Marathon #9 is now in the books. And as I leave the single digits for counting them, I do so with a great big smile. My training for this race was epic (for me), yet plagued. And as I have adjusted to make my running fit nicely into my otherwise crazy hectic life, it has not been easy and I have definitely seen my race performances overall decline. Oh yeah, I'm not gettin' any younger either. So let's just say that this weekend's marathon PR - which is my first PR in ANY distance since October 2007, is a sweet, sweet, beautiful thing!
I decided after the Illinois Marathon this spring that I was going to wratchet my training up another notch and really go for PRs in both the mile and the marathon. I started out my training and in the first week was struck with the flu. I also started my Capitol Mile training and I never was able to manage the speed work + mileage. I was beat up and my hammies/glutes were killing me. So for the first 7 weeks, I tried to strike a delicate balance between decent mileage and track work. Well, I didn't do so hot. My Capitol Mile was 6:12 when I was shooting for sub-6. Not even close. So I closed the book and decided to ramp back into marathon training. And I didn't hold back. I bumped up to 50 miles, 61, 63 and 70 consecutively, then ran an all-out half, then back up to 70. Woo! I knew I was skating on thin ice, but, well, I guess I didn't care. I wanted to go for it. I ran a few tune-up races and while they were fun (and even involved cash awards), I was no where near PR shape. So let's just say I had some nagging doubts coming into this weekend. I was crazy beat up at the end of my peak training and by the end of my taper, I had some real snap in my legs but my hammies were still really tight.
After dropping the boys off at my sister's for the weekend (thanks Beth!), John and I headed out to Chicago. Thanks to road construction on every road in the US right now, it took forever! But we got to the hotel then cabbed it to the Expo. The Expo was crazy. Wow!! People EVERYWHERE. And I laughed as I thought of my co-worker who still continually tells me marathons are bad for you. Never before have I seen so many fit people in one building. Even more so than going to the Boston Expo. It was cool. John had a lot of patience while I checked everything out. I was in the market for some arm warmers since it was going to be cold, but I did not want to wear long sleeves. I found some really fun ones. I also got to sign the VW Bug that was being given away, which was also fun.
John and I then headed down to Grant Park to check out the starting area. It was COLD and windy! We checked out Buckingham Fountain and the starting corrals. Needless to say, it was exciting!
We then went back to the hotel for the way below average yet way overpriced pasta dinner at the Hilton. But it did the trick. The FSU game was on and we watched the first half, then John went down to the lobby to watch the rest while I got some Zzzzs (He came back at midnight after a few beers with fellow pit-crewers down there).
I slept okay, but not great. I ate my breakfast and checked the weather. It still looked perfect. Yay! I got dressed and was ready to go. I had on my funky new arm warmers and had promised James and Jakey I'd wear one of their sponge bob wrist bands. James loved having his on during his race and we all thought it would be a good idea if I followed suit in my big race. :) I left the hotel at quarter to 7 and walked to the corrals. The line was crazy long and I asked a volunteer where bag check was. She said she heard it was a few blocks over, but many said it was not there. Great. I decided just to get in line and pitch it. I put my phone, keys and hotel card in my skirt pocket. I was suddenly glad I wore the skirt rather than my shorts. I got in line and got into the corral around 7:17 (they were supposed to close at 7:15, but the lines were crazy). I threw my bag over and left a message for John to pick it up if he could. The star spangled banner was sung and it made me tear up as usual. I was so thankful for this moment, for everything.
Before I knew it, we were off. Less than .1 in, I heard Johnny screaming at me and I flashed him a big, cheesy smile. This is awesome. Not only was the race itself huge, but an estimated 1.5 - 2 million spectators line the course. The first several miles were incredible. People everywhere screaming. I hit the first mile at 7:37. Ooops. So much for the plan to log 8s for the first few miles. I also lost GPS coverage under a big bridge and made sure to turn off autolap. I was cruising along and thought about my race with James last weekend. Early on, he decided he could do the 5K without walking. It was a bold decision on his part, but he made it then and there and I knew he would do it. I decided to take a page from his book. I don't care if my training wasn't perfect or if I haven't had any great races lately. I CAN DO THIS.
I saw John again at mile 2.5 or so and it was just incredible to me that I heard him screaming at me out of the thousands of people. I was so glad he was there. The runners around me were a complete hodge-podge, which was true throughout the race. Some had 3:10 tags, some 3:20, 3:30, 3:40. Whatever, I was on my own clock today. At mile 4, I started feeling a funky stomach pain. NO!! It was like I had way too much sugar/gu/gatorade. Not today. I told myself it would go away and to be careful with nutrition. And it did! Unfortunately this plagued me throughout the race, but I seemed to stave it off by taking water most of the time and only gatorade/gu when I knew I needed to.
Other than these slight g/i issues, the first 10 miles FLEW by, which is always a good sign. My favorite spectator sign in the crowd said "26.2 WTF?!?!?!?!?!" :)
I saw John just before the half again (see pic). I hit the half at 1:42:48. Cool. During the race, it was hard to identify highlights. The whole race was entertaining. I slapped a singing Elvis' hand, I gave high 5s to every kid that outstretched their hand and I hammed it up in general. If I ran through a particularly crowd heavy, yet quiet area, I would unabashedly raise my hands in the air and smile and elicit lots of cheers. It was amazing. I saw John again around mile 17 or so and again was amazed I heard him screaming at me. I noticed one of my pinned on gels had fallen off and was so glad they were handed out on the course at 17.5. The group of runners started slowing down at this point and some people started walking. I saw a woman who looked JUST like Runnin-from-the-law stopped and stretching out her calves. Damn that sucks. I tried the best I could not to lose focus. At this stage of the race, it is easy to lose focus and just follow the people around you. I made a conscious effort to keep on keepin on. I hit 20 and felt good. 21 clicked off easy, but I could feel I was falling off pace some. Damn. I went out a little too fast. I really had to focus to keep going and my hammies were screaming at me a bit. My feet, well, I really didn't feel them much. During the last few miles, I had slowed down a few seconds per mile. Miles 22-24 were 7:55, 7:59 and 7:57. I saw my friend Alison at mile 23.5ish and she was a welcome and unexpected sight. I was admittedly hurting some, but I knew I was close. I decided then and there that I worked way too damn hard this season to wimp out and not take home the PR. Mile 25: 7:46. Better. I had gotten so used to watching the crowd, however, my eyes could no longer focus. It was weird. So I refocused only to what was in front of me and I was much better. Mile 26 I was pushing as hard as I could. I was following a girl that had cranked into another gear as well. I started to turn up one of the last corners and again heard John screaming at me. No time to ham it up, I acknowledged his cheer with an upraised arm and headed up the last (and pretty much only hill). It was a nasty bridge and I cranked as hard as I could. Hit the 26 mile mark at 7:49 pace. Then it was down to the finish. I felt I had so little left, but I gave it everything I had. Garmin clocked the last .24 at 7:15 pace. Yep, I was spent.
I got through the finish and my watch said 3:26:15. Heck yeah. The problem was, I didn't think I could walk a step further. My feet hurt SO bad. But I knew if I didn't keep going, I'd get taken to the med tent. So I got my medal, water, power bar, nice cold beer and kept myself moving along. I bit into the powerbar and it was frozen. Crazy.
I ran into a guy from Austin, TX. It was his first Chicago as well and he hit a PR. Nice. I finally met up with Johnny and gave him the biggest hug ever. What an amazing day. And I can't believe he found me on the course 5 times. We decided that was a course record. :)
We got back to the hotel (painfully) and I grabbed a quick shower before the noon checkout. I went to the lobby to get my courtesy medal engraving. They did not have official times, I had to go over to the Niketown store to ask them. The girls pulled my time, then said 3:26:12 - "wow - that is amazing." And it felt so good. I may not be a talented runner, but I work my @rse off. And it was nice to have that PR in hand AND engraved on my medal. Especially those extra 3 seconds (My Garmin said 3:26:15).
Today, my legs are trashed in such a beautiful way. I plan to enjoy a week of absolutely nothing, but recalling this fun race.
If you made it this far, thanks again for your support. I thought of my running peeps so many times during training and my race. What a great community of support fellow runners provide. Run on and be happy. :)
Chip Time: 3:26:12
O/A Place: 3375 / 33,608
Gender: 448 / 14,567
35-39 Div: 72 / 2,283