Tag: marathon

Spidermonkey of the Week – Michelle Moore


by Michelle Moore

I grew up playing soccer from the age of 5 through high school. Naturally, that makes me a runner…right? If I needed more proof, it would be that my college days allowed me to play soccer for fun; then I moved to Chicago in 2000…found a soccer team and got involved again. Around the same time, I decided to take up running 5k and 10ks. In 2001, I made the leap from 10ks to my first marathon…see I AM a runner! Training for the Chicago Marathon was a much more daunting experience than I had anticipated. And, after my experience in 2001 (then twice in 2007 and 2009), I decided that marathons are for crazy people (sorry Vanessa).

I watched a friend compete in the Chicago Triathlon in 2002, and told myself “now this is something I can get behind.” So, in 2003 I decided it was time to try a new sport. I never really “learned” how to swim. I mean, if you call your mom dropping you in the pool and saying “swim to me” while you can clearly see her backing up because your eyes are wide open under water – then I guess I “learned.” But, I’m not a swimmer. Biking was also not my strong suit. See, I even called it “biking” at one point. My first bike (a Trek 7100 hybrid) was what I used for the triathlon for three straight years – yep, even put aero bars on that bad boy because I thought it would “help” me go faster. Not sure if it was the machine or the engine at fault there…likely both. I told myself that all I had to do was get through the first two legs of the race, and then I’d be running. Something I was comfortable with! Hmm, not so much. Wow, running after swimming and biking sure was a LOT harder than I thought. What keeps me going 99% of the time is the DetermiNation program through the American Cancer Society. While I work on the program as my real job, I’ve been running and fundraising to fight cancer since 2005. It makes all the training and racing that much more worth it.

It wasn’t until 2010 that I attempted my first group ride. Having Mark in my life, who is very much immersed into the cycling world, I figured it was inevitable that someday I’d give it a whirl. And, all my triathlete friends kept telling me how much group riding would help me. So I went on my first group ride in September 2010, and to say I was scared was an understatement. I stayed at the back as I was told to do, and I was totally alone back there. A little while after the ride started a guy rode up next to me, who was kind enough to talk to me most of the way up to Highland Park – which was nice because it took my mind off the fear I had of being within inches of someone’s rear wheel. I later learned that this guy’s name was “Castro.” At some point along the way the pace increased and somehow I found myself in the middle of the pack, next to the curb. I hated it and loved it at the same time. I was terrified of being next to the curb because I all I could think about was hitting a pothole and crashing. Nevertheless, I made it to the coffee shop, and back home…and thought my legs were going to fall off. But, I was hooked! Enough to try a few more before the season ended.

Gaper’s Block Half Acre Crits!

The next summer Vanessa and Dean came to a party I hosted, and Vanessa and I spent a lot of time talking about the girl’s rides. I finally joined the ladies in the middle of August. I got dropped like third period French the first few times, but the one time I stayed with the group to Tower Road, I knew I was hooked. Unfortunately, I joined the rides too late in the year, because I only made it to four or five before they were over. I also spent more time understanding the larger group rides, and trying to stay with the group the entire way to Highland Park. I very quickly learned that if I start at the back of the group, I’ll end up alone on that sprint up to Tower Road.

It wasn’t until the chili cook off in November 2011 when Vanessa and Dean asked me if I wanted to join the team. I had joined so many group rides that I already felt like part of it, so I figured why not make it official.
2012 was a year of firsts for me. I decided to try racing crits. My first was Gapers Block, and I was terrified. A few ladies from the team (Kristi Hanson, Kelly Clarke, Katie Iserman, Sarah Rice – and I know I’m forgetting a few – sorry!) as well as Mark Z and Drew took us all on a ride down to the site of where Gapers is held. We spent some time riding the course, practicing corners, sprints, etc. The knowledge and experience on this team is remarkable. I knew I had a lot to learn, but being with this group that day made me realize how lucky I was to have found a team that is willing to take an entire Sunday to “train” me for my very first race. I’ve watched crits thinking those people are crazy, but then when I actually raced at the end of March, I was blown away. Literally. Blown off the back of the pack and finished alone on day one. But, as I was taught, I got back on my bike for day two. Much better. Bike racing is quite fun, and easier, when you can stay with the pack. I finished somewhere in the middle, and came back for my third and final day. Again, I finished mid pack. Not too shabby for a first timer.

Lawrence, KS!

It was enough to make me sign up for the Lincoln Park Crit the next month, where things didn’t go well. I crashed, took out another girl, but was able to get back on my bike and finish. I was pissed, hurt and scared to ride close to anyone again. So I stayed off my bike for the next month. But then I had heard about the Tour of Lawrence, and having gone to school there, I wanted to join that trip. So, I trained, and caravanned to my alma mater where we all had an excellent time, albeit the insanely hot temps…and Hayes getting wasted alone in the hotel “pool.”

This year has been completely amazing for me as a cyclist. I still run and take part in triathlons; I even coach running and triathlon programs through Chicago Endurance Sports. Triathlon will always be a part of me, and in turn, so will running. I have had the opportunity to meet two of the greatest icons in the triathlon world at some of the races I’ve competed in (Chrissy Wellington and Craig Alexander).

Chrissy Wellington!

Craig Alexander!

Being a Spidermonkey has given me the confidence and motivation to get on my bike 3-4 days a week and push myself harder. I found myself on so many group rides (and many more girls rides, heck even a few Wednesday night rides) this year that some of my training partners were upset I wasn’t attending Tuesday morning spin class. Being on the road with the girls for two hours is WAY better than a 60 min spin class. I was able to knock out my fastest 5k time ever, and I owe that to my group training with this team. I even had the best triathlon to-date (well the bike portion anyway) – again, due to being a Spidermonkey.

Yes, Spidermonkeys Rock!

Every time I put on my Spidermonkey kit, I feel a sense of pride. I see the way other groups acknowledge us when were out on the road, and how well respected every member of the team is. I even wore my kit to spin class one day and all my tri friends were like “oh is that your cycling team?” I smiled and said, “yes, yes it is.”

Ps. To this day, I still fear those little curbs a bit so it’s best if you just let me ride on the outside of the pack. :-)

Finishing is Winning by Dean Okun


Looking back, the reasons I decided to run a marathon are somewhat fuzzy. It was clearly a snap decision.  Pretty sure I just opened my big mouth and said something stupid like “anyone can run a marathon”.  Problem was, several people heard me say that, since I was on a Spidermonkey Saturday ride.  One of those people was Josh Green, who I believe then said, “if you do it, I’ll do it”.  Now who’s the idiot? 

I wish I had good reasons, like a desire to challenge myself, to do something out of the ordinary or to find out whether I had the courage and stamina (both physical and mental) to accomplish it.  I think I just wanted to get a cool medal and one of those oval 26.2 bumper stickers.  I had no idea the journey I was about to start….but thankfully I had Josh with me!

Having Vanessa in my life has many benefits, especially when it comes to having a running expert in your corner…and one of the most encouraging people I have ever known.  She was so excited when I decided to run a marathon.  She put a training schedule together for Josh and I, gave us advice on everything from where to run and how to dress.  By all accounts Vanessa is an expert marathon runner.  Having run Boston twice and fourteen marathons in total…she knows what works and what doesn’t.  We were in good hands.

Josh and I decided to run our short runs (tues, wed, thurs) on our own, and do our long runs on the weekend together.  Our first run together in the 18 week training program was a 5 mile run!  We ran 9:15’s and couldn’t believe how far 5 miles was!  I had been running the Burger and Beer fun runs with Universal Sole and ran a few 5K runs, but I had not really run more than 200 Yards (yes back in high school it wasn’t metric yet) in 30 years. My body protested loudly: Joints popped, muscles squealed, tendons frayed.  Being a cyclist was not helping!

After our first double digit run together, Vanessa made pancakes for us. The following week, Stewart treated us to Lox and Bagels! (the bagels were even cut into stars of David, just for me :)).  We were so lucky with the Chicago weather, we thought most of our runs would be in the cold and snow, but the weather was amazing.  I would suffer on the 15 mile run, Josh did amazing.  Josh would suffer on the 16 mile run, I smiled the whole day.  We helped each other through the bad days.  We both suffered through the 18 mile run.  And then anxiety set in.  “How am I going to run 26.2 if I could barely make it home on the 18?”.  Advice and encouragement came pouring in.  “Trust your training and the power of the taper!”  Josh and I did the work, over 250 miles of training!  I lost 8lbs…Josh couldn’t afford to lose any weight!!!!  The training was hard.  It took away time from many of the things I love, like riding with the Spidermonkeys on a warm day in December and lifting weights at the Lakeview Y (my home away from home).  But we did it!  We were ready!!

With a delicious pasta dinner in Phoenix behind us, we got to bed early.  Tomorrow would be a big day!  Stewart and Vanessa dropped Josh and I off one block from the start line.  Crowds, music and it was 50 degrees out!  The day was finally here.  After a half hour delay, we crossed the start line with the 9:30 pace group.  We trained at that pace and faster, so we felt confident to try to stay with them.  We were excited to be running with so many people as most of our training runs were very lonely. This was exciting.  Vanessa and Stewart had laid out a plan to see us at mile 4, 13, 19 and the finish.  Every mile there was a band playing, water stop and cheerleaders.  It was perfect.  Mile 4 was so exciting!  Mike and Rebecca were with Stewart and Vanessa cheering!  Dressed in Spidermonkey gear, holding bright colored signs, they were easy to spot in the crowd of people.  We shed some extra clothing, gave and got some hugs and kisses…and away we went.  At mile 5 it all started to break down for me.  A CRAMP in my abdomen.  I’ve had them before on training runs and can usually work through it in a mile or two.  Not today.   At mile 12 I had to do one of the hardest things I have ever done…ask Josh to leave me.  I needed to suffer alone and I was slowing the pace down drastically.  I didn’t want to hold him back.  He asked if there was anything he could say to help me…I said no.  I then said, “don’t worry, I won’t quit!”.  Off he went.  Ricky Bobby, my wingman was off…I would miss him.

Best Cheer Section Ever!

Vanessa was anxiously waiting for me at the halfway point.  Concerned that I was not with Josh.  I was walking when she saw me.  I was struggling, both mentally and physically.  Having a cramp caused me to slow my pace, causing me to run differently, causing blisters on the balls of my feet.  Everything started going wrong.  I was now in a mental battle with myself.  I broke down in tears when I saw Vanessa.  The frustration of having trained so hard and having such a hard day was difficult to handle.  Vanessa used everything in her arsenal of encouragement to help me!!!  I finally turned to her and said “I hate you!”  I hate you for knowing me better than I know myself.  Knowing that quitting was not an option.  Knowing that pain is temporary and quitting is permanent.  I went on! I can’t explain the feeling really.  It wasn’t pain. I felt numb from my knees, up through my legs.  I couldn’t tell you how I was still moving, but as Vanessa said, “just keep moving!” I have never been in such an intense, psychological battle with myself in my life.  I just kept telling myself what Vanessa said “just keep moving”.  You can stop forever once you cross the finish.  And NEVER run again.

Vanessa must have been so anxious after seeing me like that…and would now wait for me at mile 19.  As I turned the corner at 19, I had a smile on my face.  I had worked through the mental battle and visualized myself crossing the finish line and getting that AWESOME medal.  And my blisters had EXPLODED (this is a good thing). She was so relieved.  I continued to try to pick up my pace, but each time I did, the cramp returned.  So I accepted that I would not hit any sort of time goal and simply concentrated on finishing. 

Finishing is WINNING!

I ran across the finish line with fists pumping and screaming with joy!  I was humbled and hobbled.

The best part of the day wasn’t actually finishing the race; it was finding Vanessa, Josh and Stewart at the end, waiting for me.

Completion!  Completing a marathon has taught me what I am made of…and the result is comforting!  I may or may not do that again, but I will always cherish the accomplishment and the journey (with Josh).

Now lets go ride a bike!!!!

Check out more pictures here!

Finishing is WINNING!

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