Friday, August 23, 2013


Some of my friends and  I live by the credo that "If you say it out loud, you have to do it."  This mantra led to the first annual "Re-Taste of Chicago."

By way of background, on of my ultra-heroes Jimmy Dean Freeman once ran the L.A. Marathon Route while eating 5,000 calories (there were a few bonus calories too). [Link to Jimmy Dean's Food Run] This video gave me the idea that we should try the same concept with the Chicago Marathon route.   Chicago clearly has better food.  There are plenty of iconic eateries on the route.  Once I said it out loud we had to do it.

So the plan was to run basically the Chicago Marathon Route, but to stop at 9 places and eat food.  These food stops were mandatory.  I received several emails regarding food allergies, gluten free, etc.  To each I responded "This is probably not an event for you."  The point of this exercise was to suffer on a very specific level.

With the help of another formerly fat person Ethan Matyas we came up with the following list of food stops:

1.  Billy Goat Tavern - Cheezeborger or Fried Egg Sandwich; 2.  Weiner's Circle - Hot Dog or Veggie Dog; 3.  Ann Sather's - Cinnamon Bun; 4.  Lou Malnatti's - half slice of Deep Dish Pizza; 5.  Greek Islands - Baklava;  6.  Mario's Italian Ice - (medium - any flavor); 7.  Los Commales - Chicken Taco or Quesadilla;  8.  Three Happiness - Egg Roll; 9. Harold's Chicken - piece of Fried Chicken or order of Fried Okra.  

That's not all.  At the end of the course, (which ended up being about 29 miles due to all the food stops) you had to drink one beer (PBR) and eat one pice of cake for Melissa Pizzaro's birthday.

Once my wife Kylia Kummer got involved we HAD to have a proper tshirt:

We also had a rather large debate about the portion sizes.  I insisted that we go with full portions, with the exception of the deep dish pizze.  The point was to be as uncomfortable as possible.  The rest is history.

We had 11 starters.  Melissa "the birthday girl" Pizzaro, Alfredo Pedro Perro, Todd "Breeze" Brown, Amanda Ticachek, Siamack Moustafi, Katerina Claiborne, Ethan Matyas, Tony Silvestri, Kirsten Pieper, Cathlin Upton and myself.  Deepa Ramakrishna joined at stop 2 (obviously out too late the night before).

3 miles after the only pre-race instruction ("don't get hit by a car") we were off.  2 miles later we were eating a cheeseburger.  Then a hotdog.  Then a huge cinnamon roll.  It rapidly went downhill from there.
I did actually eat two extra portions of pizza - because cheese + sun + running = FUN!

Birthday girl begging to DNF at stop 3 - Ann Sather (unbeknownst to us at the time Alfredo  had already thrown up his veggie dog at stop 2)

I'm not going to lie....even I was loathing the next food stops.  It really felt like once we swallowed the last bite we were approaching the next one.  It was a great experience to go for a 29 mile run and not once think about the running part!

Overall, the formerly fat guys dominated.  Several of us (myself included) never approached the level of discomfort I had in mind.  In all, 3 people threw up (Melissa, Alfredo, Siamack).  Several people DNF'ed and only a few people finished the entire distance while eating all of the food - Ethan, Tony, Melissa (who was the only throw up and finish participant) Todd and myself.  

This was a great event that I would love for someone else to put on again!!  It was challngeing and fun.  We also got to work together and help each other out.  My favorite moment was watching Kat eat this HUGE eggroll.

She was in tears, dry heaving and still trying to eat while asking "why am I doing this?"  That was precisely the degree of suffering I was looking for.

So here's the lesson.....don't say it out loud unless you're going to do it!

PS:  A great video was made of our event by Tony Silvestri -

PPS: Our event was discussed in episode 188 of MarathonTalk

Monday, August 19, 2013


This weekend I had the opportunity to crew my friend Tony Cesario at the Leadville Trail 100 .  For those of you that don't know, "crewing" is basically standing in the dark or cold for hours with supplies, waiting for your runner to reach a checkpoint and caring to his every need.  We do it to give back, because it is very hard to run 100 miles all alone.

Waiting for runners at the first aid station

Kylia carrying in the gear

The Leadville 100 starts in Leadville Colorado which sits at altitude (10,152 feet).  It is one of the highest cities in the U.S.  Many people struggle with altitude and some even get altitude sickness.  It was very important for me to spend some time here running and crewing so that I could figure out how I do with altitude.  Obviously if I couldn't handle altitude I would have no hope of participating in the Hardrock 100.

I am happy to report that I did not struggle with the altitude at all.

The race itself, sometimes called the Race Across the Sky or the LT100 is a tough one.  It is one of only a few races that can qualify you to run the Hardrock 100, so I wanted to learn about it first hand, by being there. The race is huge - 1200 runners.  In my opinion too big and crowded for this place and this type of event.  The runners start in Leadville and run around 50 miles on roads, gravel roads and trails through Hope Pass at 12,600 feet.

Then they have to turn around and run another 50 miles back.  It is an extremely tough race at altitude, over mountains.  More than half of the people don't finish.  The entire 100 miles must be run in under 30 hours and there are strict cutoffs along the way.  Tony unfortunately was a victim of one of those cutoffs at mile 50.

I was very proud in all of my friends that participated, finish or not, and all of the people that helped crew or pace (run with a 100 miler after 50 miles to keep them safe and company).  I was lucky enough to see the winner Ian Sharman finish (16:30) as well as my friend Cory Feign.  I also saw a gentleman by the name of Hans-Dieter Weisshar finish his 116th 100 mile race at the age of 73.

Scott Jurek getting a drink

Jimmy Dean Freeman - Second Hundred in 3 Weeks

My runner - Tony Cesario with pacer Dave Hill

Shelly Cook and Alec Bath
Brian Gaines

When 30 hours is up you are no longer an official finisher.  You don't get the belt buckle.  It is strict.  As such, when a man crested the last hill with 5 minutes remaining the crowd went wild screaming for him to get to the finish line on time.  He made it with 2 minutes to spare and the help of hundreds of screaming people.  It was extremely emotional.  I can honestly say his finish was as epic as the winner's.  That's what makes 100 mile races Epic.  Check one out some day if you can!

Cory Feign finishing his first Leadville!

After the race I ran up and down the tallest mountain in the Rockies.  Well, almost.  I got to 13,300 feet and had to haul ass back to the bottom due to a hail and lightning storm.  I feel good about my ability to run at altitude and I now have a good idea of where I can train if I ever get into Hardrock.

My views from Mount Elbert (before the storm)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


My main running partner is Dovi, my 5ish year old Doberman Pinscher.
I rescued Dovi from the Illinois Doberman Rescue in 2010.  I still can't believe somone gave this beautiful dog up.  Dovi is the best friend I have ever had.  He's very large for a doberman, weghing about 100 pounds.  He's also pretty tall.  Best of all, he loves to run.  When I open up the "running sock drawer" he goes bananas!  He grabs a running shoe and rus up and down the hall in excitement.  If I do not take him because I am going to an event or race, he howls out the back window when I leave.
Dovi loves backpacking in the cooler temps
Dovi and one of his BFF's - Blue one of our foster dobermans

I usually bring some dog treats and hot dogs to reward him for good behavior on the run.  He knows all of my usualy routes and he firmly believes that it is his job to keep me safe on the run.  Although he gladly accepts invited guests, no one gets close without invitation.  His PR distance is 24 miles, although he could have gone further that day.  His biggest week was 60 miles.  Right now he's sittin at 625 or so miles for the year.

I have learned a lot about running from Dovi.  He doesn't care about pace or place.  He doesn't mind being passed.  He stops and looks around often and doesn't mind a walkin break.  Every once in a while he also remembers to stop and look around.  When I got Dovi I was still a road runner.  After spending some miles with him I decided I wanted to learn to run like Dovi.  Always smiling.  Always happy.

Dovi and Sarah
Dobermans make great running partners.  They are smart, loyal and protective.  They also have great endurance. with the exception of very hot days Dovi can generally outrun me.

If you are looking for a coach or a new best friend, considering adopting a Doberman!  there are always many available at the Illinois Doberman Rescue!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Why Hardrock 100

When I tell people about my ultimate goal of participating in the Hardrock 100 they often wonder why.  Let me tell you a little bit about this race.

The race is 100.5 miles long and takes place in Southern Colorado in the San Juan Mountains.  It is one of the hardest 100 mile races because it has extreme altitude and ridiculous amounts of climbing.  The race takes place at elevation.  The average elevation is 11,000 feet.   There are 13 passes along the course higher than 12,000 feet.

They give you 48 hours to finish, which is a lot longer than most 100 mile races (30ish hours on the average).  They do this for a reason....the race has 33,000 feet of vertical climb.  Think about climbing the Sears Tower.  22 times!

The main reason why this race is my ultimate goal is its beauty.  One of the many reasons I became interested in ultra-running is the opportunity to see places that other people seldom get to see.   You be the judge.

Finally, you get to kiss a big rock at the end if you cool is that?

So the course is hard.  Really hard.  To add insult to injury you have to run one of the other most difficult 100 mile races to qualify.  Next month I make my first attempt to do that at the Superior Trail 100, which I will tell you more about later.  One you complete a qualifying race you have to compete in a lottery with hundreds of other runners! 

Is it unrealistic to think that a road runner on the streets of Chicago could train for, qualify and ultmately get

Next week I am off to Leadville Colorado to crew and pace on of my running heroes, Tony Cesario in the Leadville Trail 100.  It is going to give me an opportunity to experiment more with running at altitude...something the urban-ultra runner doesn't get to do much.  Wish me luck!  I'm sure to have a report on that afterwards.

Monday, August 5, 2013

I Am and Addict

From my teen years till the time I reached the age of 20 I abused chemicals.  I was addicted to MORE.  Whatever the question was, the answer was more.  I have many theories on "why" I am an addict.  Bad things happend in my childhood.  I went through some hellish experiences.  At the end of the day I am not certain nor particlarly concerned about the "why."  All I know, is that I am.  And  always will be, an addict.

On my 21st birthday (ironic) I decided that chemicals were preventing me from moving forward with my life, so I decided to try and quit.  Only when I quit did I learn how addicted I really was.  The process of closing that door and moving forward to live life on life's terms and learn how to be comfortable in my own skin was very difficult.  Although I have not used any chemicals since that day (9/21/1992) it took me a long time to learn how to live differently.  Things got real, fast and I hope they stay that way.  I am grateful to everyone that helped me on that journey - from the people that I met that loved me until I could learn how to love myself - to my nieces who's very birth convinced me that there did indeed exist a power greater than myself.

Am I addicted to running?  A little.  I know I can run 1 mile.  I could never have one of any chemical I was addicted to.  I know I can take a day off of running, and, on occasion I take "one too many."  If I am addicted to running .....I am OK with that.

How did I quit?  I found some people that had what I wanted and asked them how they did it.  Then I took their suggestions.  Now, 20 years later, I have a life beyond my wildest dreams.  A life better then the life  I used to use over not having.