#ChiMarathon Chicago Marathon Race Recap – Part 2

Part 1 is here.

By the grace of God, I slept well. I did wake up at 1:30am and it took me maybe an hour to get back to sleep. My Fitbit alarm buzzed my wrist at 4:45am and I felt rested. My belly wasn’t great. I stepped out of bed and lubed up my legs, middle, and armpits with vaseline to prevent any chafing if the temperatures were to warm up as predicted. I dressed and hit the bathroom. It wasn’t pretty. I knew I had to go as much as I could before we walked out of the hotel room. I managed to make a cup of Bulletproof coffee, and prepare my race fluids, take my vitamins, and eat a bite of a UCan Protein bar before stuffing the remainder of it back in my race pack just in case I needed something more later.

We were out the hotel door at 6:08 am. It was a little later than I had planned. But the streets were dark and rather empty, and we hiked rather quickly to the edge of Millenium Park, where the crowds were tremendous. I had my Boston Marathon jacket on for the walk and planned on handing it off with my eyeglasses to my husband. I cursed myself at this time for not bringing a throw away. I don’t know why I always second guess this. I should bring one regardless. It was a chilly morning. I queried my husband as to how attached he was to the sweatshirt he was wearing. He responded, “Very…”


5 corrals full of runners were headed to the start, and a few of the later start runners were there too. Runners were everywhere. My husband was overwhelmed. Yeah, he came to Duluth with me when I ran Grandma’s but the difference between 8000 runners and 45,000 runners is staggering. Not even comparable. This was his first big marathon as a spectator! I don’t think he could believe his eyes.

We found the gate, and my husband took some photos, which didn’t turn out well. He seemed antsy, like he just wanted to get out of the crowds. I told him to go on and get going. There was little he could do for me here. Only runners were allowed into the corral area, anyway. He then generously handed over his sweatshirt. I tried to refuse it, but he was insistent. (<3) I gave him my stuff and my now empty coffee cup. He wished me luck, and we parted ways.

From there, it took me another 15 minutes to get through the gates, and security, and another 10 to get to Corral B.

Start line from Corral B

Start line from Corral B

The potty lines were tremendous, but I had to give it a shot. It was now 7:00am and the gates to the corral would close in 20 minutes. My fitbit alarm buzzed me, a reminder to take my Energybits and Sports Legs. At 7:15am and still in line, they played the national anthem. Suddenly, the bathrooms started emptying lickity split. All those behind me ditched the line then as well, and I was one of the few left standing there. Those of us had gotten soooooo close. It seemed stupid to give up now. I held out…and made it just in time to empty a bladder full of coffee. Damn, I’m glad I did that! My watch just turned 7:20am as I squeezed my tiny self into the belly of the crowd at the corral entrance and was practically carried in, like a bread crumb on the backs of traveling ants. It was a well played move on my part.

Start Line #Selfie

Start Line #Selfie

The start didn’t take long after that. I had just enough time to get my iPhone set up with Runmeter, and make the final decision to run naked, sans music or podcast. The elites and the remainder of Corral A were off on time, and within 3-5 minutes, Corral B had made their way to the start line.

And we’re off.

The first few hundred yards were downhill bringing us under the metro system. It was loud, dark, and crowded. The excitement was paramount. Runners were yelling and cheering. The frenzy was thick. I got so caught up in it, that I realized I had started too fast. My run meter had me at 7:15 pace early. I would learn later that I wasn’t actually running this pace, however. The GPS wasn’t functioning as it should because of the city buildings. Nonetheless, I was shoulder to shoulder with what seemed like the entire group of Corral B racers. And the crazy thing is, it never really opened up.

The handoff...

The handoff…

We were quickly coming up on mile 2. I recognized it because we were close to our hotel. I knew Steve would be here somewhere, and I still had his jacket on. OMG. If I could find him, I could hand it right off to him. I scanned the crowd left and right. I had been running the right side of the road for the sake of my leg, and spotted him to the left. What luck! I crossed the wide road, right to left, trying not to cut anyone off, and made the handoff! It was perfect! I was laughing the entire time. He thought it was pretty funny too. “Ha ha! Thanks!! Now, keep running! Don’t stop!” he said. And I turned and crossed back to the right side again.

Take off, eh?

Take off, eh?

With that behind me, I zoned in and started interacting with the spectators. The crowds weren’t as deep as they were in Boston, but there seemed to be more of them all along the route. Chicago loves their marathoners as well! I really had fun with them much of the run…well, at least until mile 20 when I became too physically exhausted to raise my arms anymore.

The weather did not affect me for this run. Yeah, I started cold. But once I dropped the jacket, I was good to go. There was a pretty significant head wind as we headed south. I want to say it was miles 8-10. The sun was shining, but the streets in the city were sun protected from the buidlings, and since I kept to the right, I always managed to find shade. Some of the outlying neighborhoods were a bit warmer with little breeze, but we weren’t in them long enough for me to notice. They had sponges on the course, and a few hoses running as showers as well, but I was more anal about getting wet and chafing than I was about cooling off. I was grateful it didn’t get warmer than it did.

Everything else went smoothly enough. In fact, I thought I was killing it. I wasn’t making the connection between the actual race distance and the clocks at the checkpoints and my Runmeter. Because of it, I slowed up a bit. I thought I bought some time early, and could now relax some before pouring it on for the final 10K. But near the half mark, I became confused when the Runmeter distances weren’t matching the race distances. I would be passing the hotel again soon and wanted to find my husband, so I started scanning the crowd. But I didn’t see him, and before I knew it, I was way passed the point of spotting him at all, unless he had travelled further up the road to find me. So I settled back into the run. I heard Runmeter read a post from my sister that said he had missed me at mile 12.5. She thought, as did I, that I was smoking it, and had passed way earlier than anyone had expected.

Nothing was making sense. At this point, Runmeter had me a full mile ahead of Chicago’s timing mats. It wasn’t adding up and I wasn’t sure if I was ahead or behind at this point. So I picked up the pace again.

I fueled at hour 1 and hour 2, or about mile 7 and mile 14, but the second hour’s pill pack didn’t sit well. I was feeling cruddy again and questioned whether I would even be able to fuel at hour 3. My hydration wasn’t tasting good at all, so I took a couple of water stops after mile 16. I was getting increasingly thirsty and my stuff wasn’t cutting it. Runmeter still had my pace at a good 10-15 seconds faster than I was actually going. I still thought I was l killing it. This middle third of the run was kind of a blur, in a good way. It went by fast, and before I knew it, I was approaching the final third.

At mile 20, or at the proverbial wall, at least according to Runmeter, I picked it up again, only to realize 30 yards later that it was only mile 19 on the course. What a discrepancy. It messed with my head. The timing mats were at 5K intervals and marked as such, and I couldn’t figure out what my time should be for each one in order to PR. I believed I still had a chance, so I put my all into those last 6 miles, that turned out to be 7 miles. But in the end, it was too much too soon. And I fully realized it as some little hills started appearing, and the sun was now full on the course. I knew at about mile 24 that the PR wasn’t happening. I was a bit disappointed, but realized I’d still BQ at the rate I was going. I still managed to pass a lot of runners in those last 6 miles.

At mile 25, Runmeter read my sister’s post, “It’s PR Time!” but I couldn’t tell her “Nope, still got a mile to go…”  It made me sad.

Spectators were thick again. I gave them all I could, which wasn’t much. I managed a few waves but it was the best I could do. The biggest practical joke ever was that final uphill battle in the last half mile of the race. I’m still laughing about it. OMG. Really? That was totally planned, right?

At the last turn of the course was the finish line. I could see it and it was close. I poured it out. I heard them call my name as I stepped over the second to last timing mat, and I saw the finish line photographers. Up went the arms, and out came the relief. Over! It was over. My muscles seized immediatly upon slowing and walking, and I knew I just had to keep moving. But, I was going slower and slower and slower. Finally, I came to a crawl. The sweet volunteer who put the medal around my neck asked me if I was OK. I thanked her and said “yes”. I just needed some water.

My finish line #selfie

My finish line #selfie

I got it. And then we went through the finish line shuffle. Photos, bananas, foil wrap (for which it was way to warm, but they put it on me anyway), bag of food, beer (not), more photos, Gatorade protein drink (I took it, but didn’t dare drink it), and protein bars. After this, I turned and took my finish line selfie before seeking out my husband.

Finding my husband at the finish.

Finding my husband at the finish.

We kept walking around, because it was what I had to do. And he snapped some more photos after relieving me from carrying that big bag of stuff.

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The walk back to the hotel was long and slow. But before we even got there, we walked into the mega Walgreens, where I grabbed some hard boiled eggs, a chicken caesar salad, and some sushi. Yeah, drug store sushi. But in my defense, the sushi guy was right there making it. And he gave it to me freshly made. And it was good. Damn good. Not nearly enough, however…

Coming up, Part 3 and the Chicago conclusion.

Go back to Part 1

4 Responses to #ChiMarathon Chicago Marathon Race Recap – Part 2

  1. Norm says:

    While reading your Chicago Marathon experience it brought back so many of the memories of my 2014 Twin cities marathon. The good and the bad though you were so much more prepared than I was. It was my first race and at 57 it was more than I had bargained for. I had the same issue with my GPS bouncing off the buildings giving me incorrect stats. If it weren’t for my son running along side me the whole way I seriously doubt I would have finished. I was so unprepared for the cold, the too few porta potties and the pain of the wall. I want run it again in 2016 but will be training more sensibly and I’ve been keto adapted for several months and this past Saturday I had a really good 10 mile run. Not my fastest pace but I felt I had spare energy at the end. Thanks to you and your blog for inspiring me.

  2. Ugh, so sorry to hear about the technical difficulties. That happened during a long run in NYC with Kin. My Map My Run was a mile ahead and a minute faster than his Garmin. His was accurate. I guess that’s the risk of running in a big city race. I definitely would defer to the race clock in that situation.

    Regardless, you ran a great race and another BQ!! That’s pretty awesome.

  3. Gina Hanzel says:

    Great recap! You continue to inspire!!

  4. Great recap! My Garmin did the same thing with the miles; jumped a mile ahead somewhere around mile 12. That messed with my head too, even though I knew what had happened. I’m glad the weather didn’t affect you–seems like a lot of us in Wave 2 had issues with the increasing temps.

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