2020: (Virtual) Illinois and Grandma’s Marathons

We look for (or accept) the things we think we deserve.

 

If not for the ongoing global pandemic, COVID-19, the Illinois Marathon would have happened on 25th April 2020 and the Grandma’s Marathon would be happening on 20th June 2020. Organizers of the Grandma’s Marathon had sent out the cancellation notice at the end of March. In mid-March, organizers of the Illinois Marathon had only postponed the event to later parts of 2020. But the uncertainties being what they are, they too decided to cancel the 2020 edition. In the grander scheme of things, I believe cancellation aligns well with the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest possible time philosophy, and I sure hope that I get to meet my friends I was supposed to meet at these events again and again. Both events offered a deferment to or registration discount towards a subsequent edition as well as virtual run option. Having had a sneak peak at behind-the-scenes actions in my community’s events, it was an easy decision to go with the virtual run option.

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2020: Great Bear Chase

Being a hometown event and the last officially timed nordic skiing race for the 2019-20 winter, this was an event that I could ill afford to miss. Given that it’s week #13 of a 20-week training plan towards a Spring Marathon called for a 20-mile LSD run, the only decision was the distance combination pending weather conditions: 25 km skiing + 10 km running OR 10 km skiing + 25 km running. In light of the 2020 American Birkebeiner experience and a tentative plan for its 2021 edition, I chose to stick with the 25 km skiing (race effort) + 10 km running (easy/recovery jog) combination irrespective of prevailing weather conditions.

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2020: Noquemanon Ski Marathon

Currently in week #07 of a 20-week training plan towards 2020 Spring Marathon, this too was an event I had deemed I am not going to participate during 2019-20 winter. Little did I know (or even remember) that I had signed up for the 24 km version loooooong ago – like in April 2019 – to take advantage of the early bird pricing. It’s only when I registered for the 12 km version and tried creating a label in Gmail (you know, to easily search for registration confirmation during packet pickup) that I realized the said label already existed. Fortunately, I had just enough time to cancel the 12 km registration.

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2020: SISU Ski Fest

Currently in week #05 of a 20-week training plan towards 2020 Spring Marathon, this was an event I had deemed I am not going to participate during 2019-20 winter. I was sticking with my claim until a handful of hours before the registration closed. Inquiries/Nudging by good friends and all the inspiration derived from watching world-class skiers during the recently concluded 2020 US Cross Country Ski National Championships should take the credit for changing my mind.

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2019: Bridges & Bluffs Half Marathon

I would have never known that this event even existed if not for a conversation with Jan Haase in last week of August. Opting to race it required re-arranging the week #09 schedule of my training towards Fall marathons: Thursday’s 9 tempo miles would be run during this event. A good portion, if not all, of Friday’s easy 10 miler would be repackaged as a recovery run on Sunday. Saturday’s 20 miler was swapped with last week’s 13 miler. Assuming that the weather angels and the course cooperated well, the plan was to start slow-ish through mile #3, and reach and hold the tempo-like ponderous pace rest of the way. I expected the by-product of a proper execution of this plan to help me earn a new PR for this distance (below 1:32:22) … preferably at or below the 1:29:59 mark that seems to be within reach.

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2019: Marquette Half Marathon

Currently in week #05 of a training cycle towards a Fall marathon, my original plan for this event (like, when I first registered in December 2018) was to run the full distance as a supported long training run. Over the last 2-3 weeks (and even as late as Tuesday of this week), I flirted with the idea of sticking to the full distance at a fairly good pace … assuming the weather angels blessed us all with a day made for racing. As much as I believe in pushing the limits, I believe that I am a stronger believer in the process and its transformational power. Coupled with the advice Stephen Eles offered halfway through week #04, I decided to run just half the distance but almost entirely in an unwieldy zone. Doing so would have the added benefit of having plenty more time to cheer on John Farquhar as he punches his ticket to 2020 Boston and Bill Sved completes his 300th (yes, three hundred) marathon!

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2019: Canal Run Half Marathon

Reasons to participate in this event haven’t really changed over the past several years: a very well organized and attended race in my own backyard, the potential to see and be with a lot of friendly faces from the awesome community I am so fortunate to live in and a chance to sleep in the comfort of my house the night before, and show community that its investment in helping me run (better) has been worthwhile. This year was no different either.

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2019: Run The Keweenaw

This marks the seventh year of being a part of this festival of trails (I call it, affectionately and with all due respect to the 100 mile version in the Golden State, the Mid-Western States Endurance Run). It certainly has taken on the flavor of a family reunion of my trail running friends. Even with a good number of familiar faces missing in action this year, the weekend offered a lot of what I’ve come to learn: trail running etiquette and friends that are competitive while being the kind, cooperative, caring and the very embodiment of the said etiquette. It’s a retreat away from the grips of electronic communication-overloaded civilization and nudging us to have humane conversations, and a lovely little platform to learn from the immovable mountains and never-stop-moving runners alike. The weekend also almost always offers something new, and with lessons about my own self and new friendships, this year wasn’t any different.

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2019: Whitefish Point Marathon

The process of 2018 Chicago Marathon was a memorable experience on many fronts. It was my first time following a well-written training plan, sticking with a nutrition regimen, finding semblance of work-life balance and at the end of about 20 weeks later … running start-to-finish on race day to earn a 26-minute PR. As in most such experiments where the arrow of time flows purely in one direction, there wasn’t an opportunity for do overs. But a post-partum analysis revealed a list of things I should have tried and I could have done better.

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2019: Great Bear Chase

This too was an event I had deemed I am not going to race during 2018-19 winter but much like Birkie two weekends ago, things changed and changed in a hurry. The last of the officially timed ski event for 2018-19 winter season, being held in our very own backyard in the good company many of my wonderful friends, sufficient knowledge of the Swedetown Trail System and its terrain gathered over the past 3-4 seasons with help from many said friends – to an extent that I feel at home on every loop and not just when I see the final stretch to the finish line, an opportunity rub shoulders with the elites, and a peroration for Pat Szubielak as he embarks on retirement a second time … drove the said change.

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2018: Great Turtle Trail Run Half Marathon

Great Turtle Trail Run Half Marathon was one of those events that got on my bucket list during the early formative years of my running … like 5 or so years ago. Around those days, I had wanted to do every half marathon within 6-8 hours of Houghton, if not anywhere and everywhere. I let life get in the way and I put this event on the backburner of bucket list items. Then again, the stove in those days had so many backburners that it was too easy to forget what I had on them … and needless to say, I forgot all about it. That is, until a week or so ago when Stephen Eles brought it up in a conversation, explained the course profile and expected low temperature and encouraged me to sign up!

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2018: Noquemanon Ski Marathon

In all honesty and fairness, participating in this event was a very distant thought when the year started. Unlike 2017, I have been making a decent amount of progress towards the upcoming Kortelopet as part of the Birkie festivities. Progress, to be fair and honest, has so far been only about improving the technique – especially having to make a right turn while going down a slope. To be fair and honest, I did want to improve the distance (per session or attempt) as well but just hadn’t made enough time (or had made time for excuses, as my lovely Lombardian friends would say).

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2017: Great Bear Chase

In all seriousness and retrospect, this should have been my fourth ski race/event of the 2016-17 season. But owing to many reasons beyond the scope of this journal entry (read: excuses for not making time to train consistently in any way, shape or form) and with the cancellation of the 2017 American Birkebeiner (I wasn’t prepared for that either), Great Bear Chase became the final and only test of my skiing this season — cumulative (since January 2014) and newly acquired (with each passing season/session — as I said, there wasn’t much of it this season) alike. And the event is a a long-running and well established, managed and reputed one with usual perks — near-zero traveling, sleeping in my own bed couch the night before, and being with dear friends and community members before, during and afterwards.

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2016: Marquette Half Marathon

Fond memories of my maiden marathon attempt in its 2015 edition and not so fond memories of a squandered opportunity 300 some miles south a couple months later were still pretty fresh when I signed up for the 2016 edition of the Marquette Marathon. With this being the only chosen Marathon in 2016, all my eggs were in one basket so to say, and hope was that I would actually follow a training regiment to improve my PR. Maybe even bring it under the four hour mark.

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2016: Canal Run Half Marathon

As per usual, Hancock Canal Run signals the completion of two full years since I took to running half marathon distance and marks the beginning of a new year (#4). Reasons to participate in this event haven’t really changed over these years: a very well organized and attended race in my own backyard, the potential to see and be with a lot of friendly faces from the awesome community I am so fortunate to live in and a chance to sleep in my own couch the night before, and show just about everyone in this community that has ever helped me run (better) that their investment in me wasn’t a wasted effort.

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