How I (Should Have) Trained for the Men’s Health Urbanathlon in Chicago

I filmed this video right after I completed the Men’s Health Urbanathlon in Chicago last fall.  It was a blast!   The following (below video) is the transcription.  Beware! Plenty of grammatical errors:)

Right now it is a few days after I have competed in the Urbanathlon up in Chicago.  I am in the office and just wanted to share a recap of how the race was and also a few tips of how I should have trained for the Urbanathlon. If you recall I really did any training other than my CrossFit workouts. Anyway, I just wanted to share my experience for anyone else who might be interested in competing in the next event so that they have a pretty good heads up what they are in store for.


mens health urbanathlon chicago

The Morning Of

The race was this past Saturday. The start time was 8 o’clock in the morning, the first wave at least. The weather was gorgeous. It was up in Chicago. I want to say it was almost 50-60 degrees around the beginning of the race, and throughout the entire race I ran in shorts and a T-shirt, Under Armour shirt. So, the weather could not have been any better. It was just fantastic, perfect racing weather for Urbanathlon. The race kicked off, and we started running. My buddy and I actually did not decide we were going to do it together, but we thought hey we kind of trained and were about the same caliber as far as running, so he and I started running together.

mens health urbanathlon chicago

We were just running through the streets of Chicago. It was just freaking amazing! As we were just walking or running, we were just kind of looking up and looking at all of the scenery of all of the buildings and all the architecture of Chicago, and it was just great. For somebody who hates running as much as I do, it was really good because it kind of allowed me to take my mind off of what I really was doing, running and beating the pavement.

mens health urbanathlon chicago

The Race Begins!

We were running up the roads, and we started heading toward Navy Pier, and the whole course was just ingenious. The people who had to actually map out the course and the whole logistics of having the whole thing set up you could tell put a lot of time into it. We were running up the road, and then all of a sudden we were crossing some bridge, and then we were turning right by Navy Pier going down a service road. Then we turned around in some covered parking garage, and then we came out on the south side of the pier which is kind of like the main boardwalk. That was about the 2-1/2 mile stretch, and then we hit our first obstacle. In this first obstacle we had to scale a big monster tire. It is really hard to remember everything in the obstacle because I was just so focused on trying to get through it, but I remember scaling a big monster tire, and then I had to climb up a platform. Then I had to do like a tire shuffle. The first obstacle was fairly easy. It was actually a lot shorter than I thought it was, a lot shorter than the race map had shown. They had shown that the tire shuffling portion was 4 times as long as it actually was. I am not sure what the reasoning on that was, but I did not mind.

mens health urbanathlon chicago

We hit that first obstacle, and we were sailing along – everything was going well. We then approached the second obstacle. I think we had to run another mile or so. This one actually was pretty tough. We had to scale I would say almost like 4-foot barriers, just high enough where we had to climb or shoot over it, and they would have like 3 in a row, so we would have to scale 3. Then they would have like these police barricades where we had to crawl under, so it was like up down, up down, up down. I want to say it like 8 different transitions of that, 3 barricades and 2 police barriers, and it was good. It was good enough to get us winded.

mens health urbanathlon chicago

5k in the Bag

After that point we had run almost 3 miles. I remember getting out of there thinking, “Wow. OK. That’s pretty legit. My heart rate’s up. Let’s get to it.” So we finished that obstacle, and we started heading south down Lake Shore Drive, running right next to Lake Michigan, and I was initially scared about this stretch because once again I hate running! I can’t stress enough how much I hate running! This particular stretch from obstacle 2 to obstacle 3 was I believe almost 2.75 miles, could be a little bit wrong, but I remember it was one of the longest stretches of just constant running, and I was worried that I would have to walk or I just could not handle it. Running right next to Lake Shore Drive and having the breeze coming off the lake – it was awesome!  Never once did we even walk. We just had a nice solid pace going. The breeze and the weather definitely helped, so it was cool.

mens health urbanathlon chicago

Look Out Below!

Then we approached the third obstacle. I am trying to remember everything, but I think the third obstacle they actually had was supposed to be running up and down cars, and then they had these really tall, the only thing I could call them is like steeple chases, and that is probably the incorrect term. They actually had to close off the cars because they were slippery, and people were falling. I think my wife was there taking pictures at that point in time, and she said that somebody actually fell through one of the back windshields, completely busted it out, and was all cut up, so it just was not a good scene. I missed that.

By the time we got there, they actually had closed off that portion, so I had to climb over I want to say once again it was 8 (I don’t know if 8 is the magic number) of these big steeple things that were about head level. I had to climb up, get over, and it was tough. Luckily people were helping each other out, the ones that were having a struggle. I know the first attempt, had I not locked my foot in on 1 of the side braces, I would not have made it. I was coming back over. I wedged my foot in there which probably was not recommended because I could have maybe broken my foot. Anyway, I got through that first one, and then I got the hang of it.

mens health urbanathlon chicago

mens health urbanathlon chicago

We finished that and started to keep going. I remember we ran a little bit, and then we went up through McCormick Place, basically just to go up the stairs and up on the outside deck and then down some stairs and through a tunnel. Then they had where we were supposed to do like the military crawl under a cargo net with some monkey bars. I want to say I was really surprised because when you looked at the map (if you go on the Urbanathlon website, you will see it), they had what looked like mostly military low crawl, walking on all fours under a cargo net, and then they had these monkey bars.

The monkey bars they had looked really, really long. The actual obstacle itself was 1 set of cargo nets, 1 set of monkey bars, and 1 more cargo net, and we were done. I thought it was weak personally. I was actually looking forward to the monkey bars – I thought it would be kind of cool. There were only like maybe 12 rungs on the monkey bars themselves. I thought there would be like 20 and maybe 4 sets of those. There was only 1. The cargo net was so loose and so high that you did not have to get on all fours. If you kind of bent over and got the net on your back, you could just walk low. If you got behind somebody who was tall, you could just ride underneath them, which I actually did on the second wave. It was kind of weak. I am not going to lie.

mens health urbanathlon chicago

Cramp!

We finished that and continued on heading towards Soldier Field (which is where there are the dreaded stairs that a lot of people talk about), I think I hit mile 7 right before Soldier Field came into play. For me, this is when it all went downhill. We hit mile 7, and I remember feeling this little cringe in my left calf, the beginning of a cramp. I remember just thinking, “Aw crap! Don’t do this to me.” I felt it, but then it kind of dissipated a little bit – it was not really that bad. Then, we had to run through some outdoor steps to get into Soldier Field. When we actually finally got in the stadium where we were going to begin the stair run, it got bottle necked. There were so many people in there. I am not sure if they didn’t anticipate that many people – I don’t know what the issue was. I remember we were standing there for at least 8-10 minutes just waiting to get started. We were kind of on the upper deck at that point in time. So, we went down, finally get through, hung a left, and ran up some stairs, and then we were kind of at the top, and then we were running on this back platform. Then we ran down a platform, and we were going through more stairs.

For me, that is when it started getting really bad. Every time I was running on an incline or a decline, my left calf really, really started to cramp up really bad. It was not so much bad on a flat surface, but incline or decline it was horrible. Imagine if you go to any type of sports stadium, how you are going up the ramps to get to your seats – we were running up and down those, trying to get to I assume the last part of the actual stair run, which was upper deck of Soldier Field.

So, finally we got there, and then once again it was all bottle necked. We were just going up and down stairs. We went up 1 set, down the set, up, and down, and that was it, but I tell you it freaking kicked my butt. At that point in time, I think we had crossed mile 8 somewhere, but maybe not. Somewhere about mile 7-1/2 in that whole stretch, my legs were just toast.

Anyway, we made it through that and got out of Soldier Field. My buddy had waited for me because I had stopped a few times to kind of try to stretch out my calves. Once we exited Soldier Field, I think I heard somebody say, “Hey there is about a mile and a half left.” So, we were like, “Alright! Let’s do this! Let’s finish this!” So, we started running together, and I don’t think I even made it like 200 meters, if that, and then my right calf started cramping up. I was like, “Oh come on! Really?!?! You’re really going to do this to me right now?” So, my left calf was cramping, my right calf was cramping. I had to kind of peel over to the side of the running road and just stretch out.

My buddy did not see me. He just kept going. He was looking for me, but I could tell he couldn’t see me. I was thinking he just needed to go and finish, not wait on me. I was trying to keep my calves stretched out, and started running around. Sure enough every 250 meters or so, they would just cramp up. Part of me was like,

“Man, just suck it up and just go!”

But, what started happening was my right hamstring started cramping up too. In my mind I was thinking, “Man, if my hamstring cramps up, I’m done, like I’m done. There is no more running. I may have to freaking hobble my way to get there.” I think at that point in time when I started feeling the hamstring go, I was less than a mile from the finish, I mean I was so freaking close. I was just like, “I gotta finish! I gotta finish!” I would still run as far as I could before both calves started to cramp up really bad, and then I started feeling the hamstring, and I would pull over and stretch it out, walk a little bit, and get going again.

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Finally, I was getting close to the finish line – I could hear the music – I could hear the people. The last obstacle had me climb over the back of cars, just on the trunk side. I had to climb over 3 cars. There was a huge bus that was draped over with a big cargo net that I had to climb over onto the top of the bus using the cargo net and then turn around and climb back down. After that there was the last 8 foot wall that we had to scale, and once I would cross that I would be home free.

So, I got there, I got to the cars, was getting ready to start the last obstacle. At that point in time, I didn’t tell you, but my right quadricep started to cramp up and lock up. Dear Lord, I just felt like, “Oh man!” at that point in time. Everything that could go wrong was going wrong. I was thinking,

Oh my gosh! Please, please just let me finish!

Part of me wanted to just kind of stretch it out right there just so I could finish it, but the other side of me was like everyone there is screaming and so pumped up, and I was like,

Screw this! I’ve just got to finish!

So, I just started jumping over cars and climbing up on the bus and got over. At that point in time I finished that, and I was trying to keep my quad loose – I was trying to jump over the wall. Finally I just said, “Screw it!” and just did it – just scaled it. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I got over the wall, sprinted to the finish line, crossed, and just felt so, so relieved that I had finally done it.

mens health urbanathlon chicago

mens health urbanathlon chicago

I cannot tell you how great of a feeling it was. My wife was there at the end. She was like, “How’re you feeling?” I was like, “Not good – not good at all! I am hurting bad!” I was standing there, trying to hydrate a little bit. They had a racer food section where we could get bagels and bananas and PowerAde Zero and everything we needed to rehydrate. I was chugging all that down, eating a banana, trying to get the cramping to go away. They also had a stretching area where we could stand in a line, and they had massage tables where people would stretch us out. I stood in line for maybe 15 minutes, and it was well, well worth it. I was so freaking tight. The guy even commented that, “Man, your hamstrings are really tight!” I was like, “Yeah I know! I know! It was cramping like a fool!”

mens health urbanathlon chicago

It was a blast!

Anyone who is considering doing the Urbanathlon, I highly, highly recommend it. It was one of the best things, one of the greatest accomplishments of my life, to do it and to finish it. I know differently I will run more prior to, and I will also run stairs. I will try to run a mile or 2, then run some stairs, and try to run a little bit after that. I think having those 2 things would be a good pre-training for next year because we already decided we are going to do it next year. If we could sign up today, I think we would have, but we made the commitment. We had a blast, and it was cool to get up to the city, get away for a little bit, compete, and just give it everything we had. So, if you are thinking about doing the Urbanathlon and you have more questions, hit me up, feel free to let me know. I just wanted to give you a recap of just how it was and how fun it was hopefully. If you are thinking about doing it, make it a goal for next year, 2011 Urbanathlon Chicago.

mens health urbanathlon chicago

I Finished!

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