Thursday, October 6, 2016

Throwback Thursday -- Top 10 Marathon Tips

Happy Thursday!

With the Chicago Marathon on tap for this weekend, I thought I would go into Throwback Thursday mode and re-publish a blog post from two years ago. In it I dispensed all of my sage marathon tips based on my own personal experiences.

I was signed up for the marathon but had to drop out of training due to my knee surgery in July. But I'll still be involved with the race as a media correspondent for the website LetsRun.com. To me, covering the race is the next best thing to running it, but I hope to be on the starting line in 2015.

In the meantime, enjoy this blast from the past!

----------------------------

(Originally posted September 24, 2014)

While my own personal quest is all about running the Indy Mini Marathon next May, my mind right now is definitely on the Chicago Marathon.

I love the race, and have since the first time I saw it on TV in 1999...which was the day I was inspired to start running. I have run the race six times, spectated another three or four times and in 2011-12 covered the race for the running website Letsrun.com. And, during the summers of 2004-05 I wrote a weekly column about the marathon for the Aurora Beacon News, not to mention having contributed marathon-related content to Chicago Athlete magazine.

OK, the last part of that wasn't to brag or name drop, it was just to say that I have no doubt seen this event from every angle, for which I feel very, very blessed. Actually, seeing the race from that side is quite interesting and worth talking about sometime. Probably in the next week or so.

But back on point, I figured since the marathon is on everyone else's mind, I should join in too. I was supposed to run the race myself, but ended up deferring my entry because between getting married, vacations, graduations (and parties), one son's surgery (he's OK, matter of fact he's better than OK now) and another going off to college, the summer quickly got away from me.

So be prepared to be inundated with a few marathon-related blurbs over the next couple of weeks. It will be kind of weird, but for the first time since 1999 I won't be around for the marathon. I'll be in Atlanta attending the Bears-Falcons game with my brother and his wife.

I will be there in spirit, and as my gift to you, I present ten very important pieces of advice about race day.

1) If it's your first, just finish. No matter how long you have been running, or where your abilities lie, a marathon will be an experience unlike you have ever had before. A mega-marathon like Chicago can quickly overwhelm you and can lead to a lot of bad tactical decisions. Tactic No. 1 should be just finishing the race. There will always be more chances to post a time of you want to. In my first marathon, I put myself into "run all day" mode, meaning I found a pace that I felt I could run for a long, long time. It was even slower than my training pace, but it was comfortable and I avoided a major crash in the final miles.

2) Trust your training. If you followed your training to the exact letter, you will have done somewhere between 70-100 runs over the course of the 18 weeks. If you trained with a Chicago Area Runners Association group or a charity group, I can tell you with total confidence that you are ready. Last year I ran with a CARA group and hit the line feeling completely prepared. Whether or not "you can do it" should be out the window by this point. Just tell yourself that you can!

3) Don't obsess about the weather! Control what you can control. You trained through a Midwest summer, there is nothing the weather can throw at you that you haven't seen before. It doesn't hurt to be mindful of the weather as far as your prep and tactics are concerned, but beyond that it is what it is. Don't let the weather get into your head.

4) Start slow. See point one about just finishing. Adrenaline is a crazy thing, so is tapering. You might be going along thinking "yeah, I feel great!". Well if you feel awesome, then the taper worked! Which is good news, because that means physically you are ready to run. But it doesn't mean you are suddenly able to do something you weren't capable of before. In the course of several hours, honestly, what does a minute or two here or there matter? Run well below your means at the start, which will pay off dividends at the end.

Which brings me to...

5) There are no race-day miracles. We all know of someone who has "popped" a race, meaning they came in with one expectation and ended up running something completely different. I've done a couple of those myself, including setting my half marathon PR in 2007 and running what I consider to be my "best" (but not fastest) marathon in the heat at Chicago later that year. The thing is, popping a race isn't a miracle, it is the rare harmonic convergence of several factors, with training, confidence level, experience and conditions being among them. What you have put into the race training-wise is what you will get out of it. Keep that in mind when you set your race-day goals.

6) Tactics. Up at the front of the field, it's ALL about tactics, and back in the pack with us mere mortals, it matters as well. Pace groups definitely help, but over these next couple of weeks think about what you want to do, and be as specific as possible. What works for me is that I break the race into smaller pieces, run the first 5K, get to under 20 to go, get to 10 miles, and so on. Then all I focus on is that smaller goal, and check it off when I achieve it.

7) Be a good competitor. One thing that bugs me about big races like Chicago is that they include rude people. Well, all races do, but when 35,000 people get together for something, the number of rude people that show up becomes that much exponential and much closer to my last nerve. Try not to cut people off, or push people or just do something you normally wouldn't in your daily walk of life. Last year I was moving through a water stop and was reaching for a cup from one of the volunteers, and a woman barged in front of me, knocked my arm away and took the cup! Really? Is that couple of seconds you save going to make that much of a difference? It's like heavy traffic on the tollway...be cool, be patient and take care of each other, and you will get to where you are going to go.

8) The course is accurate/follow the line. Just a reminder that Garmins and GPS are awesome, but no matter what yours says at the end of the race, the course IS 26.2 miles long. As a World Marathon Major, the course has been checked, re-checked and checked again. Race director Carey Pinkowski loves world records and would love it if it was broken again here someday. And I know any race director would hate having to give up a record because of an inaccurate course. Actually, the way it is done is kind of fascinating and worth reading about. It's all about tangents (a line that draws the shortest point-to-point of the course), and you can cut some distance out of your day by learning some of the course and running corner to corner. Pull up some marathon video of the elite runners on YouTube and you will see what I'm talking about. The follow pretty much the same imaginary measurement line that the organizers use to measure it.

9) Be nice to the volunteers. These are people who are taking time out of their lives to ensure you have a good day. They aren't trained professionals, but most of them work hard and love being a part of the event. Try to say "thank you" as much as you can...I usually do when I grab water or Gatorade. Think about your unsupported long runs, how you have to carry things, leave fluids in bushes and wait to cross busy streets. Then think of trying to do that on one of the biggest days of your athletic life. They take away a lot of stress and make our jobs much, much easier.

And last, and most importantly...

10) Enjoy it! Yes, it's hard and yes, it's extremely painful, but it's also one of the most awesomely rewarding things you will ever do for yourself in your entire life. Ferris Bueller was right, if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you'll miss it. A marathon is one of the fastest four, five or six hours of your life, and by the time you know it, you are making that final turn onto Columbus and crossing the finish linie. We live in (or near, in my case) a world class city with wonderful people who support this race, and you are missing out by not taking some time here and there to realize that you are doing something extraordinary.

When my son Matt was running in the National Catholic Championships at Notre Dame last week I asked him if there was ever a time that he looked around and thought "man, this is really cool!". He said he did a couple of times. What you are about to do is cool and will be something that you will remember the rest of your life, and you don't want to get so focused that you forget that it's supposed to be fun and the final exclamation point to an incredible journey. When the day is over you'll be happy you did!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Hi!

So, how was your summer? I have to ask that question given it has been 114 days since I have last posted here. Hard to believe, right?

Let's just say it's been an interesting summer! I did a little more traveling, which was awesome. Darcy and I went to Paris and Monaco in June, and I got four runs in while I was in Monaco. Since I have a lot of other things to write about, maybe that's a good post for later, because the runs there were amazing as you can imagine.

But let's get reacquainted, shall we? I guess I'll start with some of my big news items:

Biggest running news: I missed almost three months with an injury!

So after breaking my arm last year, I started having some issues with my knee back in March, but it wasn't horrible so I tried to run through it and see if it would go away. I kind of had the feeling in the back of my mind that it wasn't and was a real issue, but I was being kind of stubborn because I had entered the Chicago Marathon and was running for a local children's cancer charity, Cal's Angels.

I tried rest, I tried ice, I tried stretching, and nothing helped. After running the Warrenville Firecracker 5K with Matt and Kevin on July 4, I woke up the next morning in a massive amount of pain. So I had an MRI and found out I had torn meniscus in my left knee.

Crap. 

Two weeks later (July 18) I had surgery and had everything fixed by Dr. Chhadia, the same magician who had put my arm back together last year. Though I had hoped for some sort of miraculous comeback, I quickly realized that -- just like my arm -- this was going to take a bit of time.

What I didn't know is that during an arthroscopic procedure they torque the knee quite violently, which caused some additional recovery because my MCL needed to bounce back a little too. Actually, I thought my injury was my MCL because that's where the pain was, I never felt much in my knee until near the end.

So back to physical therapy I went, and after about a month of that everything was feeling much better. I haven't started running much, actually the bike and I made up a few weeks ago and I have been on the bike as well, but I don't have any pain when I run, and everything feels stable, which is good.

I'm just going to take things slowly from here, because there really isn't a rush. I want to run the Indy Mini again, and of course the Chicago Marathon, so I have plenty of time.

Biggest non-running news: I quit my job!

Or do we call it "retired" now? I won't get into the reasons as to why I decided to make this move because it would probably lead to a long rant (ha!), but on August 26 I worked my last day at a job where I had been for almost 18 years.

It was time for a change, IT had never really been for me, for all these years it was a good paycheck and a solid job, which I had needed, and I was encouraged by a lot of people I knew to start chasing my passion.

So I did! I am now the lone employee of Turn 2 Strategies, a PR and social media firm, a company I started to pursue my dreams. Writing and social media are things I love doing, so I decided to focus on that. Right now I have a corporate client, but the other client I have is the one I'm really excited about.

One of the things I've always wanted to do is work for in the auto racing industry, so I e-mailed a few developmental level teams and asked if they could use my services. I received one reply, from John Cummiskey Racing, which is based outside of Indianapolis and competes in the USF2000 series, an open wheel series that feeds drivers into IndyCar.

I joined the team for the race weekend at Road America in Wisconsin, then followed them to Toronto, Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca in California the rest of the season. I handle all of their releases, I live Tweet the races and put stuff up on social media during the race weekend.

Here is a photo from Toronto. It's a lot of fun to watch the races from the pits, and it has been a blast going to places that I had watched on TV but never thought I'd get the chance to go to.

Needless to say, it's been an amazing experience! JCR has asked me to come back next year, which makes me really happy. I'm also trying to find another team to work with since the USF2000 series only races on 10 weekends next year, but I got my foot in the door, which is what is important. I have a great relationship with John, the owner, who is about my age and is a super guy. I really owe him a lot for taking a chance on me.

Ultimately my goal is to get to IndyCar and be on a team that wins the Indianapolis 500. If that happens I'll be able to call it a pretty good career!

Other news: I'm coaching again this year.

Well, let's just say, I'm coaching this year. While I was considered a "coach" for the Aurora Central Catholic cross country and track programs, my involvement was pretty minimal due to work and my arm injury. I didn't have a lot to do on the practice days I did attend, and on race days I was kind of more of a support person than an actual coach.

One of the things about my job situation is that now I have the flexibility to be at practice almost every day, which has led to the opportunity to do some real coaching. Troy Kerber, the head coach, has been leading the program for 30 years, so he's comfortable delegating things to me. While Troy still schedules the workouts, I get to supervise parts of them, and I speak to one of the teams (boys frosh/soph, boys varsity, girls varsity) each Friday as part of our pre-race meetings.

It's been a great season so far, all of the teams are works in progress right now, but we still have some races left until the State Series kicks off three weeks from today. While everyone still needs to improve if they want to run in Peoria on November 5, there is still time to bring it all together. We had a great meet today at the Wheaton Warrior Classic, despite the sloppy conditions brought on by a bunch of rain during the race, and have a couple of confidence-building meets coming up in the next couple of weeks.

Of course, the best part is that I'm coaching Kevin, who is a sophomore this year (he's on the right in this photo in the orange shoes). Since his mom and I are divorced and I live about 30 minutes away, it's great to have the opportunity to see him almost every day, and I think we are closer because if it. He's coming into his own this year and has shown a lot of improvement, and he is wanting to really work hard over the winter to keep getting better. Next year he has a chance to run in the Top 7 on the varsity, which is definitely a goal of his.


So that's what I've got going on! I hope to not be so much of a stranger going forward!


 



Thursday, June 9, 2016

40th 500 Festival Indy Mini-Marathon -- May 7, 2016

If you were to ask me what my favorite race is, I would have to answer the Chicago Marathon. After all, I started running in 2000 with the purpose of running a marathon, it's my "hometown race" and the fact that I've kept running since is just a testament to the love of the sport, and the journey of running.

The Indy Mini, though, runs a close second. Very, very close second! I ran my first Mini in 2001 and last Saturday was my ninth time running the race. Since I lived there for about five years a long time ago, it too has a hometown feel to it, and given that I love the Indy 500 the way I do, a chance to run a lap around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a thrill in itself.

My race weekend started with a thrill when I met Meb Keflezighi at the expo, an experience I recounted in my previous post. Here's a funny photo I found from last year's expo when I met a cutout Meb, I was so happy for the chance to meet the real one this time around!

The Mini expo is actually pretty nice, it's small and easy to get around, and one of my favorite things is to check out the display that shows memorabilia from all of the previous races. They have shirts, medals, newspaper articles and photos that show how the race has evolved.

It's hard to believe that for almost 20 years the race was run on the Friday before the Indy 500, and the race actually finished on the track. Most of the races were hot and the middle of the course was really hilly, unlike the flat, fast course that starts and finishes downtown.

What is also interesting was how you can really trace the history of the race going from a local event to one of national prominence. While Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter won the first couple of races, most of the races in the 1980s and early 90s were won by local runners, including Gary Romesser, who won the race five times and was still cranking out fast times into his late fifties.

The Kenyan runners started arriving in 1993, and African and Eastern Europeans have won the race since. That's OK, because even with the fast runners up front and the fact the race has grown to over 35,000 participants, it still has the feel of a local race. That's just a testament to the organizers and volunteers, many of whom have been with the race since the start!

Anyway, after checking out the expo and getting a bite to eat, we headed back to the hotel to rest up before the big event. Thanks (again) to my brother-
in-law, Adam, we had a room at the JW Marriott hotel, which is stationed right next to the starting line.

Last year we were on the 23rd floor but this time, we were up a bit higher -- on the 32nd -- and our room once again faced west, so we had a great view of the starting line and could see several miles of the course. Let me tell you, it is so nice to have a hotel next to the starting line, it's just so relaxing to not have to worry about finding places to park or other logistical challenges.

With this year also being the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, the hotel had this really cool decal on the side of the building. It is way more impressive in person and you can see it from a long way off. Indy is really pulling out all of the stops for the 500, and there is a lot of excitement surrounding the race.

All in all I slept pretty well on Friday night, and it didn't take much to get me out of bed just past 6 a.m. After getting ready and getting some breakfast, I headed back to the room for the start of the 5K at 7:15.

This photo was taken a little bit before the 5K started, but that was the view we had. Like the Mini, the 5K seems to be gaining in popularity as the race actually sold out this year.

I'm not sure how this happened, but I got a pretty good corral assignment and was in the 2nd starting wave (the waves went off ever 12-15 minutes). With that in mind, we headed down to the start so we could get all of our stuff together.

I wasn't the only one in the Knapp/Bretz house to be running the Mini, as Darcy's son Spencer decided to join us this year. Spencer is 20 and a sophomore in college, and while he hadn't put in a ton of training,
his goal was just to finish and have a good time.

Also in the field was my mom, Pat, who at 79 continues to absolutely rock it. My mom has always taken good care of herself and it shows as she looks even younger than she is. And given that she had two siblings live into their nineties, she is going to keep living the dream for a long time.

I jumped in my corral a few minutes before it was time to start. The weather was pretty fantastic, in the high-50s with not a lot of humidity, and what breeze there was came from the west, which meant a bit of a tailwind heading back downtown.

Since I knew I wasn't among the faster people in the second wave, I moved to the back of the corral and went on the left side of the street. That was also where Darcy said she would be too.

As the first wave cleared out, ours moved up to the starting line. The moments before a big race like this are so exciting. I always have to remind myself to remember to enjoy the moment instead of getting nervous about it.

A few minutes later we were off! I came in with the goal of running about 2 hours, 30 minutes, which is a pace between 11:25 and 11:30 per mile. It was a little hard to not get caught up with the faster runners at the start, but I tried to stay disciplined and follow my own plan.

That worked after mile one as I posted a split of 11:29! One thing I noticed over the first few miles was that I was really, really focused, and my mile splits were a representative of that. I'm sure part of it is just because it's the Mini and is a big race for me, but I've also noticed that ever since I was paired up with Lucas and formed #LittleBuddyRacing for my Cal's Angels fundraising that there has been a little more focus to my running. I'm glad, as it was kind of a struggle for me in the weeks after the Viking Half.

If you would like to contribute to my Chicago Marathon fundraising for Cal's Angels, check out my page here.

The first 4-5 miles went pretty quickly -- well, mentally at least -- and before I knew it we were passing the Allison Transmission plant and entering the town of Speedway. I mention the Allison plant because their employees have always supported the Mini and this year had a really great water stop. Everyone I grabbed water from called me by name and were really enthusiastic.

The town of Speedway itself has come a long way in the last few years. With many of the race teams and Dallara, the chassis manufacturer for the IndyCar series, having relocated onto Main Street, the street has gotten a big facelift over the years.

After that it was a quick jaunt onto 16th St. and then under the tunnel that takes you into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

For me, this is what puts this race near the top of my list of favorites. I have been going to the Speedway since
1979 and attended my first race there in 1988. This year was the 100th running of the 500 (on May 29), and it was a spectacular event that I will remember forever. Not only was it a great race, and had a surprise winner in rookie Alexander Rossi, it was so awesome to be a part of a crowd that was estimated at more than 350,000 people.

Anyway, back to my race! After running through the tunnel we move to the back straightaway, where we join the track for our 2.5-mile run around it. Needless to say it is BIG, when you are standing at the end of one of the straightaways looking towards
the next turn it seems to stretch on forever. The massive grandstands also cut an imposing figure around the track too.

After negotiating the back straight and turns 3 and 4, we make our way down the long front stretch, which is enclosed by grandstands on both sides. When cars are at the point of where I am taking this photo, they are going just under 230 miles per hour, and by the time they reach turn 1 they are nearing 240! One driver once said it's like driving down a long hallway and turning left into a closet. It's a pretty imposing site to the drivers, no matter how long they have been coming here.

While inside the Speedway, we cross miles 6-8, and I was still feeling pretty well. I was walking through the water stops but otherwise was running in between them, which was great, and I was still on schedule for a 2:30 finish.

By the time I reached Mile 9 I started to get a little tired, and from that point in I took some sort of walk break every five minutes or so. What was funny, though, was even with the walk breaks I wasn't missing my mile splits by all that much.

I rolled along to Mile 12 and that is where you make the final left onto New York St. and the straight run to the finish.

The first portion of the street is a bridge over the White River which gives a nice view of the downtown skyline.

The last mile is interesting because it's a nice roll downhill off of the bridge, and then it is a gradual uphill to the finish. Like the last half-mile of the Chicago Marathon when you make the turn onto Roosevelt Road, walking that mile or even running it in training is easy, but it is a little work at the end of a half marathon!

I tried to keep going as best I could, but with a little more than a quarter-mile to go I stopped for a quick walk break to gear up for the finish. Just as I was about to get started again I heard some cheering behind me, and I looked back and saw Meb and his five running partners running along in bright yellow singlets.

Meb had a huge smile on his face, and as he came by me he gave me a high-five! After meeting him the night before, that was a really cool way to end the race! Meb had started at the back of the pack and finished the race with a time of 1:41, so he definitely got the chance to meet a lot of people!

I ran it in the rest of the way from there and finished in 2:32:10, a little behind schedule but faster than the Viking Half, so I was very, very happy!

After getting my finisher's medal, I met up with Darcy and we sat along the end of the course and waited for Spencer to finish his run. He finally came bopping down to the finish and crossed in a time of 3:26:28. Not bad for his first try, and he already has started talking about next year!

My mom didn't finish, but she walked long enough to make it past the Speedway, and she was very happy with that. She hung out with us that afternoon and we had an early Mother's Day dinner at Ruth's Chris before taking in an Indianapolis Indians
baseball game.

So all in all I couldn't have asked for a better day. After I got back home I sent my medal to Lucas, and found out from his mom that he'd had surgery that week and my medal was put in with all of the other "special" things he takes with him to the hospital. I'm so happy that I was able to make him smile.












Monday, May 9, 2016

Meeting Meb

I'm still pretty tired from my weekend at the Indy Mini, but it is definitely a good kind of tired! We had such a good time as always and have set a few traditions that we will carry on into the coming years.

I'll have more on the race itself in the next day or two, but I wanted to have a standalone post from my experience of meeting the mighty Meb Keflezighi at the expo on Friday. I've been a fan of Meb's since the early 2000s when he was still a track guy, and I have always been so amazed by his accomplishments.

By every possible metric, Meb is one of the best American runners in history. A four-time Olympian, Olympic silver medalist in the marathon, winner at Boston and New York, and a multiple national champion and American record holder on the track. Crazy.

I've also always respected Meb because of his flawless race tactics as well as the fact he is such a classy gentleman along with being an intense competitor. Lately, my respect has grown because of the way he reaches out to fans and his understanding that we are a big part of the sport too.

So when I found out he was appearing at the Mini expo, I scheduled my whole day around getting down there in time to meet him. Traffic and construction made our drive down from Bartlett a little longer than expected, but fortunately our hotel was right across the street from the convention center, so I made it into line just minutes before they shut the line down.

In the end, it didn't matter, because as an Indy Mini Ambassador we were guaranteed the opportunity to jump in line to meet Meb. Nice! I finally got the opportunity to meet some of my fellow Ambassadors while we were standing in line, and we actually all jumped out of line for a quick photo in front of an IndyCar. Yeah, I know, I forgot my #IndyMini shirt, which was why I tried to hang in the back!

Photo op over, we jumped back in line but still had a lot of waiting to do. I think at the end I waited about 90 minutes, but I wasn't bothered by it.

The shorter the line got, the more excited I became! The line was on the other side of a temporary wall that had photos and winning times from past Minis, so you really couldn't see Meb until you got to the front of the line.

I finally did, and was met there by Kim Gale, who works with the 500 Festival and runs the Ambassador program. The 500 Festival is an organization that runs the Mini and other events related to the Indy 500, including the big parade the day before the race. She has been so good to me and my fellow Ambassadors, I was so happy to have been chosen.

So when it was your turn you handed your phone to Kim and joined Meb behind the table. The reason it took so long to get through the line is because everyone had the chance to sit down next to Meb, shake his hand and get a photo taken. He also autographed one item and took the time for a quick little conversation.

When I shook hands with Meb the first thing I did was to wish him a Happy Birthday! He had celebrated his 41st birthday on Thursday, which is mind boggling. The man's 41 and he's still taking on the best the world has to offer.

The first think I noticed sitting next to Meb is how easily he smiles and how he gives off an air of absolute peace and kindness. He seems like someone who is fully content to just live in the moment, which might be one of the secrets to Meb having overcome the injury setbacks he has had in his career. He just seems so happy and content with his place in the world.

One of our pieces of swag was a drawstring bag, so I gave that to Meb to sign above the Mini logo with the idea of cutting it all out and putting it in a frame. I asked him how everything was going for the Rio Olympics and he said he was just trying to stay healthy and will start putting in some hard running soon.

In very nice writing, he signed my bag:

"To Mike. Best Wishes. Run to Win. Meb"

With my job as a sportswriter, I've met a lot of pro athletes, and have been equally surprised and disappointed by some of those experiences. Some of the people who are intense on the field are incredibly outgoing and extremely funny in real life, while some people who are portrayed as "classy" or whatever by the media act like they don't have the time for you. It's OK, though, in the end, they are just people who have extraordinary talents, and like normal people they have good days and bad days.

But I will say this about Meb, meeting him was everything I had hoped it would be. He was exactly the same in person as I had seen him in interviews and on social media, he was warm, kind and caring. He was so easy to talk to, any nervousness I felt about meeting one of my running heroes melted away in an instant. Meb is just a genuinely awesome human being.

That wasn't my only interaction with Meb over the weekend. Meb and a group of guys started the race at the very back of the pack and passed over 15,000 runners to finish the race in 1:41. About a quarter-mile from the finish I heard a loud cheer behind me and I turned around and here came Meb, wearing a bright yellow shirt with his posse of friends in tow, smiling broadly. I stopped...stopped(!) and waited for him to pass so I could get a high five, which he more than happy to oblige.

I know to most of you it goes without saying we are lucky to have a guy like Meb in this sport. I've run the Indy Mini nine times now over the course of 15 years, and have a lot of great memories, but my experiences with Meb this past weekend rocketed to the top of my list.



Thursday, May 5, 2016

Three Things Thursday

Hi! I'm back! Sorry I've been away, I just haven't had any blog-worthy material lately. After running the Viking Half in March, I have only run one race since then, the ABTA Breakthrough 5K in Chicago two weeks ago.

Actually, although I didn't run well (I think I finished in 31:02), that was a really good event. It starts and ends near Soldier Field and the loop course uses the Lakefront running path, which is one of my favorite places to run. It was sunny and warm (in the 60s) and Lake Michigan looked stunning.

The course also goes through a tunnel beneath McCormick Place, which is a huge exhibition area south of downtown. That really took me back because when I ran my first Chicago Marathon in 2000, the tunnel was part of the course just before Mile 25. The tunnel was where the great Khalid Khannouchi made a couple of passes to win the race back then, and for us regular folk it was really exciting to come out of that tunnel and know you only have just over a mile to go.

The race was also fun because I talked Kevin into coming down and running, and Darcy and her brother, Adam, participated as well.

So now we are into May, which is my favorite month of the year. I love May because the weather finally warms up for good, the flowers and trees finally come to life, it's my birthday month -- the 25th -- and it is also the month that I celebrate my Christmas!

Confused? Don't be! That is what I call the Indianapolis 500, and when race day gets closer I'm really like a kid before Christmas. This year will be the 19th time I have seen the race, and Matt and Kevin will be coming too. Can't wait!

May always revitalizes me, and this year, here are three good reasons why.

1) Saturday is the Indy Mini Marathon. I am so, so excited to be running this race, and I'm even more excited than last year when I ran the race after a seven-year absence. I know part of it is because I was fortunate enough to be chosen as an Indy Mini ambassador, but also because I'm feeling really motivated right now. More on that in a bit.

Behind the Chicago Marathon, the Mini has always been my favorite event. I have two goals for the weekend: one is to meet Meb Keflezighi, who will be at the expo on Friday, and the other is to run under 2 1/2 hours, which would be about a five-minute improvement over my time at the Viking Half.

Here I am -- wearing the white shirt and the red hat -- finishing last year. I also got to "kiss the bricks" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and plan on stopping to carry on that tradition too!

2) I'm in for the Chicago Marathon! This year will be the seventh time I've run Chicago and will represent my ninth overall. What makes this year even more special is that I have teamed up with a great charity, Cal's Angels, and look forward to being a part of a great organization.

Cal's Angels is a local charity that provides wishes and grants financial assistance to kids fighting cancer and their families. You can read more about them here. Cal's Angels is named after Cal Sutter, a boy who died of cancer at age 12 in 2006, and his parents formed the charity in his memory.

There are 35 runners on the team, and we are provided coaching, training plans and group runs in order to meet our goals. They also match each runner with a child battling cancer, and my partner in this is a boy named Lucas, who is in the first grade and is battling a rare form of bone cancer called Pseudomyogenic Hemangioendothelioma.

Though I haven't met him yet, I've learned from a Facebook page that his mom set up to update people on his progress that he is a very sweet boy who is very active and always smiling. It just absolutely sucks that any child has to go through something like this, but he is fighting hard and still smiling!

I'm looking forward to having Lucas with me on this journey, and I have come up with the hashtag #LittleBuddyRacing as a sign of that partnership. If you would like to donate, you can check out my fundraising page here.

3) I'll get to go back into travel blog mode next month as we are heading to France! Darcy's work has her going to Monaco as her boss, Selim Bassoul, will be receiving an innovation award there. Selim, who is from Beirut, Lebanon, created a stove for refugees to use in camps so they can cook food. The stove also has the ability to purify water, and a solar panel that can be used to charge small electronic devices. His goal for the project was to free women and girls from the task of looking for wood and water so they can further educate themselves and find better employment. Cool, isn't it!

Darcy and I will be flying to Paris on June 4-5 and will stay there for two days before taking the train to Monaco. Of course I'm very excited to see both places on foot, and I am especially excited to trace the path of the famous Monaco Formula 1 course.

I'm so thankful for the opportunity to go some of these places, and I really enjoy sharing those experiences with you through my blog. I'm sure you will love coming along with me on this trip!

I hope you have a great weekend, and good luck in your training and racing!




Monday, April 11, 2016

A Run In Singapore!

Happy Tuesday! Well, for some of us at least. I am in Singapore this week, traveling with my wife, Darcy, as she attends a trade show here.

Let me tell you, the trip here is an absolute haul. Our flight left Chicago at noon on Thursday, and the first leg of the trip was a 13 1/2 hour flight to Tokyo. We were only there a couple of hours but it gave me the chance to try sushi for the first time, as well as sake.

Both were really good, especially the sake. But man, it certainly doesn't take much to hit you pretty hard!

Next was a 6 1/2 hour flight from Tokyo to Singapore, and we arrived at just after midnight, meaning we spent around 23 hours traveling and experienced a 13-hour time change.

I'm still adjusting to the jet lag, but it's getting better, I don't have the desire to sleep ALL the time, so I'm adjusting.

After spending Saturday getting accustomed to my surroundings, I was up at about 6:30 on Sunday morning and decided to go for a run.

Our hotel is just across the street from the Singapore River, which has a riverwalk that connects to the marina, a place with a ton of things to see and do, along with beautiful views of the skyline.

I had found an old blog someone had written in 2012 where the author described several great places to run in Singapore, and he specifically mentioned the riverwalk. The great thing about the riverwalk is that it connects to the Marina, which has a lot to see and do and has some fabulous views as well.

I made it across the street at about 7 a.m., and I saw that there was a lot of activity going on already, with several people running and riding their bikes.

Actually, if you are going to do any sort of exercising done you have to get it done either early in the morning or late at night. Singapore sits about 90 miles or so from the Equator, so it is hot and humid year round. When I got started on my run it was already 82 degrees with a heat index of 88, and by the afternoon we were sitting at 93 and 106, respectively.

Here is my view when I got started. You can see by the skyline that it was really hazy. When I started running I crossed that bridge and ran on the other side of the river.

I felt the heat almost immediately, and was sweating inside of a minute or so from when I started. I set an easy pace and stopped to take a lot of pictures to try and help myself, but when you have run through a Midwest winter, it's tough.

About a mile into the run I came across a place called the Clarke Quay. It's a long stretch of bars and restaurants right along the river. I'm posting a picture I took when we went back later for dinner. We have actually now gone back there two nights in a row and have had a lot of fun both times!

As I got closer to the Marina, I started to get a much better look at the skyline. Like most international cities, there is a lot of interesting architecture that shows a lot of creativity and vision that I wish we had more of in the US. Between here and Dubai, both of which are "newer" cities in terms of their growth, there is a lot in the design of the buildings that is so inspiring.

Just as I arrived near the Marina I saw a ton of runners as a half marathon was going on! Actually I knew about the race and had been tempted to enter, but couldn't make up my mind before registration closed. In hindsight I'm really glad because even though the race started at 5 a.m. to help with the heat, it would've been a huge struggle for me in these conditions. By the looks of the people running, it was a grind even for those who lived here and were used to it. Although I will say the course would've been pretty cool to have run, it was super flat.

From here I pretty much followed the runners to the finish line of the race -- I didn't blend in, there were barricades up -- as it ended close to parts of the circuit for the Singapore Grand Prix Formula 1 race.

The Singapore race is run on a "street circuit", meaning the city streets are utilized to form the track. The race is also run at night, which is cool as well. There are some permanent structures, though, and they are always accessible, in fact the race's starting line was the starting line for the half marathon. If it stops raining at some point today I'll probably go back there to check it out some more.

 My run pretty much ended there. I had hoped to have run there and back to the hotel, but the heat and humidity had really gotten to me. I took a lot more photos -- which I'll post below -- and took a cab back to the hotel.

All in all, it was a great run and a great opportunity to see the city (or is it country?) from a different perspective. So let's add another one to the list!

States Where I Have Run

Illinois
Iowa
Wisconsin
Minnesota
Indiana
Michigan
New York
South Carolina
Mississippi
California
Colorado
Virginia
Florida

Countries Where I Have Run

United States
Mexico
England
United Arab Emirates
Singapore

Continents Where I Have Run

North America
Europe
Asia