Friday, May 30, 2008

Trials of a Race Director

As co-director of the Community Bank of Elmhurst 4 on the 4th, I have my hands full worrying about timing malfunctions, bad weather, quick response by the paramedics if needed and on and on and on. Here's one I never thought I'd have to worry about. Today, I received a jury trial summons for the week before race week. If I actually serve, the trials last 3-7 days according to the information provided. This is a moral dilemma because I believe strongly in particpating in our democracy, not just taking a free ride. But I also have a few things to deal with that week like packet stuffing and getting ready for packet pickup at Dick Pond in Elmhurst. Do I try to get out of it? Nope. Life is never dull. I wonder if they let you go out for runs or download on-line registration reports if you're sequestered in a jury room somewhere?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Raising the Bar

Carey Pinkowski, director of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, is in London for a meeting of the World Marathon Majors. Virtually the rest of his staff is at the Bank of America Open golf tournament this week. But that didn't stop Susan May and I, representing the Elmhurst Running Club, from meeting with marathon officials to begin our preparation as captain and co-captain of Aid Station No. 2 on marathon day this October. Suffice it to say, no marathon will have been better prepared for anything than Chicago will be this year. I don't want to give away their plans, but if you're running, and you don't get water or Gatorade, you will be in some other race, not this one. It's quite impressive what they have done. If you ran the Shamrock Shuffle, you saw a preview. Speaking of the marathon, it's just about time to crank up the training. I am considering a fall 26.2 myself. I'm not sure where.
One thing at a time, starting with Roselle's fast 5K on Sunday and the MC200 Relay the following weekend. Did you run in the cool air today? If felt great, didn't it?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Right on The Money

I've got to give some credit to Mark Colpoys, the Director of Marketing for Fleet Feet Chicago. When queried last week by yours truly to predict the winners of Saturday's Soldier Field 10-miler, Mark didn't hesitate. "Picks to win: Jessica Langford, Jeff Jonaitis" topped his e-mail reply. Well,Langford, 36, of Rockford, won handily on the women's side with an awesome 58:51, easily besting Murphee Hayes, 34, of Marathon, NY (gotta love that town's name), who clocked 1:01:02. In the men's race, Jonaitis, 27, of Tinley Park, known fondly as "JJ" in local running circles, edged always-tough Jack Kafel, 32, of River Forest, 50:40 to 50:42. You can find all the results at It looks like Kafel is rounding into form to defend his title at the Community Bank of Elmhurst 4 on the 4th (July 4), but JJ never has run that race.

Going Back 32 Years -- in the 3,200 Relay

St. Charles North (7:45.97) and York (7:47.05) paced a strong 3,200-meter relay on Saturday at the boys Class AA state meet in Charleston. All teams in the finals got under 8 minutes, a superb accomplishment. Now, consider this. In 1976, the two-mile relay (now, 3,200) in Illinois was a race for the ages. Check out these results, courtesy of the Rockford Register-Star through good friend Chuck Wallin:
1976 times (converted to 3,200-meter times)
1. Thornton 7:35.7
2. Lyons Township 7:36.2
3. Rockford East 7:36.8
4. Bloom 7:37.4
5. Evanston 7:38.4
6. Thornwood 7:39.6
7. Champaign Central 7:40.8
8. New Trier East 7:42

What?? No York?? Yep, everybody else was even better.

The 1976 race might have been the best ever at an Illinois state meet. And there's your history lesson for today. Was track a stronger sport then? What do you think?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Time to Chill

We're heading out of town and out of contact for a few days. It's a small lake in northern Missouri. I know there are two-lane highways to get us there. That's all I know. We're meeting good friends from back in the day when we lived in Milwaukee. While I'm out there, loafing, jogging, drinking a beer or two and otherwise unwinding, I'll be thinking of all you runners at the Soldier Field 10, Western Springs Tower Trot, Ridge Run, Elgin 10-miler, St Alexander's 5K, Madison, Jacksonport and everywhere else this weekend. It's time for me to re-charge for the Madison-Chicago 200M Relay June 6-7. I'll be running close to 19 miles in three chunks over about 20 hours for our Grand Masters team (50-and-over), Fossils Velocity. My team captain Chris Nemeth assigned me to Legs 12,24 and 36, which means I'm running anchor. I don't take the responsibility lightly on a team of hard-core studs like this one. To quote one of my favorite songs from xc skiing's American Birkebeiner: "I got to put in some training, or I'll have a whole lot of paining." Have a great Memorial Day weekend.

Derrick Out of State Meet?

A very reliable source, who quotes two more reliable sources, says Chris Derrick of Neuqua Valley HS is out of the state meet today and tomorrow because he has mono. He is the top qualifier at 1,600 and 3,200 meters. Let's see what happens.

Soldier Field 10

The Soldier Field 10-Miler, presented by adidas, while not the only show in town over the Memorial Day weekend, is the showcase event in the Chicago area. Despite some local elite runners being out or limited by injuries, Dave Zimmer and Mark Colpoys at Fleet Feet have assembled a strong field. Colpoys, FF's Director of Marketing, picks Jeff Jonaitis of Tinley Park and defending women's champion Jessica Langford of Rockford to win. However, Colpoys wrote in an e-mail, "Chad Ware may give JJ a run for the money!" Jonaitis won the Lakefront 10-miler on April 27 against a strong field that included Greg Costello and Jack Kafel. Last year at Soldier Field, Costello won in 50:53, while Langford ran 58:22. Costello is on Colpoys' list of runners "out with injuries or recovering from other races." Also on that list are Karen Prisby, Claudia Becque (U.S. Marathon Trials) and Jim Akita. The sold-out starting field of 7,500 will enjoy the long-expected weather warm-up. Translation: It won't be freezing on the lakefront when they go at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday. I'll try to update if I can. If you're running, good luck and have fun crossing the 50-yard line!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

On Your Marks, Get Set . . .

I would describe myself as a mild geek when it comes to track and field. Nevertheless, I get excited about the 3,200 and 1,600 each year at the high school state meet in Charleston. Chris Derrick of Neuqua Valley is the man this year. It will be interesting how he does with a taper and warm weather this weekend. I have pulled the 3,200 runners who qualified under 9:20 and 1,600 guys who are under 4:20. * means their times were clocked manually and have been adjusted slightly upward.
8:58.88 Chris Derrick (Sr.), Naperville (Neuqua Valley)
9:09.44* Kevin Havel (Sr.), Arlington Heights (Hersey)
9:13.14 Kyle Gibson (Jr.), Naperville (North)
9:16.71 Danny Pawola (Jr.), Naperville (Neuqua Valley)
9:18.84* Nate Troester (Sr.), Frankfort (Lincoln-Way East)
9:19.24* Nick Holmes (Sr.), Bartonville (Limestone)

4:14.72 Chris Derrick (Sr.), Naperville (Neuqua Valley)
4:14.94* Kevin Havel (Sr.), Arlington Heights (Hersey)
4:15.34* Jeff Thode (Jr.), Hoffman Estates (Conant)
4:17.44* Myles Scott-Stirn (Sr.), Frankfort (Lincoln-Way East)
4:17.61 Chris DeSilva (Sr.), St. Charles (North)
4:17.83 Chase Kadlec (Sr.), Wheaton (North)
4:18.12 Jim Riddle (Sr.), Naperville (Neuqua Valley)
4:19.42 Tom Achtien (Sr.), Elmhurst (York)
4:19.62 Josh Stein (Sr.), Aurora (Marmion Academy)
4:19.62 Andrew Nelson (Jr.), Geneva
4:19.64* Kyle Engnell (Sr.), Lockport (Twp.)
4:19.90 Steve Couch (Sr.), Naperville (Central)

The full fields in these and all other events can be found at

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Waddle On In! It's the Penguin!

I've had 7 p.m. Thursday, May 22 at Dick Pond Elmhurst on my "to-do" list for quite a while. John "The Penguin" Bingham will be in the store to speak to runners and autograph copies of his books, which will be on sale. I've known the Penguin for a long time, and he won't let me forget how I opposed his idea of changing the Chicago Distance Classic from a 20K to half-marathon when he bought it a few years back! The rest is history. He has grown the event into one of the top half-marathons in the country. John is a Chicago-area guy who understands the running landscape around here, from front to back, or maybe I should say back to front. I'm sure you've seen his great columns in "Runner's World."
Books on sale will be:
No Need for Speed: A Beginner's Guide to the Joy of Running
Running for Mortals: A Commonsense Plan for Changing Your Life with Running
Marathoning for Mortals: A Regular Person's Guide to the Joy of Running or Walking a Full or Half Marathon.

Dick Pond is at 124 N. York St., just north of the tracks in Elmhurst. Call 630-832-7685. See you there!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

North by Northwest

We (a few hundred runners and I) ventured into uncharted territory on the CARA Circuit, running the Healthbridge 5K "up north" in northwest suburban Crystal Lake. It was a nice, fair course that included some wide roads and a narrow bike path. I was able to do some decent pacing, didn't blow up early and came in strong with an OK kick for a change, even though it was into the wind. The time of 20:41.7 is still too slow as far as I'm concerned, but it was a confidence-booster for sure. My Elmhurst Running Club (photo) mates did well (Doug Pearson--1st M40-44, Julie Bruns--1st F35-39, John O'Blanis and Mark Robinson (not pictured)--both strong showings) and so did my Fossil Velocity MC200 Relay mates (Keith Burns--1st M50-54 and Charlie Shabazian--3rd M50-54. Hats off also to runner/photographer Eileen Skisak, who joined me last week in the Wheaton-Villa Park double. She ruled women's 45-49 at Crystal Lake with a snappy 21:57. The heavy hitters this week were familiar names. Dave Wilson of Brookfield, the hottest runner on the CARA Circuit, was the men's winner in 15:48, and Cari Setzler of Wonder Lake was the women's medalist in 19:11. Nice job by Healthbridge Fitness Center in ramping up for its first year on the Circuit. NOTE: I've heard more than one report that police were stopping runners to let traffic through on Main Street. That's a no-no! Anyone have a first-hand account??

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sutherland, Verplank Best in Long Run

It was fast company in the final of the 3,200 meters today at the girls state meet in Charleston.
Here's the top eight, all sub-11 performances (thanks to IHSA site for this information):
1 Kristin Sutherland (Sr), Orland Park (Sandburg) 10:31.34
2 Lindsay Flanagan (Jr), Roselle (Lake Park) 10:36.34
3 Caitlin Comfort (Sr), Peoria (Notre Dame) 10:42.95
4 Nicole Benson (Sr), Bartonville (Limestone) 10:49.51
5 Lizzy Hynes (Jr), St. Charles (East) 10:54.00
6 Stephanie Strasser (So), St. Charles (North) 10:54.55
7 Kristina Aubert (So), Crystal Lake (South) 10:56.72
8 Katherine Rack (So), Oak Park (O.P.-River Forest) 10:59.14

And in the 1,600 final . . . six went under 5 minutes. Nice doubles for Strasser and Benson.
1 Ashley Verplank (Sr), Bloomington (H.S.) 4:54.99
2 Liz Phillips (Sr), Lockport (Twp.) 4:57.23
2 Rebecca Tracy (Jr), Barrington 4:57.23
4 Heather Olson (Jr), Gurnee (Warren) 4:57.31
5 Stephanie Strasser (So), St. Charles (North) 4:59.41
6 Nicole Benson (Sr), Bartonville (Limestone) 4:59.57

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Cardiac Care at races is a new frontier being addressed by the Chicagoland running community. While there are no clear-cut answers, we need to be ready if something happens. I attended a seminar for race directors tonight on the specific topic of Cardiac Care. It was hosted by USA Track and Field-Illinois and led by Dr. Meechai Tessaloe, a cardiologist based in Hinsdale, and for the past few years, an active participant on the local triathlon circuit. The bottom line for me was that runners need to be pushed a little more to have physical exams before they embark on some of their ambitious racing goals. And if they are over 35, they should have stress tests where medical people can look for and identify any heart conditions that might make them think twice about running a marathon or other endurance event when it's hot and humid outside. I also learned that as a race director (Community Bank of Elmhurst 4 on the 4th), I need to be even more vigilant about having CPR-trained personnel and paramedics ready to go. With CARA imposing a color-coded flag system to show conditions at Circuit races this year, this is a very hot topic for people who put on races (liability) as well as people who run them. No one wants to see any Sudden Cardiac Death at local races, but we all need to be better prepared.
Comments are welcome.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Avenue Q (Quarryman) -- Take 2!

This time, the men's times are correct.
The Quarryman 10-miler in Lemont produced some terrific results on Saturday. I couldn't recognize the strong efforts until now because I was out of town. First, kudos to Bridget Montgomery and Emisael Favela of Chicago for their wins in 1:03:02 and 53:21 respectively.
On the men's side, Deerfield's Chad Ware, winner of the Ravenswood 5K, was second in 54:25, and Jason Olszowka of downstate Greenville was third in 54:55. Following Montgomery in the women's race were Pam Blair of Chicago in 1:04:48, and Emily DeWald of Bloomington, winner of the recent Lake Run in that city, with a 1:06:16.
I have not run this race, but for three years now, I've been told it's very good. Anyone have any comments on it?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Saturday Morning Progressive 10K

We're heading to beautiful Muncie, IN to visit the in-laws for Mother's Day, so this will be quick for now. I tried the Wheaton-Villa Park double today. So did at least one other runner, Eilseen Skisak. Doing the Hecto 50 (5K) in Wheaton, followed by a carefully choregraphed car route to Villa Park, followed by the Run for the Kids 5K made for an interesting morning. First, Wheaton (start shown above) was exceptionally bad for me. The lungs and legs just weren't there and I struggled to about 20:56.5,and was passed by people I'm not used to losing to. Dave Wilson, 39, of Brookfield, the winner (photo right) posted a 15:37.9. Lisa Johnson, 32, of Chicago was the women's victor in 18:37.3. Villa Park was a much less intense race, and I went about 21:35.9. I saw fellow 55-59er Gary Townsend as well as Lisa Menninger (women's winner with a 19:03) at Villa Park. Both races had nice turnouts. Results are posted on

Friday, May 9, 2008

What the Heck, I'm Doing the Hecto

It will be one hecto at a time on Saturday, May 10 for about 400 racers, including me, at the CARA Circuit Fitness Together 50 Hecto Race in Wheaton. What the heck is a hecto? One hecto equals 100 meters. Doing the math, 50 X 100 equals 5,000 meters. You get the picture. From that we call it a 5K but demand mile splits. Yep, we are crazy. The race, which had 118 finishers last year when it wasn't on the Circuit, will be at or over 400, race director Marilee Summer said on Friday. Todd Moxley, 44, of Wheaton, is two-time defending men's champ (15:53 and 16:00), while Natalie Gorski, 21, of Batavia, is defending women's champ (21:53). It is not known if they'll be in the field. Proceeds benefit St. John's Lutheran School in Wheaton. Rumor has it at least two runners will hightail it out of there after they finish and "run" the Run for the Kids 5K in Villa Park a half-hour later. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Here's Why Khalid Wasn't Racing Sunday

Four-time Chicago winner Khalid Khannouchi, who placed fourth in the men's U.S. Olympic Trials, is training for Beijing just in case one of the top three falters. He didn't race the Palos Bank Southwest Half Marathon, but made an appearance.
Here's why he has to be serious . . .

New York, May 8, 2008—Defending champion and course record-holder Dathan Ritzenhein has withdrawn from the Healthy Kidney 10K, a New York Road Runners race scheduled for Saturday, May 17, in Central Park . He is suffering from a lingering foot injury that has sidelined him for the past 13 weeks.
Ritzenhein, 25, of Eugene, OR, told race organizers that the injury to the third metatarsal of his left foot, which he sustained at the USA Cross Country Championships in February, has persisted; Ritzenhein won that race, and has not competed since. In November 2007, Ritzenhein qualified to represent the United States in the men’s marathon at the Olympic Games in Beijing on August 24.
“We’re very disappointed not to be able to return to New York for the Healthy Kidney 10K,” Ritzenhein said on a conference call today. “With a whole array of ailments, it hasn’t come together in time for me to take on the great field that’s been assembled for the race. Knowing that it might set back my preparation [for Beijing ], it was with regret that we made the decision to withdraw.” Ritzenhein said he will use the next three weeks to build up to full training volume and intensity. He then plans to begin a 12-week marathon training regimen. Although he will run the 10,000 meters at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field in Eugene on July 4, he said he definitely will run the marathon at the Olympic Games.
“Dathan is a mega-talent and he deserves the chance to maximize his opportunity to get himself in the best possible shape for Beijing ,” said Mary Wittenberg, president and CEO of New York Road Runners. “We are in full support of his decision.”

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

It All Adds Up

I decided to look at the numbers from this past weekend (May 3-4) and came up with some amazing stuff. We like to run, but we like to race, too. Counting Cincinnati's Flying Pig Marathon and its associated events, Indy's 500 Festival Mini Marathon/5K and 17 races in the greater Chicago area, I came up with a grand total of 9,228 finishers. No wonder the running paths weren't as crowded as usual! So, who had the big numbers? Indy's half-marathon featured 2,750 Illinois runners with another 240 in the 5K. Flying Pig had 255 Illinois finishers with another 258 in the half. Locally, the Palos Bank Southwest Half Marathon topped the list with 1,370 finishers, with the Run to Remember 5K second at 1,057.
Here's the list. Let me know what I missed.
Indy H.M. 2,750; Indy 5K, 240; Flying Pig Marathon, 255; Flying Pig HM, 258; Flying Pig 10K, 27; Flying Pig 5K, 15; Palos Southwest HM (Palos Heights), 1,370; Run to Remember 5K (Chicago), 1,057; Ol Phun Run 5K(Glenview), 659; Great Western HM (St. Charles), 650; Lake Run (Bloomington), 313; Seven Bridges 5K (Woodridge), 233; Blazier Run for the Arts 5K (Crystal Lake), 206; We Go 5K (West Chicago), 154; Griffin 4M (Frankfort), 148; Seven Bridges 10K (Woodridge), 141; Cinco de Mayo (Romeoville), 132; Spring Stampede, 107; Caps for Sam (DeKalb), 97; Heroes 5K (Palatine), 79; Nancy Young 5K (Aurora), 93; Run for Hope 5K (Palatine, 49; We Go 10K (West Chicago), 33; Lake Monona (Wis.) 20K, 18 Illinois finishers and Door County (Wis.) Half Marathon, unknown amount of Illinoisans. Updates expected.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Can Ya Say "Kenya?"

OK, this is the latest update. In the newspaper business, we called this the "sub" story, as in substitute. So anyway . . . The Kenyan express blew through the Southland of Chicago on Sunday as professional runners Matthew Chesang, now living in Manhattan, Kan., and William Serem, a resident of Coon Rapids, Minn., went 1-2 in the debut Palos Bank Southwest Half Marathon in Palos Heights. Chesang, who logged some time at Kansas State, won in 1:05:31 to Serem's 1:05:33. Local standout Jeff Jonaitis was third in 1:06:20, one week after running a strong Lakefront 10. A couple of notes on Serem: He won the San Sebastian marathon in Spain, back in 2006 with a 2:16:20, and a month ago in Tennessee, placed second in a big half-marathon in Knoxville. On the women's side it was another story as two locals beat a Kenyan! Bridget Montgomery, a Universal Sole runner and native of Joliet who ran for Boston College, won in 1:20:48, comfortably ahead of Alona Banai of Oak Park, an up-and-comer with her own story, which I'll relate at a later time, who ran 1:22:45. Kenyan Areba Moraa, who on April 8 won the 56K Xstrata Ultra marathon in South Africa, was third in 1:22:52. Montgomery, according to what I've been able to find, smashed her P.R., which had been 1:23:17. On the men's side, one of the pre-race favorites, Kenyan Wilson Chepkwony, finished seventh and Ravenswood 5K champ Chad Ware finished sixth. Prize money is what brought these athletes to town. It was $1,000, $750, $500, $400, $300, $200 for men and women plus masters and veterans money. What a great event. Kudos to Runnng for Kicks. Full results are posted at (link on right). I'll update again if needed.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Time Is Relative, Don't Ya Think?

It didn't take an Einstein-minded runner to figure that out on Saturday at the Run to Remember 5K, which honored fallen Chicago police officers. One look at Soldier Field's flags told you all you needed to know. As I was reminded by race food-area volunteer Mark Buciak, the first half of the basically out-and-back course would be a breeze; the second half would be a word that rhymes with stitch. It was all true. Times were slower for everyone, many running 40 seconds to more than a minute slower than the week before on Ravenswood's lightning-fast course. After a fairly normal first mile with the wind, things seemed OK. Once you saw everyone else running slowly into the teeth of the wind on the way back, you realized it was all about hanging on and placing as well as you could. I even tried drafting, but there weren't many large runners in front of me. About hanging on and placing, take my 21:08 for instance. It might be my slowest time ever for a 5K on the CARA Circuit. It got me the same age-group place that a 20:27 got me last week. Neither time is anything to whoop about, but as one friend said, "it is what it is."
The podium picture looked like this:
1. Rob Chenoweth, 39, Chicago, 16:25 (9th at Ravenswood in 16:12). Rob, who runs for Fleet Feet, reportedly pulled away on the third mile, which included a hill west of the Field Museum that caused many to lose some time.
2. Chris Setzler, 35, Wonder Lake, 16:32
3. Jason Ream, 26, Chicago, 16:41
1. Lisa Johnson, 32, Chicago, 19:21 (7th at Ravenswood in 18:38, she also runs for Fleet Feet)
2. Kalina Michalska, 30, Chicago, 19:38
3. Cari Setzler, 29, Wonder Lake, 20:09 (under 19:00 at Oak Park and Ravenswood!)
There were 1,057 finishers in a race for a very worthy cause.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Chicago Running on Start Line for TV "R.U.N."

My first reaction was "Why didn't I do that?," and with that thought, I wish the producers and on-air talent at the new Runner's Ultimate Network the best of luck with their debut TV show. The program, which will feature Chicago running from events to personalities to training to clubs and more, will debut on COMCAST SPORTS NET at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 3. It will be re-broadcast at the following times:
Sunday, May 4 -- 5 p.m.
Sunday, May 18 -- 1 p.m.
Tuesday, May 20 -- 2 p.m.
Saturday, May 24 -- 3:30 p.m.
Plans are for this to be a monthly program. I plan to tune in and see what it's all about. In the meantime, I'll try to keep my blog fresh daily. Cheers!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

New Palos Southwest Half, A Whole Lot of Talent

Two Kenyans with solid mid-tier (by Eldoret, Kenya standards) credentials will toe the line with the rest of a field of just under 1,700 runners on Sunday in the first annual Palos Bank Southwest Half-Marathon. Produced by Running for Kicks, the race will feature appearances by Wilson Chepkwony and Jared Nyamboki. I checked them out, and both are the real deal. Chepkwony, among his other recent accomplishments, placed second at December's Memphis Marathon in 2:18:17. Nyamboki can claim major TV time at the 2007 Boston Marathon. He led or co-led through the first 18 miles before crashing. He did win the 2007 Army 10-miler in Washington,D.C. with a 48:24. Both are based in the U.S. most of the year. On the women's side, Mike Yuhasz of Running for Kicks said no international talent, but plenty of local flair, will highlight the women's field. This one looks interesting. Gun time is 7:30 a.m. at 76th Avenue and Route 83 in Palos Heights. Entries definitely are closed. Weekend activities will include an appearance by Khalid Khannouchi on Saturday. Check out