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Chicago Marathon : The Long Story of Redemption

Posted Oct 13 2009 10:05pm

Be prepared this is one long report...

Race morning came early as they all do. I slept better than before other races but still woke up a few times throughout the night and decided to finally get up before the alarm. I went through the morning ritual, Jacob ordered a cab, and we were off to stand around in temps in the 30's but real feel of mid 20's.

I had found a cheap sweatsuit as throwaway gear. When Jacob first saw me in the kitchen he commented I looked like Clarice Starling running around the FBI course. He's a funny one that husband of mine but also right in this case.
Here's the corrals before the chaos of 45,000 runners
Before 7 am I decided to make my way into the corrals since they were closing at 7:15. I knew it would be a mad dash and difficult to find a way through the barricades. Smart thinking on my part for once. The corrals became so full the entry way wasn't move so as of 7:15 tons of runners started jumping the temporary fences. We were packed sardines at the start line. Several of us had to yell at the runners trying to jump the fence because there was absolutely no more room. Ridiculous! The only positive with being so close to perfect strangers is the temperature warmed about 20 degrees.

At the start before all the fence jumpers Jacob and I were talking as couples were all around us. Right behind me a girl who I am guessing was running her first started crying/getting choked up and her boyfriend/husband/significant other started comforting her by saying "you've got this, you can do this, there is nothing to worry about, I'm here for you" It got me all choked up because I felt the same nerves. I wonder how she did as I lost her immediately after the exchange.

Finally, the gun went off and... we stood there. It took 10 minutes for me to get to the start line and finally we were off. I lost the 4 hour pace group immediately but instead of freaking out I told myself I was running my own race, no pressure. The first mile took us under wacker drive for about a 1/4 - 1/2 mile. My garmin lost the signal and got all wacky. When I came out the buildings were interfering with it finding the correct pace (a 6:14 pace, dang I'm fast and didn't know it! What, now a second later I'm running a 12:40?) That kind of threw me so I made the executive decision to go by feel and not by time. I made sure I had people with 4:00 bibs around me so I wasn't falling too far off pace. I nearly forgot to take fluids those early miles because I was so dang excited! Not too much else happened the first 10 miles. They went by quickly, I was feeling amazing, taking in the race and the sights, smiling nearly the whole way. The worst part was just before mile 8 the intense smell of B.O that had me dry heaving, literally. I had to move to the opposite side of the street! Luckily I recovered quickly to enjoy the Boystown Cheerleaders - they rock! The best part of those early miles was seeing the streets I have traveled around in a car over the last 11 years full of runners and I was one of them!

Around mile 11 I started to keep an eye out for the hubs and my friend B. I had plans to meet them around 12 so I could switch out water bottles and shed the long sleeve shirt if needed. What I realized around this time is that we failed in the communication department. With so many people on both sides watching and in the middle of the pack running I had no idea what side they would be standing and exactly what intersection -gah! At 12.5 I had resigned to the fact I had missed them and was trying to figure what to do (take gatorade which upsets the stomach or stick with water the rest of the race) when I felt a tug on my back. Jacob saw me and ran me down while carrying my backpack to pass off the water bottles! What a guy!!! I was all "Where the f*&$ where you" b/c I was mad I had missed them and I know it came out super bitchy when I so didn't mean it to. I feel really bad with how it came out of my mouth but extremely grateful he found me. So for anyone deciding to run this race in the future, clearly map out where your spectators will be and on what side of the street. Or as my friend Jami says "Dress like a banana, you can see a banana"

Crossing the halfway point I was still feeling good but when I glanced at garmy (which had now straightened itself out pace wise but was logging my distance as an extra mile) and saw 1:59 something for the first half I knew I would not be able to do that the second half to make it under 4. Though I was still hopeful and pushing strong knowing that it would be very close. I knew I had my friend Jami to look for around mile 16 and I had finally caught up to the 4 hr pace group (they started and had been ahead of me the whole race). Around 14 I had an "uh oh" moment. My stomach got wonky and I started to feel the GI issues I had in Cleveland. I kept pushing to see if it would pass and thankfully it did! Big sigh of relief on that one. Then around 15 one of my earbuds went dead and I thought "well that's annoying" by 16 the headphones had died. And "well that's annoying" became "ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!?! How am I going to get through the next 10.2 miles with no music!?!?" Luckily if your music is gone Chicago is the race for it to happen. There are so many other sights and sounds to keep you moving. After all that, I missed my friend :( she even told me what intersection she would be standing and I missed her...

By 18 my quads were burning, I was super annoyed I was missing some of the best music I had planned on the playlist, and I started to feel nauseous again. I really thought I was going to lose my stomach contents. Gross I know. So I tried to send my focus elsewhere which is tough with no music! Over and over I focused on the following: stick with the pacer as best you can, one foot in front of the other, one mile at a time, keep up the great work! When I wanted to walk I made myself make it to a point up ahead and I just kept going. I thought of how I would explain myself in my race report. I also told myself I would not be running another marathon unless I had a friend or a friendly blogger to run with me. It's hard being surrounded by strangers every race! Finally, the nausea passed and before I knew it I was turning the corner pushing myself into Chinatown (mile 20ish).

Hands down, the loudest most encouraging spot on the course was between mile 20 and 21 heading into Chinatown. This was my first time reaching this point of the race and I was soaking it up despite any pain I was feeling. You could see people all around hitting their wall and the spectators were just incredible and kept us all moving. Then someone said you have a 10K left and something clicked. "Hell I've just run 20 miles I can freaking do a 10K! I ran 13.1 a day after 20 I've got this!" I kept up the one mile at a time mantra as I walked through the mile 21 water station, my first water station stop. I started back up just to see how I felt and kept on keeping on. Some awesome spectators around 22 made me laugh and kept me moving along to 23. I looked at garmy and tried my best at running math to subtract 4 hours from the 3:31 showing. I debated long and hard if I could still make my 4 hour goal. I figured there was a chance, a very extreme chance, I could make the last 3.2 miles in 29 minutes. I just kept trucking along and pushed as much as my body would allow. Then I saw freaking Fred Flinstone at 24. No, way in hell I was letting a guy dressed like Mr. Flinstone beat me. Luckily he was slowing because my speed wasn't really increasing.

With 1 mile left to go coming up Michigan Avenue I passed Freddy, looked at garmy, and realized there was no way I would be able to make it to the finish in 7+ minutes. Way to go running math... I knew I would PR and just kept pushing for the best time possible. I started to choke up, realized it wasn't helping my breathing, and pulled myself together. As I turned off of Michigan to the last 1/2 mile I waved at the big screen then saw Jacob and B (finally!) on my left. Apparently they were waiting at mile 20, missed me, and were having a repeat of 2007 where they lost me the first time. So they were kind of freaking out that I was hurt again. They told me later they had just jumped in to the mass of finish area spectators when I saw them. I gave them a big wave and took off to the finish line.

I threw my arms in the air and crossed the line with a fist pump and a gigantic smile. I may have teared up too because I'm kind of an emotional freak. This race was just as sweet, if not more-so, than my first finish. I'm so happy I finished what I started out to do in 2007. I finished strong and with a smile.

I made it through the long chute, grabbed my blanket, medal, called my dad, grabbed water and pretzels, took some finisher pictures, then waited for my two supporters to find me.

my husband is thinking "I've been standing in the cold for over 4 hours, can we go home no w"

my ever supportive friend B who walked over the dang city while 8 months pregnant to cheer for me!!!

Some of the other miscellaneous observations over the 4+ hours
  • best shirt saying: I can only run so fast with this ass (BTW I am stealing this for my next shirt)
  • worst shirt saying: If you don't come in first you lose. Worn by a big dude with a faux mohawk. I passed him at mile 7.5.
  • funny sign: Runners have balls, other athletes only play with them
  • saw 2 women running on their birthdays. And 1 had a friend running with her the whole race (so nice!) I was able to say happy b-day to one of the women.
  • I saw a blind runner and his guide(s) being closely followed by a tv crew on a bike rickshaw
  • A seeing impaired runner keeping up just over a 4 hour marathon
  • A runner using arm crutches. Holy inspiration! and I can only imagine the wrist/forearm chafing.
  • With 45,000 runners this course was packed from start to finish. It thinned in sections but the water stops were slow going (even when running down the middle!) and I was still getting jostled all the way to the finish line. It's tough to run 26.2 miles like that.
  • Despite the running crowds, pain, and lack of ipod music I had a lot of fun for the majority of the race. Racing is so much better when you can make it fun!
  • I finally beat Hi Guy! For this marathon Hi Guy ran in pink crocs cut into a sandal. For all other races he wears cheapo flip flops, sometimes bare feet, a beanie with a propeller, and always passes me at the end. If you've run a race in Chicago, run the lakefront, or walked around, you most likely have seen Hi Guy or his smiley face chalk drawings.
  • All the volunteers once again rocked!
  • There is no other race or city like Chicago! It is truly an unbelievable experience from start to finish.
And finally the numbers...
START TIME07:39:58
Place (total)11727
Place (Gender)3125
Place (Div)638
Total (Net)04:02:13
Total (Gun)04:12:18

Thank you all for your support and congrats!!! It's amazing to have so many people I've never met follow my journey, root for me, and hold me accountable even if you didn't realize it. It's amazing having such a supportive community and it kept me moving. Thank you so very much!!!
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