Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kansas City & Des Moines Back-to-Back Review

Before the recap of my wonderful weekend, I just wanted to say THANK YOU for all of the awesome comments and congratulations that you left after my race on Sunday!  They were all incredibly humbling, and I was honored.  It's amazing to have the support and appreciation of so many runners who understand how great it feels when we achieve our goals we've worked so hard for!

RAWKFIST at Des Moines!!!
Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon
October 15, 2011
Kansas City, Missouri
14th Marathon Completed
Time: 3:42:25, Pace: 8:30/mile

IMT Des Moines Marathon
October 16, 2011
Des Moines, Iowa
15th Marathon Completed
Time: 3:30:47, Pace: 8:03/mile

Day 1 ... Kansas City Marathon - Saturday, October 15th 
Michael, Jack, & me with our "World Famous Pre-Race Dance!"   Go Jack ... Go Jack ... Go-Go-Go Jack!!!

Michael and I woke up early on Saturday morning and had our versions of breakfast.  Mine was a banana, half of a smoothie, and a protein bar.  Hers was something like a granola bar or whatever.  We gathered our stuff and then it was SHOW TIME!!!  No, not the races ... DANCE FEEEEEVA!!!  We had to get our traditional pre-race groove on!

Pickin' up the KC Race Packet
Michael was running the half-marathon, and I was running the full, but neither of us were rip-roarin' and ready to go for our races.  I just wanted to get the day over with and start marathon #2 on Sunday.  And I think Michael was feeling a little burnt out on racing after running a 15K & half-marathon over the previous three weekends. Michael text'd her friend Michelle to let her know we were on our way.  Michelle was following us to Downtown KC for the race, which apparently proved to be an adventure for her.  Between my messing with the radio, going through my race bag, and trying to pee in a Gatorade bottle ... all while driving ... she told me I "drove like I was drunk".  (Yeah, sometimes I pee in a Gatorade bottle before races.  I just recently found out that's apparently gross and not socially acceptable)

We got to the Crown Center parking garage a little later than usual.  Of course I was a little stressed, but it ended up being okay - we all got to the starting line on time.  Plus, who could be anxious with such an amazing day ahead of us! It was one of the most beautiful Saturday mornings in Kansas City that I could remember.  No wind.  Low humidity.  And about 50 degrees at the start of the race. Perfect!!!

Michael was jealous of my SWEET finisher shirt!!!
Michael and I had picked up our KC race packet a couple of days before the race. And the KC Marathon is all about being as "Green" as possible, so there wasn't a lot of fluff & wasted paper.  Basically just a t-shirt, bib, and timing chip.  But they DID give the marathon finishers a really cool long sleeve technical t-shirt.  To date, I think it's my favorite.

At about 30 minutes until race time, there wasn't much to do besides relax and enjoy the festivities.  There was music playing.  People talking about their training.  And wonderful volunteers everywhere making the experience perfect.  The KC Marathon has grown to about a 10,000 person event with all of the races combined, and the race staff does a great job with organization.  Everything was seamless.

Crown Center is an "upscale" shopping & corporate district just South of Downtown KC.  And we usually park in the attached garage before the race.  It's perfect.  Our parking spot is only about 200 yards from the finish area.  Plus, most of the runners can wait inside the heated Crown Center Food Court before going out and toeing the starting line.  Michael and Michelle waited inside.  But I kissed Michael good-bye and headed out to go through my pre-race routine.

Perfect day in my hometown!
After a little stretching, I found the gear bag drop where I waited a few minutes before discarding my warm-up jacket.  After I dropped off the bag, I started walking the quarter-mile to the starting line, thinking about my race strategy.  I had to make sure I didn't run this race too fast.  I know that sounds silly.  But there's something about wearing a race bib that makes me want to go all out.  I knew I had to take it easy and make this first marathon a little more than a speedy jog.  On Sunday at Des Moines I could empty the tank ... but not today.

Standing at the starting line I ran into a local Lees Summit runner who I've spoken to at my gym before.  It's kinda one of those weird things where I don't even know her name because I've never introduced myself, but I see her all of the time running in my neighborhood in early morning hours.  The last time I talked to her, she told me that she had ran Boston in 2010, so at the starting line we swapped stories about our Boston experience.  I could have probably figured out who she is if I cyber-stalked her time in the race results, but I didn't.  She was really cool and said she was running the half-marathon and going for a PR.  We wished each other good-luck and the then it was on!  Race number one-of-two in twenty-four hours was underway!

 One down, now to Des Moines!
Simply put ... the run was amazing!  I was SOOOO RELAXED on Saturday.  I kept glancing at my heart rate and it was only about 140-150 bpm.   It's usually around 165-175 bpm in most marathons. But for this run, it was like a nice, slow stroll in the park.  The birds were chirpin'!  I was joking with other runners and the volunteer staff!  No worries man!

Even if I'm dying, I really try to be encouraging at the end of races.  Whether I'm passing people, or if they're passing me, I try to offer a "Lookin' Good!" ...or "Keep It Up!" ... or, of course "This is your day ... Be Great Today!"  But Saturday was probably the most fun I've had with that.  Since I wasn't killing myself during the last few miles, I really got to enjoy runners as they passed and hopefully gave them a little boost.  I love it when folks do the same for me, so I always enjoy trying to help them out.  Usually during the final stages of a marathon, I'm about ready to pass out ... but the last few miles of this race flew by.  In fact, I really didn't want it to end.  It was perfect!  I could have ran forever!

Beautiful PR girl & a wrinkly old man with our KC medals
The race on Saturday really made me remember why I love running so much!  The sun was shining.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky.  I was in probably the best shape of my life and I was amazed that I could just breeze through a marathon nice and easy.  All of the back-to-back runs were paying off, and I was really able to conserve a lot of energy for the run on Sunday.  I stayed right around a smooth 8:30 pace for the entire race and finished as planned with a 3:42:25. It was about my 3rd or 4th slowest time ever, but I didn't care.  It was mission accomplished!  I ALWAYS LOVE running in my home town.  But when I look back years from now, this marathon on Saturday at Kansas City will be one of my favorites.

At the finish line, I quickly found Michael who was waiting for me with my gear bag.  I hurriedly gathered my finisher medal and t-shirt, then some fruit and water.  And after snapping a few pictures in front of the Crown Center Fountains, we rushed to the car where my roller pad and a pre-mixed smoothie were waiting.

I probably looked really strange sprawled out on a giant Mizzou blanket on the concrete next to the car in the parking garage.  But I had a "specific formula" that I had used during my training runs for recovery.  And I knew that if I got in the car and drove 45 minutes home without rolling out a little, my legs would get really stiff.  So there Michael stood ... in the parking garage ... watching her husband roll out his muscles and stretch after the race on the 3rd Level dirty floor of the Crown Center Parking Garage.  She probably felt really stupid!  But she never said a word ... what a great wife!

Great finisher medal featuring the Firefighters Memorial
And here's what a great wife Michael really is:  After we both finished the race ... gathered our goodies ...  walked to the car ... stretched ... and then finally closed the car door for the ride home ... then, and only then, did she finally reach in her pocket, pull out a piece of paper and say, "Take a look at this!"  It was her printed out race result.   And as I looked closely ... I saw that she had PR'd IN THE FRIGGIN' HALF MARATHON!!!  And not just barely ... she crushed her old mark!!!  I don't want to give away the details of her race report, but the KC Half-Marathon course is a little hilly, and for her to PR there was AMAZING!!!  But what's even more amazing is that she waited all that time to tell me.  She just wanted to make sure that my recovery process went well and didn't want to take away from "my day".  Unbelievable!  What a giving person.  I'm so lucky to have her in my life!

After some pretty terrible planning by me, we took the long way back to Lees Summit from downtown KC.  But once we were home, I showered, stretched again, ate a little more, and then loaded our pre-packed bags for Des Moines, IA.  I'm kind of a Subway Sandwich shop geek.  I know it's not the healthiest choice in the world, but it's MUCH better than a lot of the alternatives when you're on the go.  Plus, it's basically what I live on when I travel for work.  So Subway was my post-race meal.  After making a brief stop at the shop near our house, we were on our way for the 3-1/2 drive to the next marathon.

Michael offered, but I drove on the trip to Des Moines.  Mainly because I'm a control freak.   But also because I drive all over the Midwest for my job and I'm kind of used to it.  I can usually drive for hours and then hop out of the car and go for a run ... all pain free.  Car rides just don't seem to bother me.  In fact, after the Sioux Falls Marathon, I basically showered, and then was in my car for the 9 hour drive home about 45 minutes after the race ended.  But I WAS a little sore the next day after that one.

Big-eared dork on the way to Des Moines...
The arrival at Des Moines was pretty uneventful.  Considering we had to zoom by the Convention Center for packet pickup, check-in to the hotel, get something to eat for dinner, and get the next day's race stuff ready ... it all just kind of fell into place.  But both of us were having a great time!  Michael was basking in the glow of her awesome PR, and I was on top of the world about how good I felt after running the first marathon.

At packet pickup we met a few other people who had ran the KC Marathon earlier that day.  They were all pretty easy to spot, because like me, they had all worn their black finisher t-shirt.  I mean, c'mon ... are you really gonna run back-to-back marathons and NOT let EVERYONE know at packet pickup for the second one that you just finished a marathon a few hours earlier!  Please!  We all got quite a few, "Wow ... congratulations!" ... and "Man, are you crazy???"  But it felt pretty cool being recognized by your running peers who were "merely" doing one marathon that weekend.  (kidding of course)

After collecting my race t-shirt, bib, and timing chip for Sunday's race, we went back to the Hampton Inn where we were staying and I ordered a chicken and pepperoni pizza ... just like the night before.  I ate, gathered my things for the Des Moines Marathon, which was about 11 hours away, and tried to get some sleep with sweet dreams of what a great day it had been.

Day 2 ... Des Moines Marathon - Sunday, October 16th
At the finish line of the Des Moines Marathon ... happy, exhausted, victorious, and celebrating with my family!!!
I woke up early on Sunday morning a little worried about how my legs would feel when they hit floor.  I rolled out of bed to use the bathroom and as my toes hit the carpet ... NOTHING!!! Not nothing, like I didn't feel anything ... but nothing ... like ALMOST NO FRIGGIN' SORENESS AT ALL!!! WoooHoooooo!!! My legs felt GREAT!!! I was so happy!!!  I was, of course, a little energy depleted, but other than that I felt awesome ... like I could run a marathon or something!  So I threw on my clothes and did just that!

Hmmm - Another marathon
today ... umm, okay!!!
I had debated on a couple of things.  First, I was gonna wear "Old Blue", my favorite racing shirt, but I really wanted to wear my Boston technical t-shirt as a reminder that I can do anything I set my mind to.  I don't wear it a lot.  I'm not sure if it's in "good taste" to wear it in a race ... I think it can look a little arrogant, or pretentious.  But I really wanted the inspiration ... plus like I've said before, "Heck, I earned it!"  So I wore it anyway.

Secondly, I had been wearing the CEP Recovery Sleeves a lot lately after long runs for improved recovery.  I had never worn them on a run.  In part because I had never needed them.  But mostly because I think they look kinda silly ... I mean for a guy anyway.  I know a lot of guys wear them and I don't "disrespect that" or anything.  I just think for me, they look a little like Cheerleader knee-highs.  But for this race, I thought I could probably use the support, so I swallowed my pride ... and team-spirit ... and put them on!  And honestly ... they were amazing!!!  I couldn't believe how good my calves felt for the entire race.

Madi & Nate drove 3-1/2 hours, one way
just to watch the old man finish a marathon!!!
I drove to the starting line by myself.  Michael waited back at the room for Madison, and my future son-in-law Nate, who were driving up from Kansas City to support the old man!  I was so excited to see them all at the end of the race.  It meant so much to me that people love me enough to drive 3-1/2 hours, ONE WAY, just to watch me finish a dumb race.  They made signs and everything.  AWESOME!!! I thought I would probably cry at the finish line when I saw them, but I didn't.  I was in too much pain.

The starting line area for the Des Moines was amazing.  It had like a thousand port-o-potties, and plenty of areas to wait indoors out of the 10 mph wind if you wanted.  Even though it was about 50 degrees, the overcast sky and brisk breeze made the 8 a.m. start a little chilly - but it wasn't too bad.  The gear bag drop was also only about 10 feet from where I started the race ... nice and convenient.  I literally waited until about 1 minute before the start to take off my jacket.  Perfect!  And then just like that ... I started running again!  My second marathon in less than 24 hours ... here we go!!!

I didn't feel as smooth as I thought I would the first few miles.  I wasn't stiff and sore like I figured I might be ... but rather just a little energy depleted.  The adrenaline of the day hadn't really kicked in yet.  Plus, the whole thing felt a little surreal. Like I was supposed to be home in bed, instead of out on the streets running another marathon.

7:19 pace at mile 26,
My fastest mile of the two marathons!
At about mile 4, I started talking to a couple of people. A girl I met told me it was her first marathon.  I was really excited for her.  I told her to enjoy the day and take in every moment.  I told her it would "get real up in here" at about mile 20, but to trust her training and believe she could do it!  I told her it was "her day", and "what she had trained for", and to "Be Great Today!"  I also talked to a guy who had ran Boston earlier in the year.  He saw my shirt and said he wished he would have worn his.  I told him that my wife was messin' with me telling me that it would be "really embarrassing" if I had to walk wearing the Boston shirt.  He said, "Wow, no pressure huh?"  We laughed and I told him it was my second marathon in two days.  He asked me what pace I was going for and I told him I didn't know yet - it just depended on how I felt.  We talked for a little while longer and then I dropped off and told him I was going to take it easy for a while.

Beautiful girl waiting at the finish!
See that ... TWO medals!!!
The day before in Kansas City, everything felt smooth, light, and easy.  The race on Sunday felt exactly OPPOSITE of that.  The whole run in Iowa seemed like a grind.  I was staying around 8:15-8:30 in the early stages, but I found myself counting down the miles ... which I rarely do anymore.  My legs were starting to get really tight at about mile 10.  And my heart rate was starting to climb a little too.  The Des Moines Marathon course is relatively easy compared to KC.  Not a lot of hills.  But I found that every little incline was a little tough after the hills I had ran on Saturday.  My heart rate stayed around 160 bpm until the end when I increased my pace and it climbed to about 180 bpm.

Des  Moines Marathon T-Shirt
At about mile 13 I caught up to the guy I was talking with earlier.  He said, "I thought you were gonna take it easy!"  I told him that I wanted to finish at 3:30.  He looked at me and said, "Are you f'ing crazy?"  He was a little older than me and he had told me his PR was 3:32.  I laughed and said, "Probably, but I'm gonna go for it!"  He wished me luck and I began increasing my pace to 7:50, then 7:45, then around 7:30.

I maintained around 7:30-7:45 until about mile 22 where I really began to speed up.  I had been keeping an eye on my Garmin and knew that my goal time of 3:30 was in reach if I could push it a little.  But I didn't know how much more I had left in the tank.  I was really holding on and laboring with every step.  Nothing really hurt, other my right hamstring which was a little tight ... I just didn't have any energy.  I had force-fed myself Gatorade and Stinger Gels for the last 5 miles and my stomach was starting to get a little queasy.  I never have to puke when I run ... it's always the other end that I worry about.  And at mile 24, one of my worst race night-mares started to come true ... if you know what I mean!   Probably a little too much info ... but IT just began slowly seeping out, with every few steps.  I had no doubt that there was probably "evidence" on the outside of my shorts.  And one of the first things I said to Michael after the race was, "I think I had an accident".  But she looked and it was all good.  It must have just been water.  I was really relieved. I didn't want any "dirty diaper" race photos of me circulating on the Internet!

2011 Des Moines Marathon Finisher Medal
At mile 25 & 26 I began to run ... with everything I had.  My feet were POUNDING the street, and I was panting at about a 188 bpm clip.  But I knew if I could hold on for a little longer, I would make my goal of 3:30!  I began focusing on my family waiting for me at the finish and it lifted me and gave me a HUGE burst of energy.  I could see the giant finish line banner about half a mile away and began to sprint.  Mile 26 was my fastest of the two days at 7:19!!! This was the 52nd mile I had ran in less than 24 hours, and I have no idea where the burst of speed came from, but as I was about 100 yards away from the finish I knew I was going to meet my goal!  I began looking for my family and when I saw them, I was overcome by emotion!!! They were yelling and screaming and smiling for me, and instinctively I through my hand in the air and yelled, "I DID IT!!!"  My legs were killing me, but all I could think about was "only a few more steps".  And as I crossed the timing mat, I through both hands in the air and yelled, "YESSSSSS!!!!!"  I looked at my Garmin and it read 3:30:47 ... I had done it!  I had finished my second marathon on consecutive days in 3:30!!!  I was elated!!! The people who gave me my medal said, "Way to go ... was that a PR???"  I said, "No, I just ran a marathon yesterday!"  To which one of them replied, "Holy S---!"  I laughed, took my medal, and went over to my family!

I had just ran 52.4 miles in 24 hours for the first time.  I had ran the second marathon 12 minutes faster than the first.  And I had met all of my time goals and I was incredibly satisfied with my performance over the past 24 hours.  But more important than all of that was the fact that my family had driven 7 hours round trip that day just to support me.  It was overwhelming!  I am so blessed and I can never thank them enough.  Knowing they were waiting for me was the ONLY thing that got me through the tough miles at the end of the Des Moines Marathon.  Seeing them at the finish line was the best thing I could ever hope for.

Hey ... someone left this candy!!!
After the race we went back to the hotel where I quickly showered and Michael gave me a HUGE PRIZE PACK full of delicious goodies!  Attached was a card that read "Studliest Runner Ever!!!"  I "think" Michael intended for me to have it, even though I'm no where near a studly runner like her!  She's the one who friggin' PR's every time she laces up her shoes ... so SHE is the REAL running stud!!! But I really enjoyed the sweets.  We had lunch at Cheesecake Factory and then I went back to the room and got some rest.  Michael, Madi, and Nate all headed back to KC.  I had to stay in Des Moines for business on Monday.  It was pretty sad seeing them go, but I was pretty tired and probably wouldn't have been great company anyway.

I know I'm not the first person to run back-to-back marathons, or an ultra, or anything crazy like that.  But my first experience with an "extreme challenge" is one that I'll never forget.  I learned a lot and had an incredible time. It was an awesome test to find out just how far I could push my body.  But even more than that, it was a great weekend with my family that we got to share together ... and that was the best reward of all.
... be great today!


  1. Very inspirational. You are awesome! Well done.

  2. OK you guys HAVE to post pre-race dance photos in every report now. TOO FUNNY!

  3. Awesome race reports! You are such an amazing runner!!

  4. Great recap, and incredible job! 2 marathons, those finish times, great memories ... what an incredible weekend. You've inspired me for my run in 12 days - hope I have as good an experience as you. Pretty amazing wife too - great support. Jealous that you two have running to share.

  5. You are a studly runner and I love the pre-race dance!

  6. Even though I was there, I loved reading EVERY word. It was such a GREAT weekend and I'm so glad I could share the whole experience with you. You are the studliest runner I know :)

    Love you Baby!!

  7. You are such an inspiration - as is your FAMILY! What a great weekend for you - CONGRATS on quite an accomplishment!

  8. What an amazing accomplishment! I love that you pushed through and not only ran two back to back marathons but ran the second one faster than the first. It's so much mental! Our minds can make our bodies do so much more than most people will even try to do.
    You are so inspiring!

  9. Way to go Jim, What an amazing weekend for you and your family.

  10. Holy S- is right man. Unbelievable. It's so inspiring to see how you handled this race weekend, not only the lead-up to it but the races themselves, managing the paces and adjusting accordingly. Can't believe that in your, what?, 35th mile of the weekend you kicked it into gear and started running miles in the 7s! That's just amazing. Congrats.

  11. I'm all teary! So proud of you! I LOVE IT!

  12. Wow. What an amazing weekend! You, my friend, are awesome. And that wife (and daughter) of yours??? awesome too! Congrats on two great races and a big congrats to Michael on her PR!

  13. Amazing post! I got goose bumps while reading. I am so incredibly proud of you. So awesome that you set a goal, trained for it, and accomplished it. Love it!

  14. LOVED this post! I was so excited for you this past weekend. (I even cyber stalked your times.) You have an amazing and supportive family. Way to go Jim.

  15. Holy shit is right! They should pic of YOU on next years shirt. You're getting awfully close to being as bad as Chuck Norris.

    Congrats! That word doesn't even seem like enough. Congrat-o-freak-u-lations!!

  16. I think you are such an inspiration. I love the pics of you and Michael and the dog coming at you :P lol LOVE!! I am gonna make my husband do pre-race dances /w me next time. lol

    I love that your kids drove down to see you. LOVE

  17. Tears in the eyes!!! Wow that is just fantastic! I'm so happy for you!

    Ha! I can't believe the 8:30 pace is a slow jog! :)

  18. Great recap! Your family is great, loved the signs that Madi and Nate made!

    And I laughing at your exchanges during the races - "Are you f'ing crazy?" He was a little older than me and he had told me his PR was 3:32. I laughed and said, "Probably, but I'm gonna go for it!"

    Congrats on the achievement!

  19. Really fantastic achievement, congratulations! You and your family are a true inspiration. Rest well and be very proud of what you did. You are hardcore in the extreme.

  20. that is EPIC...even for you super Jim.

    What do you mean they drove JUST to see you finish a marathon...there is not JUST ...I bet they dont see it that way and they were so proud.

    I love all the pics! the ones of you finishing the 2nd one say it all I think.
    be proud my friend.

  21. You're nothing but inspirational! Congratulations, that is one very amazing accomplishment and I am so very happy for you! LOVE the medal from Des Moines, love the simplicity of it! Congrats to your wife, too!!

  22. Jim, you are truly awesome, such a big inspiration for me. Congratulations on achieving this goal and making it seem effortless (but we've all read about all the hard work you put into it).

    Say, are you available to pace me in Houston in January? Because I could use someone who thinks 8:30s are an easy jog--actually 8:29s would be even better. :^)

  23. Frickin awesome Jim. Great race report. I love them medals and frankly, it's nice to see you in a different shirt. Haha! That shirt could probably run a race by itself. Really great medals too. I noticed the compression sleeves before I even read your report. I've been thinking of trying these more for running too.

  24. Congrats! That was an awesome recap and I knew you could do it cause you trained hard for it!!

    My favorite parts are you peeing in a gatorade bottle while driving and being worried about seepage. I guess I just like excrement!

    Congrats and yes, you're lucky to have Michael to support you :)

  25. I've said it before and I'll say it every time I read one of your race recaps... you are an inspiration!!

    Love the pics! Great job!

  26. Love the pre race dance party pictures! I think they should be your Christmas card.

    I love the picture of your daughter and future son in law with their great signs and expressions!

  27. Great racing weekend Jim, congratulations! I did notice that you ran in yellow rather than your standard lucky blue shirt for Des Moines. Was your blue shirt a little jealous?

  28. That is FREAKIN' awesome!!! All I can say is WOW!

  29. Yep, peeing in the Powerade bottle is socially unacceptable. I'm hoping that it's never been mistaken as the real thing.

  30. Last year I thought Andrew Luck was going to go to the NFL draft - he would have been the #1 pick last year for sure. I think he didn't come out due to the NFL lockout, and that he actually wanted to graduate from Stanford. He actually is a legit student in architecture.

    This year there is no way that he will pass up going to the NFL draft (though technically he could return to Stanford for his senior season - he is a redshirt junior right now). He will be the #1 pick whenever he goes to the NFL, so whatever team he goes to will be bad, haha My guess is the Dolphins will go 0-16 or 1-15 or something like that.

    And I do remember Chris K saying you look like Harbaugh, and I agree! haha Harbaugh would indeed destroy Schwartz, I kind of wanted the PR and players to step aside and let the coaches have at it! It would have been over quick with Schwartz on the ground!

  31. I'll be honest. I have not read even one word of your review...
    because I can't stop looking at that picture of you guys dancing. I LOVE IT!!!!!

  32. I wish I had some profound way to say how simply awesome this is. I am amazed.

    You. Are. The. Man!!!!

  33. You are amazing! I am so impressed that your legs felt so good after Day 1. And those pictures rock. Seriously.



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