Thursday, December 31, 2015

Tough Racing Season Concludes At Chicago Marathon

In 2013, I set my marathon personal best of 3:50. In 2014, I wanted to break 3:30:00. Bruised ribs prevented me. In 2015, I took aim at 3:30 again. Illness which knocked me out of a couple early season races hampered my training and racing performance. For every 2015 race, but one, Ryan Nord volunteered to guide me. In 2014, Wendy Jaehn guided me for the marathon and we landed on Chicago Athlete Magazine October cover. Fitting that Ryan and Wendy would be my eyes for 2015 Bank Of America Chicago Marathon.

We entered the Athletes With Disability tent before 6a.m. At 7a.m., we walked to the start line. At 7:22, we started. Wendy guided me for the opening half. Due to my health issues throughout 2015, I started at a 9:30 pace. At times I would run at 9:10 pace, but Wendy would pull me back. I eased into 9:15-9:25 pace. I wore my Pinnacle Performance Company race gear. People yelled, “Go Pinnacle!” Some read the back of my top yelling, “Go Sexy Isra!” Three miles in Ali Engin snapped many photos of us. Universal Sole’s owner, Joel Feinberg screamed out to us as he rolled by ahead of the pro field. Mile five. A young woman leaped out in front of us and pointed to me and waved her sign which read: “I’d swipe right.” Another woman called out. It was Christine Bell, Jen Pfaff’s friend. Just then, a woman screamed my name. It was Jen Pfaff and her friend, Skittles, on route to a three hour marathon. Between miles eight and ten, Wendy kept me from pushing too early. I felt strong.

Midway point. Wendy handed my running tether to Ryan. Crowd roared. Mile sixteen. Ten left. Start pushing? If I go too early, I will regret it late. Runners all around us walked. People complained about the 60° and 70° weather. Sun beat down. I debated if I should join the walkers. Then I thought, is that what Jenna Parker coached me to do? How disappointed would Jenna, Ryan, and Wendy be in me? I kept running. Urge to walk remained. Sun is hotter. Confidence in myself and desire to keep running waned. I hit a wall. Ryan, “right there. Mile nineteen.” I came alive. Band played. Crowd roared.

Mile twenty-one. Wendy, “Pick it up, Is. Five to go.” I waited. 35K mark. Friends, todd Smith and Mike Casey should be cheering nearby. Must run strong. Wendy and Ryan both spotted Ali. I pumped my fist. I wave to him. Michigan Avenue. I had slowed to 10:30 pace. time to push. 40K. My buddy, todd nelson yelled out. Wendy and Ryan cheered. 8:45 pace. We weaved around people. We flew by them. I charged up a final hill. Quarter mile left. As we crossed Wendy and Ryan lifted my arms.

Twenty minutes off my personal best. I was satisfied with my strong finish. Thank you Ryan Nord and Wendy Jaehn for embracing me as your friend. Thank you Jenna Parker for being my coach, friend, and inspiration. Thank you Pinnacle Performance Company for sponsoring me. Thank you Saucony for helping me find my strong. Thank you Bank Of America and Keri Schindler of AWD for a well organized event.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Dealing With Wind, Cold, And…Pants? Universal Sole Twilight 10K

In August, I learned Chicago Athlete Magazine selected three photos as finalists for the October issue cover. One of those was of Wendy Jaehn guiding me through the 2014 Chicago Marathon. In September, I learned the picture of us was the runaway winner. To celebrate, Wendy and I took part in Universal Sole’s Twilight 10K on October 2. I registered with the intention of breaking forty minutes not realizing the challenges I would encounter in training nor considering a 7p.m. race on an October evening along a not so well lit lakefront would present problems for Wendy navigating me through the course.

Race night was cold and windy. I worn my Pinnacle Performance Company race top over my Pinnacle Performance jacket. I opted to wear my pants over my Pinnacle Performance shorts. As Wendy lead me to the start line, a man approached. “You’re Antonio. You’re on the Chicago Athlete cover, right? both of you are. You’re inspiring.” The 10K was my second run of the day. Jenna parker said to run strong, but do not be a hero. It was dark. Wendy planned to ease us into the run to finish strong.

Gun sounded. Wendy found some space for us. I ran out fast. Wendy had me slow down. Footing was bad. We ran by the lake. Wind howled. Waves crashed down. Sand piled up on the course. Wendy masterfully moved me through the sand. Screaming wind made it colder. three fourths into the opening mile I reached behind my back. Wendy, “Are you okay?” In disbelief, “My pants are falling down.” she laughed. My warmups were looser than I realized. One more challenge with which to deal. The opening mile was the fastest mile Wendy and I had run together in a race or training. Miles two and three. I hated the cold, but I ran strong. My pants slipped down again. I raised it on the fly. It was so dark Wendy could not inform me of our pace as frequently as she would otherwise do. I felt a side stitch starting. I felt winded. Wendy had me increase the speed. I stepped in crack almost twisting my ankle. I caught my other foot in a tree branch laying on the path. I shook it off within a few steps. Final mile. Wendy estimated we were in the top third of runners. Cold, wind, and pants bothered me. Wendy could see the finish area. We veered off the path on to grass. One final hill. It was steep. Wendy encouraged me to power through. Apex. Time to fly down hill. It was steep. I almost fell over. I clutched to Wendy’s elbow. My pants slipped down. Wendy’s elbow in one hand back of my pants in the other. Flat ground. Finish shoot. Race announcer called our name. I could no longer keep my pants up. Final sprint. Finish! Wendy and I finished in the top third.

Thank you Wendy Jaehn for guiding me. Thank you Jenna Parker for coaching me. Thank you Pinnacle Performance Company for sponsoring me. Thank you Joel Feinberg, Universal sole owner for ensuring I ran in this event. Thank you to Universal Sole social media manager and store employees for always engaging with me when I reach out.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Negative Split At Chicago half marathon

Originally, I planned to run the Chicago Half Marathon on September 27 with an eye towards breaking 1:40:00 and threaten 1:30. Due to illness throughout the summer, I had to run slower.

Ironman triathlete, Dan Tun volunteered to guide me. It was chilly when he and his sister, Erin, picked me up, but it had warmed up by gun time. We made our way across the start line. Dan yelled out to fabulous photographer Ali Engin, but Ali did not hear him. I hanged on to Dan’s elbow for all of the opening mile. He was confident the course would eventually open up. I ran this event with Todd Smith four years ago when he too felt it would eventually open up only to run 13.1 miles of misery never breaking free of the bottleneck.

Jenna Parker wanted me to ease into it and negative split the race. I ran the first mile faster than I wanted. At the start of mile two, I let go of Dan’s elbow. I slowed my pace. Runners yelled to us, “You’re running strong” and “You’re an inspiration.” Having slowed to 9:45-9:50 pace, I was not running strong. I did not feel like an inspiration. At mile four, I heard two female pace leaders chatting. “Look at his shirt. It reads Sexy Isra.” They laughed. One said, “You’re looking great Sexy Isra!” The group cruised by us. At mile six, a fella called out, “Antonio, I’m with the Chicago road Runners. I’ll take pictures of you, okay?” I smiled. He snapped some photos. Off to my right I heard a male runner ask his friend, “Did you see that? I photobombed Antonio’s pictures. I’m awesome.” At mile seven I picked up the pace to 9:30.

Seven miles in the books. Time to go to work. Dan, “This is the turn-around. Less than six left.” During miles eight and nine, I ran 8:45 pace. I went for the negative split. 8:25 pace. “You’re flying by all those who passed us in the early miles. It’s like they’re standing still.” Footsteps ahead. I raced to catch and fly by them. Runners huffing and puffing. I reeled them in then drop them quickly.

Final mile. 8:20 pace. Could I hit 8:00? Dan, “There’s a pace group about 400 meters ahead. Let’s catch them.” I pushed. Half a mile left. We caught them. One of the pace leaders, Cynthia, spotted me. “Hey, it’s Sexy Isra!” We crossed the finish line.

Afterwards I saw friends, Lisa, Dana, and Mike. Ali Engin came up to me. “Isra, you ran today? I didn’t see you.” Turns out, he heard Dan at the start, but did not turn around in time. I had a wonderful conversation with the Chicago Half Marathon race director. Thank you Dan Tun for guiding me. Thank you Jenna Parker for coaching me. Thank you Pinnacle Performance Company for sponsoring me.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

For unto us a child is born. Merry Christmas! If you recognize and celebrate the birth of The Son, I hope you have enjoyed a splendid day with family and friends opening presents and making memories. If you do not celebrate the religious significance, I hope your day has equally been a splendid one with loved ones.

Thank you for reading my blog entries. Your taking the time to read my reflections and recaps means plenty. Your readership is a great present. As we near the end of 2015, I hope you will read my final posts of the year and you will be ready to dive into the ones to start 2016.

Merry Christmas and to you, a good night.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Caroline Combines Passion And Purpose For Others

I first met the beautiful and talented, Caroline Gaynor in July of 2008 in New york city. I have always been a runner, especially a sprinter, at heart, but Lokelani McMichael becoming the youngest person to complete an Ironman triathlon at age eighteen inspired me to do triathlons. Besides spending a weekend in NYC with my long time dear friend, sexy, Sunshine, I walked away from that weekend excited from finishing a triathlon and meeting the fabulous, Caroline Gaynor. A month later, I saw Caroline in Chicago during the Chicago Triathlon. Caroline was and remains so beautiful, sweet, funny, kind, and magnificent. Over the years, I have posted and raved about how magnificent Caroline is, so permit me to step aside and allow someone else to sing her praises.

Please take some time to visit the following link where Kelly Krause, Camille Styles’ Contributing Editor, praises lovely, Caroline as well as providing a Q and A section.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Katie-Do At Funny Women Festival

The sketch comedy group, Cake Batter, puts on a fabulous festival called Funny Women Fest which spotlights and celebrates strong, independent, funny women. Today, December 5 at 7p.m. at the Del Close theater in Hollywood is another chance for audiences to witness funny talented women showcasing their abilities. Best of all, there is a competition taking place and those who attend can vote on their favorites. Among the categories is Video Shorts in which one of the finalists is Katie-Do written, produced, and starring my friend, Kate Bergeron.

If you attend the festival, please vote for Kate's Katie-Do entry. For more information, please visit the beautiful and talented, Kate Bergeron's site at the following link: