I meant to blog again before the race, but… oops. Sometimes taper seems to last forever, but this time it flew by and before I knew it I was meeting Betsy at the airport for our flight to Chicago. We flew in the morning before the race, which looking back, may not have been the best way to spend the day as it involved some stress (bumpy flight), plowing through the expo with our heavy bags to get bibs, checking out the merchandise and embarrassing myself in front of Nick Symmonds (maybe we’ll save that for another post), going to Whole Foods for pre and post-race essentials (bananas, chocolate milk, water, popcorn, pretzels and carrot cake), relaxing at the hotel for what seemed like 3 minutes before heading out to dinner. Yikes! It was an exhausting day but we were still excited to be there and pretty much ready to run.
4:45 a.m. Woke up, coffee’d, ate some breakfast (for me: 1 slice sprouted grain bread with almond butter, 1 banana) and got ourselves ready. We were both feeling pretty calm, and the weather was perfect – 50s and clear.
5:45 a.m. Left the hotel and immediately found a cab, as well as a nice gentleman who asked to share the cab in exchange for paying for it. Done.
5:55 a.m. Cab dropped us off right at our entrance gate, which was a relief to me as I was stressing a bit about the logistics of getting to the start village. Turns out, it was extremely well-organized, huge and actually very pretty as we were in Grant Park.
6:15 a.m. We parked ourselves at Buckingham Fountain to chill out for a bit and I ate a Honey Stinger Waffle, another banana and some candy corn pumpkins (quick energy!). The sun was rising over the lake and it was such a pretty morning. The atmosphere in the start village was like it always is – excitement, nervousness and dashes to the porto-potties.
7:15 a.m. Made our way to the starting corrals, which was easy and again, really well-organized. Betsy and I were in corral B, so we were pretty close to the starting line. Before we knew it, they were singing the national anthem, announcing the elites and telling us to GO at 7:30 a.m.
Miles 1-2: 16:20; miles 2-6: 8:01, 8:07, 8:10, 8:08
Put my Garmin on manual lap and missed the first mile marker… oops! I felt ok during the first few miles but was also trying to warm up and find my grove. Betsy moved ahead of me pretty early on, and I wouldn’t see her again for a while. The first miles in a marathon are ones I typically do not like – I’m so impatient for the race to get started already and also pretty bad about holding back. I was right around goal pace for the most part and felt not ok (but not great). Took my first gel about 45 minutes in, which was a bit earlier than previous races but I really wanted to avoid any sort of bonk.
Miles 7-13: 8:13, 8:15, 8:16, 8:12, 8:13, 8:18, 8:10
My pace was steady, but something was feeling off. My legs didn’t have the freshness and pop that I was expecting after taper, and I started to wonder if maybe we should have come in two days before the race to rest up more. Or maybe I should have tapered “harder.” Tried to shut my brain off from the negative thoughts, but remember thinking, why don’t I just train for half marathons? DAMMIT I SHOULD JUST DO HALF MARATHONS. Or 5Ks. 5ks sound awesome. My mental game was definitely a bit off, but the crowds in Chicago were awesome and the combination of people cheering and loud music was a great distraction. I also tried to think about the people tracking me (mostly my sister) every time I crossed a timing mat and hoped they were cheering from afar. Every mile that ticked off, I thought, ok, one less mile than you can fuck this up. Keep going. Took my second gel around 90 minutes in.
Miles 14-19: 8:20, 8:15, 8:22, 8:30, 8:36; miles 20-21: 17:26
Pace was slowing slightly, and I knew I wouldn’t have enough to get in there for the BQ. I’ve been in this position before, though, and knew I still had a great chance at a decent PR. I started feeling more positive and tried to soak up what was happening around me – I was running the freaking Chicago Marathon! People were cheering for me! It doesn’t really get much better than that. I also thought of one of my favorite quotes from the Boston Bombing Memorial Exhibit that I went to last year: Lace up your shoes and run for those who can’t. This quote has always resonated with me, even more so recently. I took my third gel around 2:15 in and then started stopping at water stations to drink but picked it right back up, which I think helped me mentally. Around mile 20 (missed it for the split above) I saw Betsy, who had been running a great race but started struggling. I remember saying to her, you got it, dude! as I passed. And then I thought, hmm, ok I wonder if Betsy realizes I just quoted Michelle Tanner. It’s amazing the thoughts that go through one’s mind over 26.2 miles…
Miles 22-26.2: 8:31, 8:37, 8:45, 8:34, 8:53, 8:26
From this point on, it was all about counting down and focusing on the PR. Every mile that ticked by, it was ok, just a loop around the park. And then, 30 more minutes of running, that’s it! And then 20, and so on. I didn’t feel terrible physically, but was a bit too nauseous to take my fourth gel so instead focused on Gatorade at the aid stations and continued to walk through them quickly to make sure I got it down. I kept doing the math in my head to make sure I was on pace to break 3:40, a huge goal of mine. As we neared the final (and mercilessly uphill) turn, I knew I could do it and told myself there would be no slowing until I crossed that damn finish line.
Official time: 3:39:17, 8:22/mile (PR by 3 minutes, 31 seconds)
I think I said some expletives as I crossed the line – both from the joy of breaking 3:40 and of being able to finally stop running. The volunteers were great, and my only regret is feeling too nauseas and in pain to enjoy the free beer that was offered about 5 minutes after crossing the finish line. I hobbled over to get my checked bag and waited for Betsy, who ended up with a great PR. Chicago has an AMAZING post-race party in Grant Park with live music, more beer and other fun stuff, so we hung out there for a while as it was a gorgeous day and all we wanted to do was lay on the ground.
After showering and more laying in the hotel beds eating homemade banana bread from Betsy’s mom (clutch), we headed over to meet Dani and some CPTC ladies for celebratory beers and race rehashing.
So, ok. I didn’t BQ yet again. And yet again, I really, really wanted to. But, I’m not too bummed. My “B” goal was to finally see 3:3X on the clock when I finished, and I did that. I worked through some negativity and some not-so-fresh feeling legs and didn’t stop running even though I wanted to more than a little bit. Every time I run a marathon I learn so much about the distance, myself and what it takes to get through such a unique challenge. And each time, I think I’m more prepared for the next one. That’s what’s so great about running – there is always a next one.
(but first, recovery!)