Tag Archives: chicago marathon

Chicago Marathon Race Report

The race is finally over. As usual, some things went well, some not as well. But overall, I’m happy.

Two days before leaving for Chicago, I got a cold. Seriously?! Luckily, it passed quickly. But then the first night in town catching up with friends, I had drank too much and didn’t sleep well. The day after was rough. I tried to catch up on my sleep by going to bed earlier, and that helped.

When I went for a run the next day, I’d developed some weird foot pain on the top of my right foot. I’d never had this pain before and it just appeared out of nowhere. It would go away a little as I ran,, but it was definitely still there. Brand new mystery pain days before the race – AYFKM?

The next day I went to the expo. It was huge, loud, and crowded. I bought a few things, looked around briefly and left. The whole atmosphere was just too much for me. The day before the race, we went… apple picking. I thought I was going to run while my friends picked apples, but it was more fun than I thought it would be. Especially considering I’d never seen a real apple tree with apples ready to be picked. One word: Honeycrisp!!




The night before, I got my gear all set up. As I attempted to pin my bib on my shirt, I wished someone would create an adhesive backed bib so we can put an end to this safety pin business. (Hmm… Business idea! No, wait. They already exist. And yet we still pin…) I applied my race tat, which was a new thing for me. I had a cup of decaf tea and went to bed around 10:30. I expected to be unable to sleep, but actually had a decent night’s sleep.

I got downtown early and had to wait a good hour+ before the start. It was a bit cool, but not bad. Lots of people were wearing just the outfit they’d be running in. Some smartly had throwaway garments to keep them warm. I had just my hoodie which I hadn’t planned on tossing, but was going to. I was glad to have brought a cheap pair of cotton gloves to keep my hands warm. That helped out a lot.

I tried to eat some Belvita crackers for breakfast. I’ve eaten them before and they are edible. They have like 35 grams of complex carbohydrates, and would definitely be better than eating nothing. I tried to make some #2 business happen before the lines started forming. I’m glad I did, because once the people started showing up, the lines were 10 people deep in no time.

As it got closer to the start time, I got into the corral. I found the 3:10 pace group and listened to the pace leader make jokes. I’m not sure why, maybe it was the corny jokes, but I scooted up further into the crowd. The corral slowly filled with more and more people until we were elbow to elbow, all breathing down each other’s necks. And then it was time. The race started!

I’m not even sure if they did a countdown or not, but next thing you know, there’s a river of people in front of me, and I’m happily riding along. When you realize the thing you’ve been waiting and training for has finally begun – I love that feeling.

The crowds along the first few miles were massive and quite vocal. For the first few miles, I felt like I was being powered along just by the cheering. I was running smoothly and feeling great. My mystery pain was not bothering me at all. I tried to keep track of my pacing with my pace tat, but I found it very hard to read while running. Consequently, I never looked at it again. I decided I would just run, pace be damned.

As planned, I took my first Vanilla gel about 5 or 6 miles in. I had 3 gels on me and had planned to pick up a fourth at the aid station. I’m not sure what I was thinking, I realize now this was not nearly enough nutrition. But for the majority of the race, I was fine.

Mainly I was feeding off the crowd, watching the pavement ahead of me, trying to navigate the throngs of runners. The course was packed with people for a good portion of the race. I’d say it wasn’t until maybe the halfway point did it thin out enough to have some decent breathing room.

Early in the race, I saw a runner fall and skid on his belly because some jackass spectator tried to cross the street. Runner skids across the street and I hear “YOU MOTHERF***ER!!” I felt really bad for that guy, and was paranoid whenever I saw someone trying to cross the street.

I don’t even remember much about the course. I didn’t look around that much, all my attention was focused 10 feet in front of me. I used to live in Chicago too, so there wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before. I didn’t talk to anyone during the race. One guy asked me if I was the 3:10 pacer, and said he was going to stick with me even though I told him I wasn’t. And then weirdly, he must have peeled off within a few minutes. Which was fine, I wasn’t feeling conversant and don’t think I could have held a conversation if I’d wanted to.

I took another gel around mile 10 and then mile 15. I was alternating between water and Gatorade. Late in the race, the sweetness of the gels and Gatorade had overwhelmed me and I didn’t want to eat another one. And I thought I was doing fine anyway.

Then the wheels fell off. Up to Mile 23, I was averaging about 7 min miles. Mile 23, my pace dropped to 7:30, Mile 24 saw 8:09, Mile 25 8:56, and finally by Mile 26 I was crawling at 9:08. At no point during the last few miles did I look at my watch. I just tried to run. And then I’d stop. And then try to run. My hamstrings were cramping. The last mile I kept hearing spectators yelling, “It’s only one more mile!!”

Perhaps one of the worst parts was losing the pace group. Running ahead of them, then they’d catch up, and slowly pull away. I thought I’d catch a second wind, but the pacer kept getting smaller and smaller until they were gone.

I took some solace in seeing other runners stopped and walking. But that small relief was quickly displaced by the huge number of people that ran past me as I walked. And they all looked strong.  There was the slightest of hills on the stretch before the last turn. I had to walk it. Then around the corner, I saw the finish. Normally, the sight of the finish is energizing enough for a short sprint, but all I could muster was a weak jog. I crossed the finish in 3:10:39.

I missed a BQ by 39 seconds. Kind of a bummer, but I know damn well that I can do it next time.

There’s several lessons I learned.

No alcohol before a race. Save it for after the race.

Going to another city to race can be stressful in regards to availability of food. You need to be able to easily obtain and prepare the right kind of food prior to the race. I think my carbo loading was lacking in the days prior to the race.

Plan your nutrition. I think maybe I’ve been spoiled by trail aid stations that just have lots of different foods available, but Gatorade, gels and a banana don’t cut it.

Save the music for the end of the race. That’s when you need the boost that music can provide, not at the beginning.

Give your race the proper respect / Don’t overestimate your abilities. I thought I could run 26.2 miles easily. I forgot that trail running is much slower and incorporates more walking. Road running is pretty much running non-stop at a much faster pace. And that is really hard.

Final thought: Originally, I had thought about running the Wild Hare  50 Miler in November, but I may end up doing the San Antonio Marathon instead. I think alternating between road and trail races will be a good thing. And in 10 days, I have my 50 mile trail race! Time to start planning!

It’s Nice To Be Back

Got into town, did a little sightseeing. Downtown sure had nicened up since I left! Walked around Millennium Park, and took pictures. Later ate at Epic Burger, which was anything but epic. Then walking down the street, I run into the friend I was going to meet. We get lunch for her, and then go back to her school.  Her classroom has huge windows that provide an awesome view. She gives me the grand tour of the rest of the school and it’s really nice. Them some lucky kids!

Later, went to dinner at my friend Amanda’s. We caught up and later Jen H, her guy Maurice, and friend John John finally showed up. Amanda made a great vegan dinner. And then the wine… drinking was a mistake. I was just so happy to see my friends again. But alcohol before a race is a bad idea, especially if you are unable to exercise restraint. You don’t want to have to endure a recovery day which entails laying in bed thinking about how stupid you are. And this coming off the heels of a two day cold no less. Several months of training could all go down the toilet if you aren’t in top form.

So from this day forward, I must remember: THE WEEK PRIOR TO ANY RACE SHOULD BE ALCOHOL-FREE.

I missed several days of running due to illness, and finally got out today and went for a brief 4 miler. All things considered, I felt great! My legs have lost that dullness from the constant mileage. I was floating along. I hope that’s how I feel all throughout the race.

One More Day!!!

Race Weekend Doubleheader!!

This should be an interesting weekend. I’m going to run a 5K on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday. I didn’t plan this, but it’s what’s going to happen, love it or not.

I did plan for the former race, the Culinaria 5K Wine and Beer Run. I ran it two or three years ago, mainly for the booze and not surprisingly, had a great time. It was kind of weird, drinking wine out of plastic cups before noon after running a race… Yeah, we got pretty -ahem- wasted and made some new friends. It was a good day.

But this time I’m not running for the booze. In fact, I won’t be partaking of any alcohol after the race. I told myself I was going to stop drinking for a year after I got into a scrape with some of my friends on New Year’s Eve. I’ve got 2 1/2 months under my belt and I feel good about it. But the main reason I signed up was to just blast it and see how fast I could go in a race environment. But now, it looks like that will have to wait.

When I broke the internet* and registered for Chicago, I applied for Corral B, which requires a 3:35:59 marathon or better.

I don’t really know how fast I can run a half marathon or a full marathon, because it’s been so long since I’ve run either. The only marathon I’ve run was Portland back in 2010. That is too old to count, not to mention that my time wasn’t anywhere near good enough. And the last time I ran a half marathon? Um… I think I’ve run two halves in my life, but those were two or three years ago. (One of which I ran with my best friend on the day he got married!)

So how did I figure my time? I went by Tony’s time.

Tony is one of the Rockhoppers, the group I’ve been running with that mainly does trail running. But he and several others in the group had just “crossed over to the dark side” and run the Austin marathon. (Which I seriously regret not doing). He’s an older fellow and apparently had a great race, running something like a 3:40. So I figured, if he can do a 3:40, surely I can manage a 3:35. Yep, Corral B for me, please.

After I finally got registered, I must have been so flustered that I missed the part about providing proof of your 3:35:59 marathon or 1:37:59 half marathon time before August 26. (Or maybe I was so naive to think they went by the honor system?) I only noticed this while randomly revisiting the Chicago marathon website the other day. But August 26, that’s five months. Plenty of time to find and run a half, right? Well, not really.

April 3rd through June 2nd I will be traveling, which leaves the last half of March, and June, July and August. I Googled a race calendar for Texas and found few races to choose from, even fewer that were in town. And all of them would be during the ridiculous Texas summer. It’s not even officially spring yet and it was 90 degrees today. That’s seriously wrong. Running a summer race, I’d risk not making my time goal due to the heat. If that happened, there wouldn’t be enough time to find another race. But there was a half … this weekend … after the 5K.

Somewhat grudingly, tonight I registered for the Alamo 13.1. (Sidenote: why are some races so darn expensive?! This one was $85 to start with, and went up to $105. It had better be one good race.) I figure run this race now and get the 1:37. If, for whatever reason, I can’t manage it, I will still have three months to try again. Okay, brain, good plan.

But heck, how cool is it to run races back to back?! I’ve never done that before. It would have been awesome if the 5K was after the half. That way I could run both races hard. As it is, I’m going to have to throttle back at the 5K. Of course, I say that now, but once the adrenaline starts flowing, it’ll be hard not to blast off. Part of me, no, most of me wants to say the heck with it, just go for it at the 5K. I mean it’s likely less than 20 minutes of running!

The main reason this is a big deal to me: if I get into Corral B, I have a better chance at running a time good enough to qualify for Boston. That in itself would be a big deal for me and I would be super stoked.

And what would be even cooler is if I actually got to run Boston…

*   *   *   *   *

Sorry there were any pretty pictures to look at. I’ll have some for the next post, I promise!

*The internet must have been broken since I was able to register, despite serious technical difficulties that resulted in registration being suspended for like two weeks. About 15,000 other people were able to register as well. But I’ll always think of it as the day I broke the internet.

Making Up for Lost Races

It’s amazing how exciting such a boring form response can be!

You know how they say, “You’ll never regret the times you went out and ran, but you will regret the times you didn’t,” or something to that effect? It’s the same thing with races. The Austin marathon was this past Sunday. I wish I’d run it. There was a 1/2 marathon about a month ago. I wish I’d run that, too. And the same for the dozens of 5k’s and 10k’s since the new year. Today, I took a step toward making up for lost races.

I registered for the Chicago Marathon.

I used to live in Chicago and a couple of weeks ago I was talking to a friend of mine that still lives there. I was saying it would be cool to visit her, and heck, maybe do the marathon. For whatever reason, I thought it was already sold out. But then I looked it up and saw that registration didn’t open until February. So there was a chance…

I kept it in the back of my mind. On Monday, February 18, I popped back onto the site and saw registration would open at noon, on Tuesday, February 19. Tomorrow!

So on Tuesday, February 19, I parked myself in front of my computer at 11:30 and noodled around on the interwebs, waiting. Once noon arrived, I furiously began trying to register. I have never had such a hard time trying to register for a race. There are at least five screens you have to clear and each time I would clear one, two, and maybe the third, before I got booted out. I kept getting a page saying the site was “unavailable, please try again later.” I figured it was just because there were 30,000 other people trying to register at the same time.

So I kept re-entering my info. Again and again, wondering why the retarded tech team at Active.com couldn’t manage to get a few more servers to handle the hordes of runners trying to register. I mean DUH! You know this is going to happen! How are you NOT prepared for this?!!

Surely this was the stupidest freaking registration process ever. I was cursing quite a bit. After about an hour and a half, I made it to the payment screen. Surely they can’t screw this up, they want to take my money, don’t they? I submitted my info, and hit the enter button. And I waited. Watching that stupid circle going round and round, I wondered if I’d lost the connection. (Sorry Mario, but the princess is in another castle…) It was probably 3 agonizing minutes, and then – Holy Crap! A confirmation screen! I was registered!

Later this evening I see the Chicago Marathon website has posted this:

We are incredibly sorry that runners interested in signing up for the 2013 Bank of America Chicago Marathon experienced such difficulties today. We have been working nonstop with our registration provider to find the root of the problem and a solution. Many runners were able to sign up before the registration process was suspended. There are currently 15,000 entries remaining. Before we re-open registration, we need to make sure all technical issues are permanently resolved. We will provide ample notice regarding when the registration process will re-open.

For those who were able to successfully complete the registration process, you can confirm your registration going to www.chicagomarathon.com/confirmation. For those that were charged more than once, our registration provider Active.com is in the process of refunding any duplicate charges and will notify these participants.

We do not plan on reopening registration within the next two days. We will provide another update on registration by 5 p.m. Central Standard Time on Thursday.

So I totally lucked out! I feel like I’m in an exclusive, albeit short-lived, club right now. It’s nice to know that I don’t have to stress out the next few days, trying to register and wondering if I’ll get in. No, I just have to stress about finding a race to prove that I belong in corral B.