I watched the Chicago marathon live online this morning (new course record! Dathan runs strong!Ladies photo finish!) and it brought me back to when I ran three years ago (how did time go so fast??!!). Since I had no blog to post it to then, I figure I would put it out there now, so that I will have it to refer to in future and don’t lose it somewhere in the wilds of my hard drive 🙂
Race Morning: I woke up at 5:40 feeling really good and ate some oatmeal and dry cereal. I looked at the weather and saw it was not going to get out of the 40s for the whole race (and in reality, it never got out of the mid-30s, plus a stiff breeze) so wore capris, a tank and long sleeved technical shirt, plus sweatpants, hoodie sweatshirt, hat and gloves to shed at start line. I met Laur and Mike at 6:45 and kissed GD good bye (he was forgoing the race start to get to our first meeting place in time). We headed out to a rising sun on a gorgeous but COLD Chicago morning. The air was filled with anticipation as hundreds of people from our and surrounding hotels worked their way like little ants to the starting line (I would love to see an aerial picture of this one day). We were cozy warm in our extra clothes and both ate a little something (eng muff for me) and used the no-line, sparkly clean port a potties (nice!). We headed to the open corral but by the time we got there at 7:15 and they were closed. We jumped the fence with the other latecomers, and tried to line up with the 4:15 pace group that Laur signed up with the day before. I figured I would run with her for the first few miles ( I am a slow starter, that is what works best for me!) and then strike out on my own when I was ready. We ate some sports beans and started stripping around 7:20. It was kinda warm standing in the sea of humanity so not too bad! All we could see was people throwing their clothes in the air to get them to the sides, so we followed suit. I threw my hat away and put on my visor, which is something I would soon regret.
Race: The starting horn blared promptly at 7:30 and we were off!! … ok, not off. We did a slow shuffle to the start line – took us about 15 mins to get there! It was good I was planning on going out slow, cause there were too many people to do anything but. The sights were awesome- the beginning was downtown and the buildings against the blue sky was great and the smells of baked goods was in the air. Yum! Laur and I hung together for about 2.5 miles and then with a hand squeeze and good “lucks”, we parted ways. It was bittersweet and I thought about her a lot the rest of the race.
Next we headed into a really nice neighborhood and to where GD and I were supposed to meet the first time, but he was not there. I was disappointed, but I had prepared myself that seeing him would be icing and not to worry if we did not. At this point it was starting to be obvious that water stations were going to be a major bottleneck. They had one almost every mile and they really slowed you down if you were just trying to pass through. The amount of people walking, crossing to get to water (I got one major elbow to the gut that tweaked me out for a sec) and cups/slippery surface on ground all slowed me down 😦
Next was a neighborhood where there were talented cross-dressers entertaining us! They were fantastic and so were the crowds through this whole area (miles 8-10). I got stuck behind a pace group for a little while – they were like a wall that you could not get through- but finally got around them. GD and I were supposed to meet up around Mile 10, but again, I did not see him.
At this point, I was a little nervous because it was becoming clear I did not eat enough that morning. It is never a good sign when you feel actual hunger while racing! I had extra GUs with me and they gave some out on the course, so I upped my intake of them. I also took some Gatorade, which is something I did not train with on this cycle. I did not want to introduce something new to my system, but also knew that I was going to need the calories and sugars. So I had the Garotade and the expected stomach cramps that followed. I knew that my belly was just cranky and I did not need to stop – I just had to wait it out for 10 or so minutes and then was ok again. Whew! I think that the major issue was the cold. I literally never warmed up the entire race. I have Raynaud’s, so my hands are susceptible to cold to begin with, and even with gloves they were slow moving and it was hard to open the GU’s. I really wish I still had that hat on and I never took off the gloves or long sleeved (bummer since my bib and name were only on my tank – so unlikely to find any race photos) or felt in the least bit sweaty. An unexpected fortunate thing that happened was that my butt muscles never got too painful. They have not been happy since the Great Urban Race, but on race day they threw me a bone and stayed at a very low pain level.
At this point we were quickly approaching the halfway mark and I was getting concerned about my time, although I was happy with my race so far. My first goal was to beat my old time (4:19), and second was to hit the low 3:50s and not over 3:55. As I crossed the half and saw that I was at 2:02 I knew I had my work cut out for me! I am a negative split kind of girl naturally but I had hoped to be no later than 1:58/59 at the half. But with the water slow downs, the cold and the people to dodge I was also happy with it given the conditions. I was feeling very good, relaxed and was ready to pick it up and get serious. My race plan was to steadily drop from 9 min miles in the first half (this did not happen, ran slower) to 8:45s through Mile 20 and then just let it go for the last 6 the best I could. I turned on my music and promptly ran an 8:29 mile! Doh!! I calmed down and started focusing in and getting into that race mindset. I was working 8:38-8:40s for much of the time, but my splits were higher because of those damn aid stations! I just accepted that this was the price to pay for the big race and great spectators and kept going. I was supposed to see GD around Mile 15, but no dice again. I was giving up hope of seeing him, but around Mile 19 I suddenly heard “KAAAAASHI!!!” and he ran up to me! I was soo happy to see him!! Getting around the town was harder than we thought it would be, and we did not really know the course well enough to have planned it out just right. Some of the train stations were further from the course then we thought, and he got stuck on the wrong side of the course once and the timing just did not work out. But thanks to the text runner updates he knew I was coming to the spot he was at and just waited for me. I really needed the pick me up of seeing him so it was a wonderful, albeit quick, reunion. I gave him a kiss and he gave me water and off I went!
I hit the Mile 20 mark feeling tired, but the right kind of tired. I knew I was giving the effort I was able to give and felt good about the last 6 miles. My time was getting into the right neighborhood to break 4 and that gave me a little kick. Unfortunately, I also could still tell that the tank was not as full as it needed to be. Took some more GU and Gatorade (helllooo stomach cramps) and tried to enjoy the breast cancer awareness section and Chinatown, both were awesome! By mile 23 I was still really cold and was happy the race was almost over because it was going to come down to the wire whether I would hit the wall or the finish line first! I always, always have my strongest, fastest miles at the end of a training run or race but by the time I got to this point I was running around 8:45’s in the open so I knew my body was wearing down fast. Garmy was registering that I had run about .2 miles more than the race course, so I was hitting the mile laps on my watch before I was hitting the markers, which was tough mentally because I knew I would have to go 26.4 on the watch before it was over.
I was nervous for mile 24 because this was the one that hurt the most in Philly 2005 and damn if it was not the same thing here! I just wanted to be done so badly! But I plowed through, using my mantra “I believe”. I saw the mile marker for 25 and it was like a switch flipped on and I felt so much better. Only one to go!! The crowds were crazy at this point and I turned off my music and soaked in the experience. There were two tight turns right at the end of the race so I couldn’t see the finish line until about .2 to go. At 26.2 Garmy time I was at 3:55 and was so happy (I always use Garmy over a race clock, so this is my “real” time in my head!).
I made that last turn, saw the finish line and just let it go!! I enjoyed that stretch more than any other finish line of my life! I beat the wall! Yay! I crossed at 3:57.21 Garmy time, 3:57.59 chip time and just burst out in joyful tears! But almost immediately I knew something was very wrong. My body really stepped it up and hung in there with me until the finish but just fell apart seconds after it was over. I was instantly incredibly tired and foggy headed and nauseous. I started shivering. They gave me a mylar blanket and I downed two cups of Gatorade because I knew I needed nutrition FAST! My stomach was not impressed by that. I got my medal and some water and just kept crying, this time because I was so tired and wanted to sit down. This was my only complaint for the race – the finish “corral” must be close to a mile long! I was cold and could not sit ( I tried a curb once but my thighs were so tight it was not going to happen!) and I just shuffled along, feeling lost and hopeless. It sounds silly but I just felt out of my mind, like I was a refugee and I would never find GD and my sis again. This is only the second time that I think I have truly hit the wall and it is such an odd feeling – like I don’t fit in my own body. GD finally found me and he took over. He sat me down, got some food into me and helped me warm up. About 10 minutes later I started feeling human again. We met up with Laur a short time later- she also had a good race and a similar “walk from hell”. We sat for a long time, dissecting the race and comparing notes (the best part!) and then shuffled to the massage tent – it was heated heaven!! They really took care of us – a solid 15 minutes of stretching and massage. We felt able to walk back to the hotel after that and rested the rest of the day. GD and I went out for an amazing Greek dinner that night to celebrate!
In summary: It was a cold, tough day but that was through no fault of the race! Chicago was ever bit as impressive and well organized as you have heard and I highly recommend putting it on your list!
Have you ever run Chicago?
What was your experience like?