Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chicago Marathon - Race Report

It’s been over two weeks since I completed the Chicago Marathon, and it’s taken me that long to digest, reflect and regroup after the experience.  If you read no further, just remember this: It was AWESOME! The elite men’s champion set a new course record.  The elite women’s champion won by ONE SECOND.  After 26 miles, decided by ONE SECOND!  The whole race had a record number of finishers: 37,455.  I was one of them, and I wasn’t last.  Close, but not last.
Amazing elite men runners.
Besides the excitement and pride of finishing 26 miles, 385 yards, I got to finally meet my running buddy, partner in marathon mayhem, Facebook friend, Candi – and her red hot beau, Troy.  Can I just say that this “blind date” was the best EVER!  I made some great new forever-friends, and that made this adventure truly special.
Canders, Troyster and that chick from California.
I flew to Chicago on Thursday and stayed at my sister Mei’s house.  I immediately enjoyed the fall weather and colorful foliage of the season.  California was unseasonably HOT and annoying.  I took a light jog Friday morning on the lovely “Prairie Path” and got a pre-marathon massage from sis.  Got to spend quality time with Mei’s family – her grand kids Taylor and Miles, and my nephews Matt and Nate.  My brother-in-law Kevin is an endless source of dry humor and guitar plucking.  Mei made homemade pizza and Nate’s wife Debbie brought a sinful chocolate cake from Portillo’s*, for an early celebration of Nate turning 26 (an appropriate birthday number for my weekend exploits).  *This place would come back into the picture post-marathon! 
Taylor Rose and Miles Dude
Saturday we headed downtown to check into our hotel, meet up with Candi and Troy and go to the expo.  Downtown Chicago was buzzing with marathon excitement, plus there was a big football game at Soldier Field Saturday night too.  Meeting my running buddy in person for the first time was exciting.  We met on Facebook and connected over scrapbooking and running.  It just sort of all clicked and somehow, somewhere along the way we talked ourselves into running a marathon together.  It was perfect for both of us...Chicago.  About 90 minutes from where Candi lives, and not far from where Mei lives.  I wanted to travel somewhere special for my first marathon, and this had all the ingredients.

The expo was teaming with crowds and we took our time.  Got our bibs, and walked the floor.  Lots of excitement and urges to buy things!  It was fun to soak in all the energy.  I really didn't want to miss anything.  We took lots of pictures, bought a few things, and then headed back to rest and get ready for dinner.
Found my name WAY up high on the  marathon participants wall.
The big bowl of pasta at the Brooks booth!

The only medal I would touch for awhile....
A t-shirt for Troy.....
Mei found the great restaurant for Saturday night. Sapori Trattoria in Lincoln Park. Talk about delicious food.  Lobster ravioli, bread coming outta my ears. A fine glass of vino....chocolate raspberry cake...oh yeah.  We had such a cute table upstairs overlooking the street.  Perfection! Dinner conversation was wonderful and covered all sorts of topics.  Top on my and Candi's mind was "we are running a marathon in the morning!"  We went over all the details for the next morning, Mei and Troy figured out all the possible viewing spots around Chicago and to bed we went.   Not that I went to sleep right away, but I tried.  Riding a cab in downtown Chicago back to the hotel, by the way, is like riding a roller coaster.  :)
Candi and I met at 6AM race morning and took the shuttle to the start.  It was maybe in the ‘40s – not too bad, even for a thin-blooded California girl. We were in the start area early and mingled around our corral area.  The “M” corral – the last corral, the happiest corral.  We could just barely hear the earlier groups starting way ahead of us.  We finally started moving forward about 8AM, and crossed the start at about 8:20.  It was by far the most exciting start of any race event I have participated in.   
There were so many people at the start and along the early parts of the route.  Much of it past in a blur, and I am grateful for some of the photos that shows what we actually did!  I ran at slow pace – slower than I had planned months ago – thanks to a faulty knee that was actually behaving race morning, and a hamstring that decided it didn’t want to do it’s job.  In the end, I ran slow, walked through the early aid stations, and just kept going.  The early miles went by quickly, it seemed to me.  Lake Michigan swam by, a band playing Beatles music, the colored-leaf lined streets of Lincoln Park.  By about the half marathon mark, Candi kept her pace up while I slowed down.  We met up and regrouped whenever we saw Troy and Mei.  The two of them were having some fun gallivanting around Chi-Town by train and taxi to show up along the route.  It was wonderful to have support and familiar faces along the way.  The fall weather and scenery was perfect.  It stayed chilly throughout the run, with gusty breezes and sunshine when the tall buildings weren’t blocking it.  There was always something to look at.

No doubt, the going got tough.  I was frustrated inside that my body wasn’t cooperating, but I mentally kept pushing to stay positive and enjoy the experience.  I had to walk a lot during the second half, but in the end, I am fine with that.  Past 18 miles it was more a matter of mental toughness than anything else.  The last miles are both anxious and lonely in some ways, because you know you are close, but you SO want it to be done.  The last mile marker is like an oasis.  The sign that says “400M to go” is like the holy grail!  When I rounded the corner to the finish, I saw Candi off to the side all teary-eyed waiting for me, and that made me just lose it.  We linked arms and ran across the finish together in tears of joy, relief, happiness, excitement.
I ordered this photo...what a moment! This is just the proof, and I do mean PROOF!
Funny Remembrances:
  • Why or why was “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” playing on the marathon route?  Not upbeat. Opening line…”when you’re weary….”  Fail.
  • Teaching a CPD officer how to Gangnam Style.  Loved him.
  • Seeing our biggest fans along the course - and things that reminded us of them.....oh, and I loved Elvis.
The amazing support crew.
  • For the short time I ran without my jacket and people could see my tee shirt, one lady called out, “Go funny bunny!”  Maybe next time I will have my name on my shirt!  Candi had her Coyote tee on and she got lots of supportive hoots along the way!
  • After saying our goodbyes after the race and heading back toward Mei's house, we stopped at Portillo's for dinner (met Kevin and Matt there).  I had the yummiest, meatiest roast beef sandwich and fries ever.  Race recovery at it's finest. Coincidentally, Candi and Troy stopped at a Portillo's on their way home too - and we didn't even plan it!
Things that went askew:
  • Charged my Garmin all night.  At least I thought I did.  At about mile 3, it beeped and flashed “low battery.”  Wha?  It died at about mile 18. Boo hoo, no official Nan-Garmin time for my Garmin Connect account.  Typically this would send me into OCD convulsions, but now that the marathon is done, I decided who cares?
  •  Lost one glove.  I started out with gloves for most of the race and periodically removed them when I got warm or needed to dig in my waist pack.  When I realized I had dropped/lost one, I ran for a little bit ala Michael Jackson style with only one glove, until I decided I looked funny (ok, funnier than usual) and threw the other one away.
  •  Thinking I was doing pretty well on pace since I was keeping up with a Nike pacer with a 5:45 on her back.  Then I overheard her say she was WAY off.  Great.
  • Not going to dwell on the shortage of finisher's medals at the end of the race.  Race officials are handling it; Candi already received hers, mine is on it's way.  I love the medals I have earned in the past and was really looking forward to this one.
Welcome to China Town (and yes, it did feel like we had run all the way to China!)
Things that went well:

One of many well-stocked aid stations.
  • I packed just the right amount of food on me for the duration of my time out there.  It amounted to three packages of PowerBar Energy Blasts, and a small bag of pretzels.  Had a banana, bagel and pretzels before the start. Plenty of water and Gatorade along the route.
  • Glad I wore my lightweight jacket.  It was just right, with a short sleeve tech tee underneath.  The weather was in the ‘40s with some wind.  There was a short time when I ran without the jacket and it felt so refreshing. 
  • Legs were very tight Sunday, but Monday I got another amazing massage from Wonder Mei, massage therapist to her marathon-nuts baby sister.  I didn't walk funny at all after 48 hours.
Even though this is a long post, it really only touches the surface of all the feelings and thoughts and emotions surrounding this event.  I can't say enough about how much Mei supported and helped me on this trip.  I love my sis.
Words also seem to be inadequate describing how wonderful Candi and Troy are, as people, as training buddies, and as new friends.  I am so happy we did this together!
 I am also at a bit of a loss about whether I will run another marathon.  Right now I say 'probably not' - but I know that's not true even as I say it.  Candi was the first one to say 'never again' just minutes after the finish, yet she has already registered for her 2nd 26.2.  Go Candi!  I know I will do another - just don't know when or where.  Right now I am still letting my body recuperate and I have set my sights on the Surf City Half Marathon in February.

I am sure I am not done talking about this, but for now, let me just say - good run!   

1 comment:

Robyn said...

I'm running the Chicago Marathon this year (it will be my second) and have been reading people's race reports as motivation. I have to say, that photo of you crossing the finish line is amazing. It made me cry.