Bank of America Chicago Marathon {Race Recap}

This is quite possibly my most delayed race recap ever. I’ve been working on it off and on for two weeks now, but just haven’t had it together enough to complete it. Here we go.

When I woke up I felt okay, not good, but well enough that I was going to run the race. Not that I was ever really considering not running, but if I’d felt slightly worse, I may have reconsidered my pace a bit more. Julie and I ate some almond butter and jam bread and chatted as we got ready. Worrying that my antibiotics would give me the runs, I opted to wait to take them until after the race. I did take some Advil to help my throbbing head and achy joints. My corral was set to close at 7:20 am. Not knowing what was involved in getting to the start line, I left the hotel a little after six and walked with hoards of people towards the park.

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As it turns out, I had plenty of time. I went through the security line, walked right over to my corral and didn’t even have to wait for a porta-potty. About 10 minutes before the corral was set to close, I took off my warm-up clothes (which I didn’t really even need since it was nearly 60 degrees), and settled in a spot by the 3:40 pacers. I talked to a few people next to me before the national anthem was sung and we were slowly being led to our start.

First 5k (25:38 – 8:15 min/mile)

Amazingly, the race start moved quickly. Must have been because all the super fast runners ahead of me and the efficiency of corral organization. Almost immediately after crossing the line, we went through a tunnel before making a few quick turns. Josh called me at about mile 2.5 and told me to look for him at mile four. I made my way to the outside of the crowd so that he would actually be able to see me as I ran by. There were so many runners and so many spectators. I couldn’t believe how many people were out so early. The runners were taking up at least four lanes of road from one side to the other. I ran the first 5k a little faster than expected.

10k (51:45 – 8:25 min/mile) – 15k (1:17:42 – 8:22 min/mile)

I was super excited to actually be able to spot Josh and our friend Jason just past the fourth mile. I settled into a nice even pace with our pacer and tried my best not to do any weaving. As we ran by the Lincoln Park Zoo we past the 10k mark. This is one of the few landmarks I actually remember running by. In the sea of people I found myself doing more people watching than scenery viewing. This was when I saw one of my favorite spectators – a woman wearing a flesh colored body suit, purple wig and holding a sign that said “Rub my belly for luck.” It took me a minute to realize that she was supposed to be a troll. I took my first gel a bit early, but wanted to take it before I got too tired.

At this point in the race I was feeling pretty good. I was easily keeping pace with the group, but not feeling good enough to push any harder. It was definitely smart for me to scale back my expectations. This was also when I started feeling warm. I bought some cooling sleeves to wear during the race since I knew it was going to be warm. They weren’t doing much for me. I was grabbing water at each water stop trying to keep myself hydrated. This was easier said than done thanks to being sick, the antibiotics and me sweating pretty profusely. Josh called me again right around the 15k mark to tell me they were now at mile 11.

20k (1:43:47 – 8:21 min/mile) – 25k (02:09:32 – 8:20 min/mile)

Unfortunately I was on the opposite side of the road then they were, so I made my way over to the far left side so that I could see them. This started to add a bit of additional mileage. It was worth it to see my family. Plus, with so many people, it was pretty damn hard to try to follow the nice blue line (showed the tangents) to the finish line. I excitedly waved at the boys as I ran by.

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Maybe it was because I wasn’t feeling great or it was warm, but the race was feeling long by the time I passed the 20k timing mat. Though I was taking water at every stop and drinking my own when I took my second gel, my lips and throat felt dry. I tried not to focus on that and look forward to hitting the half way point (1:49:20 – 8:22 min/mile). Being with the pace group was really helping me maintain a fairly even pace. My goal was to try not to run huge positive splits in the last half. I could tell that how my body was aching and my chest was starting to hurt that I was going to slow down at some point.

I was looking forward to the 25k mark because I knew that my entire family would be somewhere between there and mile 17. I was definitely getting hot .I took of my cooling sleeves because they weren’t doing anything for me. While we ran through patches of shade, being in concrete city, even with the gusty wind, I was starting to overheat. Luckily they were handing out soaking wet sponges. They were amazing! I ran past the 25k time mat for my last negative 5k split during the race. Josh called then to say the family was just past the 17th mile. I was so excited but my chest was starting to burn a little bit.

I ran by my whole family which was so exciting. I was trying to stay strong as I ran by. I knew I needed let go of the pace group. I decided to hang on until mile 18.

30k (02:35:38 – 8:24 min/mile) – 35k (03:02:30 – 8:39 min/mile)

Right after I saw my family I took my third gel. I was happy that my stomach wasn’t giving me any problems whatsoever. When we crossed the 30k mark, I decided to let go of the pace group. For a few miles I could see them just ahead of me. I calculated that even if I slowed to a 10 min/mile pace, I should still come in under 3:50. I was really starting to feel crappy. My legs felt great, but my throat was killing me, my head starting to throb and the burning in my chest getting a little worse. I didn’t feel like I was hitting the wall, just sick.

The crowd support was getting pretty sparse and shade was hard to come by. I was getting so hot. At mile 20 Josh called me to give me some support. I think he knew that I was starting to feel bad. He said they were making their way to mile 25 and would be waiting to cheer me on through the last of it. It did help pep me up a bit but I started walking through the water stops to help the burning in my chest subside. It was getting pretty bad and even walking for a few minutes and drinking water helped temporarily. I took a fourth gel around mile 22. I was glad that I had packed the ‘just-in-case’ gel because I definitely needed it.

40k (03:30:39 – 9:04 min/mile) – Finish 

I was tired, I was ready to be done. I scanned the crowds trying to see my family but it was packed. I ran right past them just after the mile 25 sign. This is when they started having signs saying 800m, 400m, etc. It kind of annoyed me because I was just thinking, ugh another half mile. I knew that of course but the signs in meters makes it seem so much closer. I had been told about the hill just before the 26th mile. I laughed it off because it was tiny. Um, it felt huge. I actually stopped, drank the last of my water, then continued. Right at the top of the tiny hill you turn and there is the finish line. I tried to sprint a bit towards it but felt like I was moving like molasses. I gave it all I had, put my arms in the air and ran through the finish line.

I was done and so happy about that. I looked at my watch and realized I had set a new personal record. It wasn’t the BQ I’ve been lusting after, but almost a full five minutes faster than Fargo.

Official time: 3:42:43 (8:30 min/mile average)

I was so excited! I called Josh to tell him I was done and very slowly making my way to the family meet up area. Almost as soon as I crossed the finish line, texts and Facebook messages started flooding my phone. I got choked up at the amount of love and support I was receiving. I’m incredibly lucky.

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It was at least a half mile to get to the family meetup. I picked up my medal, some snack bags, took a finishers picture and waddled along with thousands of other people. When I finally found then I got tons of hugs.

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And my lobster, who is my biggest cheerleader, had only the sweetest words for me as he greeted me and we wished each other a happy seventh anniversary.

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Afterwards, we walked to Shake Shack for a burger and milkshake. I hadn’t had dairy, onions or regular bread with wheat in it for weeks. Both were amazing. My family dropped me off at Julie’s hotel where I spent the afternoon lounging and talking with Julie about the race before we went to dinner. How awesome is it that she decided to run the marathon in part to celebrate her 50th birthday?! We’ve been texting back and forth about another race we can meet at.

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We had a lovely dinner with my family plus our Colorado friends Jason and Jennell. By the way, Jennell was even more under the weather than me after having the stomach flu. She still did awesome and is way tougher than me. I would have called it.

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I’m proud of my performance considering I was sick and it was way warmer than I would have liked. I’ve had a couple of what-if moments. What if I hadn’t been sick? What if it was cooler? etc, etc. Every race I’m getting one step closer to getting my first BQ. I still can’t believe I’ve cut my time from 5+ hours to a substantial sub-4 hour marathon.

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