Monday, October 10, 2011

Chicago Marathon Race Report

Horribly delinquent blogger checking in.  Life's been crazy busy lately and I just haven't gotten around too it.  Plus, with marathon training I haven't been racing, so I haven't felt like there was anything to post (although certainly I could have posted about training).

Anyway, a report for you.

Short version:  I ran really far, never wanted to quit, did manage to hurt my foot in the last mile, and finished in 4:49.  It was awesome and I loved every minute, even when my foot was killing me.

Incredibly long version:

Where to begin?  We'll go all the way back to the beginning, I guess.

In January of 2010 I joined the running group organized by the local running store because I wanted to find friends to run with while I worked my way back up again after chemo.  The first 2 months I ran by myself, naturally.  Then I found a group of women to run with.  They were training for a marathon while I was only training for a 25k, but I figured I could start each run with them and finish on my own, and that worked out well.  After that marathon, we all decided to run a half together last fall (the Great Turtle on Mackinac Island). On the way to Mackinac, the three of us riding together were discussing whether to do a full or half marathon in the spring.  One woman commented that her brother really wanted her to run the Chicago marathon, so genius over here piped up and suggested we run a half in the spring and then springboard from that training to the full in Chicago.

So, February rolled around and I signed up.  For the record, I HATE signing up for things so far in advance - so much can change!

Sure enough, only a month later, things changed and I was offered this new job.  Obviously moving an hour down the road doesn't really, or shouldn't, have much of an effect on training, but one reason I had never signed up for a marathon before was that I was sure I couldn't do the training alone.  Running for a couple hours alone is one thing, but 4?  I trained with the group through July and planned on potentially joining a group in our new city, but I just never did.  So I went out and did each long run by myself.  When I went back and joined the girls for our first 20, I even found out that I prefer running on my own.  Go figure. 

Training basically went ok.  Back when I originally planned on doing this I didn't think I'd do it with such low mileage, but man did life get me this past year.  I followed a loose adaptation of Higdon's intermediate plan with two 20-mile runs, and 8-10 mile mid-week run most weeks, and what I could do on the other days.  For my 18-mile run, nervous about covering the distance, I decided to start doing run-walk with 8 min of running and 2 min of walking.  I did that for everything over an hour and it helped me a lot, mentally.  The only real issue I had was when I was sure I had broken my left foot near the end of the first 20.  I have a neuroma in that foot, and thought I had finally run enough on the lateral side of my foot, trying to avoid neuroma pain, that it finally just broke.  Fortunately, the running store that organizes the training group also has a free injury clinic.  I went there and found out that my cuboid bone was displaced as a result of a whole chain-reaction of events caused by a tight Achilles.  The podiatrist put me back together, scolded me for being inflexible, and sent me on my way with orders to stretch, which I have followed.

We headed to Chicagoland on Friday evening.  Spent the night at Doug's mom's house, left Kona with her, and headed to downtown Chicago mid-morning.  Once we arrived at the condo we were staying in, we took a few minutes to get our bearings and went off to the expo.  Got my packet, spent some money on marathon merchandise like a total newbie, picked up the body glide I forgot to take with me, and explored for a while.  Then we waited in line for a like an hour to catch the shuttle bus back downtown.  From there we walked a while, maybe 2 miles (?) back to the condo, and stopped at a grocery store along the way to buy stuff to make our own dinner.  Making dinner ourselves was a fabulous idea - we spent the evening in the condo watching sports and reading.  I took a shower and got in bed around 9:30, finally putting my book away around 10:30.  I didn't really have trouble sleeping, which was good (and shocking).

Sunday morning I was up at 4:45.  I tried to eat a peanut butter bagel but couldn't stomach it, so all I had before the race was a cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee from across the street. My friends hadn't gotten back to me the night before about when they wanted to meet, so I figured I would just be on my own.  About quarter after 5 one finally texted me and said they were meeting at her hotel room at 6:15.  Ok...seemed kind of late as I had planned on being at the start around 6, but ok.  The hotel was right across the street so I figured it would be ok.  Of course two of the women didn't show up until 6:45 and then had to use the bathroom in the room and again when we got to the start, so we waited in line for porta-potties and were scrambling to the start at 7:15.  This resulted in having to hop the fence into the start corral - nice touch.

Once the race started it took about 24 minutes for us to get across the starting line.  I wonder how long it took for the last people to get across, because we were lined up somewhere between the 10 and 11 min pace signs and I know it went all the way back to 15.  It was absolutely packed at the start and for the first, oh....17-18 miles.  Within the first half mile I saw two men running in big straw hats - running sombreros! The first time we ran across an open-grate bridge I almost fell, also within the first mile. 

I hung with two of my friends (there were 5 of us total - we lost the other two somewhere in the fence-hopping fiasco) for just less than 3 miles.  Our pace for the first two miles was just under 11 min which was fine, because I didn't want to go out too fast, but I wanted to start my run/walk thing from my long runs.  Also, I really wanted to run my own race.  So I left them maybe 200m before the third mile marker.

Once I was on my own I started my run 8/walk 2 intervals, but also walked for 15-30 sec at each aid station so I could successfully drink my water.  The fourth mile just clicked on by in 10:17, and then I saw Doug standing up on a median at the 4-mile marker - hooray!  I gave him my arm panties and he wished me luck and I headed off again, all happy from having seen him and feeling good. Miles 5 and 6 were about the same pace.  I did a little jig at the 10k mark.  Back when I was nervous about my 18-miler, the longest run I'd ever done, someone suggested that I run the two "new" miles first and then after that I'd be in familiar territory.  That sounded like a fabulous idea and I employed it for the marathon.  Let me tell you - it worked like a charm!  Instead of running an extra 10k at the end I "ran it at the beginning" and then I had 20 miles - something I knew I could do - ahead of me instead of this unknown distance. 

Mile 7 dropped down to 9:55.  I was feeling great at this point, but didn't want to go all overboard and pay for it later.  My only goal was to finish (without hating running by the end) and I had no desire to be miserable.  Over and over I reminded myself that by holding back at the beginning I was saving myself for later.  Miles 8 and 9 were good, but somewhere around 8.5 I started feeling like maybe something was amiss, so when I hit a line of porta-potties just after the 15k mark I stopped...and waited in line for 6 min!  Everything turned out to be fine and I was on my way again.

The miles from here on out are kind of a blur.  I knew Doug was going to be around mile 11 somewhere but I never saw him there.  Somewhere between 10 and the halfway mark a woman was down in the middle of the road with a few people tending to her and a few more keeping runners out of the way.  I think it was also in this area that I saw a woman holding a sign and wearing a t-shirt that both said "Do Epic S#@*" - I got a little chuckle out of that.  According to the results I was through the half in 2:22 - so much slower than my PR but hey - my first half marathon (TA '06) took almost 4 hours.

J had said that her brother told her the race would be super crowded for the first 10 miles or so.  I'm not sure if he and I just have a different tolerance for "crowded" but by mile 16 I was pretty damn tired of colliding with people every few minutes.  I was also starting to want to walk more around that time.  Prior to this I had been running through aid stations until near the end, where I would grab a cup of water and then walk just long enough to drink it.  Starting in mile 17 or so (guessing by splits) I started walking as soon as we hit the aid station, partly because I wanted to and partly because they were downright treacherous - so slippery and there were crushed cups and careening people everywhere. 

I was still feeling good when we passed the 20 mile mark, even though my splits had slowed since I was now sticking with my original run/walk plan plus walking most of the way through the aid stations.  In mile 21 I took another short porta-potty break but only lost about 1:30 or so that time.  During mile 22 or 23 I started getting all verklempt because I knew I was really going to do it. I was tired and my hips (psoas I'm pretty sure) were screaming but overall I really felt good.  Never once did I feel miserable, I never felt like quitting, I never doubted that I could do it.  When we hit the 23-mile mark and I knew I only had a little over 5k to go I was downright giddy.

Then, in mile 25, it happened.  My right foot did the same thing my left foot had done at the end of that first 20.  I was reduced to running/walking block-by-block and I slowed all the way to 13:19 for that mile.  The spectators and announcers all made me want to run, but every time I tried I would make it that block and then have to walk because of the pain again.  That darn hill going into the finish that friends had warned me about totally sucked, mostly because it really hurt my foot, and I had to walk that whole thing.  But at the top I started running again and was able to run all the way in to the finish.

Final time: 4:49:39

Oh what a feeling that was!  I'd been trying not to cry for miles by that point, and finally let it go after I crossed the line.  It only lasted about 30 seconds but man, it was just such an overwhelming feeling to have done it. I walked through the finish area picking up all the stuff they had to give us - space blanket, medal, water, banana, snack back, Gatorade 03 (recover - GROSS), and BEER (Goose Island 312 - yum) and went off to find Doug.  Finally we found each other and sat on the steps in front of Abe Lincoln catching up and reveling in being done before walking back to the hotel my friends were staying in to see how they had done.
Turns out I was first in our group which I really had not expected, considering that all had run marathons before and 2 had PR's somewhere around 4:40.  One wound up getting out of her head and finishing in nearly 6 hours, the others were right around 5 (two just under, one just over).  I'm really glad I split off and ran my own race.  After my 18-mile run, a friend told me that long runs should be done alone. I thought he was crazy but after doing this training and running this race on my own I actually think I agree.  For me, they should be done alone.  Maybe one day I'll find new running buddies and feel differently but for right now, I'm ok being my own buddy.

I'll run another marathon one day, but I seriously doubt I'll do another big one.  I did not like literally running into people for most of the race, getting cut off at every aid station, and getting caught behind people going a lot slower than I wanted to be going.  I did enjoy having spectators along literally the whole course and it really did help spur me along in that last mile when my foot hurt so stinkin' bad.  Guess I'm heading off to the injury clinic again on Wednesday night, getting my foot all put back together, and then I'm really going to focus on flexibility.  I'm ready to take a break from running (not quit, just take a break) so I'm going to cross-train for a few months and come back to it in winter/spring feeling refreshed.

If you stuck with me this long, thanks for reading!