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Happy Chicago Marathon!

By the time you're reading this, I'm in Grant Park helping runners find the Start Line. And wishing I was racing today. I'll never forget the first time I stood on a chilly, early morning Columbus Drive staring at the skyline as the sun came up while I was trying to imagine making it the whole way.

I've learned a lot since then and grown pretty passionate about the sport. It's not unlike coffee in that the deeper involved you get the more refined your tastes get.

This year, the race expo and packet pickup moved to an even bigger hall at the convention center. Which, to me, looked like all you really got was an even larger Nike store. Not that Nike doesn't make some fine gear--I use their watch and love their running shorts. But my interest in the culture of marathon racing has gone beyond wanting to see a few booths of other races and buy a t-shirt. Given the size and importance of this race, I was really hoping to see a lot more of the nutrition and hydration vendors so I could talk one-on-one with a few makers about their products. Nada. I did manage to pick up a flavor from Gu that I've been looking for and I'm going to test their electrolyte tablets against Nuun. It was a little disappointing though. I suppose most of today's runners already had their fuel strategy down. But where else are you going to go other than a big city race expo to meet manufacturers? I'm guessing, also, that the real money is in the gear, not the $3 packets of gel...though in some ways the gel is just as important as those $130 shoes.

It also felt a little odd knowing that I've had other stuff going on in my life this year that prevented me from giving the same effort I did 2009-2010. I managed to fit 2 full marathons into 2011 running my fastest and third fastest times despite a fraction of the training volume. It shows me that I made a few rookie mistakes my first race that leave me wondering what my "real" time would have been. It also shows me I put a lot of work in to get to the point where I'm competing (even if against myself, the course, & clock not Kenyans) rather than just trying to finish.

Long story short is twofold:

A) I think I'm getting a handle on what my new fuel strategy will be though it will require testing and a bit more research. I'm switching away from sugary sports drinks to electrolyte tablets in water along with salt tablets. Which just leaves me needing calories. Which is the tricky part. I'm on the lookout for a good, natural, non-sugary carb source easily carried over 20 miles. Stay tunes.

B) We're working on my race calendar for next year. I'd had visions of doing a series of races locally at short distances. But now I'm stuck on the marathon. It's a much more romantic distance! Right now I'm planning on a Chicago-area 13.1 for the spring with the focus of next year being a properly trained for 26.2 in the fall. Most likely Chicago. But I also hear from my family and friends quite a bit about wanting me to run Columbus. So there's a small chance we'd head there.

In any case, good luck to today's marathoners. Conquer the distance like Pheidippides! "Nenikekamen!"