2010 chicago marathon: the redemption marathon

Finally!!  The long version of my Chicago Marathon report. 🙂  But before I get into it, I will define this race by one word, and no it’s not “hot” or “scorcher.”  Moreso-redemption.  Yep-redemption from last year’s DNF at the Marine Corp Marathon (which I will not link to again as I am sure you are all sick of reading that one 😛 )

So as I mentioned in a previous post, my entire trip from NYC to Chi-town from door-to-door went incredibly smooth, and I was taking it as a good sign.  And while I was at the expo not only did I literally kick mile 21’s butt and get a pic doing so, but I made a strategic decision for my race the next day.  I was going to latch onto the 3:40 pace group, and stick with them through at least the first few miles to ensure I don’t go out too fast, and to just gauge my effort.  As it turned out-was a great decision.

That evening, I had a great carbo-loading dinner with Lam and some of his Saucony teammates…and that was where he and I came up with a, well, amusing way to break the race into chunks.  You see, I was texting with a friend of mine who said to me “I can’t believe i’m saying this-but channel your inner Mo (Mariano Rivera)!” (cuz ya see, she’s a Mutts Mets fan.)  And Lam said something to me, that I should do that after mile 21.  So that was when I came up with the idea to break up the race into three “10-10-10” chunks…

  • First 10 miles-the “starter” (e.g. CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte) miles
  • Second 10 miles-the “setup man” (e.g., Joba Chamberlain) miles
  • Last 10K-the closer (e.g., Mariano Rivera) miles

Hey, whatever works, right? 🙂

Saturday was sleeping in (after being up early to catch my flight on Friday, I sure slept like a baby!), pancakes for brunch (another thing I need to have before a marathon), visiting the “Bean” at Millennium Park, cruising the Chicago River on the Architectual River Cruise Tour, and more carbo-loading, this time with the Flyers at Buca di Beppo.  (Let me also add that I ate there before some good races in San Francisco and Philly.  Nope, I’m not superstitious.)  Anyway, company was great, conversation was great (best topic of the nite-my theory as to why Ryan Hall withdrew from the race 😛 ), food was great (and surprisingly cheap too!) and we were done in plenty of time to get back to our respective hotels and get to bed early-and no I didn’t stay up to watch the Yanks clinch a ticket to the ALCS 🙂

Race morning!!  Got up around 5 AM and immediately started prepping…making and eating my bagel with White Chocolate Wonderful peanut butter, plugging my iPod into the clock-radio so I could listen to my marathon morning mix, stretching, lathering on the sunscreen, hydrating…put the race day outfit on which yes, included the hot pink compression socks…I felt the outfit had a “sassy runner meets roller girl” vibe to it 😛 Left my room a little after 6 which I felt was plenty of time to go grab my Starbucks coffee (Pikes Place with vanilla syrup) and drink on the way to the start.  As soon as I got to the staging area I got right in the porto-potty line…wasnt too bad a wait, maybe 5-10 minutes?  Just felt I better take care of things sooner rather than later…anyways headed to the seeded gear check (wasnt very clear-had to ask someone where it was) and checked my bag and headed to the start…and here is where the calmness of the morning leads to drama.

There is a mass of humanity near where the Seeded Corral entrance is.  Apparently it is a massive bottleneck with people checking bib numbers before we were even allowed past that “checkpoint” (unlike in NYC, where I believe they only check at the corral entrance-at least that was my experience last time I ran it)  So considering the corrals close at 7:15 and it’s getting close, needless to say me and others are getting quite nervous.  And of course it doesn’t make anyone feel much better that they see people from the open start getting turned away…I mean yeah, it was good they were getting turned away, but thats what is delaying things for the rest of us!!  Finally I got to the front of the line, my bib was checked and I was on my way, made a mad dash for Corral C only to find that the volunteer was not letting anyone in, that “they told us we have to close the gates at 7:15” and to go to the Open corral.  Oh hells no.  Like hell I’m going to the open start.  I EARNED my corral position.  And the corrals were probably only a quarter full at the time.  Well there was only one thing to do-climb the fence and there was actually someone helping me do that!  Not exactly the way I wanted to start my race, but I did what I had to do.  (My suggestion-either have more than one corral checkpoint to avoid this bottleneck or warn runners exactly how much time to allow for bibs to be checked-usually I err on the side of caution in terms of when to get to the start, but I was not expecting this.)

So I had around 15 minutes to calm myself down before it was time to start.  I kept moving up til I could see the 3:40 group, as per my plan.  I saw Flyer JT in the corral too and she had to go through the same craziness I did.  We wished each other luck and waited for the start.  And it seems the start went off with no real fanfare!  No horn or start cannon…no one saying anything like “Chicago awaits you…the world awaits you!”  Just the sounds of “Beautiful Day” by U2 and the only evidence that the race had started was that people were moving forward and that I could see the clock in the distance already with a coupla minutes on it.  I crossed just over 3 minutes in…hello Chicago!!

Miles 1-10: The “starting pitcher” miles

So thankfully, the first 2 miles were not a repeat of MCM.  🙂  Yeah, it was a little crowded, especially when turning corners but I was actually able to settle into my pace right away.  Loved running through the streets near Magnificent Mile and the Loop!  During mile 2 I could see up ahead a sign with a Flyer singlet on it…ah yes, YP, our paparazzi 🙂  It was kinda funny-once he spotted me he kept sprinting ahead so try and get more pics of me.  I saw RG from Urban cheering in mile 3…good to see another friendly face from NYC! 🙂

So as we made our way up LaSalle, I still had the 3:40s in my sights, and just felt very “locked in” to my pace (my first 2 5K splits were a second apart!) and kinda “zen” too 🙂  As for the conditions, I didn’t have a “OMG it’s so hot” feeling yet, but as a precautionary measure, I decided to take my first gel earlier than the 10K point, and throughout the course of the race, planned to take 5 gels instead of 4 (minimalist fueling be damned!)  And made sure to DRINK too!  Miles 5 and 6 brought Lincoln Park, like what my nail polish was named after 😛  Another UA teammate, NB caught up to me around the 10K point…wished each other luck as we kept going.  Out of the park…next fun memory I had was Boystown!!  Loved the energy there…the cheerleaders, the guys dancing to “Vogue,” the dance remix of “Eye of the Tiger.”

So just kept clicking off the miles towards downtown, still pretty steady… (oh and the sponge stations were fabulous!!)

Miles 11-20: The “setup man” miles

OK-before we crossed the bridge over the Chicago River to head back to The Loop, I saw one of the pizza places (forgot which one) and smelled chocolate chip cookies in the air…torture!!  (Guess tangerine flavored PowerGels weren’t cutting it.)  Oh and the bridges/overpasses need carpets on both sides, not just on the right!!  (The surface is kinda like the Willis Ave Bridge in NYCM.) 

So 20K and halfway brought seeing my fan club again…saw RG again and Flyer MT right before halfway, and YP with his next photo op right past halfway.  The halfway point for me was hit in 1:48:48, which I was pleased with-not too fast, and hopefully with a decent buffer, as I paced NYC pretty well given that was much harder in the second half.  Sure enough, 14 (with the fun “Charity Block Party”), 15 and 16 were still right on pace.  Honestly, 8:15s-8:20s felt like “crawling.”  Even though-by that time the Event Alert was raised from Green (Low) to Yellow (Moderate) before I even reached halfway.  Mile 17 seemed to be the first mile that was pretty unshaded, and I felt it…but just kept going.  That and 18 were a little slower…OK, I allowed for it, and I think I am still on pace for 3:40:xx or better.  I caught up to NB around the gel station in mile 18 and tried to encourage her to stay with me…she tried but fell back after a coupla minutes 😦

19 and 20 weren’t much better.  Tangents be damned, I was gonna try and run in the shade, whatever side of the street it may be.  Damn, I was really feeling the sun, those sponges may have felt good but it prolly rubbed off all my sunblock.  Did that sign by the bank really say 85 degrees (or somewhere in that ballpark?)  Maybe the temp wasn’t that high, but it had definitely risen and I was feeling it, especially with there being little shade.  Just keep going…

Miles 21-26.2: The “closer” miles

Mile 21.  The mile I needed to “take back.”  It wasn’t the quickest mile of the race, but getting through it was a huge relief.  Mile 22 was the very festive Chinatown…and boy did I stomp on that 35K mat, as I was glad to get a legit split today (and I’m sure others tracking me at home were relieved!!)  But not too long after 35K, I saw a coupla Flyers ahead of me…GW and NPT, who I believed were both shooting for sub-3:30.  I passed them both…that was not supposed to happen.  GW asked if I was on target and I said that I thought I may be a little off (I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was barely holding on to 3:40 at that point.)  I was still moving, but a lot of others were walking, or had even stopped.  I did not want that to be my fate, so I declared to myself to just stay in the shade whenever possible, keep taking liquids and under no circumstances will I walk.  Even though I didn’t walk through the fluid stations (I usually just “grab and go”) they did slow me down as I had to dodge people who stopped or were walking…but I did what I had to do to keep myself in the game, so to say.

The 3:40 pace group passed me for good at this point…the leader was trying to get me to go with them “come on, this is your day, this is your race!” but they were flying and my legs were not responding.  And considering I saw people with 3:30, 3:20 and even 3:10 pace bibs around me, there were others in that same boat, if not worse.  23 and 24 felt like survival mode…especially 24.  Can we make the turn up Michigan yet?  Oh thank god there it is.  Oh cool there’s the Nike Powersong zone at the mile 24 point…WTF is the “Powersong” they are playing?  Where is my Taio Cruz?  I want to hear some “Dynamite”!

So as I felt pretty much in the homestretch at this point, I tried as hard as possible to pick it up.  After all, these last 2.2 miles were also for my late uncle…I never got to “his” miles last year and I was gonna make up for it this time.  And he was gonna inspire me like he did in the last 2.2 miles of NYCM 2008.  I was gonna be a fighter, as he was…

So the following is the chatter in my head in the final miles…

This is the second person today that I had to say “shut up” to when they said “almost there.”  8 miles to go is NOT “almost there” and neither is 2 and change.  Stop looking at the numbered street signs.  What is this, Ocean Parkway?  Are those people giving out Jello shots over there?  hmmm wonder if that would help…OK focus.  40K!  Next split mat you’ll be crossing will be the finish line.  Mile 25!  One mile to go!!  I don’t care if there is only one mile left, i’m still taking a drink, as I don’t want to take any chances…i want to finish under my own power.  My legs are hot…WTF was I thinking with the compression socks?  OK, looks like 3:40 is out but I’m right on track for my “B” goal…a shiny new PR.  800 meters to go and I got this!  Turn onto Roosevelt…so that’s the infamous hill.  Obviously not welcome at this point, but still helluva lot better than the Tavern Hill. At the top, left turn to the finish…OMG I can see it!!  Oh shit, a sidestitch…why now? It hurts.  Breathe.  breathe.  Now I’m actually “almost there.”  200m to go…100m to go…almost…there…finito!!!

I crossed the finish line and the demons from MCM were gone.  Revenge, redemption, whatever it is I wanted to get on the marathon distance, I got it.  And what else did I get?  Not only a PR-but a BQ for 2012!!  (ok everyone who said I was gonna qualify was right…just didn’t specify what year! 😛 )

The stats:

Finish time: 3:43:06 (8:30 pace)-PR by 1:08
Half-marathon splits 1:48:48/1:54:18…a 5:30 positive split-ouch.
Overall Place: 4812/35809 (13.4%)
Gender (Female) Place: 979/16013 (6.1%)
Age Group (F30-34) Place: 214/3071 (7%)

Mile Split time Cumulative Time Cumulative Pace
1 8:13 8:13 8:13
2 8:29 16:42 8:21
3 8:18 25:01 8:20
4 8:10 33:11 8:18
5 8:18 41:30 8:18
6 8:25 49:55 8:19
7 8:12 58:08 8:18
8 8:24 1:06:32 8:19
9 8:13 1:14:45 8:18
10 8:11 1:22:57 8:18
11 8:22 1:31:19 8:18
12 8:19 1:39:39 8:18
13 8:17 1:47:56 8:18
14 8:18 1:56:15 8:18
15 8:22 2:04:38 8:19
16 8:23 2:13:01 8:19
17 8:37 2:21:39 8:20
18 8:31 2:30:11 8:21
19 8:30 2:38:41 8:21
20 8:45 2:47:27 8:22
21 8:52 2:56:20 8:24
22 8:45 3:05:05 8:25
23 9:01 3:14:07 8:26
24 9:27 3:23:34 8:29
25 8:59 3:32:33 8:30
26 8:48 3:41:22 8:31
26.2 1:44
(7:55 pace)
3:43:06 8:30

So just past the finish I was all too happy to stop running!!  I was given a “heat sheet” (ha, like I needed more heat at this point!) and a medal which I was more than happy to wear!! 🙂  Seemed like we had to walk a bit for any type of liquid refreshment…water, water!!  Finally there were cups of water and Gatorade…both were warm but later on was an ice-cold Gatorade “recovery beverage” (others said it was too sweet but I actually liked it) and BEER!!!!  That ice-cold Goose Island ale went down so well at that point…

Got my bag pretty quickly, checked my CrackBerry and updated Facebook with my result…and saw Flyers JJ (who also ran a PR!) and SH sitting in the shade so I joined them.  That heat sheet was good for one thing-protecting my butt from the grass 🙂  I tried to take my socks off…big mistake, those things were tight and my calf immediately cramped up.  Had to massage it out and just roll the socks down and wait to take them off.  Though I did bring one thing in my bag that came in very handy-a travel size Stick.  JJ and SH got up to get more beer and I chatted with another runner next to me until Flyer JB joined me for a little bit.  We both noticed that the event alert had been raised to Red/High.  Oh boy…if conditions were bad around the time 3:40-3:45ers had finished, I can only imagine what it was like for those who were out there much longer-my heart went out to you all.

So after I felt adequately stretched out, I walked over to the post-race party…specifically the Goose Island tent where I redeemed my beer coupon and met up with Lam-who had just broken 3 hours by the skin of his teeth…very proud of him!!  Okay, maybe it wasn’t a great day to run, but was a great day to sip some beer outside 😛  But I left to get cleaned up after that one…as I had some eating, drinking, and celebrating to do!!  First, a burger and fries and several Blue Moons with the Flyers where we all exchanged our war stories.  After a short break, I went to another party, where quite a few UA’ers were in attendance and had some more Blue Moons (I’m quite impressed with my endurance there!)  And the following day before my flight to NYC, I had to treat myself to some Chicago pizza…a yummy deep-dish at Gino’s East (anyone remember Amazing Race 6, where the final task for the final 3 teams was to eat a pizza there? 🙂 )  Before I knew it, I was heading to O’Hare on my way back to NYC…the weekend just seemed to fly by.  Did I really just run a marathon a day earlier?

I’ll probably go into more detail in another post but I will say that even though I did not get a 3:40 BQ, I am still proud of my race.  Knowing how badly heat affects me, who knew if a PR would have even been possible, so the fact that I was still able to pull it together at the end says a lot.  Did I go out too fast?  I honestly don’t think so…as I said before, it felt comfortable, like I was really holding back and I’d love to get another shot at this course under better conditions.  Yeah, I’ll be back.  I had a great time in Chicago this weekend…great city, much more positive experience than DC last year 🙂

So thanks, Chicago.  You were definitely my kind of town this weekend.

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21 thoughts on “2010 chicago marathon: the redemption marathon

  1. Woohoo! I’m so proud of you! You ran your race and earned a shiny new PR. I love the internal talk you had towards the finish – whatever it takes. I’m especially impressed how you fought off external factors you can’t control and used your mental energy to conquer this 26.2. Congrats – you’ve earned your ticket for 2012!

  2. Awesome recap! Your splits are so smooth. You really ran a great race, especially given the conditions!

  3. Congrats on a great race and a PR! Conditions were definitely not favorable…

  4. Awesome race report! Very cool to break the race up in 10-10-10. Good point that there was no big announcement when the race started, that would have been nice. Congrats on you PR!!

  5. Congrats on a great race and for achieving a well deserved PR. Thankfully the memories of last year are behind you now and you don’t have to think about them ever again.

  6. I’m proud of you too 🙂 Way to close it out, MO!
    I think we both showed we’re tougher than we thought.
    Loved that internal dialogue at the end too. Fantastic job L!
    Chicago was really a lot of fun. Glad I got to spend some of it with you 🙂

  7. Oh, this is wonderful. How awesome to meet your goal, take back the event, and really just run a smart, strong race. You look so happy too – not a small feat after a friggin’ marathon. Damn.

  8. soooooooooooooooooooooo exciting for you! THANK GOD someone i ‘know’ did well! only one person from my clan that went got a solid PR and most (not me) got PW’s and range from sub 3:30 to 5 hour runners, so it didnt seem to matter on the skill set.

    i am still working on my official race report but we seem to have a lot of the same ideas on what to write about e.g. the portions of the course that became very ‘spongy’…

    ooooh and i had my ‘last supper’ for lunch on saturday at ginos east!!!!!!!!

    • OMG how good was that pizza? definitely worth running 26.2 miles in the heat for 😛

      agreed that it didn’t seem to matter on the skill set, but for what it’s worth, it did seem that those who ran closer to 3 hours than 4+ suffered less…

      • when the guy said “its about 55 min for a deep dish” and we were like the only people in the place (Saturday around 11:45am or so), we were like ok wow. it better be worth it! and it was!

        oh yeah…totally agree with you…3 hour peeps had it way better! no argument there!

  9. That’s AWESOME that you are in for Boston in 2012. Great Race Report!

  10. Excellent. Way to gut it out. I’m so happy for and proud of you! Boston will be terrific for you. Enjoy the spoils of victory. You’ve earned it. Last thing, I thought the qualifying time for F18-34 is 3:40. Hopefully you have better BQ info than me. 🙂

    • guess i look young for my age? 😉

      you are correct about the F18-34 BQ time. however, I will be 35 for the 2012 Boston Marathon…and the F35-39 BQ time is 3:45…and my time from chicago is good for that race so… 😀

  11. Pingback: Cruising Along « A Marathoner

  12. great recap. inspiring!

  13. awesome!! loved this report! you ran a super race! and I’m so glad you enjoyed chicago (and the pizza :)) congrats again on your PR!

  14. Incredible race Lara. WOW! Congrats on your PR and BQ.

    Proud of you girl!!!!

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