PREVIEW: The 3 (Race) – 2 (State) – 1 (Day) Challenge

It is only fitting that in the same week I officially joined the Marathon Maniacs running club (MM #5699, thank you), I briefly lost my mind. It started when I was looking for a half-marathon to run in the Midwest sometime in July/August, and then it just kind of…happened. I was merely researching prospective races at first, and when the dust settled, I found myself registered for 3 races in the same day, and none of them particularly close to one another.

The upshot is this: on July 28th, 2012, I will be running 3 races in 2 states, whose starting lines are a combined 200+ miles apart.

Over the course of the 3 events, I’ll be running a combined 22.4 miles of races and driving another 218 miles (one-way mileage, not including the return trip), all to be completed in less than 12 hours. Weirdly, the running portion may well be the easy part; physically arriving at the start of each race on-time will likely prove to be the bigger challenge.

RACE #1: The Inaugural BTN B1G 10K — 7:40am start in Chicago, IL

A few weeks ago, I wrote that the Run For the Zoo 5K was likely to be my last chance at setting a PR for many months, possibly until the Chicago Marathon in October. Within days of writing those words, however, I was already made to be a liar. When my friend Dan Solera (a recurring character in this blog) told me about the inaugural Big Ten Network (BTN) B1G 10K happening at the end of July, I don’t think I could sign up fast enough.

It has been over a year since I’ve run a 10K at all, back in July 2011 when I was writing and maintaining a totally different blog. I’ve set new PRs in every other distance since then, but I have yet to run another 10K, and part of me has been eager to see how well I could do now with an extra year of running under my belt. As an obnoxiously extremely proud Michigan State University alum as well, the chance to compete against alums from other Big Ten schools in a relaxed race atmosphere appeals to me as well. I say now that it’s going to be a “relaxed atmosphere,” but if I find myself running stride-for-stride with a Wolverine as we round the final turn…well, it will get competitive in a hurry. And I wouldn’t put money on the Michigan grad if I were you.

The BTN is going all-out for this one, and it should be a great event. To beat the heat, the race organizers are mooting an inflatable water-slide to be placed somewhere on the course, in addition to another one in the post-race tailgate area. They’ve recruited former Big Ten football legends Ki-Jana Carter and Ron Dayne to run the race, and it’s worth mentioning here that I practically worshipped Ron Dayne when I was growing up as a Wisconsin Badgers fan. If I see The Great Dayne himself on race-day, I may lose it. (On a side note, if I can’t beat Ron Dayne in a 10K race now, then I quit running. He’s enormous.) Each runner that signed up by mid-July will receive a school-specific tech shirt, which is great for me because it’s strangely difficult to find Michigan State running gear for purchase. The post-race tailgate area will feature free hot dogs for all runners (which I’m sure will taste just WONDERFUL at 8:30am after a run), as well as a bunch of games like a field goal kick, football toss, and a cornhole/bags tournament.

I wish that I could stay around after the race to relax and enjoy the tailgate, but I now have some driving to do immediately after I finish. For weeks, the B1G 10K was going to be the only race I ran on July 28th, until…

RACE #2: The Heatbreaker Indoor Half Marathon — 1:00pm start in Milwaukee, WI (94 miles from the B1G 10K start line)

My CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association) marathon training schedule calls for a long run of 12 miles the weekend of July 21/22, followed by 13 miles the weekend of July 28/29. That is SUSPICIOUSLY close to the distance of a half-marathon, and so I started casually looking around to see if there were any interesting half marathons taking place in Illinois, Wisconsin, or Indiana either of those weekends. It’s been over a month since I have run any sort of race, and you could say that I have an itch. CARA had been encouraging runners in the training program to run Chicago’s Rock ‘N Roll half-marathon on July 22nd, but I passed on that opportunity for a number of reasons:

  1. I have a healthy dislike of the Rock and Roll race series, for reasons ranging from the price/”value” to the impossibly corporate/soulless race experience;
  2. I wasn’t going to be in town that weekend anyway; and
  3. Midwest distance races in the summer are the worst. They’re fucking awful. In July 2011, I finished a traumatizing half-marathon in Milwaukee on a brutally hot day where scores of people were carted to the hospital after the race ran out of water at the aid stations, and that memory has stayed with me. I don’t mind training in the heat, because that will make me stronger when the fall race season comes around, but I have no interest in racing in the heat. And with the Midwest in July/August, you never know what you’re going to get.

Still, I hopped on just to see what was out there, to see if maybe I could find a cool race within driving distance of Chicago. And that is how I found the potentially glorious Heatbreaker Indoor Half Marathon in Milwaukee, to be held on July 28th in a building with a controlled temperature of 55 degrees.

For years, the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee has hosted the indoor Icebreaker Marathon and Half Marathon sometime in the winter, giving runners the chance to run a marathon in temperate conditions and allowing everyone a reprieve from running through the notorious Midwestern ice and snow. New in 2012, the same organizers of the Icebreaker are putting on the inaugural Heatbreaker Half Marathon (no full), which consists of 4 heats of 47-ish laps that run around the 450-ish meter track surrounding the Pettit ice rink. Yes, it will be boring. Yes, it will be repetitive. There will be no scenery to look at, but I don’t care. Really, I don’t. And do you know why? Because I GET TO RUN A HALF MARATHON IN JULY IN THE MIDWEST IN GUARANTEED 55-DEGREE WEATHER. The juice is worth the squeeze.

The race will be run in 4 heats (with a maximum of 125 runners per heat), and each heat has a 3-hour time limit to keep things moving along. The first heat goes off at 7am, with the subsequent heats starting at 10am, 1pm, and finally 4pm. Headphones are prohibited due to safety concerns, but a cool thing is that each runner is asked to submit one song request at the time of registration, for consideration to be played on the PA system during their heat. My initial request for “Luv Dem Gun Sounds” by Waka Flocka Flame was cruelly vetoed by race organizers via email (with REMARKABLE swiftness, I have to add), and so I settled on “Kickstart My Heart” by Motley Crue. This second entry was deemed acceptable, because songs about extremely-dangerous-to-the-point-of-life-threatening drug abuse are apparently totally kosher, but God forbid we ask a hockey rink full of white people to put up with a black guy rapping about guns for less than four minutes. Whatever, Wisconsin**.

**(FULL DISCLOSURE: I wrote those last few sentences with tongue firmly in cheek. If you haven’t listened to “Luv Dem Gun Sounds” before, it’s kind of terrifying. The music video is just Waka Flocka Flame burying a body. To the Heatbreaker organiers, I don’t blame you at all for shooting down that song request. It’s probably best to shield children from that kind of influence.)

“What do you mean, they won’t play my song?”

I initially signed up for the 4pm heat of the Heatbreaker, so that I would have maximum time to recover after that morning’s B1G 10K before I drove up to Milwaukee. Within half an hour, though, I was emailing me the organizers to ask if I could be moved up to the 1pm heat, so that I could have the chance to run…

RACE #3: The Packers 5K – 6:30pm start in Green Bay, WI (122 miles from the Heatbreaker Indoor Half Marathon start line)

Let’s keep this good-time train rolling up the coast of Wisconsin, shall we? Our next stop is in Green Bay, just 40 miles northwest of where I was born in Two Rivers, WI.

I am part-owner of the Green Bay Packers, which is not nearly as impressive as that may sound taken out of context. Sure, I still like to tell people, “Yeah, it’s kind of how J. Lo and Marc Anthony are part-owners of the Dolphins”, but it’s actually nothing like that. My one share of Packers stock purchased in 2011 gives me certain perks at Packers facilities in Green Bay, as well as nominal voting rights for the Packers board each year, but I receive no dividend. The main benefit derived from the Packers being publicly owned by myself and 100,000+ other shareholders like me is the assurance that the team can’t just threaten to pull up stumps and skip town to Los Angeles, much like the loathsome Vikings just did in order to secure a new stadium deal in Minneapolis.

What’s the biggest drawback to NFL ownership, you ask? There is actual language on the back of my stock certificate saying that Roger Goodell can fine me $5,000 if he ever finds out that I occasionally gamble on pro football. I gamble on NFL games anyway, so I’m in constant danger. Yes, I’m a rebel. That’s why you keep coming back to this blog, to get a glimpse into the life of a real bad boy who’s living the dream. I don’t blame you.

Anyway, ever since I first ran inside a sports stadium during the Race to Wrigley back in 2011 (which runs through the Wrigley Field concourse leading up to the finish, and is totally cool), I’ve been looking for an excuse to run the relatively-new Packers 5K. Despite my suburban Chicago upbringing, I have been a Packers fan since birth due to my Wisconsin roots, and so finishing a 5K with a lap inside Lambeau Field would mean a little more to me than running a generic local race. I couldn’t justify driving up to Green Bay just to run a 5K in 2011, but the late start time for the Packers 5K means that all the pieces are falling into place kind of perfectly in 2012. For whatever reason, the Packers 5K eschews a more traditional early-morning start time, and will instead begin at 6:30pm. And so when I randomly received a promotional email from the Packers about this race less than 30 minutes after I registered for the Heatbreaker Half Marathon (so serendipitous, you guys), the wheels started spinning. I was already running 2 races on this day…could I possibly run 3?

I can’t run ultramarathons (yet), I don’t have the drive to run a race in all 50 states, and I won’t be in a position to qualify for Boston anytime this decade. Coupled with the fact that my lower spinal column is basically held together internally with rubber bands and duct tape, in that sense I’m somewhat limited in the types of challenges that I can reasonably undertake. Or in this case, I needed to manufacture a new challenge altogether. I am damn good at my job in my field of logistics (like I said, I’m a bad boy), and if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s how to get things from one place to another as efficiently as possible. If anyone can pull this off, it will be me.

I reasoned that if I could run the Heatbreaker half marathon with the 1pm heat, then that would give me just enough time to run the race and drive the 2 hours from Milwaukee to Green Bay for the 6:30pm start of the Packers 5K. I emailed the Heatbreaker race directors to ask if I could change my heat from 4pm to 1pm, and within half an hour they confirmed that this could be done with no problem, with no additional cost for switching heats. I see you, Heatbreaker. And like that, I was set.

22.4 miles, 3 races, 2 states, 1 day.

Rather than setting a specific time goal for each race, my goal is simply to start and finish all 3 – any positive result above and beyond that would be a bonus. To those who have (rightly) questioned my sanity and asked, “Why?”, I answer that this seemed like too unique of an opportunity to pass up. Each race has its own individual draw, and with the perfectly staggered times and distances between events, when would I realistically have the chance to do something like this again?

In the immortal words of Dave Chappelle, “Sometimes you gotta race.”

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6 Responses to PREVIEW: The 3 (Race) – 2 (State) – 1 (Day) Challenge

  1. Dan says:

    Good thing you saved the shortest distance for last. Are you planning on one big blogpost for all three or will you TWILIGHT BREAKING DAWN the day into separate posts?

    • Otter says:

      I’m thinking of splitting them up more like the Indiana Jones series: The 1st recap will be great, the 2nd will be weirdly offensive, then the 3rd recap will be awesome again, and then when everyone thinks that I should be logically finished, I’ll pull some horrible 4th recap out of my ass to alienate my fans.

  2. “The juice is worth the squeeze.” – Otter
    It’s going on a t-shirt.

    This is awesome. And I thought I was being a badass by doing 2 races and a 10 mile training run in the same weekend. Can’t wait to read the recap! I will be slow clapping for you from here. Good luck, Godspeed, and may there be no slow tractors on any road you must traverse.

  3. RunnerKM says:

    I’m running a RnR race in a few weeks. Rude.

  4. RunnerKM says:

    I’ve heard nightmares about RnR Vegas. I’m only doing Providence because I go up there for vacation every year anyways, and know a bunch of people running it.

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