Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Nike Unlimited Chicago Decathlon recap - Part I

Last Thursday, thanks to the Windy City Bloggers Collective, I was part of a team of seven folks competing in the first-ever Nike Unlimited Chicago Decathlon.
From L to R: Caitlin, Zachary, me, Erin, Ali, Sheena, and Aleisha
NOTE: All forthcoming photos in this post are official event photos.

Here's a cool event photo of our team's pacer, Ervin, taking our photo:
Nike Chicago was hosting the event inspired by USA Decathlete Ashton Eaton, who was competing in the Olympic Decathlon finals that same evening.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the event. I thought we'd be doing a decathlon-inspired group workout of some sort. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at Soldier Field on Thursday night and saw a plethora of decathlon stations set up around the grounds.

Nike Chicago was so generous to hand out sneakers to all of us, plus the white "Unlimited Chicago" event shirts that some of us were wearing. After donning our gear, we gathered with the crowd of attendees to receive instructions. We learned that we would indeed be competing in ten different track and field events that night. Each team would submit the two best results for each event by gender, and the results would be assigned point values on a per-team basis.
The crowd of competitors gathered for instruction.
Some of the events were actual decathlon events, whereas a few events were being modified or substituted for practical reasons. In case anyone is curious, the listing of ten official decathlon events is available here. Comparatively, here are the ten events we underwent that night:
  1. 100 meter sprint
  2. Standing long jump
  3. Shot put
  4. Vertical jump
  5. 400 meter run
  6. 60 meter hurdles
  7. Medicine ball throws
  8. Sled pulls
  9. Javelin
  10. 1500 meter run
Since it would be overkill to try to talk about all 10 events in a single post, I'm going to split this recap into two separate posts where I cover 5 events in each. Here are the first five:

1. 100 Meter Sprint
After watching Usain Bolt and the other Olympians complete the 100-meter sprint in less than 10 seconds a few days earlier, I had been wondering how long it might take an average person to run. (My guess was 20-25 seconds.) Now was my chance to find out!

We ran a series of heats with four other teams, where each team sent one person to compete at a time. Ali was the brave soul from our team who elected to race in the very first heat of the entire night. Here is a picture of him (he is the runner farthest to the right):
The sprints were supposed to be chip-timed. Unfortunately, the event organizers experienced some technical issues, so we didn't realize until afterwards that the first heat didn't get timed. Poor Ali ended up having to do the sprint twice! He did take several minutes to recover in between his two heats, but even so - that must have been brutal.

I was very nervous going into my heat. I hadn't fueled properly, hadn't warmed up, and had taken a Strength Max class less than 90 minutes earlier - so I knew I had some handicaps coming in.

Despite the short distance, my plan was to try a negative-split-type strategy. It was harder than anticipated to get momentum going at the start, and made me realize the importance of the spikes and blocks that sprinters use! Then, about halfway through, my hamstrings started screaming bloody murder at me. It was killer.

I did my best to push through and finished in 16 seconds flat. Not too bad, but definitely could have been better with more adequate preparation.

2. Standing long jump
Each of us was measured on the closest distance between any part of our body touching the ground versus the point of our jump. Each attendee had two attempts.

Here's a sample picture from the long jump station:
The jump was a lot harder to do than it looked. Many folks, myself included, ended up taking a step backwards after our jump. As such, we were instructed to try to fall forwards, which was also difficult.

I don't remember my exact long jump results, but I think it was somewhere around 6 feet.

3. Shot put
We used shot puts of different weights for the men and the women. Assuming the shot puts were regulation weights, the men's was 16 pounds and the women's was 8.8 pounds. A Nike staffer demonstrated suggested proper form to us, including how to hold the shot put, how to step off with our feet, and how to release. He emphasized that we should try to use our core muscles instead of our arm/shoulder muscles on the release.

Here's a sample picture from the shot put station:
This was my first time ever throwing a shot put. It was much more slippery than I expected, and was tough to get a grip on it. I also found it tricky trying to get the footwork down.

Each of us rotated as many attempts as we could during our allotted time. I tried twice. Unfortunately I don't remember what my result was. However, I think this is definitely an event in which some extra practice would have been very beneficial to get the proper form down.

4. Vertical jump
The event organizers had a electronic pad that we stood on, which measured our vertical leap electronically. Here's a sample picture:
I figured the machine would track the highest distance that any body part reached, so I assumed we should try to bend our knees during the jump. However, a Nike staffer indicated that knee bends were not beneficial, and that we should just jump with straight legs.

We were given one practice jump, then two recorded attempts. On my practice jump, I ended up landing off balance and stepping off the pad, which skewed my results. On my recorded attempts, I decided to attempt one jump with a knee bend and one without. Sure enough, my jump without bending my knees resulted in a better result - but again, I don't remember my exact results here.

5. 400 meter run
By the time we got to the 400 meter run, I was already feeling fatigued both mentally and physically. I couldn't believe we weren't even halfway through the night's events yet. My hamstrings were barking voraciously at me so I was very apprehensive about doing another sprint-type event.

I don't think the event photographers shared any action photos from the 400-meter event, so here's another snapshot from the 100-meter (you get the idea):
A Nike staffer gave us some suggested strategy. She said the 400 meter run was her favorite event from when she ran track, and described it as being a "long sprint." Her instructions were essentially to make sure we didn't start out too fast, and then to push harder and harder with each subsequent 100 meters we passed.

Being a true believer in the negative split strategy, I followed this guidance as best as I could. Shortly after the start, I was alarmed to be in last place in my heat. Then, as the distance progressed, I sped up and did manage to overtake several others before I finished.

Based on the top speed at which I thought I could run one mile (around 7:30?), I thought maybe I'd finish around 1:40. I ended up finishing in 1:25, which I was pretty happy with. Again, it definitely could have been better with more adequate preparation.

Five events down, five to go! To be continued.


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Linking up with MarciaPatti, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run.

31 comments:

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    1. Thanks Maggie! Nike always puts on terrific events, so anytime they plan something big like this I always do my best to attend!!!

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  2. Wowza. I haven't done any track and field-style events since high school and my classmates are currently planning our 30th class reunion. Cough, cough.
    Glad you had such an enjoyable time!

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    1. I feel your pain! I've got a milestone high school reunion coming up this year, too, and am trying not to think about how much time has passed since then. Coughs all around here, as well!

      Thank you so much, Gisgie!!!

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  3. Sounds fun! Becky has me do a "shot put" workout once in a while and I'm so shocked at how not far I can throw it...

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    1. Becky's workouts continue to amaze me with their diversity and creativity! And yes - I was appalled by how not far I could throw the shot put, too. Sigh.

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  4. Sounds like a fun yet challenging event!

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    1. In all honesty, it was more fun to look at in retrospect than it was when I was actually going through the events. It's like running a race - at the time, it's miserable, but afterwards you think about signing up to do another one. =D

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  5. This sounds so cool and leave it to Nike to stage such a great event. This brings me back to my high school track and field days. Fun that it coincided with the Olympics too!

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    1. Nike really does put together some incredible events! They've obviously got a lot of clout! Very cool that you were in track and field in high school, I bet you would have really enjoyed the night's festivities. You were a sprinter, yes?

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  6. This looks really cool! It's too bad you don't remember more of your results to compare to the Olympians... or maybe that is a good thing! LOL!

    Interesting about the high jump and bending your knees - I wonder if that was their replacement for the pole vault?

    I think it would be fun to try the shot put!

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    1. LOL - yes, selective memory when it comes to the event results. =) I think the Olympic events should all include one "average" person competing alongside the Olympians for comparison purposes. Just so the public can get a sense for how spectacular the athletes really are.

      I think our high jump (a standing high jump) was a substitute for the high jump in which the decathletes run and then jump over a pole. And I think our pole vault substitute was either our medicine ball throw or the sled pull. Creative substitutes, eh?

      I bet you would kick butt at the shot put!

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  7. Wow, This is intense! What a cool event though. I haven't run a 100 or 400 in years, and haven't ever tried some of the other events, I'd be so curious how I could do. It definitely gives more appreciation for the Olympic decathletes, Huh? Or really for anyone who does any of the individual sports.

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    1. Thanks Kelly! Intense is a great way to describe it. I don't think I'd ever done a 400-meter race in my life, hadn't run a 100 since high school, and had never done the shot put, javelin, etc. Oh my goodness - my appreciation for Olympic decathletes has skyrocketed. They make it look so easy! Every Olympic athlete makes their sport look so easy!!! Except maybe the gymnastics and beach volleyball. I think those two look hard, even by the pros, so can you imagine how much harder they really are in reality!?!?!?

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  8. So jealous. I wonder about the shot putt ... Did anyone lose their balls prematurely?! :-D

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    1. LOL. Yes, for what it's worth, there were some folks who dropped the ball earlier than intended. =)

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    2. I know there's a "that's what she said" joke in there somewhere ...

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  9. Oh man, this would be so cool to do. I'm proud of you that you negative splitted your running events and ended up passing people near the end. I would guess that 90% of runners go out too fast and it ends up costing them via crashing near the end. It's us wise 10% that know the "secret" to racing and thus can enjoy passing some of the 90%! :)

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    1. Thank you, Pete! You were one of the first to teach me the secret of the negative split - and it is so effective! I can imagine if you participated in the decathlon, you would have torn it up at the running events. My 400-meter was done at a pace that is still slower than your mile pace!!!

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  10. Sounds like fun. That's really the only thing that would get me to go to AT&T stadium/ the Death Star.

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    1. I've heard Cowboys Stadium is quite the force to be reckoned with! I've never been there but everything is bigger in Texas, right? LOL at the Death Star reference. =)

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  11. What a fun activity to do! What was your best event? which one did you enjoy most? which surprised you the most?

    16 seconds 100 meter? Wow! you were flying!

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    1. Thank you so much, Ana! I think my best event was the sled pull we did later on that night, since it was one of the few events in which my result was used for our team score. =) I liked doing the throwing events in general, since they didn't bother my hamstrings. Although, I was most surprised by how NOT far I could throw the shot put! Clearly practice makes a big difference!

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  12. Ah! Your recap is so detailed. I'm just going to link people to yours :-) I'm a little sad they didn't post any photos of us actually doing things but I guess with that many people it's difficult to do.

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    1. Thank you, Erin! I am looking forward to reading your recap and hearing more of your thoughts on the night's festivities! I am also sad there weren't more pictures of us from the night, but yeah - tough to capture everyone when there are hundreds of participants. I do regret not taking more of my own pictures, though. Note to self for next time!

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  13. Everyone got shoes!? That is really good swag. This whole thing sounds so challenging! I have not jumped in so long...you jumped straight up?!I am not sure I could air between me and the ground lol
    You did great on your run. Your poor hammie probably needed a little warm up. SO cool you got invited to participate :)

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    1. Nike is SUPER generous with the swag! We were all talking about how much the event must have cost them to put on, and how much benefit they really receive. To me, it doesn't seem like it'd be worth it, but as a participant I'm grateful for their generosity!

      Thank you so much, Karen!!! And knowing you, you would kick butt at all of these events. You are an incredibly strong and determined woman and you always do awesome!!!

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  14. Wow, I am very impressed with this event. I would have finished last in all of the events. :-)

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    1. Thanks Zenaida! There were folks of ALL abilities there that night, which was great! I think you would have done very well at these events, especially considering the challenging marathon training regimen you're currently doing. Holy cow!!!

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  15. Hello Sir please provide me Decathlon Customer Service Number I want to ask him that which types of sports product they sell...

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