Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: Sports

Jennifer Mirocha Runs in Chicago Marathon on October 12th

032My daughter’s high school classmate and good friend, Jennifer Mirocha of East Moline, ran her first marathon on Sunday, October 12th in Chicago. Jen had never run more than 13 miles in one day, but the Augustana College (Rock Island, IL) double major in Economics and Marketing began training for the race a year ago and vowed to complete it with only her boyfriend, Josh Sun and me cheering her on.

Commenting on the run, Jennifer said, “The first half was not bad, but at the 18 to 19 mile mark, it got bad. It was really hot. One person was wearing a shirt that said, ‘It can’t be hotter than last year!'” The 2007 race was cut short when a seasoned runner dropped dead in the near 100-degree heat.

Josh and JenniferJosh was able to run barefoot alongside Jennifer at a few key places along the race route, because 26 Chicago McDonald’s restaurants had a tracking system in place that helped the rest of us know where to find our favorite runners amongst the throngs participating.

I sat in a grandstand situated at Roosevelt and Columbus and tried to pick Jennifer out of the throng that was rounding that corner and heading for the finish line, which was just a short half-mile down that road towards Millennium Park. The runners just kept coming and watching them was hypnotic.

Jen said she “tried not to stop and to run as hard as I could” for the last 4 miles of the race. Prior to that, she had taken advantage of the water stops to rehydrate. (That was a good thing, as an older female contestant was seen lying on a cot, convulsing.)

The announcer speaking over a loudspeaker near me announced that a 70-year-old woman had just completed the race, and many were in a wheelchair division .I began to feel like an underachiever, but my duty, today, was to help find Jen, present her with flowers (real and fake) and buy us all a beer in the beer tent. We hadn’t thought about how to prove that the 21-year-old Jen, who looks younger, was really 21. She didn’t carry her cell phone, nor did she have identification on her person, other than her race number (#28733). That number reflected how soon she registered for the race.

Jennifer is the daughter of Cary and Lyn Mirocha of East Moline and will study abroad in Vietnam as part of Augustana’s Study Abroad program in February. This day, she was a true champion, finishing in 5 hours, 6 minutes and 55 seconds for an 11:42 pace, per mile, in her very first marathon. Jennifer commented that her feet have grown in size from 7’s to 9’s since she took up running, she now has flat feet (whereas she previously had high arches) and she appeared to be limping after the finish, as did many who completed the race. All the runners who made it through proudly wore their medals, and many wore pink rabbit ears, courtesy of Energizer Bunny batteries, or draped themselves in lightweight silver reflector capes, courtesy of Bank of America, to ward off the heat.

Twenty-nine neighborhoods, 31,000 runners, a million and a half spectators ran the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, October 12th. A 26.2 mile course is a lot to cover, whether as a runner or as a journalist. Evans Chernuiyot of Kenya pocketed $140,000 for winning the Bank of America Chicago Marathon: $100,000 for wining and a $40,000 bonus that was based on his time of 2 hours, 6 minutes, 25 seconds, the 9th fastest time in the 31 year history of the race. ([email protected]). These statistics courtesy of the Monday, October 13, Chicago Tribune special Chicago Marathon section which noted that Kenyans scored victories in 4 of the 5 point-scoring races on the 1008 World Marathon Majors: London, Boston, the Olympics and Chicago. The New York Marathon is next.

0331The Chicago neighborhoods that the race traveled through included: Bronzeville, The Gap, the South Commons, the South Loop, the Prairie District, the Central Station District (where I sometimes reside), the New East Side, Streeterville, the Magnificent Mile, the Loop, River North, Near North, Old town, Old Town Triangle, Lincoln Park, Park West, lake view East, Park West, Lincoln Park, Old Town, Near North, West Loop Gate, Greektown, the West Loop, the Near West side, the West Loop, Little Italy, University Village, Illinois Medical District, Pilsen, East Pilsen, Bridgegport, and Chinatown.

It was at Chinatown that Josh caught up with Jennifer and, she said, “When I saw Josh in Chinatown, it really helped.” Josh works for the Davenport School District as a computer whiz. (Not his real title, but it will do).

Great job, Jennifer! Can’t wait to see your times in the next ones! Yeah! Go Jennifer!041

Chicago Cubs Fans Attend Post-Season Rally on September 30th

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"We're on a Mission from God"Governor Rod Blagojevich

The Chicago Cubs had a Post-Season Rally in downtown Chicago, right next to the Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza on Tuesday, September 30, 2008. Master of Ceremonies Jim Belushi, a Chicago native, exclaimed “I love this city!” and introduced the famous ballplayers and dignitaries present, including Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was drowned out at one point by fans chanting and singing “Go! Cubs! Go!”

In all fairness, the Governor had droned on for a rather long time, noting that Teddy Roosevelt was President the last time the Cubs made the World Series, 100 years ago, etc., etc., etc.

There was a large plasma video screen to the left of the stage and a highlight reel of phenomenal Cubs plays during the year was shown at one point. We all sang along with Harry Caray (long deceased) who led the traditional 7th inning stretch song of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Later, we sang to the new “Go! Cubs! Go!” song while blue and red paper bits drifted down on top of us from a confetti canon (visible in the picture of the Governor.) All onlookers chanted that Ron Santo belonged in the Hall of Fame.

Jim Belushi, brother of John and a Chicago native, praised WGN and Fox, which carried his television program. An elderly woman in a wheelchair struggled to her feet to sing along with the crowd and told me that she had “been a fan since I was 13.” Bill Hajdys and his daughter Coryan showed up in goofy sunglasses carrying a large sign that read, on one said, “Jesus Was A Cubs Fan” and, on the other, “We’re On A Mission from God,” a reference to a line in the Jim Belushi/Dan Ackroyd film “The Blues Brothers,” which was shot in Chicago.

Mounted policeman Sergeant Kevin Gyrian was there, sitting atop Baldy, his horse, ready to restore order if necessary as part of the Strategic Deployment Unit. Zira Singer’s grandson held a sign next to Kevin and Baldy wishing Grandma Zira a speedy recovery in Lutheran General, where she underwent spinal surgery and then contracted an infection in the hospital.

Nearby a silent man held a sign that read “Obama, Spare My Child.” When asked what the story was, he remained silent. One man in the crowd wore a shirt that read “Quad City Mallards.” At the nearby Corner Bakery a man who appeared to be Amish sat by himself following the rally, quietly eating peanuts from a bag of nuts he had brought and drinking some bottled water.

The weather was gorgeous, and all of the windows in the Civic Center were filled with onlookers, looking down at the Picasso statue, which was decked out in a Cubs hat for the day.

Ames Professor’s Paper Sparks the Design of the Speedo LZR Racer Swimsuit

Speedo LZR Racer Swimsuit

Speedo LZR Racer Swimsuit

I’m always interested to learn that the Midwest has done itself proud. That would appear to be the case in the very hot topic of the LZR (pronounced “laser” swimsuit designed by Speedo and currently showcased in the June 30, 2008, issue of Newsweek with Cindy McCain on the cover.

The controversy over the swimsuit, made of high-density microfiber and lined with polyurethane panels, which appears to be contributing to a rash of World Records being set by those wearing them, has Iowa roots.

It seems that a professor of physiology at Ames (Iowa State University) named Rick Sharp, a former collegiate swimmer himself, wrote two papers questioning Speedo’s performance claims for the LZR’s predecessor, the Speedo Fastskin suit. Speedo did not take offense at Professor Sharp’s comments, but, instead, called him up in 2004 and invited him to lead a team of outside experts that would design a better suit.

Sharp recalls, in the Newsweek article, “I laughed and said, ‘Have you read my papers?'”

Speedo had, indeed, read Sharp’s papers. They had taken his doubts into consideration and, says Jason Rance, Chief of Speedo’s Aqualab global R&D Center in England, “He was asking all the right questions.”

NASA fluid-mechanics engineer Stephen Wilkinson was also enlisted to use wind tunnels to detect surface friction on spacecraft re-entering Earth’s atmosphere technology to blow air across a variety of fabrics at 63 mph, the simulated speed of a swimmer as fast as Michael Phelps, this year’s American gold medal hopeful.

Samples were stitched together and tried out on Iowa State University swimmers. Says Sharp, “We had one suit that looked great on paper. But then, when we dove into the pool, it ballooned out like a parachute.”

The polyurethane panels that act like a girdle to streamline the swimmers bodies also had to be redesigned so that the girdle structure wasn’t too far up the rib cage, therefore inhibiting swimmers’ breathing.

Whatever the case, the LZR, which had been previously approved for use at the Beijing Olympics, has sparked a storm of protest from competitors, who claim that it constitutes an unfair advantage for other swimmers. The Speedo people, for their part, don’t expect to market many of the $290 a pair men’s jammers nor the $550 full bodysuit. They are meant for true athletes like Phelps and could be considered “the couture version” of Speedo, according to Warnaco Group President Helen McCluskey. The $40 to $78 knock-off versions with stars-and-stripes motifs that will be marketed to little kids: that’s where the market is, with 300,000 kids on swim teams.

Meanwhile, even endorsers of other swimsuits seem to be defecting in droves to the new LZR Suit to get the “rocket” effect that NASA was aiming for. One prominent endorser of a competitor, Olympic medallist Erik Vendt, who previously shilled for TYR, the second-largest U.S. swimwear maker, has switched to the Speedo LZR Racer. A Japanese swimmer under contract to Mizuno just set a world record wearing a LZR. Speedo spent tens of millions developing the LZR Racer over the last four years and, says U.S. swim coach Mark Schubert, “every world record is in jeopardy. The suit is definitely a factor.”

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