This race report is about, oh, a year in coming, but I figured you deserved to know. You’ve been waiting a year, right?
So, without further ado, my Chicago Marathon 2011 race report:
The day started out ominously enough with a migraine. Blinding headache, nausea, shaky hands, the inability to open my eyes beyond little slits. Yup – that’s exactly how I would have planned out my perfect marathon morning.
My normal pre-race Poptarts weren’t playing so nice with my stomach, so I opted not to be smart and not antagonize my stomach any more than I already had. I wandered around the pre-race area (I had signed up with the running group CARA to train with and they had a spread out), trying not to puke, and after about an hour started to feel the meds kicking in … thank God.
I managed to force down half a banana and a few bites of a plain bagel and called that a victory! Headed out of the hotel to wander the streets — it was going to be another warm marathon — and once again was thankful for paying the money to train with CARA: they had special porta-potties just for us.
After all the pre-race rigamarole, I made my way to my 9m/m pace starting corral and bounced around nervously. I was going to DO this!
The day started out ominously enough, but that all ended up being a non-factor, surprisingly enough. I met the migraine with a “well, I’ll just have to deal with this” kind of attitude and I think that helped… getting all worked up about it certainly wasn’t going to make it better.
Went into the race as well-trained as I’ve ever been for a marathon. Nursing injuries that were only bothersome rather than worrying. The only downside: I had gained a good 5-7 pounds in the 2-3 weeks before hitting the start line. I’d like to have a mulligan on that, please.
Anyway – crossed the start line about 8.5 minutes off the clock time – not too shabby! I had lined up with the 4 hour pace group, but as we shuffled forward, I somehow ended up with the 3:55 pace group. This was *not* in the plan, but I just went with it. I had wanted to stick with a pace group, and ya just gotta roll with things, sometimes.
The 3:55 pace group disappeared by the third mile or so — I wasn’t really working to keep up with them — and I found myself all on my own. At that point my strategy was to keep as close to 9m/m pace as possible, without feeling like I was working too hard.
I was expecting spectators around the 3.5 mile mark, but they didn’t make it out — disappointing, but looking for them certainly kept me occupied! — and I knew that I’d have a long slog north and then back south before seeing friendly faces.
This first stretch actually went pretty well. I was feeling fatigued, but I thought it was “just enough” … meaning, I was pushing but not so much that I couldn’t keep this up. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t supposed to actually feel “easy”.
Saw my posse around mile 11.5 and that was a huge boost! They were screaming and yelling and had great signs they made, too! I stopped and chatted for about 30 seconds while they kept urging me to keep running. :)
Got through the half marathon mark at around 2:00:50 … so, less than a minute off my goal pace. It was at this point where I acknowledged that sub-4 probably wasn’t going to happen, though I still figured I would keep pushing until I couldn’t and see how the chips fell.
Miles 13-16 kind of flew by. At mile 16, I think I made a mistake — I tossed the water bottle that I had been carrying. Since it was warmer than planned, I wanted it with me, especially during the early parts of the race where the water stops are fewer. After mile 16, I knew I could count on there being water at least every mile, so I tossed it. Never should have done that, in hindsight, because it slowed me down (I had been stopping for Gatorade, but drinking my water from the bottle on the run). Oh well. Lesson learned.
And a note about the heat: the race started out in the lower 60’s and was in the low 70’s by the end. Definitely not ideal marathon weather. But, while I know I probably could have gone faster with cooler temps, I also didn’t suffer any major consequences from the heat, either. And plus, it was PERFECT spectating weather!
Somewhere between 16 and 17, I saw another friend who was watching out for me — total surprise to see her there! I almost missed her, in fact, despite the fact that she was screaming at me like a crazy person. Lesson: if *I* don’t know you’re there, it might not matter if you see me…
The wheels started falling off this marathon around mile 19 — I could feel my legs starting to tighten and cramp. And I basically told myself, “Don’t suck. Just do it.” like the Nike t-shirt said. Remarkably, I think that kept me moving forward more than I might have otherwise…
I didn’t allow myself to walk except during water stations. Of course, as the race progressed, I stopped earlier and walked longer, and you can see that in my split times.
I knew my parents were going to be at mile 22.5 and it was awesome to see them. I stopped for a bit, and both of them just kept snapping pictures of me standing there. Hee. My family doesn’t understand my desire to do these things even one bit, so it meant a ton to me to have them out there in support.
It was hard to get moving after that, but I did. And felt the blinders go on and the focus just be on one step after the other. Move forward. Go faster if possible. At this point, I was shooting for sub-4:10…
The rest of the marathon after seeing my parents was tough: I had thought I’d have some posse on the course, but never saw them (to their credit, they were there, but since I didn’t know WHERE they were, I ran right by them, oblivious to the screaming). But I knew I was just SO GLAD to almost be done with this thing.
Going up the bridge on Roosevelt and then turning the corner to see the finish line? Best feeling ever. But I knew I still had work to do — I was running right up against the 4:10 demarcation point that I had made up in my head somewhere down the line. So, I dug deep, upped the pace and stumbled across the finish line, 20 seconds ahead of the 4:10 mark.
And then I just about collapsed. And then I started crying. And then I started thinking, “damn, if I hurt this much NOW, I’m not even going to be able to walk tomorrow!”. Hee.
Got some water, got some food, took pictures and the sloooooowly made my way back to the hotel, where I was meeting up with everyone.
All in all, this was — by a huge margin — my best marathon. I never gave up. I never gave in. I trained as well as I ever have and I know that I left everything I had out on the course. Absolutely no regrets.
At this point I can say: I’m satisfied with my results and I’m never going to do another marathon ever again! Yay!
(do you believe me?) 🙂