My Unicorn…


This is a big weekend in endurance sports.

We start on Saturday, with the Ironman World Championships in Kona.  2.4 mile swim, 112 on the bike…and then a marathon.  The gun goes off at 7am.  All athletes have until 9:20am to hit the first transition area (otherwise called “T1”) – miss that cutoff by a single second, and your day is over.  Then the athletes hop on their bikes and crank out 112 miles out in the open Hawaiian sun, fighting the fierce Kona winds (which are known to knock grown men off their bikes).  All athletes needs to hit the second transition area (“T2”) by 5:30pm.  Again: miss the cutoff time by a single second, and your day is through.  Once you make it through T2, you throw on your running shoes and begin your 26.2 run.  By now your arms and back are tired from the swim, and your legs are burning from the bike.  You also become aware of the final countdown: you have to cross the finish before midnight.  140.6 miles.  1,800 athletes, all of them absolute BEASTS.

Now here’s something cool that the athletes in Kona do that I wish other races around the world would embrace: there is a tradition that the male and female winners at Kona return to the finish line for the final hour of the event in order to cheer on the final athletes as they fulfill their dreams.  The athletes that finish in the last hour may have their medal draped over their necks by the champion.  Here’s another incredible fact about Kona: as the sun goes down and the night begins, the crowds don’t lessen.  They get bigger.  They get louder.  The final hour is magical.

This is my unicorn.  To cross the finish at Kona and have those magic words yelled over the loudspeaker: “Joseph Kolinsky, you are an Ironman!” by the announcer has been a dream of mine since I began following the sport in the late 1980’s.  I’d watch this incredible race every year on ABC’s Wide World of Sports (and for those of you who have never heard that iconic theme song for this show, go and google it – trust me, it’;s worth the keystrokes), and see the level of pain the athletes were willing to go through in order to complete this event.  I was absolutely blown away.  I’ve been a fan ever since.

On Sunday, the Chicago Marathon takes place.  Over 40,000 will run this one.  The course is flat and fast, and extremely fun.  I ran this one a couple of times, and it was 5 hours of bliss.

These events serve as an ongoing reminder: impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men.  You can do anything you put your mind to.  It doesn’t need to be a triathlon or a marathon – just choose a goal and work at it until to achieve it.  And if someone tells you that what you are shooting for is impossible, just tell them “…maybe for you it is.  Not for me.”

Macca

Marathon #10: The 2012 Chicago Marathon


One week after running the Tower of Terror 10 miler in Florida, I found myself in the lively city of Chicago, preparing for the Chicago Marathon.

 

Chicago is a city that I have come to truly appreciate and enjoy. I arrived at O’Scare Airport on Friday morning and immediately checked in to the Peninsula Hotel. This place is AMAZING. My room was something out of a James Bond movie – the entire room was controlled by a single control panel on my night table. Once I dumped my bag in the room, I set out to the Expo. As I left the hotel, one of the housekeeping staff wished me a good day…and my response was “Kolinsky. Joe Kolinsky”. Oh yeah – I was, in the words of that famous philosopher Austin D. Powers, feeling “completely shagadelic”.

The Expo was incredibly well organized. Buses took runners and their families from different location around the city to the Convention Center, where volunteers used Ipads to check the runners in and issue them their bibs. I had my bib number and all other essentials within moments, leaving me free to wander the vendor booths and check out all of the upcoming marathons being advertised, the various new forms of energy bars and electrolyte drinks, and other various running “stuff”. As an impulse buy, I picked up a pair of Newtons (for those of you wondering – “Fig Newtons? A lost group of refugees from the town of Newton? Sir Isaac Newton’s long lost great great great grandson?”….Google is your friend…) because I know that I am a heavy heel-striker. The more I run, the more I think that I must look like a cross between Alfred E Newman and Lerch from the old Addams Family TV show when I waddle through 26.2. So a pair of Newtons may just assist me with adjusting my stride to that of a normal human being. I made my way through the Expo in about an hour, and then headed to a local Chicago Deep Dish Pizza joint for a lesson in how to carbo-load, Midwest style. I arrived back at the Peninsula a rather stuffed yet happy camper.

 

Marathon morning arrived with a slight chill in the air, cloudy skies and a decent wind. I walked from the hotel along Michigan Avenue to the runner’s village maintained in Millennium Park. The level of organization for this race continued to impress me, as the village was separated into two distinct areas: one section for the runners participating in the first wave, and another section for those of us running in the second wave. In between waves, there was a thirty minute window of time to allow the race to progress smoothly from the start. Before I knew it, the first wave took off and we were being beckoned to our corrals.

 

The course is extremely flat and fast – and that was a welcome change from the various races I’ve run earlier in the year. I have a rather deep, seething hatred for any incline included within any race I run. Chicago’s course, therefore, gave me the warm and fuzzies.

 

I felt fantastic at the start, as I normally do. I controlled my pace and did not allow the runners around me to dictate my splits. Usually I succumb to peer pressure and feel this uncontrollable need to keep up with complete strangers that are running a much quicker pace that I normally do. Even though I’ve been passed by exactly 1,227,567,123 runners thus far in my running career, the general concept of actually being passed by anyone gets my knickers in a twist. So it is extremely difficult to stay under control…especially at the beginning of the race, when I feel like a world-beater. Somehow, I was able to block out what was going on around me and focus on my own race. As a Team For Kids mentor, I try to remind runners that are training for their first marathon to “run your own pace – not someone else’s”. Up to this point – that rule was a solid example of do as I say…not as I do. I was shocked that, on this morning, I heeded my own advice.

 

Nine miles into the race, I felt very positive and under complete control. I continued to clip off miles at a slow and steady pace, hitting the half marathon point in approximately two hours and eighteen minutes. This is the exact point in the race where my head normally begins to lose its focus for a bit – between the half-way point and the mile 17 marker. Unfortunately for me, this morning was no different. I lose track of my breathing. I become distracted with Marathon Math (when a marathoner begins constantly checking his/her watch as they begin to tire, trying to calculate on the fly the “acceptable” splits that they think they’ll be able to maintain through the finish). I also lose the ability to block out some of the negativity begin sprouted by The Tool (and if you haven’t been properly introduced to that tiny 4cm bastard, check out one of my older blog posts for a brief description: ___). Once I lose focus, I find it incredibly difficult to regain that world-beater feeling. I slow down….and then I begin to take a walk break or two. This is exactly what happened during the second half of this race.

 

The support on the course was wonderful. The volunteers were everywhere. There was an air of positivity within the entire city that the runners seem to feed off. The temperature was basically perfect once the race got underway and I began to exercise. There was no pounding sun to contend with. No external reasons for my poor performance. It simply boiled down to the fact that I lost my focus and could not regain it. This is going to be a major hurdle to clear before I can drastically improve my performance.

 

It felt fantastic finishing the 2012 Chicago Marathon. The finish line of any marathon is a special place for a runner – but Chicago is one of the Marathon Majors (Boston, New York, Berlin and London are the other four that make up this sport’s – for lack of a better term – Grand Slam), and over the years there have been some incredible finishes. So being able to cross the same finish line as some of the greatest runners in the world is a privilege that I’ve never lost sight of. However, one thing I keep thinking of is a quote from Steve Prefontaine: “Do give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift”. Each time I’ve crossed the finish line I’ve felt like I tried hard…but I have yet to put it all together and run my perfect race. For me, the perfect race is one where I start off completely under control, maintain the exact same pace per mile for 25 miles, and then drop the hammer for the last 1.2 miles, picking up my pace and crossing the finish line almost unable to catch my breath. The perfect race is out there, and at some point I’ll capture it. But until then, all I can do is just keep trying.

 

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Bottom 5 Things About the Chicago Marathon


OK – in keeping with my Chicago Marathon theme, here are the 5 things that I wasn’t so thrilled about during this year’s trip to the Windy Ciry for the Big Race….

5. Lime green was one of the major colors of official marathon gear. Seriously. Now I wear lime green when I run for the NYRR Team For Kids. And I love it. I can pull off lime green on a Sunday morning in the Big Apple…but even I have a hard time rockin’ the lime green during brunch at a lavish SoJo Asian fusion restaurant….

4. Quiet points along the course. No race is perfect. Every race has its quiet spots. However, the quiet spot for this race just so happened to be at miles 23-24. I was running on vapors and feeling like a bug on a windshield, and I needed a lift (because I wasn’t getting one from inside myself). Miles 23 and 24 felt like a death march.

3. 2 waves. The second wave contained anyone that planned to run times of 3:40 or greater. Seriously? 3:40 marathoners / 3:50 marathoners didn’t make the first wave cutoff? Now THAT is a shock.

2. O’Hare Airport. Cancel a 2pm flight. Then bounce people around the 3,4, and 5:30 flights back to NYC. Then delay all flights for 2 hours basically because the weather is really nice. Seriously. Wish I was kidding. Should have taken Amfreakin’Trak round trip – it would have been quicker.

1. O’Hare. It pissed me off so darn much they earn the top 2 spots on my list. Doorknobs. Lol.

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Top 5 Moments of the 2012 Chicago Marathon


OK – I had to share this top 5 after jotting down that prior entry…..
So without further adieu, here are my top 5 moments from this year’s Chicago Marathon:

5. Running alongside a father and daughter from Italy. It was a first marathon for the both of them, and they plodded along together – mile after mile – with smiles on their faces the whole way. The father would tell the fans lined along the streets “that’s my daughter! Look at how strong she is!!!”. Nothing like seeing fatherly pride.

4. Meeting a man that lost 140 pounds and was in the process of completing his first marathon.

3. Watching a man fall to a knee with 800 meters to go. It was clear that he had nothing left. I watched as he fell…and then slowly rose up. He stood motionless for a moment – and then began to move forward. He refused to quit. It was an amazing moment. To see him will himself forward toward the finish armed with nothing more than his courage was incredible.

2. Seeing a dad greeted by his five young children shortly after finishing. It was amazing to see the look on their collective faces when he showed them his medal. All five youngsters looked at him in awe. It’s wonderful when a child sees his/her father as a hero.

1. Throughout the day, I watched and listened as complete strangers ran together, motivating each other to keep moving forward. As one runner saw another begin to slow down or struggle, other runners would share simple words of encouragement. This happened all day long. And that’s what the marathon is all about. It’s more than just a race for individual accomplishment. The marathon brings out the best qualities in the runners, the spectators and the volunteers.

One month to the ING New York City Marathon. One month until the single greatest day of the year in the city. I cannot wait.

Remember – you don’t get today back…so wait it count.

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Top 10 Signs Seen At The 2012 Chicago Marathon


OK – I know I’m a bit behind in these entries. I’ll have entries for my September (Self-Inflicted Yet Again) Marathon, the Fifth Avenue Mile, the WDW Tower of Terror 10 miler and the Chicago Marathon posted this week. However: I needed to share this before I completely forget!

The Top 10 Signs Seen During The 2012 Chicago Marathon:

10. “Hey complete stranger – we’re proud of you!”

9. “The Kenyans went that way.”

8. “26.2….because 26.3 would be crazy.”

7. “17 miles to beer.”

6. “pain is temporary – pride is…..oh you know the rest.”

5. “You’re chaffing. I’m cheering. Suckers!”

4. “Release your inner Kenyan.”

3. “Masochist: someone who gets pleasure out of pain.”

2. “Worst. Parade. EVER.”

And my personal favorite:

1. “Do Epic Shit.”

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