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Joggling the Lakefront 50 Mile Ultra Marathon – Part 1

For a juggler, perfection is always the goal. No drops, no stops. On Saturday, a gust of wind stymied juggling perfection 1 hour and 25 minutes after the race started. But for a joggler, perfection takes a back seat to speed. Legs win races, not hands. Fortunately, the wind couldn’t as easily disrupt my legs.

As I picked up that first dropped Gballz, hidden pains revealed themselves in my back,juggling running ultramarathon knees and ankles. With over 40 miles of joggling ahead dwelling on pain is a bad idea. Instead, I backed up 3 steps, gave a loud groan, and joggled on. No one said finishing an ultra marathon would be easy. Of course starting one wasn’t too bad.

Ultra marathon start

The 6:30 race start time had me up at 5:00 am. Despite a slight virus induced sore throat, I felt pretty good. Rested and relaxed. I loaded my bag with a fully charged iPod, a change of clothes, juggling bags and 2 granola bars. I laid out all of the things for my wife to bring and put on my running clothes. A little Body Glide in the key chaffing areas, a swig of OJ and I was off. For this race, I would wear my “We’ve Got Balls” shirt from the Great Midwest Relay and my new Ante Up! baseball cap.

Traffic was minimal so I made it to the race in 15 minutes. When I got out of my car, it was cold and dark except for the glow of the un-risen sun at the horizon. I hunted for the start line or check in or something but couldn’t find much. This race was much different than any marathon I’d ever done before. They weren’t set up, there were only a couple of dozen runners and everyone was incredibly laid back and happy. I worried they wouldn’t allow my World Record observers ride with me, but they had no problem with it at all. In fact, there were a number of bike riders shadowing the runners. Ultra marathoners are just a different breed.

At 6:30 we were off. There was no Star Spangled Banner, no opening speech, just a start. I was surprised when it actually began.

In the first half mile, I still hadn’t decided how fast to run, so I just followed the pack. Their pace seemed easy and I figured they must know what they’re doing. It was about 9:30 min/mile.

A number of people ran along side and asked about the joggling.

“Are you going to do that the whole way?”

“Of course!”

“You’re crazy!”

This coming from someone who was running a 50 mile race. “We’re all crazy,” I said.

One of my bike spotters, Kikta started and stayed with me the entire time. He was awesome. He talked to me a bit, kept watch on my juggling pattern, and even cleared the path of drivers oblivious to the passing 50 mile racers. I can’t thank him enough for his efforts.

Joggling Lap 1

After a short 2 mile loop, the main route began. Three laps out and back from 63rd street north to Solidarity drive and around Northerly Island. This is a new park created whenlakefront juggling and running Mayor Daley bulldozed the Meigs Field airport a few years ago. Politics aside, it’s a great running path.

I made it a point to stop at every re-fueling station to drink Gatorade and whatever food they had such as bananas, nuts, M&Ms, pretzels and chips. From all that I read about ultras, replenishing was important.

When I passed 31st street (where my cheering section would be), we picked up our second bike spotter, Carla, my good friend from high school & euchre partner extraordinaire. It was good to see her. Friendly faces make happy races. She rode with us for about 45 minutes, but a flat tire sidelined her.

On the way back, I didn’t see anyone at the designated cheering section. It was just me and Kikta traveling along the race route. Ultra marathons are lonely. After the first few miles you don’t see many other runners. You see few people cheering. It’s drastically different than the Chicago Marathon.

The first loop and lap were done in 2:45, about a 9:25 pace.

Only 32.5 miles stood between me and a world record.

See Part 2 here

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