Big Weekend

I hope your three-day weekend has been awesome. Mine has been pretty cool—my brother is in town on his way back through from Hawaii and we’re doing some important hanging out and such. But this is also something of an epic weekend, with a bunch of beginnings and endings going on.

  • Tonight at ComedySportz is the finale of Season 8 of Impress These Apes. It’s been a great eight weeks, with tons of great performances from everyone. Will anyone be able to knock Trevor off his first place perch? (Probably not.) After last week’s drama, will Steven even show up? (Probably.) Will Cruise Director and Stewart the Steward have to go back to the deserted island? (Narrative is not this show’s strong suit.)
  • It’s not like I’ve been sitting around all summer, but after Grandma’s Marathon in June, I’ve been more swim and bike focussed—I hadn’t gone more than 6 miles in any one run since then. Yesterday I got out for a 12 miler, which puts me back on track for my goal in six weeks.
  • I’ve long followed a general principle here of “don’t blog about work”. But tomorrow I start co-teaching a class at Columbia College called “Blogging: Beyond the Basics”. So, for the next 15 weeks it seems like it will be at least a little appropriate to blog a bit about what we’re blogging about.

Running for Myself and Others

I’ve got one more big athletic event this year: the Chicago Marathon. For me, it’ll be a long-time goal finally realized: the Chicago Marathon was the first running goal I ever set myself and back in 2007 I started the marathon but was unable to finish.

But while I’m running the race for my own reasons, I’m trying to do something for others as well and so I’m doing something I’ve never done before with a race: I’m signed up with a charity partner and I’m fund-raising for Misericordia Home, a residence and network of services for people with developmental disabilities. There’s a lot going on in the world and a lot of great causes out there, but Misericordia is, for me, a very local cause—their headquarters is just a short run from my house.

My goal is to raise $1000 for Misericordia—if we raise $1200, I get a big cookie from Misericordia’s great bakery and I’ll definitely share :-)

Check out the little widget to the right to check my progress and click the big green button to add your own donation. Thanks!

Chicago Triathlon Triple 2014

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All photos from the SuperSprint by Erica

Today I completed the Chicago Triathlon Triple Challenge for the second time—doing all three distances of the Chicago Triathlon in two days. The first time was in 2012 and completing that, albeit with pretty bad knee pain, is what made me think I could do an Ironman. Do that was my training focus last year and since the Chicago Tri was two weeks before Ironman Wisconsin, I only did the SuperSprint as a sort of triathlon warmup. I didn’t want to risk injury or anything by doing the longer distances so close to my big event.

The Triple Challenge is a fairly niche thing. This year there were 150 entrants and only 104 finishers. When I was going to look at my results in 2012, I noticed that there was listed a second listing for the Triple that only had two names listed—the Triple Mountain Bike Challenge. The Triathlon in general has a number of specialty divisions that you can compete in instead of the usual age groups. There’s the Parathletes, First Responders, Clydesdale and Athena (athletes over certain weights), and there’s the Mountain Bike division, which requires tires over 1.75”. And there were only two finishers in the Triple-Mountain Bike in both 2012 and 2013. So, I figured, if I did the Triple Challenge in the Mountain Bike division, as long as that trend continued, no matter how badly I did I’d still place. I’d “podium”, as they say, which is not something I expect to do in pretty much any race. I’m an endurance athlete, not a fast athlete.

So this year I signed up for the Triple. There wasn’t anywhere on the form to sign up for the Mountain Bike division, but I emailed the registration info address and they said that they had moved me to that division. And I started training. Which is to say, I trained over the winter and the spring mostly for Grandma’s Marathon in June, with an occasional cross-training swim thrown in, and then I switched my focus to swimming to train for the Point to LaPointe at the start of this month. I put 1.9” tires on my mountain bike and… rode it to work a couple days a week. I don’t think I rode more than 10 miles in any one leg all summer. So I’ve been feeling a little undertrained.

And then they started announcing changes to the Chicago Tri. They changed the bike route—moving the turn-around north to Hollywood and taking out the second Lake Shore loop for the International distance and replacing it with new routes through Lower Wacker and the McCormick Bus Lane. That was interesting, but didn’t affect me too much (though actually it adds about a mile to the Sprint bike distance—I can’t actually find the exact distance listed*).

And they swapped the order of the distances—the Sprint had always gone first, followed by the International, and then the Pros last. That had never seemed to make sense—a couple of years ago a professional was taken out of the race by an accident with a very slow amateur still out on the course. So this year the Pros would go first, followed by the International and then the Sprint. That seemed to make sense for the Triple, but then when I saw the schedule I got worried. The Triple would be the first amateur athletes to depart at 6:15 for the International and then we’d be the last wave to leave at 10:15 for our Sprint. And the finish line is 1.5 miles from the swim start. My best time for the International was 3:51, so if I matched that, I’d only have 10 minutes to get back to the swim start and into goggles and swim cap, if not wet suit. If I showed up late, I doubt they’d let me start—they’d probably already be tearing down the equipment. I started worrying over the last couple weeks whether I’d be able to finish the Triple at all.

But there was some good news as well. The Triathlon organizers knew that they had made things more difficult for Triples and took some steps to alleviate them. Two race officials were “Triple Concierges” and one of the things they handled for us was “Swim Valet”—transporting a bag we left after our first swim leg to the swim start, so our swim gear would be waiting for us there and we could check our first run leg gear into gear check at that time. (That meant we had to have a second set of running gear, but that’s not a big deal.)

The swim was really rough—the water was the choppiest that I’ve ever seen Monroe Harbor. The Ohio Street Beach swim lane gets pretty choppy sometimes, especially down near the more open water, but Monroe is very sheltered. But I guess my Point to LaPointe training was good for something, because I finished the swim in about 35 minutes, which is much faster than I usually swim a mile. (My time on the official record says 41 minutes, but that’s because your “swim” time includes the run back to transition.) Oh, and at our course talk they were bragging that they did a cleanup of the swim route with a special sweeper boat to get rid of garbage. I don’t know if the heavy rain on Saturday interfered with that boat or if the rain brought it in, but there were huge mats of lakeweed all along the swim.

The first segment of the bike was great. I flew up Lake Shore Drive. And I always forget, when it really seems like I’m biking much faster than I expect, it’s invariably because of a tail wind. And indeed, when I turned around at Hollywood, I immediately ran smack into a headwind. But I was still making OK time and I was heartened because the Wacker section of the ride would be out of the wind. It was, though it also adds some interesting challenges to the ride. There are now a lot more u-turns to the route than before, and the first second of the Wacker segment is a long downhill, which you of course pay for with the climb back up. But it was neat to fly through the tunnels and nifty to get to ride on the usually private McCormick Bus Lane.

At the start of the run I felt great and the math told me that if I did easy 10-minute-miles I’d finish with 30 minutes to make it back to the swim start for the next race. The day did start heating up rapidly while I was running, but it was easy to knock out some 10-ish-minute-miles and I made it back with plenty of time. Well, with exactly enough time. I got my medal, grabbed a banana and a gatorade, and started walking. I managed to catch the shuttle trolley that takes you back to transition, but I’m not sure it was more helpful than just jogging over, because it over-shoots for this purpose, taking you all the way back to Monroe, when the swim start is at Harrison. But I made it back to gear check with 5 minute to spare, got into my wet suit, and joined my pink capped peers for the final wave of the day.

The second race was harder than the first, even though it’s only half the length and I was taking it pretty easy—going for the finish rather than time. The water was still very choppy and in my tired state it was pretty hard to stay on course. The bike had the same headwind issues and I was fighting calf cramps most of the way. And I walked about half the short run (it’s just a 5K!). But I finished! And was greeted by the Triple Concierges with gatorade and a special Triple finishers shirt. And I when I asked them if they knew how many mountain bike finishers there had been in the Triple, they said “oh, I didn’t know there was a Triple Mountain Bike division this year.”


On the results page of the 2014 Chicago Triathlon, there is only one Triple listed. And I finished 103 out of 104 finishers. But…


First in my Division. So, I did it! I’m a winner. Of what, I’m not sure. But a winner of winning, for sure.

Official Results:

Triple Challenge
Total time: 6:57:34
Overall place: 103 / 104
Gender place: 73 / 73
Division place: (Male Mountain Bike): 1 / 1

Time: 51:11
Overall Place: 269 / 718
Gender Place: 205 / 332
Division Place (M40-44): 27 / 44
Swim: 11:35
Bike: 23:20
Run: 16:16
Swimrank: 363
Bikerank: 252
Mph: 15.9
Runrank: 271

Time: 2:34:13
Overall Place: 1998 / 2132
Gender Place: 1119 / 1170
Age Group Place (M40-44): 150 / 153
Division Place (Male MTB): 41 / 44
Swim: 27:16
Trans1: 12:36
Bike: 1:04:09 Trans2: 8:43
Run: 41:27
Swimrank: 1776
Bikerank: 1839
Mph: 14.2
Runrank: 1840

Time: 3:32:08
Overall Place: 2110 / 2623
Gender Place: 1529 / 1773
Age Group Place (M40-44): 217 / 246
Division Place (Male MTB): 6 / 13
Swim: 41:54
Trans1: 6:55
Bike: 1:32:20
Trans2: 7:12
Run: 1:03:46
Swimrank: 2024
Bikerank: 2262
Mph: 16.1
Runrank: 1605

* I realized that in my results they give me my avg bike mph and my time and that’s simple math to come up with the distance. I get 15.17 miles, which is borne out by my Strava record of the route. That’s up from 12.5 miles (20K), so that’s a little bit more than a miles, which is what they had been saying.

Hopping Dead

Michael Rooker and WOWMS

Yesterday I got to do one of those little cosplay adventures on the WGN Morning News that our friends at the World of the Weird Monster Show facilitate—I was Herschel from the Walking Dead in a little tableau they created for Michael Rooker (Walking Dead, Guardians of the Galaxy, Mallrats, 600 other movies). And this time I managed to rope Jin into the madness. And we had a human baby as a prop.

As I’ve often heard about actors who play a lot of bad guys, Michael Rooker turned out to be a really nice guy. He hung out with us and the zombies (made up by Justine Losoya/GoreJus Makeup) for much longer than he needed to, taking photos and telling stories.

You can see three videos from the morning on the WGN site.

More photos after the jump:

Point to LaPointe

Point to LaPointe finish line

This is the finish line of the Point to LaPointe open water swimming race. The start is that little town on the opposite shore, two miles away across Lake Superior. So yeah, it’s pretty badass.

We can’t even remember where we heard about the swim originally, but it’s been on our wishlist for years. After I did 2.4 miles in the Ironman last year, it seemed a lot more achievable, though there are challenges to the race in addition to the distance. The coldness of Lake Superior, for one—the lake was only ice-free a week into June. And it’s a straight shot across to the island. Sure there are buoys and escort kayaks, but what if you got lost and ended up in Canada?

Erica loves open water swimming even more than I do and so I signed us both up in the spring. And just a few weeks ago when we were in Duluth, mentioning the race to Coleen made her decide to check it off her wishlist as well and she signed up. So we were a little cadre.

We lucked into perfect conditions for the race. They warned that they’d have to cancel the race if there was fog—which my recent experience in Duluth had me nervous for—and the forecast for the weekend was in the 60s. But on the day of the race, it was suddenly warm, with clear skies and headed into the 80s. The water was a balmy 66°. And in addition to all the directional help of buoys and kayaks, this year the host family (the landing is just in someone’s backyard) added a smoke-signal fire that was easily visible and really helped with sighting, even for experienced swimmers of the race. And Erica and I had futzed around with various neoprene booties, gloves, and caps to add to our wet suits and in the end we didn’t need any of it.

I went out with the idea of pacing myself just to make sure I could finish. It was a little odd at first to just be heading out into the wide open water—most of the time when I swim in Lake Michigan it’s at Oak Street Beach, where even if it’s deep or rough, I’m never that far from a wall with ladders. But a nice thing about being at the back of the pack is that there was almost always another swimmer to the side or ahead of me, which was comforting and easier to sight off of than the buoys. And when you’re as slow as I am, by the time you’re finishing you have 3 or 4 kayaks keeping an eye on you individually.

Erica smoked me on time and actually passed me somewhere in the water even with the women’s wave starting 5 minutes after the men’s. She finished with a time 15 minutes faster than mine—she’s a champ.

Afterwards we met up with Colleen and Amy Jo and the kids, and their neighbor Bart for a well-deserved breakfast at one of the island’s few restaurants. (Bart finished 34th overall, and Colleen did the race in just over an hour.)

Breakfast on Madeline Island
Erica is taking the photo

Official results: Time: 1:44:51.4
Overall Place: 397 / 412
Place in Gender: 210 / 217
Place in Age Group (M40-49): 55 / 57

Eight Years

Eight years ago Erica and I got married.

We’ve both changed a bit over the years, but she’s still the exact same woman I fell in love with.

Mercury (Erica Reid), Jupiter (Brian Landis Folkins), and Venus

Impress These Apes photos by Elizabeth McQuern July 21, 2014

Mrs. Lancaster

Cutie Bumblesnatch


Cruise Director - photo by Elizabeth McQuern
Cruise Director - photo by Elizabeth McQuern

Nina Metz at the Tribune reviewed Impress These Apes today:

This season has a cruise ship theme, and I realize writing about this show can sometimes look like an exercise in non sequiturs. Why apes? Why a cruise ship? Why the future?

I don’t know. But it works. All of it. Even in its shaggier moments. Every piece works, and I don’t know that I can say that about any other theatrical offering in town, comedy or not.

Why a cruise ship? Because Erica didn’t want me to cut my hair.

Over the first six seasons of the show we established a sort of informal rule for the host—it’s not a random character, but someone who could some other sort of show or event—like Game Show Host (Jared Logan), Beauty Pageant Host (Ken Barnard), and Air Hostess (Kristen Studard). Last season I hosted as Sports Show Host and as part creating the character I had a very specific look) in mind. I borrowed an awesome jacket from my friend Ryan, got a short haircut and shaved down to a mustache.

Impress These Apes Live Callbacks July 9, 2012
Sports Show Host, photo by Elizabeth McQuern

Well, over the last two years my beard has gotten pretty long and my hair is pretty shaggy. As we began talking about remounting the show for an eighth time I warned Erica that I was going to trim down to play Sports Show Host. I’m no Method actor, but I just couldn’t see that trim and proper character with this mess I’ve got going on now. “Well, OK, you can do whatever you want, but I like your beard and hair,” she said. Well dang, how can I disappoint my sweet wife?

The Lancasters - Photo by Oomphotography
Photo of the Lancasters by Oomphotography

So I started brainstorming ideas for hosts who would have long hair and a beard. Somebody who had been stranded on an island, for example. Anybody could be stranded on an island, but who would be most likely? Somebody from a boat. Pirate Host? Fisherman Host? What about from a cruise ship? We know people who have worked on cruise ships as the entertainment—Cruise Ship Variety Show Host! And then I remembered Love Boat—”and your Cruise Director Julie”.

And that would have been that except that when I shared my new host idea at our first season eight production meeting it hit a spark with everyone in the room. “We’ll do the whole show on a cruise!” someone exclaimed and we were off.

So that’s why a cruise ship: Erica likes her husband with a bit of hair. And I work with a great group of comedian/producers who see a small idea and take it to its illogical extremes. Seven weeks left!

Living on the Edge

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I have wide feet, which has limited the running shoes I can wear comfortably. Fortunately, I discovered, thanks to the Nike Outlet stores, that the Nike wide last fits me just fine. So when I was interested in moving to a lighter style of running shoe last year, I started looking at the Nike Free line. Unfortunately, those shoes are not available in wide in stores. But they are available in wide if you order them custom-made from the Nike store online, what they call their NikeID line. Now those shoes let you customize every single part of a shoe with distinctive colors and textures. But I was thinking ahead and figured that after I was done using them for running, I could retire my shoes to become daily wear and so I designed a pretty conservative pair:

Nike Free 2013

And then I trained for an Ironman with those shoes, ran an Ironman, trained for a marathon, and then ran that marathon. I pretty much ran those shoes into the ground.

So when the time came to order my next pair, I figured “why design a boring shoe, if all I’m ever going to do with it is run?” And so, after many screen shots emailed to Erica, here are my new shoes. I’m actually pretty proud that I managed to avoid coloring every single part of the shoe a different color. And that design on the laces and swoosh is called “Swedish Camo”. You’re welcome, world.

Nike Free 2014

Impress These Apes 2014

Tomorrow night (Monday, July 7) we sort-of start the Eighth season of Impress These Apes, Chicago’s favorite live, non-elimination talent competition hosted by hyper-intelligent apes from the future.

I say “sort-of” because tomorrow night’s show is the live “Callback Special”. We held auditions and about about fifty people tried out to be in the cast. We’ve called sixteen of them back and given them each a very specific challenge which they’ll perform on-stage in the hopes of being cast in the actual show. At the end of the night, we’ll reveal our cast of eight and then the actual eight week show will start the next week (July 14) and run for eight weeks with the apes and the new host and all. The apes won’t be at tomorrow night’s show, but instead we’ve got a very special guest host from Chicago’s television scene.

Impress These Apes
Tickets $10 ($12 for the rest of the run)
ComedySportz Chicago
929 W Belmont, Chicago