenue.  I’m slow but I’m still moving!  Let’s do this!!!  Nike Cheer Station.  Or it used to be the Nike Cheer Station.  Not sure what was happening, or not happening, at mile 24 on Sunday.  I think I missed the party.  Too slow.  Who cares, just finish this thing!!!  McCormick Place.  I bet I could get a cab there.  Is it pathetic to get a cab a mile away from the finish line?!?!?  Wow.  My back and hips are super stiff.  Just keep moving.  Just finish.  I never knew Michigan Avenue was so freaking long.  Oh gosh, there is a bar.  They are handing out beer.  Please don’t splash beer on me.  Gross.  Oh jello shots.  Yeah, not today, thanks.  Look at all that jello on the road.  Streets and Sanitation has to hate marathon day.  What a freaking mess.  Mt Roosevelt.  Ahha!  I can’t get up this freaking hill.  I have to walk.  Thank goodness I have my race belt with my bib turned around on my bum.  Maybe the photogs won’t be able to identify me walking in those pics.  Almost to the top.  Start running.  You really aren’t going to walk to the finish line, right?  No.  Move it.  200m to go.  Cuz the elites need to know that since they would be blazing the last stretch to try to win the prize $$.  The prize $$ is long gone now.  Probably already deposited into some Kenyan account.  Why do Kenyan’s always win OUR marathon?  Oh my gosh, there is the finish.  I’m done.   Thank you, Lord.  Done.  #33 done.  I couldn’t be more grateful for another successful race.  Because every race we finish is cause for celebration.

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The Chicago Marathon is a World Major.  One of the largest marathons in the world.  If you have a chance, run it.  Totally worth your time & money.  20 aid stations.  Potty stops at each aid station.  BioFreeze on the ready.  Lots of medial help.  More police and volunteers than you can imagine.  One of the ONLY days each year that they will shut down the streets for you to run thru 29 different neighborhoods in Chicago.  An amazing experience, each and every time.  Thanks, for having me again, Chicago. 

Swag – Nike shirt & medal.   Lots of freebies at the expo though so plan to spend plenty of time hanging out. 

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The 2017 Chicago Marathon will open their lottery on October 27th.  Yeah, just a couple weeks from now.  If you want to run the 40th anniversary race, be ready with your credit card soon.  Details HERE.

P.S. I had an MRI this week.  All my issues from the summer have been due to a ruptured disc in my back.  I knew something was up but also didn’t want to wimp out on races that I had already paid to run.  Its been a long summer.  I did pretty well at Chicago considering  and am thankful to be able to keep moving forward.  Not sure where treatment will take me but I’m happy to have put Chicago in the done column this weekend.  Cheers!

** Run Chicago ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Rev3 Cedar Point 70.3 Race Review

I’ve never heard anything but good about the REV3 Triathlon events.  So last year when I was planning my 2016 triathlon schedule, I added the REV3 Cedar Point 70.3 to my roster.  I figured it would be a great event for me & a fun trip for the kiddos.  Each race entry comes with a free park pass for the weekend for the athlete & then a voucher for a $45 weekend pass for each family member/friend who accompanies you on the trip.  Win, win!

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Rev3 is notorious for putting on a series of events to include the entire family.  This weekend at Cedar Point they did a Sprint & kids triathlon on Saturday, then a full & half iron distance triathlon & a GLO run on Sunday. All events, plus the expo started in the Cedar Point parking lot in front of the park.  The expo was small.  Packet pick up was smooth.  The race meeting was informative.  Then off to the park with my munchkins.

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Saturday was extremely windy.  Thankfully they waived the mandatory bike check for the full & half athletes.  I was seriously concerned that my bike would blow away overnight.  It was difficult to roll my bike thru the parking lot on SAT, I wasn’t sure how to anchor it in transition.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about it.  But then I had my bike in a hotel room full kids.  Made things a bit tight but they rolled with it.  However, getting it back to transition on SUN morning wasn’t fun.  We were told that the best way to get to transition was down the beach from the hotel.  I didn’t realize that the boardwalk ended shortly after the hotel and that I’d really be hiking the beach …. with my bike …. and all my  gear.

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Due to that famous wind, the swim start had been moved from Lake Erie (in front of the Breakers Hotel) to the Cedar Point Marina.  I wasn’t really sure why.  The water looked calm to me.  I mean, honestly, I’ve been swimming in Lake Michigan all summer.  I’ve raced every event except Cedar Point sans wetsuit.  Lake Erie was calm.  Rev3 said they couldn’t’ secure the buoys in Lake Erie without them floating off to Canada.  Pic from the Breakers Hotel of Lake Erie on race morning (courtesy of David Standley).

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So the Marina swim it was and the water there was very calm and very warm.  I would hazard a guess that the water was too warm for wetsuits BUT I race mostly Ironman events which has a lower water temp limit (76.1 degrees) verses non IM branded events who use the USAT limit of 78 degrees.  Regardless, I was warm.  Pic of the marina water by Jill Kromer. 

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The swim venue change also changed the start.  Instead of a wave start, it was a self seeded rolling start.  I was pretty sure I would swim around 50 minutes.  So I seeded myself around people who were thinking the same.  I was a bit nervous about the new swim.  Not because of the swim itself but because I couldn’t see all the buoys.  It was a blind swim to the right toward a narrow channel in the marina.  One side of the channel was docks & big fancy boats.  The other side a rock wall.  I had no idea how far we had to swim in that channel.  No idea how many buoys were on course.  No idea when I hit half way.  And honestly, I didn’t even know where our swim stopped.  I just followed the crowd, buoy to buoy.  They did have orange turn buoys so that was good.  And then once I got toward the end, I saw a red buoy that was our stopping point.  First half of the swim was great.  I was swimming well.  My back wasn’t bothering me.  I felt strong.  I was passing people.  But I was really warm and started overheating.  At some point on the back side of the course, possibly around half way, I felt a wave of water enter my wetsuit.  Strange sensation but it had a cooling effect.  I couldn’t really figure out what was happening but water kept coming in and was actually ballooning in my wetsuit, I could even see it ballooning in the sleeves as my arms would come out of the water for each stroke.  I was also slowing down although I wasn’t sure why I was slowing.  I felt good.  I was calm.  I was sighting well enough.  Oh well, just keep swimming, right?  Once I stood up to exit the water & reached for the cord on my wetsuit, I realized why I was so slow on the back half and why I had so much water in my suit.  It was unzipped.  All the way  down to my hips.  We had zipped it up when I started but it must have come loose.  Swim split:  50:47

Rev3 had wetsuit strippers who helped us out of our suits (and me off the ground when I couldn’t get up).  Nice touch. Then we had a half mile run back to transition with our wetsuit, goggles & swim cap.  Fortunately, some Rev3 Cedar Point alums warned us about this possibility and I had a pair of extra shoes to put near the swim start.  Yes, there was a whole staging for shoes, by race numbers, at the swim venue.

Onto the bike.  This was the part for which I was most nervous.  If you read the last post, you know that I haven’t trained much in the last month.  My bike has been broken on & off all summer but Felt finally sent new shifters and the bike was ready to roll.  But my body wasn’t ready.  Long story short, I’ve been going to physical therapy for my back.  They believe that I have at least one disc that is bulging from the front and the back of my spine.  So instead of a circular disc, they think it is now oblong, like an oval.  Then to make things extra fun, its pressing on some nerves & causing issues with my legs, lack of power on the bike, etc. I’m sentenced to 6 weeks of therapy before insurance will pay for the MRI, then after that, I can see a pain specialist for injections to reduce whatever is left of the swelling/pain.  For now, I live with it.  Rev3 was my last ride of the season & I’m not allowed to ride or swim til we get this all figured out.

First 5 miles on the bike away from Cedar Point was rough.  Bad road.  Nobody will admit to owning it so Rev3 can’t find anyone to repave it.  Same route for the last 5 miles.  Most of the first half of the ride was with the wind.  I was moving pretty well.  Got loose a couple times in the wind & actually thought it would sweep me away at the bottom of one hill where there was an opening in the trees on both sides of the road.  Good news, I didn’t crash.  Lots of turns in the course.   As soon I got moving pretty well, then I had to brake & turn but that worked out when the wind was really bad on the back half.  Some hills but not horrible.  Not much spectator support but lots of awesome volunteers & the police did an excellent job of keeping the road clear for us.  Last half of the course was significantly slower, back into the wind, plus I had some serious knee pain which is related to my back issues but still irritating.  3:21:15 bike split.  I believe there were 4 aid stations on the bike.   That’s one more than most IM 70.3 courses, if you’re counting.

Time to run.  I had Biofreeze in transition.  Slathered some on the aching knee.  Slathered more on my aching back.  Off to run.  I realized quickly that it was going to be a “long” run.  I saw people running back to the finish and I was just getting started.  That felt a bit defeating.  I normally just focus on my race but there wasn’t a lot going on and it kinda felt like a training run.  Not a lot of spectators out on course.  The highlight was definitely the aid stations positioned at every mile.  Such awesome volunteers.  Aid stations were stocked with gels, power bars, powerade, bananas, coke, water & ice.  One even had broth.  I utilized the ice a lot and dumped some down the back of my tri kit at every aid station.  Between the biofreeze & the ice, I was numbed out and just focused on one foot in front of the other.  I thought overall the run course was cool.  They ran us over the Cedar Point causeway, into town & back toward the water where we got to go thru a couple other marinas that had walking paths, bridges & one even had a swimming pool.  We could even see Cedar Point across the water.  The course did get a bit confusing for those of us on our first loop.  The course wasn’t a full double loop but there was one section that had a double loop.  I could see varying distances signs for the full and half that didn’t make sense. As soon as I finished the first loop, I was okay.  The course was extremely well marked and there were volunteers helping direct runners.  No confusion on where to go, just a bit of doubt initially that I had messed something up due to the signage.  I won’t lie, turning away from the marinas & heading back toward town and the finish line made me one happy lady.  I was ready to be done.  I was ready to be reunited with my family.  I just wanted to finish.  Run split:  2:21.  Finish 6:43.

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Swag bag is below & included a personalized note in each bag.  A full sized towel from Gatorade.  Rev3 Cedar Point visor.  Gender specific tee.

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So, I know a lot of you are thinking about your first 70.3.  I get asked over and over again, Ironman or “off brand” triathlon for the first 70.3?  The bottom line is that if we don’t do these off brand races, they just won’t be available in the future.  In case you haven’t noticed, Ironman (World Triathlon Corp) is trying to buy up as many triathlon companies as possible.  The non IM branded races are cheaper.  Smaller.  Less competitive.  They are family focused & will most likely let you run down the finishers shoot with your kids, baby, dog or hubby.  They will bend over backwards to make sure your race is as good as they can make it.  And your fellow competitors will be there for their own reason, which probably won’t include attempting to qualify for the 70.3 Championships or up their position to All World Athlete status.  If they bump you on the swim, they will probably apologize verses pushing you harder under the water so they can swim over the top of you.  It just a different feel at these events vs an IM event.  Way more relaxed.  They try to personalize the experience for you.  When I crossed the finish line on Sunday, the Rev3 announcer said my name, told everyone that I blog at TooTallFritz.com, that I’m a Marathon Maniac & that I’m currently attempting to run a marathon in every state.  I would get lucky if my name were even announced at an IM 70.3 event.  That being said, there would be people to cheer my down the shoot & along the course in an IM event and at Rev3, it was pretty lonely.  I’m pretty sure Rev3 had more volunteers than actual participants and spectator support was virtually non-existent.

What do you get for your extra $$ at an IM event?  Consistency.  Accurate distances on the swim, bike & run.  Accurate info in the Athlete Packet for race meetings, transition opening/closing.  Larger group of competitors.  Spectators.  A community that is “all in” to support the race.  Finisher swag.  Free athlete tracking. World class venue.  Large expo.  Insurance for the race registration in the event you are injured prior to the race, plus insurance on race day to cover any issues on course that may require emergency care.   Numbered swim buoys:  the first half yellow, the second half orange.  Ironman is like the fortune 500 company that is well polished & sparkling.  Off brand races are like the mom & pop business.  What’s right for you is really about what YOU want out of a race experience.  I go both ways depending on the day.  I was on edge all weekend with Rev3.  Partially because I was rushed getting there with it being Cross Country & Soccer season for the kids.  Both had meets/games on SAT before we could leave.  I felt like crap with my back.  It hurts to do the very basic things like sit, drive, bend over …… so I’m CRABBY and trying to pretend like I’m “fine”.  Then I felt pulled between being with the kids at the park & doing what I needed to do for me & my body.  The last minute changes that Rev3 had to make then put me further into crabbiness. BUT, nobody swam over me, ran over me or even bumped me at all during the race.  And let’s just say my body couldn’t take anymore jostling.  I was in the right spot with Rev3 this weekend and applaud their willingness to make last minute changes to keep the racers as safe as possible.  I just wish I felt better and could have enjoyed it a bit more. 

Rev3 offered a great race at a great venue.  Great fun for the entire family.  I hope that you give them a “TRI’. 

** Cheers – Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Swim, Bike, Huh?

I’m 3 days out from the Rev3 Cedar Point 70.3 and I should be excited.  This was to be my “A” race.  I was hoping to go under 6 hours.  I started my training in January & I was very focused.  But the bottom line is that I was in better Swim-Bike-Run shape in May than I am now.  I had a full season of marathons from January thru April, 6 marathons in that period, 4 were doubles (Back to Backs, SAT/SUN races).  I was strong.  Tired but strong. But in May, I “downcycled” to rest & recover.   I rested.  Then I was training more than racing, all easy paced.  I was planning to refresh my legs and add some speed to my TRIs.   I had registered for four 70.3s, one a month from June thru September.  I knew the June race would be a bust.  I would still be tired from the marathons.  But I thought it was important to get out there and do my thing.  Most would probably do a shorter race  as a “rust buster” but I’m an endurance athlete.  I gravitate toward longer races.  It helps my mommy guilt to know that when I pack my bags its for a race that’s important to me.  So the 70.3 or the “half ironman” has become my signature triathlon distance since Michael was born in 2009.  Baby boy just turned 7 yesterday!!!  Happy Birthday, Michael!!!  Aby turned 15, in late August.  My babies are getting BIG!! 

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If you have been following my sporadic posts this summer, you know that I’ve had a less than stellar season.  My body hasn’t been right and the answer as to what exactly was wrong has been elusive.  My quads have been constantly fatigued like I just ran up a horrendous hill, 2000x.  My power on the bike has been poor.  I lost almost 3mph from my 56 mile bike split.  I have an ongoing glute/hamstring pull that has been lingering since November when I tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and bloodied myself.   Then as the summer progressed the issues dominoed:  hip, knee, back.    What you probably do not know, is that after my poor showing at the Cutting Edge Half 70.3 in June, I took some downtime to rest & recover & refinish the basement from the flood last summer.  It needed to be done.  I thought it would be good to do something other than swim-bike-run.  Well, apparently I was wrong.  What could have just been fatigue turned into a real issue from all the bending, stretching, lifting as we turned our basement into useable living space again.  The basement as of June 2015.  Yeah, our furniture & cats were floating.  IMG_7313  IMG_7351

June 2016

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After all the painting, cutting & installing the floor (that Aby & I did all by ourselves), then moving in the furniture …… I basically couldn’t move.  My back was in a bad place.  It’s been bad before, thanks to an old college injury, but it just wouldn’t get better this time, not even with the Chiropractor & Active Release.  My training slowed, my bike pace further plummeted.  More rest.  More recovery.  Fewer and fewer workouts.  Less and less sleep as the back just kept getting worse and I was miserable laying down.

So, where am I now?  One has been issue resolved.  My bike has been repaired & is actually working.  Yes!  Thanks, Felt for sending new shifters!!  The bike is ready to go! 

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My body is still damaged.  I still don’t have any power in my quads and feel like I’m riding thru sand.  The theory is that the neurons in my back are not firing the message to my quads to do the work.  My back continues to get worse.  I can hardly bed over now.  I can’t lift pots & pans out of the cabinet or bed over to pick something up.   It hurts to swim, run, sit, lay down & drive.  Ironically, it does not hurt on the bike but I’m still slow.  I’ve been thru 5 sessions with a new PT.  Not going great.  X-rays have been taken.  MRI was scheduled for today but canceled because insurance won’t pay until I’ve had 6 weeks of PT.  Ironically, I’m worse now that I’m doing PT than before (which is what usually happens with me & PT).  My GP is trying to get me into a pain specialist.  His theory being that this isn’t going to go away.  I ruptured discs in college while I was high jumping.  I opted out of surgery in 1993 for a series of magical drug cocktail injections of steroids, nerve blocker & anesthetic.  But alas, the magic has faded over time. Its theorized that the time is near for another series of injections.  Until then, I’ll keep hobbling along.  I haven’t been training much.  I opted out of my run last night, the short swim-run brick this morning because I really just feel horrible.  If there is any chance of getting to the start line on Sunday, I need to lie low this week.  Fortunately, I’m done with PT this week & have a few days to heal.  AND my therapeutic massage lady messaged me yesterday and said she had a cancellation for Friday.  So I’ll go get a massage tomorrow and see if she can take some of the pressure off my back & put some power into my quads.  Overall, my body should be fresh because I just haven’t been logging any miles. 

So that’s what’s up.  I’m still planning to do Rev3 but my expectations are very low.  And honestly, if I can’t do it, I just won’t.  I’m already stressing over the thought of carrying my loaded transition pack.  And water.  I always carry a jug of water to fill my aero canister.  I remember how badly it hurt my back carrying the water to transition for Steelhead and I’m much worse now than I was at Steelhead.  I hate the thought of blowing off the money of the registration fee, so I won’t be a DNS but I’m just going to be realistic and see how the day plays out.  The kids are ALL IN for Cedar Point so at least there is that.  I won’t be riding any rides but I can walk around and let them enjoy the park.  Maybe, just maybe, the walking will take some pressure off my back.  We’ll see.  My power word for Sunday is DETERMINATION.  At this point, that’s what I need to focus upon.  I’m determined to finish this TRI season with a smile on my face. 

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** Happy TRIing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Ironman 70.3 Steelhead Race Review – 2016

It’s no secret that Ironman 70.3 Steelhead is one of my favorites.  In fact, I’ll sign up for 2017 as soon as the event opens for registration.  Its “my” race.  Its in a familiar place.  I have friends in the area.  And I love Saint Joseph MI.  In fact, I raced this year, even though it was on my 17th wedding anniversary.  Oooops.  Sorry, honey.   Or I should say, thanks, honey. Smile

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Steelhead is set in a picturesque, beach town on the shores of Lake Michigan.  The venue is Jean Klock Park which has a Benton Harbor address, just one mile north of Saint Joseph, MI.  The views are breathtaking and the park is public so you can go visit anytime.  Take a swim in Lake MI.  Ride the marked bike route.  Go for a little run.  Fun!!

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I arrived at Jean Klock Park for packet pick up on Saturday morning around 11am.  It had stormed on me the entire 2.5 hours that I spent driving to the location.  The sun was out on the shores of Lake MI but “something” definitely hung in the air.  It was hot.  The wind was blowing.  And the waves were rolling.  Looks like a perfect day at the beach but not perfect enough for me to rack my bike.  I have been having issues with my bike all season, the gearing & derailleur, no need to leave it out in the weather overnight in less than ideal conditions. 

I quickly grabbed my packet, which isn’t as quick at an IM event as you might think. They are very organized but there is a process of checking identity, updating information & walking thru the various stations for bib/swim cap, shirt, & chip that takes a bit more time than a normal packet pick-up.  Fortunately, I got thru just in time for one of the pre-race meetings. 

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Always fun.  Nothing had really changed from last year course wise, just a few rule changes.  But then they dropped the big bomb that the water temp was almost to the point of being too high for wetsuits.  Since it was a very warm day, we should stay tuned for a last minute call on if the race would be wetsuit legal.  Honestly, I didn’t think much of it.  The swim is in Lake MI and I’m pretty sure it’s never NOT been wetsuit legal.  The water stays pretty cool, even in the summer.  Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. 

Packet picked up.  Race meeting attended.  Walked thru the expo quickly.  Bought some TriSlide ….. cuz that’s the way to make sure you can definitely wear your wetsuit, have extra lube so you can get into it!!  Found my spot in transition for reference.  Off to check into Hotel de Jude (not a real hotel in St Joseph – I always stay with a friend).

As the rest of the crew started filtering into Hotel de Jude, the air was light.  Most of us were on a repeat trip to Steelhead and knew what to expect.  We went about our business of cooking dinner, getting bikes ready for race day (cuz nobody from our group actually racked their bike), prepping nutrition & focusing on last minute rehab.  I’m thankful for friends who have all the cool toys that I can’t afford and I took full advantage.  Normatec Recovery Boots?  Yes, please!  Ed modeling his boots, I’m using Ryan’s.  Thanks, Ryan.  If they go missing, it wasn’t me.  I swear.  Smile  Super compression from the toes to the hip.  I’m in love. 

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Left my legs looking very “compressed” and super scary!  IMG_0664

Car buffer to rub out sore muscles.  I can afford that, $30 at Home Depot & I’ll be getting one soon!  There are also high tech muscle “massagers” that are more official for a much bigger price tag.  But this is essentially the same thing and much more affordable in my world.  Weird sensation!

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I was all in on the recovery front.  As a little background, I had spent the week hitting up the chiro and the massage therapist trying to bring my legs back from the dead.  The Chiro has figured out that due to some low back damage from my college years, then a fresh round of irritation this summer, my low back muscles are not firing properly.  My glutes aren’t working.  As a result my quads are overworked and apparently underpaid cuz they are revolting.  They are dead all the time.  It is a struggle to even climb the stairs at home.  When I get on the bike, all that is magnified and basically I’ve got zero power on the bike,  despite better training and better nutrition.  So, it is what it is and I have exercises to help correct the issue but it’s a slow process.  I was hoping to have a great race at Steelhead so invested some extra time & $$ into recovery.  Did it work?!?!?

Race day is always early.  The crew was up by 3am.  Pre-race prep and we had to put Hotel de Jude back to its original state of perfectness.  Off to the race site by 4:15am for a long day.  We were rolling our bikes into the venue when we heard the announcement.  Water temp was 77+degrees.  NOT wetsuit legal, the cap for wetsuits at IM races is 76.1 degrees.  The news did not hit the crowd well.  In fact, I wasn’t real happy either and I know I can swim the distance without a wetsuit.  It’s the waves.  The up and down of the waves that slow us “recreational” swimmers.  We don’t cut thru the waves but rather ride them up and down.  The wetsuits help our buoyancy, confidence & swim split.  But not at Steelhead 2016.  No wetsuits. 

Transition set up quickly.  Then we wait.  Donna, myself & Wendy waiting for transition to close at 6:45a and the race to begin at 7a. 

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IM races always start on time.  The three of us (above) were in the 40-44 category and our wave started at 7:24 am.  The other ladies warmed up with a quick swim, I just stood on the beach socializing, awaiting my wave start.  Lots of nervous people on race morning.  The normal nerves were intensified by the “no wetsuit” call.  I spoke to several people who had never swam without a wetsuit.  Some who were so nervous they couldn’t hardly even speak.  I felt bad for them and still wonder on how they did.  I’m hoping once they got into the water, they just got down to business.  The 1.2 mile swim course is very user friendly.  5 yellow buoys out, red turn buoy, 3 more yellow buoys, then 3 orange buoys (once you hit the orange buoys you’re half way), then a red turn buoy, then 5 more orange buoys to the beach.  The swim was not easy but I’ve had worse.  I’m not a fast swimmer even with the wetsuit so I was happy to see my swim split of 55 minutes once I got out of the water.  That’s a decent swim for me, especially without a wetsuit & considering the rolling waves.  The waves were rolling so high that spotting was difficult.  Normally I don’t have to lift my head real high to see the next buoy but I wasn’t timing my siting correctly and each time I lifted to site, I could only see the wall of the next wave coming at me.  Oh well, I just tried to be patient and focus on the next buoy.  Just keep swimming, right?  Made it out of the water with a smile on my face.  Saw Valerie who had VIP access right next to the swim exit & she captured my happy exit from the water.  Yay!  Thanks!

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On to the bike and the real test as to if my attempt at recovery did any good.  I knew within the first mile that it was going to be a long bike.  I had 56 miles in front of me.  And my quads felt horrible, very fatigued, just like every other day for the last 3 months.  I’ll be honest, I was scared.  I keep getting slower & slower with every race and I just didn’t want to have bad race at Steelhead when I love the race so much.  Took me a minute to think but I basically had a realization.  I remembered something that someone told me when I first started riding.  They said, “when your legs get tired, pull UP on your pedals instead of pushing down”.  So I refocused my efforts on pulling up vs pushing down and I had an instant turnaround in power output.  I wasn’t able to harness as much power as last year, or the accompanying speed, but I did well with the new pedal stroke.  This used different muscles and pulled power from my hamstrings vs my tired quads.  Worked for me!  3:04 for the bike, 18.1 mph average.  Best I’ve had all year and in case you were wondering, my gears did fail.  I only had big gears.  The shifter on the left side slid out in my hand within the first few miles.  So I didn’t bother trying to use it, for fear of breaking down.  I just used the big gears, pounded down the hills as quickly as I could, rode the wave of the up as long as possible, then I stood up from the saddle and rode the remainder of the hill when things got tough.  I’m always willing to improvise to avoid catastrophe.  Side note – Felt send new shifters for me, so I’m hoping the next couple weeks of training (and REV3 Cedar Point 70.3) will go more smoothly. 

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I want to toss out a huge thank you to the bike aid station volunteers.  They always impress me so much.  They are very attentive.  We call out what they want, then they basically hold steady so we can grab water/gatorade/banana/gel, etc.  Or they run with us for a second to help us connect with what we need.  Nerves of steel!  Thank you for being brave and so attentive.

Pro Tip:  Do NOT pass someone 2 seconds before an aid station on the bike.  This goes double if you plan to STOP at said aid station to get something from the very first volunteer, after cutting in front of me someone 2 seconds prior to stopping.  The way the  aid stations work, there is always spillage from water & gatorade bottles.  The ground is wet.  I had to lock up my brakes at the very first aid station in an attempt to not hit a person who passed me, then stopped immediately.  I didn’t crash.  I didn’t hit him.  But I’m quite confident the scenario could have easily gone a different way.  I’ve been riding for a long time.  There are a lot of people out on the course who are less experienced.  We got lucky.  Our race could have easily been over at mile 15 of the bike course.  Thankfully, luck was on our side. 

Bike aid stations – 3 – every 15 miles on the one loop, 56 mile bike course.  Great layout.  Great volunteers.  Potties, food, fluids.  Smooth roads the majority of the race.  Well marked course (that is marked year round).

Run course – 2 loops – a couple decent hills.  Aid stations every mile.  Varying terrain, we even get to run some of the trails behind the Whirlpool Center!  So cool!!!  By the time we got to the run, it was really heating up.  I definitely struggled but just focused on getting from aid station to aid station.  Then I made sure to hydrate, take ice & just stay calm.  Good run considering the heat.  2:23 for the 13.1 miles.

Finish was 6:31.  That’s 7 minutes slower than last year but to be honest, it felt like a huge win.  I haven’t had a decent TRI all year.  I’ve been fighting the good fight and focusing on getting thru the races to which I committed, but it’s been rough.  Overall, the TRI Gods came thru for me and delivered a better race than I could have hoped for and I’m very grateful.

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SWAG – Cuz that’s what everyone wants to know, is great.  IM does some of the best swag in the business.  They went kinda cheap last year with the backpacks and the same shirt for every event.  However, I think we all let them know that we were unhappy in our post race surveys.  This year, the swag improved considerably.  Different shirts for each race and the backpacks had the name of the event vs just a generic IM 70.3 logo.  Yay!

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Overall, a great race.  I love it.  I definitely hope to make a repeat visit next year.  Here is my 2015 race report, if you want more info on IM 70.3 Steelhead

** Happy TRIing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

TRI Lakes Triathlon – Columbia City, IN

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On Saturday, I participated in the Olympic distance Tri Lakes Triathlon for the very first time.  1500m swim, 25 mi bike, 6.2 mi run.  First Olympic distance race for me since 2008!  Tri Lakes is a local race, about 35 minutes from my house.  About 10 members of my triathlon team were participating,  I figured since I wear their kit, but rarely see anyone when I race, I’d join in the fun.  Go Team Tritaniaum!!

The race was small, 55 participants, at a very out of the way location on Skinner Lake.  Parking was at the Tri Lakes Tavern.  The tavern was kind enough to not only let us use their parking lot but they also opened early so we could use their facilities.  Love the hospitality of small community races! 

Small transition.  Close to the water & parking area.  Nice setup.

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Open water, 1500m swim in Skinner Lake.  Water temp was 82 degrees.  No wetsuits.  Easy, calm, out & back around a line of buoys, 2x.  Men started first, women followed 10 minutes later.

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I’m a slow swimmer and that was really amplified with such a small field.  Almost last out of the water.  But it was a smooth, easy swim for me.  Not stress or anxiety so that’s a win!  2:14 average per 100yd.  Right where I normally am, you’d think I’d eventually get faster, right?  Nah!  On to the bike.  Photo courtesy of TRI Lakes Triathlon.

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The bike is where I’ve really been struggling this year.  I’ve taken so much down time, that at this point, I’m starting to worry if my fitness is suffering.  The bike was 25 miles.  Should have been easy, even with the searing temps.  No.   It was a struggle.  I had hoped I could pick off some of the people who had passed me on swim.  No.  I had hoped that the rest I had taken would bring my legs back. No.  Dead legs.  The course had some hills, nothing noteworthy unless your legs are shot.  I could barely get up the hills.  I’m not a great hill rider anyhow but this was just insane.  16.1mph average on the bike.  Took me forever and I’m pretty sure I did better on my very first TRI.  I have better equipment (by far) now and I know what to expect.  I just can’t go any faster right now.  Super frustrating.

Run.  Heat & Hills.   That’s the theme of 2016 and I think it was the theme of most of 2015 too.  Everyone was walking.  I had grandiose plans of running the entire 6.2 miles.  No.  I walked up the hills.  Aid stations were pretty far apart considering the temps, there were 3 on route, plus a homeowner that was so kind as to give out water & ice!!  I think it was over 91 by the time we finished.  Most of the run was in the open, full sun.  Aid station at the turn around ran out of water but at least they had ice.  Athletes were just crabby and miserable & ready to finish.  Shout out to the 2 residents who put out their sprinklers for us!  Life saver!  Run:  12:09 min/mi average. 

Finished my first Olympic triathlon since 2008.   I was “almost” last and I anticipated it being way more fun than what reality delivered.  Summer racing, is always a wildcard.  Nice small town race.  Community members weren’t real active with the race but the few who were, really went out of their way to help us.  Another one in the DONE column.

At this point, I’m not really sure what to do about the fatigue in my legs.  I’d like to take a month off and lounge on a beach in Hawaii but that’s not my reality.  I’m heading up to ride the Steelhead course tomorrow since that’s my “A” race & approaching fast.  My legs still feel like poop from SAT.  I’m just not sure how to bring them back.  My nutrition is on point.  I’m definitely resting more.  Trying to get extra sleep.  Avoiding alcohol & sugar.  Adding in tart cherry juice & turmeric to help with inflammation.  Seeing the Chiro to help my damaged back.  So I’m focused on ME.  Just struggling a bit with the quad fatigue.  Hmmmm….  If you have any ideas (other than take a month off and sleep on the beach in Hawaii), let me know.

** Keep TRIing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz