Howdy! I just flew in from Chicago and boy are my arms tired!
Chicago was almost two weeks ago and I’ve been back for a while. I just haven’t had the time or desire to put this down on (e)paper. I *think* the ego bruising has healed and I feel mostly better about my day, if not still a teeny, tiny bit bummed.
Let me preface this by saying, racing and finish times are all relative. My slow is someone else’s fast, and my fast is someone else’s turtle crawl. I’ve never been one to post “Oh, I am so slow!” or “Oh, I am so fast!” as I know you can easily be putting someone down OR making yourself look like a jackass. I’m comfortable with my ability and just like every runner out there, I want to get better. I am proud of another marathon finish and extremely proud that I gutted this one out to finish because there were moments of “just go jump in an Uber and get the hell out here.”
As mentioned in a previous post, my training was good. It was steady. However, in the last few weeks of training, there was a bigger taper with less speed than both I or my coach would have liked. We did this because I had some hip/groin pain that was lingering and we didn’t want to make it worse. So I headed into Chicago very, very rested and feeling good.
I got to Chicago on Thursday, hung out with my dude and then spent Friday and Saturday doing short, non-walking tourist stuff and resting. We did the expo, and pasta dinner, and yadda yadda. My goal for this race was to run anywhere from 3:59:59 to 4:15. I felt this was reasonable and I would see how the day started. I did have pep talks to myself ahead of time about how I could run nine-minute miles for 26.2, no problem. I didn’t feel unconfident, but I didn’t exactly feel confident either. I was, as they say, cautiously optimistic. The weather was looking good, save for rain, but I don’t worry about rain. I’m from Florida. We know all about the rain.
On race morning, I got up and ate. I said goodbye to a still sleepy-eyed S.O. and headed down to the start shuttle. I walked quite a bit from shuttle to my gear check area and then I just kinda hung around. It was drizzling off and on so I headed over to slap on more Vaseline to avoid Thunder and Lightning (my thighs) from chafing. I didn’t feel nervous at all. No crazy porta potty struggles or anything. I didn’t feel super excited either. In fact, you all remember that scene from Sex and the City where everyone keeps asking Miranda how excited she is for the arrival of her baby? And she’s just like Meh. I felt like this everytime anyone asked me about Chicago. I wasn’t jazzed about it and I don’t know why. I think maybe part of it was that everyone kept telling me how amazing it was that I was hoping to get there and be like ZOMG! But that never came. It’s very unlike me. I promise I am in no way, shape or form too cool for school. I am the nerdiest, run Geek around, but I just couldn’t get to that Jessie Spano level of “I’m so excited!”
Where was I?
Oh yeah, gear check. Jeez, I better speed this up or we’ll be here all freakin day.
Ok, so I got to my assigned corral and was shivering. I was cold, for sure. But I only had on a long sleeved t-shirt and I knew as soon as I got going I would warm up quickly. The temps were in the low 60’s with a dew point to match. Not bad racing weather at all. I met a very nice woman in my corral and we chatted for a bit. We had similar goals and were both ready to get going. It felt like we had been standing around forever. (I did get up at 4:30 and didn’t start running until 8:00ish.)
Announcements, anthem, fanfare, wave 1, wave 2, FINALLY my corral!
I got started and was shuffling a bit due to the massive amounts of people. Chicago is a race of 45,000 runners and boy can you feel that. It’s like a sea of shorts and spandex and sweat and other s-words. Swords? No, I didn’t see any.
I knew it would be hard to get on pace at first and I was A-Ok with that. I wanted to start about 9:40-9:45 and then ease my way down to 9:09. Unfortunately, due to the Chicago buildings and massive amounts of folks all trying to hit satellites at the same time I never knew what pace I was running. From start to finish my Garmin was all over the map. I knew this going in as well and had to do the dreaded maths. Not a big deal as I’m an old school runner who used to run with a -gasp- watch. I knew I was doing ok at mile three and that I just needed to pick it up a bit. And I did.
But then, by mile five, my feet were on fire. I was thinking I had something in my socks and I couldn’t imagine how I’d gotten something in my socks just standing around but man it felt bad. I wondered if my socks were bunched up or if I had swollen feet. It was so bizarre. And the pain grew. And it hurt every step. It was really fucking dumb. That’s the best way for me to describe it at this juncture. Fucking. Dumb.
As I ran I looked at the enormous amounts of spectators. I tried to follow the blue line that marks the course. I saw some pretty awesome signs. And I definitely could not get over how many damn people were in this race. The biggest race, besides this one, that I’ve run is the Marine Corps Marathon. And that was a while ago so I remember that one being crowded too, but maybe not as much? I dunno, I be forgettin.
The rain wasn’t bad, or at least I don’t remember it being bad. I just remember that my feet hurt. Badly. And I tried to ignore them, but I finally stopped around mile 10 to adjust my left shoe and sock. I swore that sock was bunched up. It wasn’t. The ball of my feet were just blistering. And there wasn’t much I could do but run on. My legs didn’t feel fresh and I kept thinking about how I’d run 20 milers where my legs didn’t start to hurt until mile 19! I was also feeling very warm, hot almost.
When I got to the half I had successfully sped up the pace and hit it at a 2:04. I saw the S.O. and friends just beyond the half. They were awesome! Rocking signs for me and another friend and dressed as sumo wrestlers.
I stopped for a hug and said, “This isn’t going too well.” But I hurried along and I did my best to pull myself together. I’m not sure where I crack. It could have been 14, it could have been 15. All I know is that at this point, my feet and my legs were furious. I couldn’t understand what was going on. As an aside, I’m listening to Deena Kastor’s book, “Let Your Mind Run,” and she talks about these thoughts at her national track meet in high school. The whole book is about the power of our thoughts and trust, me, I’m all about fixing these thoughts I have when shit goes south. (I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ll get you all a book report!)
Back at the marathon, I was legit driving the Struggle Bus. I tried to smile. I tried to enjoy the course and the people and blah blah blah, but again, for whatever reason, I. Was. Done. My feet continued to kill me and my legs were almost as angry. I saw my friend Sylvia several times along the way and she gave me encouragement and used it as much as I could. (I didn’t see her with the unicorn, but her headband and sign were adorable!)
I knew if I made it to mile 19 I had salvation by way of a small redheaded gal. I could not wait to see her! I knew she and Spike, her husband/my friend, plus their adorable twins would be there. With signs and a bullhorn and she was going to keep me company for a few miles. I desperately needed it. I’d have probably run with just about anyone at that point, but the fact that it was my long-time running bestie made me that much more desperate to get to mile 19. In fact, I was chanting it in my head. “Get to 19, get to 19, get to 19….”
That is the face I made when I finally saw them! I was relieved and immediately told Red I was suffering. She was fantastic. She just told me about their morning and what Spike and the kids were yelling to runners. This, of course, made me laugh because they are supreme spectators. Also, please note that she is wearing tiny bat earrings. I heart this girl. 4-eva.
Things were still mostly ugly in my legs and feets and I stopped twice to use the potty. The first time, that porta potty was locked. Hilarious. The second time I just wasn’t moving very quickly, but there wasn’t a line, so hey, there’s that.
I did enjoy running through all of the neighborhoods of Chicago, but I think the section of Korean spectators with their flags and Gangnam Style blasting was my favorite. Also, the row of charity groups was really awesome. Those folks were super happy when they saw their runners and it made me happy to see so many people running for great causes. That area definitely lifted my spirits.
After what seemed like a damn eternity I saw the finish line. Regardless of how I felt, I still felt that surge of happiness in seeing that big, huge FINISH LINE sign. I will always heart finish lines. I was relieved I had finished and yes, more than a little disappointed in my day. My final time was 4:39:43.
I hobbled through the chute and promptly dropped my medal and yelled, “OH NO!” at the thought of bending over to pick it up. A lovely volunteer chuckled and handed it to me. I shuffled on to the gear check where no less than five volunteers looked for my bag and walked away without finding it or telling me they hadn’t found it. In hindsight it was hysterical, but at the moment I was cold, wet, and dying to get in a warm Uber. The last volunteer who got my borderline meltdown request was very nice and finally found my bag. I sat my butt down and called the S.O. I admit that I had a big lump in my throat and wanted to cry but felt silly in doing so amongst so many very happy finishers. He and I decided to just meet at the hotel since I was in no shape to walk anywhere but straight to a warm car.
After more walking, an Uber ride as close as it could get to my hotel, and more walking, I made it to the hotel room. I got in the shower while the S.O. headed down to the hotel quick casual restaurant to grab me a grilled cheese. I stayed in the shower until he returned. Then, I decided I was going to live in the shower and never leave it. It hurt to move and standing there was, in my mind, the best option. I ate my grilled cheese like a sad Kramer in the shower. I got crumbs everywhere in the tub and was so beat that I neglected to even rinse them out for my poor Celiac having boyfriend. (I promise I wasn’t trying to kill you, honey.)
I finally got out of the shower and gingerly got myself into bed.
After my nap, we got up to meet our friends for dinner. I wanted to keep sleeping pretty badly, but once we sat down and got talking and laughing I am so glad I got my busted ass up. The best part of this race was seeing all of these people the whole weekend. I got huge boosts from seeing friends spectating and I love eating pre and post race meals with friends. Congrats to everyone who ran and thanks to everyone who cheered us on. They definitely aren’t lying when they say the crowds in Chicago come out in full force!
My feet were kind of wrecked with blisters in between my big toe and second toe on both feet that extended down to the balls of my feet. It was not a pretty picture the next few days. I couldn’t even wear flip flops when I got back to Florida. The horror.
I can’t say the Chicago Marathon was my favorite but mostly because I just didn’t feel good for the majority of the race. The course, the spectators, the volunteers (even the special gear check ones), and everything was top notch – I just wish my body and brain had matched it. I can’t pinpoint exactly what went wrong. Maybe it was negative thoughts that I didn’t realize I was having? Maybe it was too much taper? More than likely it was a combo of several things. I can only move forward and chalk this up to another learning experience. The marathon will highlight any weaknesses you have. If it’s your legs, your feet, or your mind – you better believe the marathon will find it. I’m not done though, the marathon hasn’t seen the last or the best of me.
Until next time…
Thanks for reading.