Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Race Report - Part I

Remember when I said that I thought this race would end up being very memorable? I think I must be psychic. Or maybe it was simply the running gods trying to boost my rather lacking sense of self-confidence. Whatever the case, I was in a state of euphoria from the moment I stepped foot in Chicago on Friday night. I was so happy to be there that not even the cold could get me down. I got off the plane (grinning from ear-to-ear), hopped into a cab and was on my way to the Loop by a little after 9 p.m. At one point, as my cabbie was approaching downtown, I glanced out the window and saw a sight that left me a little breathless . . . painted on the facade of a building was the same Chicago Marathon image I'd seen decorating countless promotional materials, including our oh-so-important confirmation brochures. I took a deep breath and tried to keep myself from squealing out loud. Just. Stay. Calm.

Once I arrived at the hotel, I found my way up to our room and couldn't have been happier to finally see Wilson after two long weeks apart. While I had been SUPER tired on the plane, I was suddenly wide awake and couldn't help but talk at about a million miles an hour. I don't know how we had so damn much to talk about (we talk every day on google chat and/or by phone), but it was like we hadn't seen each other in years, and I had to hurry to fit in everything I needed to tell him about before I went and forgot it! We ended up staying up chatting, laughing and hanging out until well after 1 a.m. Oops, there goes another one of the rules of marathoning . . . but I just didn't care. I was so thrilled to be able to finally catch up that it was definitely worth trading in the extra couple hours of sleep!

The next morning (Saturday), I woke up ready to be transformed into the nervous wreck I typically turn into the day before a marathon. Somehow, though, it never really happened. I was nervous, sure . . . but not like I have been in the past where my appetite is actually compromised. Wilson and I took our time getting out of bed, and eventually made it up and out to Dunkin Donuts for some coffee and bagels/muffins. Right about that time, my parents showed up at our hotel. We sat in the lobby lounge area for quite a while eating our breakfast and chatting away with them. I know I'm supposed to be an adult, and this probably shouldn't be the case, but I always feel so much more calm and composed with my parents around. I was secretly REALLY happy that they had offered to come into town to cheer Wilson and I on (thanks, Mom & Dad!).

After lazing around for a bit, we realized we should probably get ready to head to the Expo. We headed up to our room to drop off the throw-away clothing my parents had graciously donated to me, and then made our way over to the Hilton at Grant Park to catch the free shuttle to the Expo. We stood on line for a lot longer than we had planned and ended up getting to the Expo later than anticipated, thus ruining any chance of a bloggy buddy meet-up (oops! Sorry, y'all!). We did, however, try all kinds of freebies and checked out as many of the booths as possible before finally heading back to the Hilton. At that point, it was already well past 4:30 p.m. and, having not eaten since breakfast, we were all ravenous. The problem was that we had dinner reservations for 6 p.m., so we didn't dare eat much. Usually, I would have freaked over the fact that my pre-race nutrition was so messed up, but I didn't let myself get worked up over it. I decided to just go with the flow and see what happened . . .

We checked into the condo/hotel/place my parents were staying at for the night and then grabbed some snacks in a nearby deli--carrots and hummus, bagel chips, pita chips, etc. Oh, and of course, some beer! I gladly accepted one when my parents offered--there's nothing like a nice cold beer to calm the nerves! We hung out snacking and watching football for the next hour or so until it was finally time for our dinner reservations at a cute little Italian restaurant near the Sears Tower, where my Dad works. I ordered gnocchi with meat sauce (my favorite), and ate almost the entire plate, I was so hungry! I also filled up on fresh bread with olive oil--YUM. We sat and chatted for a bit even after we were done eating, and my father filled us in on the details of his one-and-only Chicago Marathon experience (back almost 30 years ago). I don't know how this is possible, but I had never actually heard much about his marathon! It was definitely cool to think that I would be following in my father's footsteps the very next morning! :)

Finally, we decided to call it a night, and headed back to our respective hotels. In the past, I'd been pretty sombre at this point of the night before . . . it always seemed to be the point when the reality of how great a task lay ahead of me set in. But for some reason, I was the complete opposite on Saturday night. I was seriously goofy bordering on hyperactive! I insisted that Wilson and I both try on our sexy throw-away looks as practice for "looking sexy" the next morning. Then, we proceeded to dance around our tiny hotel room and carry on like crazy people. Ha, it was seriously a lot of fun. After watching some college football and texting back and forth with my friend A, we hit the sack around 10:30 p.m. anxious to see what the next day had in store for us.

I fully expected to lay awake all night long and not get a wink of sleep . . . that's what I usually do the night before a marathon. But somehow, I ended up falling asleep for pretty good chunks of time. During one of them, I had a crazy ass dream where I was riding in the passenger seat of my mother's car and she got pulled over by the cops. I figured she was speeding or something, but when the cops got to the car, they told me I was under arrest for committing over a billion dollars worth of credit card fraud. It was terrifying, to say the least . . . no matter how hard I tried to convince them that they had the wrong person, they just wouldn't listen. It was nuts. I awoke in a sweat, confused. But somehow, I made it back to sleep even after that.

Our alarms (all three of them) started going off at around 5 a.m., and I was actually kind of relieved to be getting out of bed. Not too long after the relief, though, came the terror. I was FINALLY nervous. Wilson and I got up, made some coffee and turned on CNN as we were getting ready. The reporter on CNN mentioned the Chicago Marathon would be starting in a couple hours and that it would be "extremely" cold. "Have fun with that one!" he quipped sarcastically. I started to get even MORE nervous. Had I chosen the right gear to wear? Would my 18 layers of throw-aways keep me warm enough? What if I couldn't find A? What if the cold killed my sensitive lungs? EEK!

I tried my hardest to force a dry bagel down, and made it about 2/3 of the way before finally giving in. I chugged a cup of coffee, took care of my business, threw my stuff into our gear check bag . . . and suddenly realized it was already past time to leave! Yikes! What if A was waiting for us? Wilson and I hurried out of the hotel and down the street to the Art Institute Museum where we would be meeting A. But when we got there, we couldn't find her anywhere! I was freaked that she had already left for the start without us . . . but we were only a couple minutes late. Just as I went to pull my phone out to see if I could get a hold of A, it began ringing. She was stuck in traffic, and having trouble getting to the museum. Nervous, I told her we would wait for her, but encouraged her to try to hurry.

After what seemed like a lifetime, A finally showed up. I wish I could explain how crazy it is to suddenly see someone you haven't seen in 10 years walk--or in A's case, bound--right up to you out of a sea of thousands of people. It is just bananas. She walked up, gave me a huge hug and then we quickly took off on the short trek to the start area. We had a LOT to catch up on! The three of us were chatting away for probably a good 5-10 minutes before I realized I'd never actually introduced A and Wilson! Oops! I properly introduced them, we walked and chatted some more, and then we came upon the porta-potties--which shockingly, didn't have much of a line despite the fact that it was already past 6:45 a.m. (the race started at 7:30 a.m.). We used the facilities, hit up gear check and then made our way to the open corral. This, my friends, was easier said than done. Our late arrival made it so that we couldn't get up to the 10-minute pace sign like we'd originally planned. Luckily, I didn't care much. After all, I had taken all pressure to PR off of myself . . . and I was was pretty busy trying to keep A distracted from thinking about how damn crazy it is to run 26.2 miles all at once! We settled in somewhere behind the 10:30 pace marker and waited for our turn to begin running.

Finally, the gun went off (or so we assumed--we couldn't actually hear it from where we were lined up). A sea of clothing shot up into the air. I wish I could describe what this looked like--it was basically one of the most hilarious things I've seen. A whole pile of sweats landed right on my head. I shook them off and laughed. There's nothing like getting pummeled with old clothing to lighten the atmosphere! I took off my own throw-away sweatshirt, pants and hat. BRRRRR. It was chilly! Luckily, all of the runners crammed around us provided ample body heat . . . and but for a few biting wind gusts, it wasn't intolerable. Slooooowly, us mid-packers made our way up to the start line. At exactly 20:00, Wilson, A and I crossed the start line together. We were on our way!

To Be Continued . . .


Marathonman101108 said...

Hey, no fair! A "to be continued?!" Glad to see you had such a great time in Chicago. Nothing beats quality time with friends and family, as you certainly know. Amazing how your pre-race eating and drinking didn't affect your run. I certainly am impressed with you having a beer! I'm looking forward to the conclusion of your marathon experience. By the way, as I've said before, great job. You owned that marathon!

Anonymous said...

ahhhhhh suspense!

lindsay said...

boy that's quite the eventful pre-race! but, i'm glad you were just a bundle of excitement and positive energy :) funny how not-worrying about it makes it go soo much better! can't wait to hear the rest girl :)

Running and living said...

awesome! this shows lots of mental toughness! great job!

The Laminator said...

Sounds like a great beginning...On to the rest of the story...

Anonymous said...

"to be continued..." ?? hurry!!! :)

I've never tried this "throw away clothing" concept - I mean, you don't get them BACK right? (hence the "throw away"?) hmmm, I really covet my sweatpants....haha.

Marlene said...

Just getting caught up here... sorry I'm so late!

I LOVE reading about the pre-race routines/jitters/etc. It's all part of the package. Sounds like you had a great weekend leading up to the race and a good start.

Off to part 2!!

Spike said...

again, sorry we totally missed each other, when we could have met up b/c I was also running late. oh well, I'll have to meet up with you and Wilson another time.

yeah for getting to see Wilson after what must have been a long two weeks.

and the cloths flying overhead and arcing to the outside of the corral was so cool. it really felt like a salvation army plan had exploded and its contents were drifting down.