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.

Pre-Marathon Day

It’s been more than a week now since the race and time for my recap. For the past week I’ve been sleeping as much as possible trying to get better. I finally feel almost like myself again though I’m still easily fatigued. This all started on our way to Chicago, so that’s where the recap will start too.

After what seemed like a never-ending drive, we made it the apartment we rented in Chicago on Friday evening. Along the way we received a call from the doctor saying that Ella’s rapid strep test was now positive. I looked up the nearest Walgreens and had them send her prescription there. With that news I started to worry that what I thought was a cold was possibly strep. Wouldn’t that just be my luck?

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised that the condo looked just like the pictures. It was beautiful and spacious. Perfect for us, plus my mom, stepdad and sister. We unloaded all of our stuff and waited for my family to arrive. Once they arrived and unpacked the car, everyone was hungry so we walked to Giordano’s where Josh got to have his first stuffed pizza and I carb loaded with gluten-free pasta (gluten-free is wheat-free). By the time we got home I was starting to feel a bit worse. The headache I’d had off and on for days was now making me feel as if my eyes were being pushed out of my skull.

I went to bed planning on getting up for the expo really early. When my alarm went off, I knew I needed more sleep. The kids were still in bed so I went back to sleep for a bit longer. I’m glad I did because we had plenty of time to get to the expo. After breakfast, we jumped in the cars to head downtown. While our apartment was great, it was 10 miles from downtown. In Chicago traffic, that means at least 30 minutes driving or a one hour train ride. We opted just to drive. As we pulled into the McCormick Place garage, my excitement to walk through and pick up my stuff was dissipating. I was feeling awful. In fact as we walked into the convention center, I started getting choked up and tears started to fill my eyes. I was so disappointed after all my training that I was sick.

This picture pretty much summed up how I felt.

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I was incredibly impressed by the efficiency of bib pick-up. I got there early enough there were no lines. They scanned my confirmation and checked my ID. I was then sent to a specific station where I was greeted by name and handed my bib. With that I was sent to the back of the hall to get my gear check bag and shirt. My gear check bag ripped almost immediately but I wasn’t going to need it for the race anyway.

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We walked around a bit and I got some pictures.

Pre race

pre race 2

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My family made some signs, I got spoiled with a new medal hanger and sweatshirt. We had been there maybe an hour before I said I need to go to the doctor. I found an urgent care and jumped in a taxi with my mom while everyone else went to explore the city. I hit the office just at the right time because there was no wait. Strep, yep. Swollen lymph nodes, inflamed tonsils, body aches, headache, I had it all. My mom asked if they could give me a penicillin shot to jump start getting better. Unfortunately the doctor said all that would do is give me a sore butt on race day.

We met the rest of the crew at the CVS across the street where I got my prescription filled. Emma, the kids and I took a cab back to the car so we could all nap, well that was the plan anyway. With the road closures, it took us about a hour to get home. I was getting hangry and just plain tired. We got back, I ate an almond butter and jelly sandwich with some pretzels and went to bed. Emma was gracious enough to watch the kids for me so I could rest up. I spent the entire afternoon in bed but was still exhausted when I got up to start dinner.

After my bland, but IBS friendly, dinner of a slice of pork tenderloin, half a sweet potato and a handful of salad, Josh drove me back downtown to my Aunt Julie’s hotel. She was less than a quarter mile from the start and was nice enough to let me crash. We laid out all of our stuff and chatted until we had to go to sleep. As I laid there trying to fall asleep, I was doing positive visualizations of waking up feeling good, with lots of energy. Also keeping my fingers crossed the antibiotics wouldn’t upset my stomach. I was also thankful that I hadn’t had the stomach flu like my friend Jennell who was also running. Poor girl.

I actually slept off and on for about five hours. When I did wake up in the morning I was thankful for the adrenaline of race day.

Race Preparation and Strategy

Last weekend was inspiring. I got to track a ton of my Moms Run This Town friends as they rocked the Twin Cities Marathon. I think just about everyone ran a PR and we even had one qualify for Boston! My BRF Amy ran an amazing race, setting a huge PR. Now she is only 16 seconds away from her own BQ!

I was so proud as I obsessively refreshed my computer screen to see the latest updates. It could have only been better had I been able to get down to actually cheer for them along the course!

Tracking them made me both excited and nervous for this weekend. Excited to be there and wrapped up in this:

Chicago Marathon

(Photo Courtesy of Bank of America Chicago Marathon)

But nervous about my stomach acting up or hitting the wall hard. It probably doesn’t help that I’m still fighting a cold that has been trying to take me down for more than two weeks now. As usual I’m watching the weather like a hawk. The forecast keeps getting warmer and warmer. Currently it’s forecast to be 77 degrees with a low of 63. That is less than ideal for a PR performance. I’m hoping it’s actually a bit cooler when we start but we shall see. I cannot control the weather but I’m trying to keep a positive attitude. I can also try to figure out how to keep my core temperature down. I’m planning on wearing a light colored tank (it will have to be new which is a no no), eating extra salt and making sure one of my water bottles has Nuuns in it. I’m also seriously considering putting my sports bra in the freezer before the race.

This week I’ve also focusing on hydration and of course eating right. I’m avoiding any foods that may upset my stomach. This has lead to a rather bland diet of bananas, toast, turkey sandwiches and chicken/steak with potatoes or rice. I’m ok with that as long as it helps me avoid the misery of the trots mid-race. So far this week everything has been settling just fine.

Let’s talk race strategy. This is a HUGE race. I mean huge. Therefore it will be impossible for me to go out too fast. I know that going out too fast will bite me right in the ass. The course being flat and fast, it will be tempting to gun it. My original plan was to position myself slightly behind the 3:35 pacer. The goal being to keep him in my sights, but still a bit ahead. If I’m feeling good around the half way point, I may inch closer to the pacer. If I need to slow, especially with the heat, I can do so, but I’m going to try not to let the 3:40 pace group pass me. I’ll reassess how I’m feeling around 18-20 miles. If I’m still feeling good, then I’ll speed up again. If not, I’ll try to stay the course or slow if need be. Though I always carry my own water, I’m going to take water at every water stop and use mine for taking my gels.

What are the goals?

  1. Finish the race without an emergency porta-potty visit and a smile on my face.
  2. Set a new PR. Fargo is my current PR which was 3:47 and change. I’ll be happy with anything faster than that.
  3. BQ. Now I don’t really think this is the race where it will happen, especially with the warm temps. It will happen eventually, I know it.

Now I just have to get safely to Chicago, pick up my stuff and show up on race day.

Chicago Marathon Training {Week 16} + Training Review

One week to go until race day. This week instead of merely looking at my training for the past week, I thought I’d look back on my training leading up to my final taper week. It’s been a busy and successful training season. Here’s a few numbers going into race week:

Total Runs: 48
Total Miles: 490
Number of Interval Runs: 13
Number of Tempo Runs: 16
Number of Races: Four (two half marathons (Birdtown & Urban Wildland), a 10k and a 3.7 mile)
Average Weekly Mileage: 30.5 miles
Highest Weekly Mileage: 37 miles
Longest Run: 22 miles
Average Long Run Distance: 15.7 miles
Average Long Run Pace: 8:23 min/mile

This was a very strong season. I didn’t miss a single run, though two in Colorado I changed to regular runs rather than intervals and a tempo. When I did my intervals and tempos, I nailed my paces, often surprising myself with the speeds I was able to hit. I ran my fastest intervals ever when I did 400 meter repeats, dipping below the 7 min/mile mark. Pushing myself on those intervals made my long runs seem easier (most of the time) and me feel like a speedster. Even on some killer hills like this.  

 

They always look smaller in pictures. We often found ourselves having to consciously slow down as our speeds crept up on our long runs – a good problem to have in my eyes.

Reflecting on my training I feel well prepared for the race. I’ve followed my plan and done what I can to increase my speed and endurance. Now I just need to trust that it will get my through the marathon happy, healthy and faster than I’ve ever completed the distance before.

This Week:

Monday – 1750 yd swim + 20 min elliptical
Tuesday – 3×1600 @ 7:29 min/mile
Wednesday – Rest (Taper aches and pains)
Thursday – 8 mile tempo
Friday – Rest
Saturday – 10 mile run
Sunday – 1750 yd swim

Only two more runs before race day!

Chicago Marathon {Week 15}

Taper is here and I felt it this week.

My legs felt heavy and though I was exhausted, I could not sleep. I had my first, and hopefully last, pre-race nightmare. It started with me running late and having to climb a HUGE hill to get to the finish line. Of course the race had already started by the time I got to the line. Instead of starting to run, I ran into a tent to find a pacer and then started the race. We ran down the street and then through restaurant after restaurant, weaving through tables and kitchens. I never completed the race, but woke up anxious and hungry. I think my race fears got the best of me that evening.

Going into these last weeks, well really just one week now (this post is a bit delayed), I know that I have to focus on what I can control. I can control my hydration. I can control my fueling and I can finish the last of my runs strong. I can trust my training and make sure I have everything I need on race day. I can get as much sleep as possible and study the course map.

Training:

Monday – two mile walk + abs
Tuesday – 4 mile tempo + strength
Wednesday – 30 min cycle + 30 min elliptical
Thursday – 7×800 @ 6:58 min/mile (7 miles)
Friday – 2.5 mile walk
Saturday – 15 mile long run
Sunday – Rest

In order to try to prevent more nightmares, I’m working on not stressing about the weather or my finish time. While I am confident that I will set a new PR, I’m not as confident in my ability to BQ. I have a lot of cheerleaders telling me I can do it, but it is a lofty goal. When I look at how Fargo went (current PR – 3:47) with no speed work, no consistent training and nasty stomach issues, I get a little confidence boost. If I can set a three minute PR with those, what can I do in Chicago? 3:45, 3:40, 3:35?