Chicago Marathon Race Report: I raced myself at Chicago and it was HARD!
This is a couple weeks late!!! SORRY! 🙂
It has been a considerable length of time since I raced. “What are you talking about?” you may ask as I regularly write about my training and races I complete. Well, that is just it. As I originally entered the unknown world of endurance sports, my priority goal was to “complete, not compete” and if I bettered my previous times or ended up on, or near, the podium, I would be thrilled. Even though I have now been “racing” long distance events like Ironman, 70.3, marathons and ultras for almost 10 years, I’ve continued to focus on finishing a race vice truly competing, even if it was just against myself.
Post Umstead100 in April, my mentality started shifting. Coming across the 100 mile line was an accomplishment in itself, but finding myself crossing the line as 4th female and sub 20 hours was such an unexpected joy that as I signed up for Chicago, I decided to set my sights, knowingly, on a new marathon personal best. In all honesty, my training did not go as well as I desired this summer and early fall. Although running faster, the heat and humidity impacted my ability to hit my distance goals and it was not until a week prior to the race I even hit a 20+ mile run. Not ideal in true marathon training and taper. Nevertheless, my plan to “race” Chicago and seek a new PR, preferably a 3:20 or below, remained unchanged. As Wayne Gretzky would say, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” I planned to take a shot.
CHICAGO!: As race weekend arrived, the weather in Chicago could not have been better. I left a warm and humid Virginia to land in crisp and cool Chicago with an expected race day temperature of the mid-to-high 60s. It was so nice not to have to factor in extra heat and humidity to my nutrition intake and energy decisions on race day. The hour time difference also seemed to be a boon for me, as I was still on East Coast time – falling asleep and waking up early. Any misgivings regarding weather causing me trouble dissipated and my excitement for race day steadily increased. To add to my excitement and race readiness, I had the Ironman World Championships in Kona livestreaming on my mobile device regularly throughout the day. What better way to pump yourself up than watching incredible athletes race??!?!? After an amazing Italian meal at Siena Tavern (recommened by my dear friend, and Chicago resident, Rita), and setting out my race gear, I settled in to watch the end of the IM Kona and go to sleep.
RACE DAY!: Rise and Shine! After a great night’s sleep, I felt ready and the atmosphere on the streets proved even more infectious.
To hit my goal of 3:20 or below (Note: I may have told friends and family I was aiming for a 3:30 based on my training difficulties), I needed to maintain or run faster than a 7:38 minute per mile pace. On race morning, the weather proved favorable for a solid run – low 50s in the A.M. with an expected high of mid-60s. I was thrilled to be in the first wave, although still in Corral C. In a race of over 40,000 runners, I knew I was going to have a crowded early part of my run, making it extremely important to hit my pace as soon as possible to meet my goal. I felt strong and loose as the sound of the gun and worked to get a bit ahead of my pace and around groups of runners. From previous races, I also knew I needed a buffer of a minute or two so I could jump into one of the porta potties within the first couple of miles. [Oh the joys of endurance running – beginning extremely familiar with your rest room requirements and patterns:)]
Run ChiTown: I’ve always said my favorite way to see a new city or place is to run it, and running the Chicago Marathon did nothing to disabuse me of that notion. In addition to the 40,000+ runners, the streets were packed with friends, family and locals cheering us on as we ran through each section of the city. From Old Town to Chinatown and more (South Koreans dancing to Gangnam Style), the energy levels were infectious. Through mile 19, the energy from the runners and crowds, not to mention the beautiful weather and amazing city, made it easy to keep my going at a fast clip…closer to a dream of a 3:15 marathon.
Embrace the Pain, Love the Suck: Running a marathon should hurt – you are running a distance some people do not even like to drive for a long period of time – and I’ve had my share of aches and pains. This marathon was different. By mile 20, the aches I felt at mile 19 really dug in and I started to feel the effects of my faster than usual marathon pace as well my not quite up to standards training. I hurt. A LOT! The loose feeling in my legs at the start shifted to a tightness in my hips and hamstrings, and the hard, and sometimes rough, pavement with the significant amount of technical turns on the course had my knees aching in an unprecedented manner for a marathon. If it was a 50 miler or more I might have been better prepared. The unexpected physical aches had a domino effect on my mental condition and I could feel myself break down as my pace slowed. I could see my 3:15 time slipping away and struggled to stay focused and push past the pain for my 3:20. I fought hard to break through my physical and mental barriers, and by mile 22 I was in a much better head space, albeit running slower than my goal pace. At mile 24 I knew it was going to be difficult to do sub 3:20 and had to mentally switch to getting as close to 3:2;0 as possible after the hump from miles 19-22. With everything I had left, I made the final drive up a hill before the last turn to the finish. As I passed the stands with the finish line in sight, all the aches, pains and doubts disappeared, and I crossed with a smile stretched wide across my face, knowing I had two wonderful friends waiting for me on the other side (special shout out to Rita and Bank of America for snagging me entry into the Columbus Hospitality tent!) and that I had raced to my best that day. My final time was just over 3:21, a hair faster than my previous personal best. I may have not gone sub 3:20, but I still PR’d!!!!
NOTE!!!!: Interestingly, in my review of the race, I discovered the measuring of Chicago is done at the narrowest parts of each course turn (likely for the pros!), meaning that my choice to take the turns wide, not to mention run around other runners, increased my overall run distance by 1/2 mile. My GPS showed this was exactly what occurred, telling me I ran a marathon in just over 3:17, but the additional distance brought me to 3:21. Ah hindsight – I guess I should take the turns tighter. Next time I’ll know better, and be confident in my ability to get to a 3:15, OR BELOW, marathon. Below is a picture of my chip time and my Garmin read out.