So I finally sat down and finished my big ol' Chicago Marathon 2015 recap. I started out writing 2 posts about the expo and race, and now I've shortened it plus included lots of photos! It was a little weird running Chicago after just running it last year. I knew the way things were organized, the course, and what to generally expect. This year was less fun because I had a really stressful week of school beforehand and had to plan a shorter trip, as well as get some homework done when I was out there.
I went to the race expo on Friday after getting in late the night before. McCormick Place Convention Center is a hike from where I was on the western part of the city. Once we got there I grabbed my bib and checked out the expo.
The Chicago Marathon Expo is my favorite so far. It's so well-organized and more importantly, super spread out. It's not super cramped and ridiculously crowded like I felt the Boston Marathon expo or other large expos are. Nike had a huge booth as a sponsor, but the designs of their race apparel & merchandise were really similar to last year and not super cool, which was disappointing. Although the race shirt I got with my bib is an awesome red short-sleeved top with a graphic black and white text in the middle.
Once I was in the expo, the energy of all the runners and excitement for the race really hit me. I instantly became super proud to be among all these runners! I also couldn't believe the race was in a matter of days.
Nike had a big sign again that you could autograph and would be on the course.
I wasn't able to make the official Nuun meetup on Saturday, but I was really happy to stop by and have a chance to chat with Kim who works for Nuun and was one of my Hood to Coast teammates! Getting a little pep talk and encouragement was really nice.
I also picked up a cool shirt from one of my favorite running brands, Brooks Running, as well as some extra race fuel.
Advocate Health Centers had a fun little photo booth going on. This sign really speaks to me!
I didn't get a chance to snag a photo, but I got to say hello to Bart Yasso at the Runner's World booth before he had to scoot off to go give a talk.
Nike is really great at having awesome photo ops at the expo.
The rest of the day I spent in the city including grabbing lunch and finally meeting Susie in person which was SO fun. I did too much walking during the day and knew it was bad when my feet were hurting.
The next day I went back to the expo to spend a little more time persuing and grabbing a few more things like an awesome Bondiband to wear on race day.I even bumped into Angela leaving the race with was SO awesome and random. My calves and hamstrings were feeling really tight which worried me, especially because I couldn't bring my foamroller out to Illinois. I had dinner at Little Goat Diner which included a burger, a side of homefries, and a little bit of apple pie aka all the carbs.
Race morning I was so anxious that I woke up before my 5 AM alarm multiple times in a panic, which is typical for me before big races. My boyfriend said I was really amped, even before eating and having a little caffeine. I had a banana and a plain bagel with peanut butter along with some Lemon-Lime Nuun Energy before getting on the train.
Once we got downtown I was getting really anxious. The weatherman the day before had said it would feel like summer in Chicago for race day, which is no bueno, but it made for a perfect race morning. There had been talk all week about how it would be windy and unusually warm on race day as well as the race bumping up their EAS safety levels from low to moderate. I quickly took my throwaway shirt off when I got downtown. My boyfriend also made my name on my shirt (written on hot pink KT tape) bigger before saying goodbye.
I wore my Adidas Energy Boosts ESM shoes, Feetures! compression socks, Lululemon pace setter skirt, Under Armour sports bra, Bondiband headband, and a Lululemon tank along with my Nuun tattoo and some throwaway gloves.
I anxious because the security line ended up being really long around 6:40 when I got there. I knew Corral C closed at 7:20 so I wasn't sure I would make it through in time. The energy of runners was filled with excitement, nerves, and impatience with the line.
Eventually I made it through security, jogged to gear check to drop off my bag, and headed to the port-a-potty line before I made it into Corral C with minutes to spare. I was stuck in the very back of the corral so I wasn't near any pacers. Once the race started there was so much excitement. I heard the elites start and then all of a sudden before I knew it we were running. The beginning of the Chicago Marathon is so special and is PACKED with spectators. It's also flat & fast so I know a bunch of people start out way too fast. I was nervous about my pace and how the weather and wind would be so I kept it slower for the first 13 miles. Looking back I wish I picked up the pace just a little bit, but c'est la vie. Also quick note, my Garmin GPS was all messed up from a tunnel and the buildings so I think I thought I was going faster at times than I actually was.
Since I wasn't running with friends this year, my boyfriend made a plan to meet me at 5-6 locations based on his experiences trying to catch me last year. He was fabulous and saw me 4 times during the first half and manged to snag this awesome action shot at mile 3. Notice how happy I look!
It's hard because now after the race, the miles blur. I loved going through all the different neighborhoods of Chicago. It was also fun because after racing last year and then exploring the city, I recognize different parts a lot better now. I tried to keep my pace conservative until around mile 16 when I knew I could speed up a bit. I was SO cautious of going out too fast because it's such a trap, especially in Chicago where the whole course if flat and fast. I sped up to around 8:00 min/mile and was feeling okay. I was having a salted caramel GU every 6 miles along with salt tabs and honey stinger chews in between when I felt I needed something.
I made the last minute decision to buy a handheld water bottle at the expo instead of my waist belt that I had been training with. I knew I didn't want to suck down the Nuun in it and then have to toss my belt halfway through the race so I went with the smaller water bottle so I didn't chance the belt annoying me. My skirt held all my fuel which was great!
The first half of the course is amazing. It's fast, exciting, and shaded. Once I got about 2 hours and thirty minutes into the race I was feeling overheated. The second half of the race is all mostly in direct sunlight. There was not a cloud in the sky which helped, and I saw from an outdoor thermometer at one point that the temperature had already hit 70 degrees (the high for the day ended up being 78). I was trying to focus on my Paceband and was keeping an eye on the big clocks on course, but didn't know what time after the elites I had started. I knew I was behind my 3:30 race pace but figured a consistent pace was at least good to be. This time in Chicago I tried to soak everything in-the city,the signs, the spectators, and the fellow runners. I gave lots of high-fives, shouted, and always gave at least a fist bump when I heard someone yell my name off my shirt. So many moments of running happy.
Now I know I didn't hydrate well enough the days leading up to the race. I drank a bunch of fluids and electrolytes the day before and had lots of Nuun the morning of. I took a few salt tabs and alternated with water and Gatorade at every water stop. Something I've noticed in the last year however is that I just overheat sometimes and that's what happened.
Besides my legs feeling tight since mile 14, and then generally feeling like lead pipes from mile 20 on, I just felt blah. I was feeling warm and not cooling down, despite a few ice cold sponges I grabbed later in the race from volunteers. Those last 6 miles were so tough. I walked through a couple water stops to try to regain composure because I was getting upset. I can't explain it by anything except overheating. My head felt heavy and when my boyfriend managed to say hi to me at mile 22 and ran along side me as I took a few swigs of the Gatorade bottle he had bought for me, he said I was just sobbing. I just told him to leave me alone, that I needed to finish the race. I think you can be prepared, but my marathons have never felt like my training runs.
It was that mental point where I couldn't talk to anyone, I was in pain, and I just needed to get these miles done with. The super long, straight race course at this point doesn't help mentally either. Definitely lots of tough moments mentally that come up only in races like this for me. I focused on staying positive and trying to push out those bad thoughts. There were some tears, but eventually I just had my head hanging back a little and tried to power through. I was repeating my mantra of "stronger than you" and "breathe" out loud those last 3 miles. Eventually at Mile 26 there is that little hill for the last 0.2 miles, and I gave it everything I had left in the tank.
|That face is a lot more pained than that photo at Mile 3!|
I didn't even know what time I crossed the finish line in. When I was done I just needed to be done. I stopped my watch but didn't even look. I ended up finishing in 3:34:48, 5128/46034 overall, and 286 in my age group. I'm not sure of my overall average race pace but it was probably around an 8:12 min/mile. It was also a freaking negative split, which I mean, who does that?!
Once I crossed the finish line I just had to stop, but the amazing volunteers at the race finish wanted to keep people moving. The volunteers were great with checking on people, helping people, getting medical attention, and providing wheelchairs for those who needed them. Shout-out to ALL of the awesome Chicago Marathon volunteers at every part of the race! I felt like death for a minute or so and a lovely volunteer walked with me to make sure I was okay and not dizzy or anything. After chugging a bottle of water and 3 cups of Gatorade I was feeling okay, minus my legs barely being able to walk.
I hobbled along, grabbed a heat blanket, and got some photos taken. Chicago is so big and organized so they had a nice line to grab bags of snacks plus bananas, protein bars, and Gatorade protein drinks. They also had bags of ice which felt amazing. At this point, a few happy tears were shed and maybe a few flexing/biting my medal race photos were taken.
Goose Island, like last year, was handing out free 312 wheat beers in the finishers area (ones you didn't have to use your beer ticket for) which is what I had before any food. It tasted gloriously. Eventually I hobbled over to Buckingham Fountain (which is currently being renovated so it wasn't working) and grabbed my gear.
Next I sat down and looked at my phone which was filled with texts and congratulations. In this moment I finally smiled and realized I did get a PR and a BQ. It's not far enough under 3:35, but still. There were points in the race where I thought it was going to end up being a slower race so this still felt amazing.
Once I found my boyfriend and a friend, I got to relax in Grant Park. It was a beautiful day if you weren't running! It was awesome to see so many people finishing and to take a few moments to reflect that I just ran my 3rd freaking marathon. Who would have thought 4 years ago that I would be a MARATHONER, PLURAL. Even though I was in horrible pain at the end of the race, I was already thinking of what my next marathon would be.
It's a sick hobby, isn't it?
I eventually redeemed my free beer, munched on a protein bar, and then headed out to spend the afternoon grabbing some food and drinking a few beers.
|Snacks from the race bag that I didn't eat until later!|
Sometimes post-race it's a burger and fries, but today all I wanted was this personal pizza all to myself. Yes, I like thin crust better than deep dish! YUM.
Honestly, I can't be sad of achieving my B goal, a PR and BQ, even if it isn't fast enough to actually get to run Boston. It sucks that I felt like it wasn't even a real Boston time because I know when I apply I'll get cut,especially with how many people applied this year. I just feel the need to qualify saying I have a BQ because when people ask if I'm running Boston I can't say yes.
Now I've accepted that you know what, it is really freaking awesome and is a Boston Qualifying time so HELL YEAH. I'm chipping away and know that I can train hard and maybe have that magical race day where I can run a little faster. Anyhow, coming away with a PR is a really great feeling. It kinda sucked not having any of my running buddies that I trained with along side me, but I was super grateful for how beautiful Chicago and all the spectators, volunteers, and runners were. Also my boyfriend is a trooper for seeing me on course like 6 times and having some extra fuel for me if I needed it.
I was so happy to have my custom race mantra on my arm thanks to Momentum because it was the best reminder to repeat it to myself. I am stronger than I know!
What's your favorite race mantra? How did your big race or event of the season turn out?