On Friday, I took a half day from work and met Katie to go to the marathon expo. We ended up taking a shuttle from Nike Town (near my office and the closest one to Katie) and I was incredibly impressed with how quick and efficient the entire process was. The Chicago Marathon expo is huge so it never feels as crowded as it really is and I was able to get my bib quickly and enjoy a photo opp.
We spent a long time walking around and checking out all of the booths. We ran into Bethany (who ran Chicago as her first marathon!!) and checked out all of the samples. I also spent like 30 minutes waiting in line to try on some of the Chicago Marathon gear. They did a fabulous job this year and I seriously wanted one of everything- so much neon.
Another new (or new-to-me) thing at the expo this year was this wall that had magnets on it in the shape of the Chicago skyline. Runners were told to remove a magnet and then write their name in it’s place. I thought it was really cool, especially considering the huge wall with all of the runners’ names that is usually at the expo was MIA this year.
Katie and I rounded out the expo with more samples and a shot block getting stuck to the bottom of my shoe (only at running expos….) before we left and I headed home to start resting.
All of my swag. The race shirt is in the middle and then I also bought a new pair of Nike shorts (I’m always in need of shorts for whatever reason), a neon yellow tank top, a long sleeved top, and then a “new” pair of Wave Inspires. Apparently, Road Runner Sports sells the shoes that are returned within the 90 day window for $50 at various expos. I happened to find a pair that look like they’ve been worn once in my size. Sold. My current shoes are being retired post-marathon anyway so I’m in need of new ones.
I have lab on Saturday mornings and I knew I’d be on my feet from at least 9-12 so I did my best to sit on my butt Friday evening and then again after lab on Saturday. I had my favorite pre-race dinner, pad thai, and then watched Spirit of the Marathon to get myself excited. I was incredibly nervous about sleeping through my alarm on Sunday (happened on Saturday and I missed my shake out run) so I did the next best thing and set three alarms and also asked my mom to call me when she got up.
Despite a few nightmares about missing the race due to oversleeping, I managed to wake up to my first alarm on Sunday. An almond butter and banana sandwich later, I was on the “l” on my way to Grant Park. Security was greatly increased at the marathon and all runners were told to arrive early and expect delays getting into the start area. Our bags were searched but it didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would. I ended up sitting near gear check and relaxing and then eventually using the porta potties three times. You can never be too careful.
Before I knew it, it was time to get into my corral. I found a place between the 3:20 and the 3:25 pacer and cheered for the wheelchair divisions that started before the runners. I was still in shock that I was running a marathon.
One of the coolest and most touching things that I’ve ever witnessed pre-race was during the National Anthem. The speakers were cutting in and out and breaking up the singer’s voice and then all of a sudden, runners started singing along with her. It gave me chills and made me even more excited to run the Chicago Marathon. After some quick announcements, we were sent on our way!
I’d like to tell you that the race started great for me but it didn’t. My Garmin quickly lost signal and started showing me a 6:XX minute pace that I knew I couldn’t hold for 26 miles. However, the 3:20 pacer continued to surge ahead of me and I started questioning the accuracy of my Garmin (I occasionally lose signal in the city). The pace we were holding felt fast too. I didn’t feel tired but I started to question whether my goal pace was on target for me. At mile 2ish my Garmin also told me that the database was full and I needed to delete activities in order to store more data. Wonderful. I ended up figuring out how to delete old activities (as opposed to new ones or you know, the current one) while running and had no other Garmin-related problems that day.
Eventually, my Garmin calmed down (mile 7ish?), I saw Maggie and then Lauren, and found a groove that felt good to me. I stopped worrying about the 3:20 group (I had overheard them arguing because the pacer did in fact go out a few seconds too fast) and settled in to a comfortable pace. My GUs were going down well (I took one before the race and planned to take one every 7 miles) and I was enjoying running through the city. The course felt a lot less crowded than it did two years ago (seems like they worked out the wave system) and it was so much better and less claustrophobic. I couldn’t believe how quickly the miles seemed to be ticking by. I hit the halfway point in 1:39:26 averaging a 7:38 min/mile. Right on target.
Miles 14-18 were all about getting to mile 18. I wasn’t sure what my body was going to do after mile 16 (the longest distance run of the Hanson plan) and I was nervous to find out but I also knew that Ian, Kelsey, Katie, and Erin would all be at mile 18 and I couldn’t wait to see them. I tried to hold back but I definitely picked up my pace during this time hitting a 7:18 min/mile at mile 14 and then a 7:30 at mile 18. I saw Ian before the water station and ran over to give him a kiss and then saw Kelsey and Katie handing out water. I was so excited to see them that I think I spilled water all over the place. Oh well! I actually felt pretty good at this point in general. I didn’t hit the wall at 18 like I expected and my legs seemed to be holding up well. I also started pouring water over my head at mile 18. I wasn’t hot yet but I remembered getting really hot in the last few miles where there isn’t a lot of shade. I think this helped me a lot.
I knew that I had started to speed up during miles 14-18 so miles 19-22 were all about slowing back down to race pace. When I ran Chicago two years ago, I bonked hard at mile 18 and don’t remember much of the course afterwards so I did my best to enjoy running through Pilsen (we ran right by where Ian used to live when I was still in Michigan) and then Chinatown. I kept waiting to hit the wall and was surprised by how great I was feeling, I haven’t felt that strong in a marathon all year. Right before mile 21 my stomach started to cramp so I took the salted caramel GU I’d been saving for the end (to prevent cramping in my legs but whatever), it temporarily helped and I felt good through mile 22.
Then, all of a sudden, I started to feel nauseous. Originally I thought it was the GUs, my body wasn’t used to taking in so much fuel but other people told me they also felt weird at the end so its also possible it was the sun on my back. I stopped to walk for a bit to see if it would help and I started to feel worse so I headed to a porta potty to try to throw up. I couldn’t. I tried to run but it made me feel worse so I decided to walk a couple tenths of a mile and I tried to take a Powerade gel I picked up on the course. It didn’t sit well at all though so I ended up tossing it aside after taking 1/4 of it. At the next water stop, I grabbed two cups of water and took small sips while walking. This seemed to help a lot and I was able to start running again. Miles 23 and 24 were both drastically slower than the others but at least they got rid of the nausea.
While I was able to run the entirety of the last two miles, I had completely lost my rhythm. My legs were tired but I didn’t feel awful (running on tired legs during training really helped me the last two miles) however I was ready to be done. I kept telling myself to treat the last few miles like an easy run in training- just keep moving and it will all be over soon. During the last mile, I reminded myself that this mile was the last mile I was going to run for 1-2 weeks and I better enjoy it… so I did. I smiled and slapped people’s hands and appreciated the fact that even though I’d had stomach issues, I was going to finish a strong marathon. Once we took the turn off of Michigan Ave and up the hill, I realized I had a little energy left in me and I picked up the pace. I finished the last 0.51 miles (I picked up extra distance on the course) at a 6:50 min/mile.
Official Time: 3:22:56 – a PR!
I ran a fairly strong race (except for miles 23 and 24). I fueled well (meaning I didn’t under fuel), drank water to thirst, and didn’t actually throw up. I PR-ed and would have come close to a 3:20 (if not under) had I not felt nauseous and hung out in a porta potty. This means that a 3:20 is totally possible for me. I also BQ-ed and that always feels good. I finished the race running and was able to sprint the last half mile.I also enjoyed myself and LOVED running through my city.
I didn’t break 3:20. I felt nauseous possibly from not practicing fueling as much as I should (it’s hard when your longest runs are 16 milers). I added a lot of extra distance to the course- when my Garmin showed 26.2 miles, I had been running for 3:20:4X – my goal. Ugh. Annoying. I need to be better about running tangents (although for me this takes away some of the fun).
So overall I’m really happy. A PR is a PR! I also have a lot to think about. I have NO races on my calendar whatsoever right now. I’ve promised myself a break from marathoning but a 3:20 feels in my reach possibly with a few minor tweaks to my training. Hmm… we’ll see what I decide once the post-PR bliss wears off.
I’m going to cut the post here because it’s already so long! I do owe you a post about my thoughts on the Hansons Marathon Method though!