Sunday, June 11, 2017

Which races are harder - Chicago, Illinois or Madison Wisconsin?

It has been a few years since I updated this blog.  I have been making comments on the Running Ahead message board, and have let this thing turn into a "cobweb".  However the section that I contribute to on Running Ahead has gone quiet, so I thought I'd dust off this blog and start adding contributions again.
I've run races in flat Chicago and hilly Madison Wisconsin. People  I talk to think the hills make the races harder.  I don't know about that.  I've come up with a checklist to determine whether Madison races or Chicago races are harder.
1. Do you need to hear music when you run?  Try the big Chicago races like the Rock & Roll Half or the St. Patrick's Shuffle. There are plenty of bands and D.J.s playing.  Going to Madison?  The Madison Mini, a half marathon in August has plenty of music blasting.  Otherwise, bring your Ipod or whatever MP3 player you use.
2. The climb up Observatory Drive on the University of Wisconsin campus can be taxing, but so can a long straight seemingly never ending stretch of South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
3. Crowds or no crowds?  Chicago's Marathon gets 40,000 plus.  The Madison Marathon? 2,000 at most.  Are you used to crowds?  Maybe you want to test that by running on Chicago's lake shore path on a summer Saturday or Sunday when all of the running groups are out, the Tour de France wannabees zip by on their bikes, and well..everyone is out for a lovely day.  Maybe you want to try a neighborhood 5K such as the Fall into Fitness, held in Portage Park in September.  Field of about 300.  Too big?  Go up to Madison in October for the Fall 15K for a pastoral Sunday race?  The field is slightly under 200.  Hills at no extra charge.
4. Crowds at the packet pickup.  Do they bother you?  If not, most of the big Chicago races have their packet pick ups at McCormick place.  These "health & fitness expos" are filled with exhibitors with  impulse last minute items.  Consider it a victory if you walk out with your race packet, and having not spent a dime.
Too crowded?  Too many vendors?  Madison's the place for you.  The full & half  marathons have their packet pickups in a downstairs hall at the Monona Terrace Convention Center.  You can get in and out, and still have time to enjoy the view of Lake Monona.  The Madison Mini's packet pickup was at Union South on the U.W. campus.  This year, they've changed it to the Alliant Energy Center.  Oh well, they do have a field of about 3,000

Friday, May 8, 2015

A point-of-view scene from this year's 10 miler


The award for the best pre & post race music goes to...

...The University of Wisconsin Marching Band, for their performance at the Crazy Legs Classic in Madison, Wisconsin!  A wonderful break from that thumpy-thumpy EDM, or whatever you call that pop nonsense.
The band played when the waves were being sent off, and at then end in Camp Randall, the football stadium.  The "Chicken Dance" never sounded better.
Otherwise, it was a quiet run through the U.W. Campus.
I am not a U.W. Madison alumni, but I love running the &*^% hills of Madison.
That didn't sound convincing.  Take two:
I am not a U.W. Madison alumni, but I love Madison.  I've enjoyed visiting there.
Oh yes, the hills are an interesting challenge.  (Was that diplomatic?)
I ran my first Crazy Legs this year with 16,000 of my closest friends.  It was a great experience.
The line for the free beer was too long, so I passed.  (Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy -OK, but Coor's Light?!?!)
The post race food gets high marks.  In Camp Randall stadium, they had orange slices, and bananas.  Outside the stands, Noodle's offered samples of mac & cheese - very nice.
The winner for me was the dried sweet cranberries offered by the state cranberry growers association.  It was the first time I had those.  Wonderful.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Random Thoughts About the Chicago Marathon

--You want to run this race?  Yeah, yeah of course you have to train -you already know that.  But ask yourself this: Do I have a tolerance for large crowds? Remember-this year's field was 45,000.
--I volunteered at the Marathon last year, so one half of my brain understood that I'd be in a big crowd.  Yesterday, the other half of my brain got it when my corral started running. THIS is what rush hour on the expressway would look like if no one drove!
--Not everyone tosses their sweatshirts, gloves, etc. before the start.On Columbus Drive after the tunnel, I almost tripped over a sweatshirt.  First two miles were an obstacle course.
--Surely, this crowd will thin out, I kept thinking at the 10 mile.  Umm, no.
--Surely, this crowd will thin out, I kept thinking at the 15 mile.  Umm, no
--Surely, this crowd will thin out, I kept thinking at the 20th mile. Maybe it did, but only because everyone was passing me.  I was walking by then.
--I didn't want to get too caught up in the atmosphere, and start running faster than my intended pace.  To make sure I didn't, I wore earplugs for the first 13 miles.  That was pointless.  The spectators in the Loop and the North Side neighborhoods were loud.
--On the other hand, I wish I kept them on.  I liked hearing the live bands, such as the Taiko drummers, Illinois-Chicago's band, etc. Electronic Dance Music, or whatever you call that thumpy-thumpy shit sucks.
--I expected to be bothered by my glutes.  I was surprised that my feet felt as if they were swelling.  That didn't happen when I ran the Madison Marathon last year.  I'm running Madison next month, and I'll wear different shoes.
--Membership has its rewards!  I'm a member of the Chicago Area Runners Association,or CARA.  We had a CARA Compound at a local hotel.  Thus we had our own gear check, and a space to go to post-race.
Plenty of food and "Runners High P.A." from Lagunitas brewery to drink.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

This is the outfit I've picked out for booth the Chicago and Madison Marathons.
It'll be my first Chicago Marathon tomorrow.  Have I gotten pre-race jitters?  No.  I've been marveling at the contrast between last year's Madison run, and tomorrow's extravaganza. Madison's field is capped at 1500, which is the size of oh...two or three Chicago Marathon corrals?
This year's Chicago field is 45,000, which is equivalent of two or more suburbs of Madison, I guess.
After picking up my packet, and a few other things, I one of the shuttle busses back  from McCormick  to Roosevelt & State L station.  Before heading home, I....wait a  minute -  that's a contrast.  In Madison, I strolled over to Monona Terrace from the hostel, picked up my packet, and then maybe wandered over to Capitol Square to watch them set up the race.  Today, before heading home, I wandered East on  Roosevelt Road to Columbus Drive.  This is the end of the Chicago course.  Everything was fenced off, the P.A. system was being tested, and a bunch of other last minute activities were taking place.  I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve looking at the presents under the tree.  Couldn't touch them.  Couldn't shake them.  But I knew it was for me.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

10 Idle Thoughts About Running, Part 1

 1. Track coach & Physiologist Dr. Jason Karp asserts that “marathons change lives”. I'm sure there's some truth to that. I'll say that road racing has changed my perspective.

2.  I never cared about how crowned a road was until I started running on them,and my left glutes started giving me a hard time.

3.  Why do cracks appear longitudinally at the top of a road's crown, anyway?

4. Before I started consistently running, I'd grumble about bus routes being interrupted by the Chicago Marathon. Now, I'm running in my first Chicago Marathon, and hey people-it's a temporary disruption! You'll have your streets back in the late afternoon.

5. Do marathons change lives?  I don't know, but running the Madison Marathon made me slightly condescending.  "Why yes, I'll run your flat course, but Darling, we all know real marathons are run over hills."

6. I downloaded the 2013 course.  There are some long straight stretches. "Straighter than a preacher/ longer than a memory" as Steve Earle sang in "Nowhere Road.  After running over 22 miles, that last long stretch up Michigan Ave. looks like a "nowhere road".

7. I felt the same way about John Nolen drive during the Madison Marathon.  I'll spare you the rant.

8. Several weeks ago, when I went to pick up my bib for the Madison Half Marathon at the Monona Terrace convention center, I paused near John Nolen Drive.  I was about to unleash a torrent of obscenities at that drive.  ("Mommy, why is that man yelling at nothing?  Dear, he ran a marathon here back in November, some people just don't know how to let bygones be bygones.  You'll understand as you get older.")

9. I restrained myself and stayed quiet.  However, at the bib pickup & expo, I talked about it with a volunteer who had run the full Marathon.  He observed that it's one thing to see where you finish, which is the State Capitol building, and then another thing to know that you have to run another three miles to get to it.

10. I was going to spare you a rant.  Sorry.  I lied.  Marathons change lives. ;-)

Monday, May 26, 2014

The 2014 Madison Half Marathon: Thoughts on a "variable"

If my road racing was a scientific experiment, then the first three half marathons I ran would be part of the "control" group,. because
1. They were all run in Chicago, therefore
2.I slept in my own bed at home, and was guaranteed a quiet night.
3. The races  started far from where I lived, therefore I had to get up early in the morning in time for a light meal,and a long bus/train  ride to the start area.
4. They were all run on mostly flat, or  gently rolling terrain.  The only thing approaching a hill was the off ramp turnaround point during the 2012 Chicago Half  Marathon.

This weekend's Madison Half Marathon was DEFINITELY the variable, because:
1. I stayed at a Hostel near the starting area.  My sleep could have been interrupted  by late night travelers/bar crawlers entering my dorm room.  Fortunately that didn't happen.
2.  I didn't HAVE to get up so early, but on race day, I'm used to it.  Get up. Make that Ancora coffee I bought the night before (local shop on King St. -shameless plug).  Big pot for everyone. Eat a small meal.
3. The race had hills! (Feel free to say DUH, it's Madison!) Yes, I knew that from the full Marathon.  But by God, whoever laid out the course wasn't going to let the runners forget it. The Carroll St. Start was on an uphill grade.  Once we ran three sides of  Capitol Square, we ran downhill for a little while before winding our way up, up, UP through some part of the U.W. campus, and then onto Observatory Drive.
4. There were other ups & downs.  The evil geniuses course planners had us run through the Arboretum on a downhill course - which was the opposite direction of the full marathon route, I think.  When that pleasant jaunt was over with, there was a steep hill to climb on Edgewood Ave.  I noted other runners were walking it, but I made it a point to run the hill. It was a slow run.  I had to make myself angry to produce enough adrenaline so I could manage a slow run up a steep hill.  Gasp. Gasp. Goddamnit I didn't pay an entrance fee to walk! Gasp.  Gasp.
5. I didn't get in as much out door running beforehand as I would've liked to.  My expectations weren't as high.  I wanted to not take this event too seriously, so I taped a saying to my back.  See photo.
6. However, if I did better than 2:24:00, I'd be happy.
7. Final time 2:18:50