Men’s Health Urbanathlon 2014 (Chicago): Seeing how things will play out

And there you go. You may have already received the Men’s Health ‘Urbanathlon registration begins March 14’ heads up email (with ‘best pricing’ through March 28).

Men's Health Urbanathlon registration email

Men’s Health Urbanathlon registration email

With the events seven months out it’s far too early for me to consider registration now, but it’s nice to see that two of the three races are set in stone: Chicago October 18 and New York October 25. San Francisco is generally in November, so while it’s currently ‘TBD’ and not yet on the books you can do the math and plan accordingly.

I have to say, I’m not entirely all-in on whether I’ll compete in Chicago this year (blaspheme!). I love everything about the event, I love Chicago, and love LOVE the extended weekend getaway before winter sets in vibe for us, but it’s a pretty sizable financial commitment and after three years we just need to step back and refocus on if it’s time to try something new (note, we did float the idea of competing in New York or San Francisco …).

Adding to that, I’m planning to run my first marathon in June, and if things go well (or even just okay) then I will strongly consider running the Twin Cities Marathon October 5 (an amazing event right in my backyard … the last three years I competed in the Twin Cities 10K as part of marathon weekend and use it as my warm-up race to the Urbanathlon). That’s important because the proximity of event dates may or may not be conducive to proper recovery for a strong showing in Chicago (kind of sounds like an excuse, but it has merit).

There are a lot of miles between today and October (and I usually register around July), so we’ll get things figured out.

In the immediate term, running has been going okay for me. Despite the record amounts of snow and below-zero temps I’ve been able to keep up with my miles. In fact, pretty much all of February was spent running indoors on the treadmill.

Looking for me this winter? Safe bet you'll find me here.

Looking for me this winter? Safe bet you’ll find me here.

I’ve read all the ‘dreadmill’ jokes, and I’m guilty of many of them (I was the most ardent treadmill detractor), but I’ve come around in a big way. It’s actually been really enjoyable (no insane layers of clothing) and I’ve consistently been able to bang out 10-13 miles at a clip. Not ideal but beats not running or coping with hypothermia.

Periodically we get hit with a still-very-cold-but-not-so-cold-you-fear-for-your-life day and I’ll venture outside. I love my roller coaster route and the intensity that the hills demand. But those days are few and far between, with no signs of letting up. Plus many of my standard routes are snowed under (people have just given up on shoveling at this point and the park trails are tough for crews to consistently maintain).

A rare but enjoyable sighting in February.

A rare but enjoyable sighting in February.

In fact, I decided against a 10-mile race on October 8, partly because I know it will still be too cold to be enjoyable, and partly because I have to imagine the roads will still be craptastic and icy. Not fun.

I’m sticking with my standard season opener April 12 at Goldy’s Run 10 mile at the University of Minnesota.

Hope your running is going well. Stay with it.


Men’s Health Urbanathlon 2013 (Chicago): Let’s Break This Down Start to Finish

Men’s Health, while loyal to a few tried and true Urbanathon mainstays (looking at you police barricades, Marine hurdles, tires, pallets, etc.) they mix it up just enough each year to keep things interesting and to throw us off their scent.

So let’s look at what’s in store for 2013 in Chicago, and frame up an approach that will get us through it with our appendages, vital organs, and dignity intact.

*All distances below are highly subjective and questionable at best, and just meant to give you some context!

Run 1
About 1.7 miles

Obstacle 1: Police Barricades and Jersey Barricades
Paying tribute to 2012, this is again the initial obstacle set, which is a nice way to start. In 2011 the first obstacle was the vertical truck tires that you had to leap on and over, and right off the bat people were getting flustered and caught up. Here you can hit these obstacles in stride, and if you pay attention to your form you won’t expend much energy.

As I’ve said before, for the plastic barricades I suggest rather than hurdle or jump, resort to a two-hand plant and swing your legs over (like jumping a chain link fence). Especially with the last set of barricades, which come one after the other after the other … where you can develop a smooth rhythm. As for the police barricades, after two years I still don’t know if you go over or under. The rules clearly say go under, but when it hits the fan you’ll see over, under, and through. It’s nutty.

It should get pretty crowded at these early obstacles, so watch yourself as to not take a heel to the face on the Jersey Barricades.

A textbook approach to the Jersey Barricaeds

A textbook approach to the Jersey Barricaeds. Well done.

Anticipated difficulty
2 out of 5. You’ll have a ton of energy here since it’s early in the race, but focus on form, not speed.

Anticipated mindset
Wow this is fun. Here I am running down Lakeshore drive, and look, a huge water fountain!

Run 2
About 0.5 miles

Obstacle 2: Black & Yellow Poles/ Camo Net Crawl
De ja vu on obstacle two. Same placement as in 2012, and a gimme as far as obstacles go. This is less about difficulty and more about ‘do you have good enough knees to crawl on the ground and hop back up.’ For taller runners (6-feet+), the down-on-all-fours crawl works best, whereas the bear crawl (on hands and feet) may do the trick for others. Since things got kind of log jammed here I resorted to all fours, as opposed to a bear crawl, and plodded through (not always a pretty view under their). The ground is usually very soft, and a touch wet, so it’s forgiving, and a little mucky in spots.

The traffic cones are pretty low to the ground, but just high enough that you need to clumsily pirouette over them, and more than anything their spacing makes it hard to find a rhythm between each one.

I won't say this often, but you must pirouette

I won’t say this often, but pirouette damn you!

Anticipated difficulty
1 out of 5.

Anticipated mindset
That was quick; already another obstacle! My heart rate is definitely up, and I’m feeling it, but this is awesome. Bring it!

Run 3
About 1.5 miles

Obstacle 3: Police Barricades and Tire Stutter Step Combo
Hmmm, so far still pretty cookie cutter from last year. Again, plan on going under, that’s the rule, but if everyone else says to heck with it and is going over, use the patented ‘two-hand plant and swing your legs over’ method. These are high enough that you’ll otherwise have to kind of side hurdle them, which is more energy than you want to expend. Remember, above all, the running between obstacles is what’s going to carry you through this course and will make or break your time, so rely on good form and technique to not tax your legs too much on these smaller early obstacles. As for the tires, keep your head down and your knees up. I think people with big feet worry about getting through these cleanly, but I wear a 13 shoe and in 2011 and 2012 had no issues getting in and out. Also, take one tire at a time. Focus on your placement, and to the best you can take one at a time (which is the rule).

Things start out this way, by the book.

Things start out this way, by the book.

Anticipated difficulty
2 out of 5.

Anticipated mindset
Whoaboy. Navy Pier was pretty cool, but not so cool that I can ignore these burning lungs.


Run 4
About 0.8 miles

Obstacle 4: Fence Crawl and Jersey Barricades
Kudos to Men’s Health for removing the Subaru Crawl (was the Jeep Crawl in 2011). I realize there was a commitment to important sponsors, but it always felt like a contrived, throwaway obstacle, and I’m glad it’s been excluded this year from the course.

So, again with the ‘two-hand plant and swing your legs over’ on the Jersey Barricades. The crowd should be thinning by this point meaning you’ll have a bit more freedom to really swing those legs. The fence crawl is here just to mess with you. To break your upright stance and work those knees. Again, the ground should be pretty soft.

Anticipated difficulty
3 out of 5.

Anticipated mindset
Thank. God. An obstacle. I can kinda sorta rest for a second.

Run 5
About 1.6 miles

Obstacle 5: Soldier Field Stair Climb
Everything up to this point has been child’s play. Now, if you haven’t incorporated any type of hill repeats or stair climbs into your training stop reading right now and go run a hill. Just go! I’ll wait for you.

After a disastrous 2011 experience (we ran nearly a mile throughout the concourse alone and climbed probably every single step, twice, so it seemed) I braced for the worst in 2012, when in fact Men’s Health dialed it back and we pretty much ran straight into Soldier Field and to the stairs. I have no idea where their heads are at this year, but plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Again this year Soldier Field comes just past the halfway point, which is diabolical. An unexpected obstacle of sorts is that the ramp leading into Soldier Field is quite long and steep on its own, so by the time you get inside you’re already feeling the burn (the good news is that on your way out you run down this ramp).

On the actual steps, you can only go as quickly as the person ahead of you, so don’t get too frustrated. There are just two paths up and down, and while it would be nice if one side was for walking and the other for running, it’s whatever the person(s) in front of you feels like doing. Conversely, if you plan to walk, be kind and stay alert to let others by you instead of creating a log jam. If I have the opportunity I will likely take these every other step. There is a rail, too, so if it feels good use it to your advantage to help you up (again, do all you can throughout the course to keep your legs fresh for the run portions).

Lastly, the stair climb is a timed obstacle on its own, and an award given out for the fastest climb, so if you want to go all out here there may be a sweet Tissot watch waiting for you at the award ceremony.

A lighter moment on the steps. If you start in a later wave it fills up quickly here.

A lighter moment on the steps. If you start in a later wave it fills up quickly here.

Single file, no matter how you slice it.

Single file, no matter how you slice it.

Anticipated difficulty
5 out of 5 if you run. 3 out of 5 if you walk.

Anticipated mindset
Crap, isn’t there supposed to be an obstacle somewhere around here, this stretch has been about 6 miles. And why is it so windy? Oh wait, there’s the next obstacle [looking at Soldier Field]


SIDE NOTE: As I pay more attention to the course this year Men’s Health seems to pack the second half of the course with its most difficult obstacles. Not sure if this is intentional, but from the time you hit the ramp to enter Soldier Field, to the time you scale the final wall at mile 10.8, it’s gonna be a grind.

The obstacles are mostly challenging, but it's here where you make up time. This stretch along Monroe Harbor is a long one!

The obstacles are mostly challenging, but it’s here on the runs where you make your time. This stretch along Monroe Harbor is a long (and windy) one! Don’t get lulled into a slower pace. Instead use the flat straightaway as your runway into Soldier Field.


Run 6
About 0.4 miles

Obstacle 6: Fiat Marine Hurdles, Balance Beam/Tire Carry, Police Barricades
Jeep, Subaru, you’re out. Fiat, you’re in. Welcome aboard. Things just got interesting. We’ll start with the Marine hurdles, since they come first. The Marine hurdles are tough because standing at about 5 feet it takes a combination of hops and upper body strength to get the leverage to hoist yourself up and throw a leg over (all while avoiding castration). The sides are off limits. Unlike the final wall where you can use the face of it to kick off from and boost yourself, here you’re just swinging at air. Secondly, the hurdles are pretty close after the other so once you scale the first one it’s not like you’re going to get a running start at the next one. You’ll see all kinds of form here, and the big thing to do is to somehow hook a leg over, because from there you can get the momentum and leverage you need to roll your body over (I bet 80 percent of scrapes, rashes and other injuries happen on this obstacle; even last year I bruised my left shin pretty good kicking my leg up and over). For some of you this won’t be a big deal, but remember you’ll have literally just finished the Stair Climb so you may not be totally coherent yet.

The Balance Beam Tire Carry is a new obstacle, and one I give the stamp of approval to. Grab a car tire in either hand and then traverse a very nonlinear elevated beam and drop the tires off at a designated area. The tires can’t weigh too much, but if you grab mismatched tires your balance will be off, adding to the difficulty. If you fall I assume you have to start over. Balancing this way requires some tension in your calves, so you’ll fatigue your muscles more than you anticipate.

This is your third look at the police barricades, so just do your thing.

This  is what you want. Hoist your self up, lock arms, swing legs.

This is what you want. Hoist your self up, lock arms, swing legs.

This is how I bruised my shin. Lost steam on this last one and didn't get over cleanly.

Me in 2012, this is how I bruised my shin. Lost steam on this last one and didn’t get over cleanly.

Anticipated difficulty
 4 out of 5 if you run. The Marine hurdles are tough, and if you fall off the balance beam you’ll lose precious minutes waiting your turn to retry.

Anticipated mindset
I made it out of Soldier Field and I can feel my face and still count to at least four. Damn, is that ANOTHER obstacle?

Run 7
About 0.0 miles. [it looks like obstacles 6 and 7 are pretty much right by one another]

Obstacle 7: Monkey Bars and Parallel Bars Combo.
Monkey Bars and Parallel Bars are by far my favorite. I think because it’s the only true strength element, and I always envision more of this kind of stuff along the route (instead of three looks at the police barricades, for example).  This looks to be in the same location as 2012, and if so this combo is set in a Cheer Zone of sorts, so you get a nice boost before getting sent off to the back nine of the course.

The bars are chunky, heavy cast iron rods so you can get a good hold, and there are only about 10 rungs. I suggest you wear gloves (I wore receive gloves last year and tore through the monkey bars). I always say it, that you don’t NEED gloves, but they sure help.

How you tackle the parallel bars is a personal decision.  Alternating left-right and hand walking this out is quite common but also difficult and disjointed for me. By only lightly bending your arms and bunny hopping forward you can launch yourself to the end in a handful of bursts, so long as you maintained your grip (gloves will help here, too). The bars are only about 8 feet long, and you can traverse these in about 4-5 quick hops. Like the monkey bars, if you stop midway you’ll have a tough time regaining momentum so try to keep moving. They really aren’t that long.

It's only about 8 feet from point A to B, but it can be an awkward 8 feet unless you find your rhythm

It’s only about 8 feet from point A to B, but it can be an awkward 8 feet unless you find your rhythm. Keep those arms locked.

Lots of room, so take your time but try to keep moving forward

Lots of room, so take your time but try to keep moving forward

Anticipated difficulty
3 out of 5. These are not difficult, but if you’re not used to the shoulder and lat strength these could get dicey. Add a layer of hand sweat, and possibly rain, and this could turn into a bad scene. Whatever you do, try to keep moving.

Anticipated mindset
This winter I’m totally going to do 100 pull ups a day so that I’m ready for this next year. That sucked.

**Run 8
About 1.3 miles. (I can’t tell if obstacles 8 and 9 are together, or if you hit 8 and after a longer run loop back to this spot for obstacle 9 … for the sake of this post we’ll assume the latter)

Obstacle 8: Tires and Pallets
 Again with the tires, and they won’t be much of an issue here. They are a little sneaky in that getting your knees up this deep into the race is tougher than you’d expect. The pallet stacks also bring some deceptive challenges. They are low enough that you’ll want to just leap in stride to the top, but after the first one you’ll realize taking it head may not be the best move, at which point I encourage you to simply lean forward on them, push yourself up while swinging a leg up, run across the top, and repeat. There should only be about three stacks to get over. Not too high that you have to climb, but not so low you can plow through these, either.

Knees up, head down.

Knees up, head down.

Lots of techniques here. Some vaulting, some jumping, some rolling. Do what ya gotta do to get over.

Lots of techniques here. Some vaulting, some jumping, some rolling. Do what ya gotta do to get over.

Anticipated difficulty
3 out of 5.

Anticipated mindset
I don’t know if the worst is behind me or still ahead of me, but my legs are caked in concrete and I feel like I just inhaled a pack of Marlboro Reds.

**Run 9
About 1.8 miles. (again, assuming after you hit 8 and after a longer run loop back to this spot for obstacle 9)

Obstacle 9: Over, Under, Through
I loved this new obstacle last year and can’t wait to get at it again. In 2012 it was placed on the beach, so when you went under you went down into a sand trench and then had to snake back up. It was tough. I read a number of posts after the race bemoaning sand in running shoes, but it didn’t bother me and the brief running on the beach was a welcome challenge (was like running in slow motion).

At this point you should be pretty fried, so the degree of difficulty goes through the roof. If you can hop a chain link fence in the sand you can do the ‘Over’ portion just fine. It’s just a sturdy wooden ‘fence’ about four feet high. I touched on ‘Under’, and ‘Through’ is more difficult than it sounds because you don’t get a wide berth to catapult your body through (think Dukes of Hazard hoping into the General Lee). So you really have to line up your body and shimmy through. Diving through heads and hands first seems like a sure way to inflict pain and suffering. For bigger or less limber competitors, ‘Under’ and ‘Through’ could be really tough. There are two sets of ‘Over, Under, Through’ to keep things fun.







Anticipated difficulty
4 out of 5. Sneaky challenging. From the course map it doesn’t look like this will be on the beach this year, but you never know.

Anticipated mindset
Just keep running. Just keep running. Just keep running.

Run 10
About 1.2 miles.

Obstacle 10: Taxis & Buses to Chain Link Crawl to Wall Finish.
I don’t see the Tissot 40-yard Dash this year, which is a bummer, because I thought it was a great way to push yourself in that final stretch and then hit the finish sequence. In any event this is solid finale. As I’ve said before, there are three core methods runners approach the taxis, since they are butted trunk to trunk 1.) walk the bumpers and use your hands on the trunks to balance yourself (I’ve done this before and it works well),  2.) slide across the trunk or hood (I’ve done this, too, and because they’re wet from either sweat or rain/dew you can slip-and-slide your way pretty easily) or 3.) go high and slide across the very top of the car (not a common route). Just be careful and watch your footing because it does get slippery here (another reason to slide across the trunk/hood and not try to walk the bumpers)

The cargo net seems like it should be easy but it’s like when you have a dream and your running only you can only run in super slow-mo. It’s just loopy and loose so you won’t go as quickly as you think, and be sure to watch your footing more than anything.

The fence crawl is straight forward. Crawl. Get dirty.

The wall I love. It’s about 8 feet high. If you are so inclined you’ll be able to test it out before the race, but after 10.8 miles it’ll be a much different experience. Anyway, the broad strokes to consider:

  • There is a lot happening at the wall. People gathering themselves, people dangling, people running back an fourth between failed attempts, volunteers hanging over the top, and so on. Pick your spot as you come out of the fence crawl and hit it.
  • A change last year, which I’d expect them to carry forward, is that they had the ropes going all the way up and over the wall (instead of just three quarters of the way up) so you can actually use them with success. I can’t tell enough what an upgrade that is.
  • There is lots of help here. Volunteers and other racers hang around at the top to help those who want it. Some are on the ground, too, to give you a boost.
  • Don’t give up. Look, we’re all tired, and 8 feet becomes 20 feet after a race like this, but take as many attempts as you need to get over. It’s a very supportive environment.
  • For those of you with any degree of hops you will easily get both hands on the top in one jump and rep out a single pull-up to get up and over. In fact, I encourage you to do some palms down pull ups between now and the event to start activating those muscles.
Some of you will crawl, others just hunch over. Kind of roomy under there.

Some of you will crawl, others just hunch over. Kind of roomy under there.

If you run on the taxis, please just be careful because you'll lose traction on any moisture.

If you run on the taxis, please be careful because you’ll lose traction on any moisture. Here he’s staying low and using the windshield to his advantage. A nice hip slip-and-slide across is another way to go

Just watch your footing on the Cargo Net. When you reach the top, turn and back down the other side.

Easy enough and a little soupy, so watch your footing on the Cargo Net. When you reach the top, turn and back down the other side.

I think most people can find their way over, but it's grabbing that top ledge that's tough, unless you are little taller like this guy.

I think most people can find their way over, but it’s grabbing that top ledge that’s tough, unless you are little taller like this guy in the middle.

Me at the final wall using the same technique as with the Marine Hurdles.

Me at the final wall using the same technique as with the Marine Hurdles.

Anticipated difficulty
4 out of 5, thanks to the wall.

Anticipated mindset
Let’s do it again! Wait, there’s free beer? Where?

Good luck to all participants in all of the events in the series (looking at you New York and San Francisco). If you have specific questions about the race or what to expect let me know!

Men’s Health Urbanathlon (Chicago): 2012 Recap and Observations

With a year of running and one (shaky) Urbanathlon already under my belt I was far better prepared for Chicago 2012, and my results bear this out. But I wasn’t the only one who upped his game. Men’s Health returned with what I thought was a much improved experience; though like my 2012 run, it wasn’t all roses. Here are some of my general thoughts and observations about the 2012 Men’s Health Urbanathlon in Chicago, in no particular order:

Packet Pickup
A little off the beaten path in the opposite direction this year at REI, meaning we had to drive (this was fine since we picked up the packet before visiting a friend in Oak Park). Off-street metered parking was an option, but no spaces available. With the persistent threat of rain I opted to park in the attached garage around the back of the store, but was caught off guard by the $8 for the first half hour price tag (pricey for this Minnesotan). Ouch. I rationalized the cost, of course, and later on during our browsing around REI found that they validate parking (either a detail I missed, or one that could/should easily have been noted in the pre-race emails; take the guess work and anxiety out of parking). Signs at the door lead us upstairs and the check in process was a breeze; they check your ID and run your name in their database, then give you your race bib and chip timer. A second room held your Urbanathlon T-shirt and a sponsor-provided Jockey undershirt (these were available by the truck load at the race Saturday …).

Packet pick up was a breeze. We nabbed an REI membership while we were here.

Bib assignments …very efficient.

T-shirts …

This is essentially what comprised the race packet. I was nervous about the Tissot timer (here attached in red to the race bib) since it was a bracelet-like loop you attached to your shoelace, and not the old timing disk. It worked fine, of course, but gave me one more thing to obsess over. I loved the black participant T-shirt this year.

Finish and Festival Area
I initially bristled at the idea of holding the finish and festival in the south parking lot of Soldier Field (what with the crawling and the potential for spills on the final wall). But I was wrong, and this turned out to be a great idea. In 2011 we spent a good portion of the festival trying to avoid the mud (less of a big deal for those of us who ran the race, but not so much fun for the family), and in 2012, where we had actual rainfall, it just washed away on the concrete and we all fared much better. Good call.

The parking lot sounded like a bad idea at first, but I’m first to admit I was wrong.

Getting to the Start Line
I had anticipated walking/jogging to Soldier Field from the Best Western River North, just to warm up, but the intermittent drizzle and 2 or so long miles made me think otherwise (I walked from the hotel in 2011, but Soldier Field was just out of my range). As I sat in McDonald’s at 5:15 a.m. eating oatmeal I tried calculating the time and route of the CTA bus from my phone, but the loose details left me way uneasy, and I instead hailed a cab back at the hotel (across the street from McDonald’s). The cab ride was an easy five minutes and $10 away, though I kept telling the driver ‘south parking lot at Soldier Field’ to which he would quickly fire back ‘which one, there are many!” Oh boy. Once we hit Soldier Field he just followed the crowd and my trip was a breeze (my wife drove and parked in the lot for $20; she said she got right in to the covered lot, and we were all glad we had wheels when we were tired, chilly and wet after the event).

However; the crew (that I encountered) working traffic at Soldier Field were complete (rhymes with ‘bass bowls’). Wow. The cab driver pulled off to an empty area to let me out and they were yelling at him like he stole Mike Ditka’s mustache; “hey Cabi, move it MOVE it!” and before I set one Asics on the ground they were all over me to keep it moving and walk the other direction across the street (I hadn’t exited the cab yet!). My head was in race mode, so I was a little on edge and mumbled something in their direction to the tune of “I’m just getting out of the cab … what?” To which one guy yelled back, “I’m … just … LETTING YOU KNOW!’ Damn. An hour before race time and I’m already worked up, and now I felt like I had the stink of bad karma on my side. To their credit, traffic was moving nicely, but what colossal bass bowls.    

My Urbanathlon pre-race ritual.

Streets all quiet at 6 a.m. Who knew. Now at about 6:15 a.m. I’m feeling nervous about the time and I asked the front desk staff at the hotel to please call a cab, which they did.

Soldier Field
In 2011 I chafed at the running distance inside the Soldier Field concourse; it was 20 miles if it was a foot. This year we entered Soldier Field via a very long incline on the north end of the stadium (I think), ran the concourse for just a moment and then we were at THE climb; four up and four down. That was great, and what I had expected the prior year.

However; my biggest complaint (and so it seems of other competitors) is that we have to get a handle on corralling those who want to run the steps versus those who want to walk them. It’s not all on Men’s Health, either. In 2013 I’d love to see signs on the steps (from top to bottom) that indicate the right side for walking and the left for running. A few volunteers can scatter along the climb with signs to reinforce this. Now runners, you can help, too. Just hang to the right if you choose to walk (heck, I may join you there). Most painfully, going down the steps there were two guys strolling side-by-side as if sauntering barefoot in a patch of daisies, with nobody in front of them for 30 feet. Like others, I’m sure I lost a few minutes walking up Soldier Field. We can do better.

Best New Obstacle
Over / Under / Through was awesome. In Chicago it came at about mile 9.5, and it was positioned on the beach. We had to run down a steep (but small) hill to reach the sand, run for about 30 yards along the beach, and then hit the obstacle (plus there was an awesome drill sergeant-type volunteer yelling at us to “hit the sand; get DOWN, GET DOWN!”). Because it was on the beach the “Under” portion was a small trench dug into the sand so you had to slink way down and then crawl up. After the final “Through” we had another 30-yard run in the sand to a boardwalk that led back to the running trail and final leg. Well done.

Best New Obstacle II
The Tissot 40-yard dash was also a great touch. Simply haul ass for 40 yards. Most people gave this a shot, I think, despite being depleted after 10.7 miles. I ran it in :06, and the momentum helped launch me over the awaiting taxi cabs, but left me gassed for the cargo net climb, and nearly lifeless for the wall climb.

Here’s the end of the 40-yard dash. It leads directly into the taxi cabs. I liked it.

Worst New Obstacle
Kudos to Men’s Health for including participants in the planning process, but the new competitor-designed Traffic Jam was a mess by the time I came by. Instead of a spider trap of taught bungees it was a colander of au dente spaghetti. And it was all of five feet, so it became more of a nuisance mid race more than formidable obstacle.

Old stand bys, like the final wall, posed the usual challenges. I attacked the wall much quicker this year, but had to work much harder to get over (still spent from the 40-yard dash, I think). Also, notice that the ropes on the wall now go all the way over the wall; they used to go up only about two-thirds (I think the guy in blue to the far left is using the rope with success).

Least Forgiving Obstacle
For the most part I ran unscathed throughout the course (all the tire stutter steps and police barricades were pretty basic), but on the Marine hurdles I scraped my left shin pretty good (surprisingly couldn’t get me leg cleanly over on the first one), and between the three Marine hurdles I nearly gave myself the first ever quintuple vasectomy.

The course was pretty consistent with 2011. Some beautiful shoreline straightaways, a moment on Navy Pier, stretches running adjacent to traffic, a few stairs here and there, and lots of room for spectators. I think many spectators hung close to Soldier Field and took advantage of the designated cheer zones. Patrick, a participant who ran with a GPS watch clocked the entire course at 11.2 miles, which included Soldier Feld; a measurement I don’t think Men’s Health takes into account.

My gloves for 2012

My gloves before the race …

I’d been telling anyone who would listen, ‘wear gloves.’ This post-race photo is one reason why.

Side note: The one thing I forgot to pack on the trip was my homemade energy gel. This was going to be my big difference maker in 2012. Thankfully there was a Whole Foods close to where we had lunch in Oak Park on Friday and I was able to whip up a batch in the hotel for Saturday’s race. I took the gel (in the sandwich bag on top of the brown rice syrup) at about mile 5, just before Soldier Field.

Running Assignments
So, a common gripe I overheard while waiting in line at the start is that the waves are staggered by age, not skill. Only the first wave is earned and established by speed. None of us wants to be put out to pasture, and if you’re going to jettison us 40+ year olds to the dregs of the race pack without considering our athletic prowess you may as well have a fleet of motor scooters and bottles of Ensure waiting for us. Honestly, I don’t really care. It’s a much looser, self-deprecating group and I like the air of camaraderie (plus we had sweet hot pink race bibs this year). And trying to place 2,000+ in waves based on qualifying times is no small feat, so nothing I expect Men’s Health to grapple with.

However; two-thirds into the race I kept telling myself in disbelief, “hey, nobody has passed you; just keep running … you’ll be fine as long as you keep running.” When I scaled the final wall my face nearly exploded at the idea of finishing first in my age group. Wow. But when final results were tabulated I was second; still, wow. But it dogged me because the entire race I felt like I was running down hill and I would have noticed something hot pink (race bib) flying past me. So when official race photos and video became available this week I curiously typed in the first place bib number to see if I recognized the runner (from the wave line up), and not only did I not recognize him, he had on a blue race bib (he was in an earlier wave). So did the guy in third place in our age group and several others who placed high. How is that? Maybe there is more wiggle room on wave placement than what some of the participants thought (or there are teams or something like that).

Party Planning
Men’s Health has a ‘party rain or shine’ mentality, which is great, but the participants don’t. We party shine, and that’s about it. With the wind and on again off again rain, everyone scattered shortly after the race and the awards presentation was left to the small collection of those who earned an award. In 2013, I suggest Men’s Health keep in their hip pocket a tent or two that we can hang under if the weather turns; we have the space. And we’d all stay. This is evidenced by all the people mingling comfortable in the warm VIP tent. We don’t need the full VIP treatment; we just want to stay dry.

People hung around while the DJ did his thing and the race went on, but as the weather turned, so did the crowd. Not that it matters, but since I mentioned the DJ, he’s located in the black dome just between the two white tent tops furthest to the right.

My crew enjoying the post-race activities.

Sponsors came loaded for bear this year. From Gillette body wash and miniature Boss cologne, to Jockey T-shirts (as many as you could grab, so it seemed) and Kumho Tire head scarves (much cooler than they sound), Chipotle chips and guacamole, more Emergen-C than you can shake a stick at, and a host of other snacks and goodies. Men’s Health was clear they wouldn’t provide race bags this year, so I brought my black 2011 drawstring Urbanathlon backpack and filled it to the brim. Surprisingly, the Miller 64 beer tent allowed just one beer per ticket (still it was refreshing). I distinctly recall manhandling four cups of beer last year.

I think the one-beer per ticket rule kept things moving in the beer tent this year. I got in and out without waiting (for free beer!!) or getting spilled on.

Quite a let down here. There were very nice finisher medals for the masses (which you just grabbed off a table as you crossed the finish line), sweet Tissot watches for the overall winner (male and female, I think) and the fastest Tissot 40-yard dash time, special awards for relay team winners and fastest Soldier Field stair climb, special sponsor goodie bags for some of these previous award categories, too, and then awards for the top three finishers in each age group (male and female). It’s on the latter where the Urbanathlon fell down. Perhaps my frustration exacerbated by the cold and rain and anticipation, but age-group award winners received a gray Miller 64 T-shirt. Ouch.

Finishing third in 2011, this guy returned to win it all in 2012. He had the fastet Soldier Field stair climb, too (two years in a row).

About seven athletes representing the Challenged Athletes Foundation plowed through the course.

Me in the black hoodie making the unherladed (but prideful) walk to the awards tent.

Folding up my Miller 64 T-shirt … I couldn’t fully mask my disappointment

In 2011 I finished 53rd in my age group, then spent the next 364 days running stairs, sprinting intervals, getting my weight in check, running further distances, eating Chia seeds for crying out loud and doing anything else I could do to try to improve in 2012. So when I came in at 2nd in my age group, while steeped in personal pride and satisfaction, I was buoyed by the expectant experience of standing before my peers to receive a medal or certificate or Urbanathlon shirt to say, ‘you crushed it!’ A Miller 64 T-shirt just didn’t have that weight, and I was a little let down, but maybe I shouldn’t have built up that fantasy in my mind. My wife and kids were ecstatic none the less (they’ve watched enough of my middle-of-the-pack races to know how much effort went into my Urbanathlon preparation), and that means more to me than anything.  

This moment is award enough for me. See the red Tissot chip timer on my shoe?

We had to change with the weather, but weren’t going anywhere!

Celebrity Watch
Unceremoniously absent this year, the celebrity starter. I didn’t mind it one bit, as I’m sure they would have killed an extra 5 minutes at the start with bad jokes, empty banter, and wasted attempts at firing us up. I was so dialed in and eager that I greatly appreciated the low-key starter who paced in front of us talking only so the first few rows could here, “okay 90 seconds,” “okay 30 seconds,” “okay let’s get ready now” beeeeeeeeeeeep!

Urbanathlon 2013?
You bet. The dilemma for me is do I stick with my age group and run that 9th wave and try to improve to first in my age group, or assuming my 2012 time qualifies me for wave 1 in 2013, do I eschew my aged brethren and take a stab at the elite 300? The dilemma being that if you run in the first wave your time does not get included in your age group; you disqualify yourself from your age group (a misunderstanding that left one participant sullied after his time was tops in his age group, yet he registered and ran with the first wave so wasn’t counted in those rankings). I don’t stand a snowball’s chance at placing high in the first wave, but it would give me my best opportunity at a clean shot at Soldier Field, which I haven’t had in two years; no lines, no backlogs, no walking through daisy patches.

I’ve got time to think it through. I’m taking this week off, giving my body a needed rest, and then it’s full steam ahead. I’m slowly getting smarter about running and look to tighten my regimen so that I’m faster and stronger in 2013 (you’ll hear about that process in this space). Congratulations everyone.

Happy to trade Chia seeds for some of this … after the race we drove to the Original Rainbow Cone shop. The ice cream was as good as it looked, but we all loved the drip tray.

Men’s Health Urbanathlon (Chicago): 2012 Results

I’ll get into the gritty details in an upcoming post, along with some nuggets that may help runners in New York and San Francisco. Last year I finished 53rd in my age group and 853rd overall. So after a year of training, climbing stairs, learning how to run intervals, eating right, running in the snow, and in general just staying focused, I was pleased with the following results (but still room to grow!) (note: you can see and sort all Chicago results here

My 2012 Chicago Urbanathlon results.

Men’s Health Urbanathlon (Chicago): 2012 Obstacle Course Breakdown

Recently I broke down the 10.8 mile running portion of the 2012 Chicago Urbanathlon, and you can reconcile that post with the following obstacle overview to map out your complete plan.  

Note: this is based on my perspective, strengths, and weaknesses. Your experience will vary, but this gives you a good baseline for what to expect, and that’s all I want. For official course and obstacle details and images, go to

OBSTACLE 1: Plastic Barricades and Police Barricade Combo. 
In 2011 the plastic barricades came deeper into the race, and I have a feeling that as the first obstacle runners will take these more aggressively than they probably should. In truth, it comes down to form over speed. I suggest rather than hurdle or jump (there are a lot of these and your quads will betray you), resort to a two-hand plant and swing your legs over (like jumping a chain link fence). Especially with the third/last set of barricades, which are quite long, where you can develop a smooth rhythm (last year I unwittingly fell into a hand plant / swing over / two-hop repeat motion that worked swimmingly (and fast). As for the police barricades, as I mentioned before about 2011, everyone went OVER these, not under. I’m guilty as charged, too, but in the flow of everyone hurdling these I just figured that was the rule (even watch the videos on the Urbanathlon site and people are bounding these things).

Anticipated difficulty: 2 out of 5. Use good form, otherwise this will become a 4, and make the rest of the race miserable. 

OBSTACLE 2: Cargo Net and Traffic Cones with Poles Combo.
This is less about difficulty and more about ‘do you have good enough knees to crawl on the ground and hop back up.’ For taller runners (6-feet+), the down-on-all-fours crawl works best, whereas the bear crawl (on hands and feet) may do the trick for others. I tried the bear crawl in 2011 and it was more cumbersome and awkward than I expected so dropped to all fours and plowed through. You won’t win or lose the race here so get through with minimal damage (to your knees or head). The traffic cones are a gimme. They are pretty low to the ground, and more than anything there spacing makes it hard to find a rhythm between each one.

Anticipated difficulty:  1 out of 5.  

OBSTACLE 3: Police Barricades and Tire Stutter Step Combo.
Again with the police barricades, and again, go UNDER, not over. Keep in mind that course volunteers, while extremely supportive and helpful, are not task masters and will not flag you down and demand that you start the obstacle over if doing it incorrectly. It’s more reliant on the honor system, so just do what you know is right. On the tires, keep your head down and your knees up. I think people with big feet worry about getting through these cleanly, but I wear a 13 shoe and in 2011 had no issues getting in and out. Also, take one tire at a time. They were more staggered last year, so you hopped more diagonal than straight ahead, so focus on your placement, and to the best you can take one at a time (which is the rule).  Last year I saw runners skip tires and I was just waiting for course karma to deliver sweet justice later in the race.

Anticipated difficulty:  2 out of 5.  Now that we’re nearly 4 miles in, everything requires just a bit more effort. In 2011 the tires and barricades were the first obstacle.

OBSTACLE  4: Subaru Crawl, Marine Hurdles and Police Barricade Combo.
The marine hurdles are undoubtedly one of the more challenging obstacles, due largely to their height and upper-body strength requirement (finally). As I wrote in 2011:

Post race I read a handful of Tweets about nursing bruises, and I think the marine hurdles can be attributed to that. 5 or so feet of hardwood planks that you have to climb over, and because of their height I think a number of runners would get an arm hooked over the top, than a leg, and then scrape a rib or 3 slinking down the other side. This is where my height, (modest) upper body strength, and hops paid the most dividends. It didn’t take much for me to hop up to nearly belly button high, plant my (gloved) hands on the top of the hurdle, push up and get a foot up as well, and then hop over (more than anything I was most concerned about tweaking my suspect ankle on the long jump down).”

I recall doing 6 of these in 2011, and the 2012 course map shows 3. There is enough room for two people to go at the same time, but careful that you don’t catch a mouthful of shoe (there is a lot of flailing about on these). Look around as you go and give someone a hand if they need it. I think everyone in my pass made it over, with varying degrees of difficulty, but overwhelmingly I think competitors struggled here.

We’ve already addressed the police barricades, and the Subaru crawl is a necessary sponsorship evil (I like you, Subaru, a lot, but maybe in 2013 we have to chase you down, not crawl under you).

Anticipated difficulty:  4 out of 5.  If you can make it up and over the marine hurdles with little effort, you can feel good about the remaining obstacles to come, as they are all inferior.

OBSTACLE 5: Soldier Field Stair Climb.
I’ve written at length about the stair climb, so I won’t get too detailed here. It’s a miserable, miserable thing. The interesting thing in 2012 is that Soldier Field comes early in the course. Here are the broad strokes of what you can expect.

  • The amount of running in the concourse, coupled with the many mini stair climbs and incline ramp runs, and the final two-up two-down climbs is intense and difficult for everyone.
  • Expect to run, A LOT. You will improve your time if you stay focused on your run for a good portion of Soldier Field. In 2011 I just kept expecting we’d be at the stair climb, and it didn’t come for a long time.
  • The final climb is really steep (two up, two down)
  • You can only go as quickly as the person ahead of you, so don’t get too frustrated. There are just two paths up and down, and while it would be nice if one side was for walking and the other for running, it was a mix of both. In 2012 I hope Men’s Health has a handle on this, because it seemed to be the only consistent gripe for runners. You’ll be able to pick up steam on your first decent and then on the quick run over to the second set of stairs.

OBSTACLE 6: Monkey Bars and Parallel Bars Combo.
Now we’re talk’n!  As in 2011, probably the most anticipated obstacle for me, since it’s one of the only obstacles to require a modest helping of upper body strength. The bars are chunky, heavy cast iron rods so you can get a good hold, and there are only about 10 rungs. I suggest you wear gloves (any inexpensive batting gloves will do). You don’t NEED them, but they sure help.

The parallel bars are more awkward than you think.  You can alternate left-right and hand walk this out, but it’s not very fluid. By only lightly bending your arms and bunny hopping forward you can launch yourself to the end in a handful of bursts, so long as you maintained your grip (gloves will help here, too). The bars are only about 7 feet long, and you can traverse these in about 4-5 quick hops.

Anticipated difficulty:  3 out of 5. These are not difficult, but if you are someone who has a hard time with monkey bars, which many people do, then these will be a handful for you.

OBSTACLE 7: Traffic Jam.
This is a new obstacle that Men’s Health is trying to get their arms around, so no real info about it yet. It was the winning entry in the Urbanathlon Design an Obstacle contest (Note: my ‘pole crossing’ earned runner-up status in this contest!). I’m bitter less about losing (just less bitter, but you can bet I’m still bitter) and more that this seems like a bad idea (for this race). There is no strength or endurance element and is there mainly to interrupt your flow. With some of the other lesser obstacles, like police barricades and traffic cones, at least you’re plowing ahead. We’ll see how long Men’s Health decides to make it, or if they put their own twist to it, but I’m not super excited about it.

Anticipated difficulty:  1 out of 5. 
Anticipated bitterness:  5 out of 5. 

OBSTACLE 8: Kumho Tire Stutter Step and Plastic Barricade Combo.
Hmmm, a mish-mash of previous obstacles.  We’ve tackled both earlier in this post. More than anything I think this is a gimme before you get ready to bring this thing home the last two miles.

Anticipated difficulty:  2 out of 5. Should be a 1, but now that you’re in over 8 miles, getting those knees up isn’t as easy as it was in mile 3.

OBSTACLE 9: Over, Under, Through NEW 2012 Obstacle
A little Urbanathlon intrigue. You’ll want to click over the Chicago Urbanathlon website to view a photo of this one. The obstacle title actually does a good job of explaining what it is. There are six walls (one in front of the other, several feet apart) constructed of lumber, and the first one you climb over (looks to be about as high as the marine hurdles, so not so tall that you’ll struggle too mightily, but not so short that you can dance over it without thought), hit the ground and crawl under the next wall, and then sort of jump/climb through window-like cutouts on the next wall. Over, under, through. There are two sets three walls, so six in all. I actually really like this idea, which combines some strength and agility (no sleepwalking through this one), and coming after 9 miles of running it’ll be THAT much more challenging.

Anticipated difficulty:  3 out of 5. The first and third walls will come as a challenge because of the height and required agility.

OBSTACLE 10: Tissot 40-Yard Dash NEW Obstacle 2012
Again, click over the Chicago Urbanathlon website to see an image of this obstacle. I’m not entirely sure how this will play out, but from the looks of it there is section near the finish area where for 40 yards you simply haul ass. It appears there is a chip reader at the start and finish of this dash area to record your time, and maybe there will be awards for fastest 40-yard dash. I don’t know. I’m also assuming that when you hit the dash area you just get on your horse and go (so start your dash a few yards early so you hit it at max speed). I love the idea of this obstacle. Some runners have a strong kick, and will do well here (after more than 10 miles of running!). In 2011 I would have stunk this up, but feel I’ll have something in the tank to give this obstacle a fair shake. Even better, if you go all out here the final obstacle is just ahead, so you’ll hit the taxis / bus climb / fence crawl / wall climb gassed and exerted. I love it.

Anticipated difficulty:  1-4 out of 5. The difficulty depends mostly on how hard you’ll take this on. If you just run though it at your current race pace, then yeah, it’s probably a 1, but if you make an effort to really run it hard and indeed ‘dash,’ then we’re looking at a 4 (based on where this comes in the race, what it requires from you, and how it leaves you for the final obstacle just ahead).

OBSTACLE 11: Taxis & Buses to Chain Link Crawl to Wall Finish.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. A great Urbanathlon finale. There are really three ways you can approach the taxis, since they are butted trunk to trunk

  1. Walk the bumpers and use your hands on the trunks to balance yourself (I did this in 2011 on the first set and it was easy but slow because of the person in front of me),
  2. Take the road less traveled and slide across the trunk or hood (I did this in 2011 on the second set and it was a good way to get over quickly).
  3. Go high and slide across the very top of the car (I won’t be doing this unless I’m shot out of a canon).

The cargo net and fence are straight forward. Climb and crawl.

I think a lot of runners are intimidated by the final wall (8 feet high!). In fact, before the race you’ll see people hanging all over this thing to size it up. I’ve talked specifically about the wall in a previous post, and I’ll recap it here:

  • The wall is a beehive of activity (and flailing legs). Pick your spot early as you come out of the fence.
  • Avoid the ropes. They seem like a good idea, but since they go up the wall only part way you have a better chance of getting stuck up two-thirds of the way. For shorter runners the ropes may be your best option to get started, though, unless you go for the next option …
  • There is lots of help here. Volunteers and other racers hang around at the top to help those who want it. Some are on the ground, too, to give you a boost.
  • Take your time. A lot of runners take 3 and 4 stabs at this thing before getting over.
  • I suggest you avoid trying to run to the wall, jump into the wall and plant a foot against it, and try to springboard to grab the top. The wall is too slick for this to work without you ending up on YouTube outtakes.
  • If you channel your inner Michael Jordan and can get both hands on the top in one jump, it’s just a single pull-up to get up and over.

Anticipated difficulty:  4 out of 5 (because of the wall). It’s more a 3, but if you don’t have the hops to get both hands to the top of the wall you’ll need to be more resourceful or dogged. Just know that it’s not as tough as you may think.

It’s now in your hands. If you have specific questions leave a comment. See you in chicago.

Men’s Health Urbanathlon (Chicago): 10.8 miles by the numbers; reframe your approach to the run

What’s the saying? All bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon? I’m reminded of this when I think about the Urbanathlon, in the context that ‘all runners can conquer the Urbanathlon but not all Urbanathletes can conquer the run’ … uhhh, it makes sense in my head anyway.

The point is this, and I’ve said it before in this space, but at the Urbanathlon, to the runner go the spoils. Historically (and by that I mean ‘last year’), I don’t know that the obstacles have been enough of a playing field leveler, and in the end, if you can’t do an obstacle you step aside and rep out a handful of pushups and move on. You can’t skirt the run. Nor would we want to.

This guy could definitely win the Urbanathlon. Endurance and speed, your biggest competitive advantage.

10.8 miles, at face value, is a handful. But with an impressive 11 obstacles this year (at least in Chicago), there are plenty of starts and stops, which we should use as an opportunity to reframe our approach to the run and put us in the proper mindset to dominate the course.

Let’s look more closely at the splits between each obstacle and maybe you’ll get new perspective:

(These are my close approximations based on the course map; actual distance will vary slightly. And while they reflect the Chicago course, you can apply the math/approach to San Francisco and New York, too)

1.6 miles
Water / Obstacle 1
0.6 miles
Obstacle 2
2.0 miles
Water / Obstacle 3 / Transition area for relays
1.3 miles
Obstacle 4
1.5 miles
Obstacle 5 Soldier Field Stair Climb
0.4 miles
Water / Obstacle 6 / Transition area for relays
0.3 miles
Obstacle 7
0.7 miles
Obstacle 8
1.0 miles
Water / Obstacle 9
1.4 miles
Obstacle 10
Obstacle 11

Not so daunting when put in this context, I think. As I’ve gotten more serious about running this past year, I’ve become keen on the many neophyte mind games to push me through badgering pain and aerobic thresholds. Chiefly, that ‘you can do anything for one mile.’ I repeat this often, and it helps.

As you look back on these splits, most of which are less than or hovering right around a mile, trust that ‘you can do anything for one mile.’ So run hard. Push yourself. Attack the course. Take advantage of those shorter splits. Get in the proper mindset.

You can do anything for a mile.

Men’s Health Urbanathlon (Chicago): Pulling myself up

No frills, and no excuses … get in and get it done

This is the pull-up bar hanging in my garage. It’s been there for almost three years. The bar is made of the no-longer-used rings from our backyard play set, a salvaged metal pipe from lord knows where, and of course duct tape (to keep the bar from sliding around, since others use it [play on it] from time to time and may not anticipate the movement). I don’t use it as often as I once did, but I’m prone to rep out a dozen pull ups at a clip when I’m tinkering in the garage or hanging out in the yard.

Most important, these days it largely represents a down-to-earth no-excuses philosophy. Get in and get it done. Life is busy, but there’s no reason I can’t rip off a handful of pushups, sit ups, dips, pull ups, lunges and a host of other exercises from time to time, all from the comfort of my home (or garage). Get in and get it done. 

And seeing the pull-up bar at least twice a day (to and from work) in all its tattered glory, it finally struck me that I’m probably not doing all I should to make the kind of push at the 2012 Urbanathlon that I’ve been preoccupied with since the 2011 race ended.

Don’t get me wrong, hands down I know I’m a better runner today. Stronger, too. My weight hovers at 195 (haven’t seen that since Clinton was playing sax on the Arsenio Hall show). I’ve run with consistency and am getting more race-day reps under my belt with local 5Ks, 8Ks, and other events. All positive stuff, and I feel great.  No question if the race was held today I’d fair better.

But running with consistency and running with purpose are two different things. To add purpose to the consistency cocktail I finally decided to articulate and measure against a formal training plan. Plan your work and work your plan, as they say.

Below are the broad strokes of my routine for at least the next four weeks (as of this post there are nearly 17 weeks until the 2012 Urbanathlon). I’ll assess in a month where I need to make tweaks. Endurance, strength and speed are the end game.

Full transparency: I have to remain flexible and adaptive about all of this. This schedule is a best-case scenario and one I’ll work hard to maintain. Like with you, life is busy and things come up routinely (a timely example: this morning I awoke at 5 a.m. to get out early for my stair routine and outside was a rain/lightening storm with 60-mile-an-hour winds … no thank you). These are guardrails for an ideal week, and while I don’t delight in missing a planned workout, I’ll take it in stride when it happens and figure out how to do something active in its place. This should be fun and fulfilling.


  • Rest. A respite after my Sunday long run.


  • Stair climb (178 steps, 6 reps [1,068 steps total]). I’ll do this early before work. I run these.
  • Cross train. Mostly core, arms, shoulders, chest. I do this at the fitness center at work, so as long as meetings don’t get in the way, which they do on occasion, I’m here.


  • 5-6 mile run at a 7:30-8 minute pace.


  • Cross train. Mostly core, arms, shoulders, chest (I’ll rest my legs here). Again, lunch-hour fitness routine.


  • Stair climb/run (178 steps, 6 reps [1,068 steps total]). I’ll do this early before work.
  • Easy run. 3-6 miles at an 8-9 minute pace. This is with a run club at work, and participation is wildly inconsistent, so distance and pace vary depending on who’s there. The summer has been especially slow, in terms of participation, so at times I just run solo. In those cases I’ll do 6 easy miles.


  • Speed work. 8X400. I’ll do this early before the house wakes up.
  • Optional cross train, shortly after speed work. On Saturday mornings, when it works out, I train with a few friends and a personal trainer (kind of a standing meeting we have). Our workouts vary week to week, but it’s a total body workout in the worst way (kettle bells, medicine balls, dumbbells, resistance bands, hills, you name it).
  • More wiggle room on Saturdays. Sometimes things get hectic right out of the gate on Saturday, so I’m not always able to train in the morning, but in those instances later on I try to fill in the day with lap swimming at the YMCA or a free-for-all with pushups, pull ups and other Rocky IV type exercises. Just do something.


  • ‘Long’ run. 10 miles at an 8-9 minute pace.

I’ll see how well this routine holds up (meaning, how well I hold up). I don’t want to over train, but I do want to dial up the focus on specific speed, strength, and endurance drills, while maintaining some of the total body fitness work that rounds me out.

Curious where you have found the most training success (and what your proverbial ‘pull up bar in the garage’ is).