2015 Bank of America Chicago Marathon

As I layed in the hotel bed next to my son – who kept me up most of the night – I rolled over and looked at the clock for what surely seemed like the thousandth time. In a few minutes the first of five alarms would sound alerting me that the day I trained five months for was finally here. I rolled out of bed at 4:30 a.m. and began my day.

11215769_10101188458402037_8163197270251738368_nAfter taking a quick shower to help wake up, I slowly began dressing in the days attire making every effort not to wake the kids. My wife woke up and helped make me breakfast – oatmeal with walnuts and fruit, a granola bar and a banana. Eating a ‘normal’ breakfast is very hard in a hotel room 1,000 miles from home with no microwave, refrigerator or even continental breakfast available.

As all smart runners do, I laid out all my gear and clothing the night before and triple checked for missing items. That way if I woke up late, I knew exactly what I needed. Fortunately that didn’t happen and I was able to take my time. I left the hotel room after a kiss from my wife and my early rising daughter and took a cab to the CARA VIP area at the Blu Aqua Radisson a few blocks north of the starting line.

After a quick cab ride, I arrived and entered the VIP area where my charity – Team Up with Autism Speaks had a designated area. Team members arrived quickly and we snapped as many photos as we could in the short time before the race started. It was great to meet people from all over the United States there supporting the same cause.wpid-fb_img_1444965155945.jpg I left the hotel at 6:30 a.m., one hour before the start of the race and walked the few blocks to the security checkpoint. My first mistake of the day was not leaving myself enough time to get through security without be rushed and having to jog to my corral. I made it through security and then had a rather long walk through a maze of fencing to my start corral.

Each corral was separated by different entrances guarded by no less than a dozen volunteers each checking and re-checking that you were allowed in that corral. After security, the long walk/jog and perhaps the use of wall (along with dozens of other men) I entered my corral with 10 minutes to spare before they locked the entrance.

I found my Nike+ Pace Team at the front of my corral and made my way to join them. As I settled my heart rate from the excitement and close call, I noticed people beginning to clap, cheer and whistle. I turned around and watched in awe as the wheelchair athletes made their way to the start line passing right next to where I was standing. The Star Spangled Banner was sung and it was almost time to begin.wpid-imag0878.jpgThe time is 7:30 on the nose when the elite runners begin and everything else happened so quickly. I crossed the starting line on my 26.2 mile journey at 7:32 a.m. The start was crazy – dodging volunteers and runners as everyone was jockeying for position. I knew I wasn’t about to win, but I had to be sure to stay with my pace team.

I find it hard to truly enjoy a race while running it. I can’t look around and take in the sights as I pass locations. If I did I would have been trampled! The beginning miles were a blur of emotions but the one thing I remember vividly was the smile on my face. I couldn’t get it off in fact – at least until later.

I made it halfway through the race in spectacular fashion crossing the timing mat in 1:34:21 – 39 seconds ahead of pace and running very consistently. It was great being able to spot my family in the crowd right at the 13-mile mark and waving to my wife and son. Knowing I had their support was crucial to accomplish my goal.

The back half of the race went about par for the course with me. I cramped! I apparently have still not figured out my issue, despite attempts to analyze and rectify whatever is causing this to happen. I trained adequately, I hydrated properly, I consumed carbs while running and even methodically took Salt Capsules to help prevent cramping. None of it mattered.

At miles 21 & 22 my pace slowed down and I lost sight of my pace team. By mile 23 the cramping in my right hamstring began – locking up my leg and freezing me on the course. A volunteer lent me his shoulder to rest on while I massaged my leg in an effort to get back in the race. I began moving but barely able to walk for what seemed like eternity, although in reality it was less than a minute. I finished the 23rd mile 51 seconds off pace and my troubles were just starting.

During miles 24 and 25 the cramping moved from my right hamstring to both quads, directly around my kneecaps. This wasn’t nearly as bad and I was still able to walk, just not run. The worse part was this was a part of the course with a lot of photographers snapping photos and mine did not turn out well. I looked like a hot mess. I was a hot mess as a I finished these two miles a total of three minutes off of pace. Mile 26 brought more disappointing moments as I just starting to jog again when my right hamstring decided to be mean and cramp again right in front of the 800 meters to go sign – and right in front of the final section of spectators cheering.

I crossed the finish line of my third marathon in 3:17:34. I missed my goal of 3:15:00 by only 2:34. After making my way through the finish chute and collecting my medal, a heat sheet, food, water and of course a beer, I sat on a curb and quickly lost my emotions for a short time. In the immediate aftermath of finishing the Chicago Marathon I was disappointed in myself. I was disappointed that the months of hard work I had put in and to come so short of my goal. My goal was not unreasonable or unattainable. It simply did not happen. I left the finishing area and slowly made my way to the runner re-unite area to see my wife and children. My wife had a big hug and kiss for me and it was great to be able to take my medal from my neck and put it around my son; after all, he was my motivation for running with Team Up!IMG_1624

After a week of recovery and time to reflect on the race in general I’m extremely happy with my performance. I took 18 minutes and 18 seconds off my previous personal best time and in the process, proved to myself I am able to accomplish amazing things. Last year I wanted to run a 3:30 marathon and fell 6 minutes short. This year I set my bar higher and achieved higher. It just goes to show you will never know your limits unless you push yourself to them.”

Chicago – Day 2

I hope you enjoyed reading about our day at the Chicago Expo in yesterday’s post. Today I’ll be recapping what the family did the day before the race in the Windy City.

We started our morning by having family arrive at our hotel from out-of-state. They came to help show support, spend time with us and help Jen with both of the kids the morning of the race on the busy streets of Chicago. After getting the kids ready, a day bag packed with essentials, we headed out towards Grant Park and Michigan Avenue.

One of Jen’s sisters took a train over from Michigan and it arrived near Millennium Park so we arranged to meet her near the Bean. Parker thought it was the coolest thing ever and enjoyed running around and checking out his reflection.



After hanging out for a little bit we made our way up Michigan Avenue stopping in a few stores along the way. We also stopped at Nike Downtown to take one last look at the Marathon gear but decided against purchasing anything else. After a few hours of walking around it was time to start making our way back towards our hotel to get ready for the Team Up! dinner.

Jen’s sister had agreed to hang out with the kids while we attended the dinner so we left them at the hotel to play. We decided that grabbing a taxi was probably the best option as we were short on time and had already walked quite a bit that day. A few minutes later we were arriving at Maggiano’s Little Italy. Team Up! had reserved a room downstairs for all of the Marathon participants. There was a full buffet consisting of salad, rolls, two different pastas and fruit. We spent some time chatting with the Autism Speaks staff and other participants. At the end of the dinner there was a presentation as well as final instructions for the race day regarding a team photo and gear check.

thS7GJHM5COnce the dinner was finished we headed back to the hotel to meet up with the kids again. We had done enough walking for the day and agreed that we would just hang out in the room for the rest of the night. I laid out all of my gear for the morning to be sure that I had everything.


After double and triple checking my bag for the morning it was time to set a million alarms and get some rest for the big day.


Chicago Marathon Race Expo

Welcome to Chicago!


The whole family traveled to Chicago to watch me participate in this years marathon. With two kids, we decided that even though it’s harder on us driving, we would drive through the night. The kids were great and slept for the most part – Parker always seems to wake up when we hit Toronto and loves watching all the big trucks pass by. We pulled into Chicago just after 10:30 a.m. local time and made our way straight to the McCormick Place Convention Center for the race expo.image

Upon walking into the expo, Jen and I realized we were now at a World Marathon Major event. We’ve loved all the smaller races we have done and their expo’s, but this was absolutely huge. With so much to look at and buy, we made our way straight to the official Nike merchandise to see what I wanted to buy to commemorate the weekend. I’m not rich so I did not go crazy. I purchased one short sleeve shirt and then placed my order for the ‘Finisher’ shirt that I wanted. It arrives at the house today!

Our next stop was to find the Team Up! with Autism Speaks table and meet Alyssa, Field Development Manager and our Team Up! Coordinator for the event. All of the staff of the Chicago chapter of Team Up! were amazing to meet and talk with. They each have a passion for the charity and it is evident after speaking with them for only a few minutes. We shared stories, picked up some cheer swag for the wife and children and made final arrangements for the team dinner the following afternoon.

imageAfterwards, it was on to packet pickup! This is always the most exciting part of an expo for a runner because as soon as you hold that bib in your hands, it suddenly becomes very real. The check-in procedures were very straight forward, lines were short and quick and in no time at all I was at the counter receiving my bib – B 1278. I would be leaving the starting line in the second corral, a mere three minutes after the elites. To bad I wouldn’t finish three minutes after them also!

Finally, after getting all the important stops out of the way, it was time to enjoy the expo. With over 200 vendors on site, there was a lot of running gear to look at – clothes, shoes, electronics, nutrition, hydration, recovery, and of course other races to sign up for. We made our way around with the children seeing what we could and purchasing a few items from our favorites along the way. We made sure to stop by Nuun and take advantage of their crazy special picking up a couple of tubes and a free water bottle. Jen absolutely loves Sparkly Soul headbands and she made sure I purchased her a few new ones for her collection. Finally, our biggest and most expensive purchase of the day was at Garmin where we got Jen a new Vivoactive. Her new watch was a thank you for supporting me and dealing with my crazy training and long hours away from the house and the family. I hope she uses it as motivation to accomplish her first marathon in Chicago next year.

We also were sure to make our way to the Nike Running Club so I could sign up for a Nike+ Pace Team. It’s no surprise that I had big goals for this race and to prove it, I signed up for a pace team that would give me a 25+ min personal best – a 3:10. imageRunning a 3:10 marathon means averaging a 7:15 min/mile pace which would be one minute faster per mile than my previous best time of 3:35:52. The only other time I ever used a pace group was at this years Buffalo Half Marathon where I set a new personal best by 6:34. I was hoping the pace group would prevent me from going out to fast with all the excitement and keep me where I wanted to be. Plus, a little extra motivation from random strangers with the same goal never hurts.

After long day of driving and lots of walking around the expo on little sleep with children who were becoming increasingly cranky by the minute, we decided to call it a day and head to the hotel.




Chicago Training Complete – A Statistical Comparison

IMG_1554The 2015 Chicago Marathon is over and I’m now back in New York preparing for the NYC Marathon on November 1st. Before turning my full attention to New York, I want to review and relive everything that got me to the starting line in Chicago beginning with my training.

To do that, I thought I would take a statistical look at how this training regimen compared to my first two attempts at 26.2 miles. I’ll only be examining a few criteria points – number of training runs, distance covered, time spent training and calories burned.

The first marathon I ran was the Lake Placid Marathon in June of 2014. Training for this race consisted of the following:

Count: 42 Activities

Distance: 314.08 mi

Time: 45:03:18 h:m:s

Calories: 35,442 C

I then ran the Empire State Marathon in October of 2014 as my second attempt at 26.2. Training for that race consisted of the following:

Count: 37 Activities

Distance: 258.58 mi

Time: 33:41:24 h:m:s

Calories: 29,009 C

And finally, my training for the 2015 Chicago Marathon:

Count: 103 Activities

Distance: 826.14 mi

Time: 109:02:58 h:m:s

Calories: 82,056 C

I decided to crunch some numbers. I compared my previous personal best (Lake Placid) training cycle to the recently completed Chicago training cycle.  The difference is astonishing! While training for the Chicago Marathon, my:

  • Distance increased 263%
  • Number of runs increased 245%
  • Time spent training increased 242%
  • Calories burned increased 232%

The support and encouragement I received from my family made a huge impact on my training. I was able to complete over 90% of my planned training mileage. I had a few goals for this race and the first was to get to the starting line healthy. I’m happy to report that I accomplished that goal.

Stay tuned in tomorrow as I continue recapping everything Chicago!

Time to Start Packing – Chicago Here I Come

Autism Speaks Marathoner Spotlight

“I have been a runner since I was young. I became a long distance runner only a few years ago. I ran my first marathon last year the week I turned 30. The one thing I remember vividly about that race was being able to cross the finish line with my son Parker. Immediately after receiving my medal that day, I decided to give it to Parker, thus starting a little family tradition. I feel privileged to be able to give my son medals I receive. When I can, I let him go up and receive them on my behalf. The look on his face is priceless and I cherish those moments immensely. Running is something Parker, who was diagnosed with Autism this spring, loves too.

I am honored to be running the 2015 Chicago Marathon representing Team Up and Autism Speaks. I choose to partner with Team Up not only for my son, but also for all the children my wife worked so closely with for years as a Teaching Assistant in an ABA classroom. Her devotion, along with other men and women I know, to the children they teach is amazing. Their selflessness and dedication influenced my decision.DSC_0046

I look forward to the 11th of October. I look forward to the fall air and cool morning, Chicago streets packed with thousands of runners, and the roar of family, friends and strangers cheering us on. I look forward to representing an outstanding charity. Mostly, I look forward to the opportunity to take my medal and give it to my son. It means more to me around his neck than it ever will hanging on my wall.”


Well folks, they say all good things must come to an end, and I’m in the final days of preparation for the 2015 Chicago Marathon. I’ve tested my physical limits, then pushed them further; I’ve hit my wall and broken through; I was beaten down, bit (literally), banged up and sore but I ultimately survived. Here is the recap of week 17:

  • Monday – Extra Rest Day
  • Tuesday – 6.00 mi. @ 7:20 pace
  • Wednesday – 8.00 mi. @ 7:24 pace
  • Thursday –  6.00 mi. @  8:32 pace
  • Friday – Rest Day
  • Saturday – Rest Day
  • Sunday –  10.00 mi. @ 7:42 pace

Weekly Total = 30.00 miles

On to Week 18!!

I only have  15 miles this week before the big day, just enough to stay loose and keep the blood flowing for recovery. We leave for Chicago Thursday evening and plan to drive through the night with our two small kiddos. We will hit up the expo on Friday right after getting into town and I will try to get in a short jog as well to stretch my legs after the long drive. Saturday we plan to meet up with family coming to support me and then may take the kids to the either the Lincoln Park Zoo or the Shedd Aquarium in the morning. By afternoon, its back to the hotel and relaxing before the early morning wake-up call. To follow along on and see updates from Chicago, be sure you’re following us.

Twitter: @TravisDiPalma ; @2HalfsBlog

Instagram:  taleof2halfs

I will see you all in Chicago!

Training Recap – Week Sixteen

Days are fading quickly around here, both in duration and number. Runs are on average shorter and the intensity is down slightly. I have put the work in and now I’m relaxing and recovering prior to my race in Chicago. It definitely became more “real” this week with the arrival of my Participant Guide and Bib Pickup Ticket.

Here is the recap of my week:

  • Monday –  Skipped Run (a.m.) / 4.00 mi. @ 9:12 pace (p.m.)
  • Tuesday – 10.00 mi. @ 7:55 pace
  • Wednesday – Extra Rest Day
  • Thursday –  10.01 mi. @  7:15 pace
  • Friday – Rest Day
  • Saturday – 12.00 mi. @ 7:49 pace
  • Sunday –  8.00 mi. @ 7:54 pace

Weekly Total = 44.01 miles

Am I crazy?

I think the answer is yes! Who in their right mind spends hunting season running? Deer season opened up and my motivation to run, well it ran into the woods. If you can’t find me, I’ll be in the woods looking for it – and a deer.

What to expect next week?

Week 17 will be my final full week of training before traveling to Chicago and continues the taper by dropping to 38 miles. The only double digit run next week is my long run on Saturday of 10 miles.

12 more days till Chicago – I’m getting nervous!

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