Part I | Part II
My reservation at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place is complete and I just finished my race registration, so that makes me official and committed to the 2013 Urbanathlon in Chicago. Couple that with the race being less than a month away and I start to get a little more dialed in to the pending event and ancillary details (what time should we hit the road so that we don’t arrive in Chicago during rush hour again this year, what will I eat for breakfast race day, should I make dinner reservations that evening, etc.). As these and other questions swirl in my head we may as well put them to use and crank out a second FAQ (especially as some things have changed since the first round).
Feel free to look back on FAQ Part I for some foundational info, but here is part II of my Men’s Health Urbanathlon FAQ for 2013 (and you can always refer to the Men’s Health Urbanathlon site for their official take on things).
So, not that you asked, but:
Q: How are the waves being organized this year?
A: Glad you asked. This is a significant (and appreciated) change from previous years. Men’s Health has done away with the waves assigned by age (a gripe from previous years that didn’t much bother me), and while the wave system still exists you can simply sign up for the wave you think you should compete in. Now, I registered last week and the only options remaining were the first Elite Wave (you need to post a qualifying time from a previous Urbanathlon, or otherwise make your case, to register for this wave), Wave 2 (which comes with an add-on cost, though you get some nice perks with it), and Wave 8 and Wave 9.
Q: So if there are no waves by age group, how will they handle age group awards?
A: I was curious about this, too, and actually emailed Men’s Health as much. They responded pretty quickly and essentially said that no matter your wave you will be tracked with your age group and eligible for an age group award. That goes for the Elite Wave 1, which is new this year. I like this change, but it certainly makes things more competitive now that it’s completely open (for example, a participant last year was pleading his case in the Awards tent that he should have placed first in his age group, which technically he did, but because he ran in the first Elite Wave he was excluded from his age group rankings … this year he’s eligible for that elusive age group award even if in that first wave). I don’t think my 2012 time would have held up if these rules applied last year.
Q: Where is packet pick up?
A: As if you needed another reason to stay at Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, Men’s Health is holding packet pick up there Thursday and Friday. I’m feeling better about my hotel choice every minute.
Q: What’s the weather supposed to be like on race day?
A: It’s anyone’s guess. It’s Chicago in late October. It will be crisp, so dress accordingly. Unless there’s snow on the ground I’ll be in a tank and shorts, but if you’re the type who gets cold easily plan to layer up. Also, the ground gets pretty wet around most of the obstacles, so expect your hands, knees, and feet to get a little wet and probably muddy.
Q: What’s the toughest stretch of the Urbanathlon?
A: I’d have to say right at mile 4, just after Obstacle 3, when you exit Navy Pier and hit Monroe Harbor. It’s a long, flat stretch, but it’s a little exposed and windy along the water, and it’s probably the longest running portion of the race (and your more than a 5K into this thing). It’s here where you’ll probably start to feel a little gassed, and this uninterrupted run doesn’t help much.
Q: Okay, Randy, what are you most looking forward to this year?
A: Like a Grammy award nominee, I’m just happy to be here. Really. This is my third go-round with the Urbanathlon, so I feel I know what to expect, and I just hope my body holds up. Now, at gunpoint I’d probably say I’m most eager to get a fair shake at Soldier Field. In 2011 I totally bombed that stretch due to the unexpected in-stadium distance and my poor conditioning, in 2012 I attacked the stadium like Matt Forte only to get held up in the single file log jam, and this year I anticipate less crowding so it’s back on my shoulders. If it plays out, I can see myself shaving at least a minute off my time in Soldier Field alone.
Q: What are some good spectator spots for my family or friends?
A: First off, the best thing you can do to show your appreciation for family/friend support is to sign them up to receive text updates when you hit certain zones along the course (you can also set it up to post to your Facebook or Twitter wall). Men’s Health has a link here. That way they have some idea of where you are at any given time and aren’t held hostage waiting for you (as a hundred people pass by wearing almost the exact same outfit as you).
With that off my chest, the course is your oyster, and there isn’t a bad spot along the way to spectate. Pound for pound, however, if they just stick around Soldier Field they can catch you at the start, at about mile 6 when you return and enter into Soldier Field, when you come out and hit the Marine Hurdles and monkey bars (obstacles 6 and 7) and then at mile 10.8 when you return for the final obstacles and finish. That’s four looks! Plus they see you at your best and most despondent, and they never have to roam far from the free samples.
Q: There’s less than a month until go time, is there anything I can do to get my training honed in between now and then?
A: I appropriately refer to this window as my ‘lube phase’. Whatever training you’ve done up to this point is hopefully paying dividends, with any gains likely leveling off, and right now you just want to keep the body well lubricated. Take those slow long runs, keep up with the tempo runs and some speedwork, still stair climb if you can, and then taper as appropriate. You want to enter race day feeling well lubricated and not beat down.
Q: This is my first Urbanathlon, just give me one nugget to consider.
A: Just one? No can do. Here are three:
- The course will feel long. Well, at 10.8 miles it is long, but it’s a looong 10.8 (the running in Soldier Field isn’t accounted for in that 10.8).
- Conserve your energy on the lesser obstacles (police barricades, nets, etc.). Like I said (and learned the hard way) in 2011, to the runner go the spoils.
- This truly is a fun event, so above all enjoy yourself and drink in the atmosphere. If the weather cooperates, it’ll be a blast (race and post-race festival).
- Oh, and bonus nugget, wear gloves! Anything with some grip (I’ll be wearing the same receiver gloves this year)