Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Race Report - Part II

Mile 1 - 11:30(!)

As we crossed the start line, I somehow managed to remember to hit start on my Garmin (Gertie) despite all but bursting at the seams with exhilaration and excitement. I was SO thrilled to finally be running the Chicago Marathon--and with both A. and Wilson by my side to boot. It almost made it worth having to skip the race last year (when I tore my MCL two weeks into training). A. pointed out the Goose Island beer tent as we ran by, and we laughed about how ridiculous it was that we were taking such a crazy, round-about path to ultimately get back to the beer tent. As we ran, we dodged throw-away garments and thousands of other runners. I knew we were running REALLY slowly, but we didn't have much of a choice. I was not about to waste precious energy weaving in and out like a crazy person . . . plus, I knew that if I chose to do that, I'd probably lose my running partners pretty quickly. Instead, the three of us focused on staying together and taking advantage of any opportunity we got to move ahead of some of the slower runners. The highlight of this mile was CLEARLY running underneath Columbus Drive and hearing the sound of tens of thousands of runners' feet clapping against the pavement. We were DOING this (along with 35,000 of our best friends)!

Mile 2 - 10:47 (!)

Things were still VERY congested as we made our way through Streeterville, surrounded by scenic skyscrapers. I didn't even look at Gertie--again, knowing we were moving WAY too slowly--and instead, tried my best to take it all in . . . the plethora of fans lining the course, the beautiful scenery, the companionship of my running partners. It was all like a dream!

Mile 3 - 11:37 (!)

During Mile-3, I began to wonder what kind of day it was going to be for me. My legs still weren't really feeling alive, but I figured it was probably the cold temps that were causing them to take so long to warm up. Luckily (?), the course was still so congested that I had plenty to focus on besides my icy legs! *Dodge, dodge, dodge. Omigod, where are A. & Wilson? Oh right . . . there they are. Dodge, dodge, dodge* I prayed that things would thin out soon.

Mile 4 - 10:04

By Mile-4, things hadn't really thinned out considerably, but it seemed like we had finally caught up to more people who were running around the same pace as us. For this, I was very grateful. We still had to dodge in and out continually, but I felt like we were no longer getting trapped behind huge walls of people who were running MUCH slower than we wanted to. Also around this time, Wilson pulled over to take off his throw-away top, and told A. and I to keep on going--that he'd catch up with us. This, of course, made me incredibly nervous . . . it was so crowded, I was convinced he'd never find us again. Just as A. and I were starting to get really nervous that we'd lost him, though, we turned around and he was running right behind us! Apparently he'd been there for a while too! I blamed my obliviousness on "marathon brain" :)

Mile 5 - 10:23

By Mile-5, I was finally feeling like I was "in the groove." My legs were nice and warmed up, and I was feeling like I could run forever. It was at this point that I started to think that it just might be a good day for me. Still, I proceeded cautiously, knowing that my training hadn't been the greatest ever. I was just praying that if I kept my pace slow I'd be able to hold on until the end.

Mile 6 - 10:12

Helloooooo Lincoln Park!! And goodbye, Wilson!! As we entered the zoo, Wilson dove off the side of the course to pee behind a tree, again telling A. and I to go ahead. But what he didn't realize was that there was an aid station just a few hundred meters up ahead where A. and I would be stopping to gel up. As a result, he grossly overestimated how far ahead we were when he got done watering the tree. It looked like us chicas were officially on our own.

Mile 7 - 9:50

As A. and I ran on, I continually looked back over my shoulder, hoping and praying that Wilson would magically reappear. I told A. that I was pretty sure my neck would be sore by the end of the race if he didn't show up soon! Admittedly, I was a little freaked out by the prospect of having lost him . . . but I just kept telling myself that even if Wilson never showed back up, I could certainly get A. to the finish line myself. I HAD to stay strong for A. Luckily, before I could start panicking, I heard my jam off in the distance ("I've got a feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas). I realized we must be close to Boystown because I could hear the party raging just a few blocks over. This got me pretty damn excited :) I'd always heard how amazing that area of the course was . . . I couldn't WAIT to get there and join the party!

Mile 8 - 9:48

Boystown was just like I'd always heard--one big party! It was definitely one of the highlights of the race. Let me just tell you, nothing gets you smiling like a spunky group of all male cheerleaders! :) And smile we did. This part of the course was so much fun that I was really tempted to start dancing . . . but in the end, I figured it best to save my energy for later in the race when I'd REALLY be needing it!

Mile 9 - 10:21

At some point during this mile, A. and I were running along . . . and all of a sudden, Wilson jumped onto the course in front of us! It took me a second to realize what was going on . . . and when I did figure it out, I was so happy I seriously came close to crying. Apparently he had been trying to catch us for the past several miles, until he noticed he was running an 8:00 pace, and the realization that he must have overshot us set in. But being the amazing boyfriend he is, he stopped and waited on the side of the road for a good five minutes until we finally showed up! How sweet is that? Seeing him there was honestly the best part of the entire race for me. I decided I would NOT be letting him out of my sight for the remainder of the race! I'd follow him into a frickin' porta-potty if need be!

Mile 10 - 10:15

Right at the beginning of Mile-10, I realized how hot my hands were getting and made the decision to take my gloves off. I thought about tossing them, but realized I'd be seeing my parents somewhere between the mile-12 and mile-13 markers, and figured I might as well hang onto the gloves and hand them off to my parents when I saw them. Also around this time, I started to feel a small drop in energy, and wisely decided to Gu up at the aid station located at the 9.35-mile mark. Almost instantaneously, I felt much better . . . like I had my mojo back. A., Wilson and I continued on, still running strong. We turned onto the beautifully tree-lined Sedgewick St., and I distracted myself by reading all of the spectators' signs. I remembered a long run not so long ago when I felt like I was going to die at the 10-mile mark. Not today . . .

Mile 11 - 10:10

During Mile-11, I felt my first twinges of pain in my legs. They weren't anything bad, but I was certainly a little nervous about the fact that my legs were already hurting and I still had over 15 miles to go! I just prayed that I would have the strength to ignore the achiness and continue on until I reached that finish line. Somehow, I really felt like I'd be fine.

Mile 12 - 10:02

During this mile, A. and I were walking through an aid station, sipping on Gatorade, when she looked at me with her famous puppy dog eyes and told my her legs were hurting. We were in the same boat . . . under-trained and getting sore. I told her to hang in there--and that I was hurting too. And much to my surprise she got running again right away. 'ATTA GIRL!

Mile 13 - 10:30

Mile-13 was spent desperately searching for my parents in the HUMONGOUS crowd of spectators. There were people 4- and 5-people deep in some areas. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember the exact location my parents had said they were going to be; thus, I spent the entirety of this mile looking for them, praying I'd find them soon so I could ditch my gloves. I was REALLY getting sick of carrying them.

Mile 14 - 10:19

As soon as we hit the half-way point, I knew we'd missed my parents. I was a little bit bummed, but figured I'd see them at the next spot on the course they'd planned to hit up--between the mile-16 and mile-17 markers. I honestly don't know why it made sense to me that I'd actually see them at the next point, considering they'd have been cutting it close had they actually SEEN us at the first point (and they told us later they never did see us) . . . but apparently it did. Perhaps it just speaks to my high level of optimism at that point in time. At any rate, we hit the half-way mark at around 2:16, a few minutes slower than I was hoping (and actually 4 minutes slower than my half split at Rock n' Roll Seattle). I could have freaked out and given up, but something told me that I could do it. I just had to keep trucking and I'd get that PR!

Mile 15 - 9:50

I don't remember much from this mile. It was one of those miles that kind of just flew by. But I DO remember that there was a sign taped on a lamp post that said "8 miles to beer." I got seriously excited, and then realized the sign was REALLY wrong. A. screamed out loud that she wanted to hurt whoever put that sign there. Ha. What a cruel, cruel joke (or some seriously lacking math skills!).

Mile 16 - 10:12

Mile-16 was a little bit of a blur as well. I was still feeling fine minus some leg pain, and I was REALLY looking forward to seeing my parents and getting rid of my stupid gloves. I HATE holding anything in my hands while running . . . so I kept switching up which hand I held them in as I ran. It was SUPER annoying. One cute thing that happened during this mile, though, was that A. started to look like she was struggling a little bit, and Wilson said to her, "hang in there. Only a little over a mile until we get to the single digits!" It was adorable. Here he was cheering on someone he'd just met that morning as though he'd known her all her life. It was awesome! :)

Mile 17 - 10:12

Well--surprise surprise--we never did see my parents. I hugged the left-hand curb all mile long, desperately searching for them . . . but to no avail. Wilson finally explained to me what probably happened, and I tried my hardest not to burst into tears. I don't know why, but I was really bummed that they didn't get to see me running, looking strong. I guess it's probably because the last time they saw me running was at mile-19 of the L.A. Marathon, dying of heat exhaustion. I wanted them to see just how much I've improved as a runner. Oh well . . . maybe next time :)

Mile 18 - 10:23

I was giddy with excitement as we hit the mile-17 marker. At exactly the same time, Wilson and I yelled out to everyone around us, "SINGLE DIGITS!!" (Jinxies!) Yep, we were THOSE people. But honestly, I could NOT believe how great I was feeling, considering my last real long run had been a 20-miler (of which 2 miles were walked) 8 or so weeks prior to race day! I was terrified with every step that I was about to hit the wall, but at the same time, I was REALLY proud that I had made it that far without walking. It was officially the farthest I'd ever made it in a marathon without walking. Go me! It was during this mile that I FINALLY gave up on carrying my gloves. I tossed them to the sidelines somewhere on Halsted, and I was SO relieved to not have anything in my hands! Why didn't I get rid of them sooner?!

Mile 19 - 9:49

Still trucking. I believe it was during this mile that we saw a group of guys hand a cup of beer to a runner and tell him to "share with that guy," motioning to another runner. Yep, two random runners were definitely sharing a beer in the middle of the race! Ha. I think if they would have offered me beer at that point, I would have definitely obliged--I was feeling good and having fun--it just made sense! Luckily, no one offered me any beer. But seriously, if you would have bet me a million dollars that I would be "having fun" during mile-19 of the Chicago Marathon, I NEVER would have taken the bet. But here I was, still smiling!

Mile 20 - 10:03

A. had mentioned that she needed to use the bathroom at some point during the previous mile, so when we finally saw an aid station up ahead just after the mile-19 marker, we got ready to stop. A. pleaded with us to go ahead rather than wait for her . . . that she would find somebody else to run behind and make it to the end just fine. I was really hesitant to leave her, but it seemed like it was honestly what she wanted. I suddenly realized that she might want to walk, but didn't want to slow us down. So finally, I agreed to go ahead. A. made a beeline for the porta-potties while Wilson and I continued on.

Mile 21 - 10:21

I could NOT believe I'd made it 20 miles without walking (besides aid stations). As we had been all race, Wilson and I were continuing to pass people, which was one of the biggest confidence boosters EVER. It felt so good to be feeling strong and running tall, while people all around me were slowing to a walk or a shuffle. I even heard a spectator comment as Wilson and I approached, "man, some of these people look really good for Mile-21 of a marathon!" I have no clue whether or not they were referring to us, but I told myself that they were. After all, I was still feeling strong, thinking that nothing could stop me from snagging that PR!

Mile 22 - 10:06

HELLO CHINATOWN! And HELLLLOOOO WALL. Oh. Dear. God. So THAT'S what it feels like, eh? Right around the 21.5 mark, I felt like my legs could NOT move. It was as though some crazy ghost being was pushing me backwards or something. It hurt. I was pissy. But luckily, the energetic crowds of Chinatown carried me along (thank you, Chinatown!). Somehow, despite all the pain I was experiencing, I managed to keep going . . . and at a decent-ish pace. I pretended I was a video game character, and that I would gain strength every time I passed someone. Wilson and I would split around other runners and meet back together in front of them. It felt amazing to be passing people so late in the race.

Mile 23 - 12:22

Enter the Mile 22.3 aid station. My hip abductors and achilles/calves were KILLING me. I don't think I've ever been in so much pain in all my life. I begged Wilson to let me stop and stretch as we approached the end of the aid station. He agreed. I grabbed the fence, looking over the Dan Ryan Expressway (I may or may not have been secretly thinking about scaling the fence and jumping into traffic) . . . and tried to figure out what to stretch first. I was so out of it, I couldn't even remember what stretches were appropriate to target my hip abductors. I gave up pretty quickly on that area and instead stretched my calves. That one I could definitely remember. After a solid couple of minutes worth of stretching, we finally got going again. My legs were like lead. I realized right then and there that the easiest and least painful way to make it to the finish line was to JUST KEEP MOVING. No more stopping . . . not until I crossed that finish line! Wilson tried to encourage me by telling me we only had "4.5 miles left to go." I felt tears well up in my eyes. I had thought we only had 3.5 miles to go! I looked at Gertie again . . . wait! I was right! "3.5, Wilson! 3.5! Right? Right?!" "Uh, oh yeah!" he responded. Whew, math is hard yo.

Mile 24 - 10:51

Ouch. Shit hurts. Kill me now. Grumpy. Why do I do this?! Wilson tried to cheer me up by pointing out that we were "on the home stretch", AKA Michigan Avenue . . . but I was kind of inconsolable. I just wanted to be DONE! Oh, hi aid station! Why yes, I think I WILL slow to a walk to take my last gel, thank you very much!

Mile 25 - 10:45

So CLOSE. So much pain. Why are these mile markers forever apart?! Oh goody . . . another aid station! I don't even want anything to drink, but I'm going to pretend like I do, just to get a walk break! Please, just make this shit end! Now?!

Mile 26 - 10:01

Still trucking up Michigan Avenue. Right past the 25-mile marker, there was yet ANOTHER aid station. Wilson asked if I thought I could make it through the aid station without walking, telling me there was just a little over a mile left. In my most pathetic, exhausted voice I replied, "I just don't know." We made it 3/4 of the way through the aid station before I stopped suddenly and said, "I just need a second . . . " Wilson tried desperately to convince me to get going again. There were fans lining Michigan Avenue, looking at me with pity. Within maybe 10 seconds, Wilson convinced me and I was moving again, determined to NOT stop until I crossed that finish line. This stretch lasted FOR FRICKIN' EVER. Dear God. FINALLY, I could see the turn onto Roosevelt. We were SO almost there. The crowd noise was deafening as we turned the corner. We just had to make it up over the bridge, turn onto Columbus, and we were home free! I expected the slight uphill over the bridge to be awful, but it wasn't bad at all. I was so close to the finish I could taste my Goose Island beer! There it is! The 26-mile marker! Push it, Irish! Push it!

Last .2 - 9:53 pace

Just as I started to kick a little bit, the turn onto Columbus became a HUGE congested mass of people. I tried to find away around the obstacles in front of me, but I just didn't have the energy. I coasted behind them through the turn . . . and then booked it towards the finish line as soon as I saw an opening. It seemed like the damn thing was moving farther and farther away from me with every step I took! FINALLY, Wilson grabbed my hand and we made it, crossing the finish line at 4:34:05. We had done it!

To Be Continued . . .


Marathonman101108 said...

What a freakin' great race report!! You smashed through the wall and kicked some marathon ass. I hope my experience in NY in 2 weeks goes as well and is as memorable as your Chicago marathon. GREAT job, and you have a wonderful boyfriend. Please update us on what happened with "A!" Congrats again. I bet the beer tasted fantastic afterwards.

lindsay said...

looove it :) very exciting mile by mile breakdown. is boystown always there? i totally don't remember it from the '07 race... hmmm.

kinda funny about wilson having to (getting to?) stop and wait on the sidelines 'cause he overshot you!

Nitmos said...

Cool story. Congratulations! I had a similar story in my first Chicago...started so slowly and expended a ton of energy weaving in and out of people. Very frustrating.

Cool race though right?

DelDean said...

Wow, This is the marathon of all race reports. Glad I read thru it. . . kind of a microcosm(spell?) of the race itself. Tough to push through those middle paragraphs, then almost gave up at the wall, but the reward for finishing the whole thing is sweet.

LOL, jk Irish. i can't wait for the final installment - Post Race Party, connect with "A", etc.

btw, I luv that moment of everybody ditching their extra clothes at the starting gun. I like to explain to my kids how I choose the throw away shirt. Then on race day I aim it right at a spectator if I'm to the side, or just jet it over the packed runners if I'm in the middle. It's a great cheap thrill. Sort makes me feel like a streaker or rebel ...stripping down, discarding the clothes, and then just run for it baby!! WooHooO! I've never had other people's garments land on me; sounds like you got a kick outta that. Good for you. And Congrats again on the PR.

Fair Weather Runner said...

this is so awesome. you had me tearing up a teensy bit. you are incredible. good for you guys. another marathon down, and what a great one too!

i am so running this marathon next year. volunteering rocked my face off... but now i need to run that sucker.

also, i am newly in love with goose island, we can even get it here in small little kansas! it is wonderful. i hope you enjoyed one after the race. if you do it next year, you can go to goose island with your medal and get a free beer!!

Running and living said...

Reading your awesome report is getting me excited to run my marathon and even more, Chicago next year! Awesome job! Ana-Maria

Paul said...

Great report IC. I love the mile-by-mile description of your race. I wonder, does 26mi seem less than 42km??? (There are certainly less to count!)

And I get the distinct impression you pushed the wall over and ran through it as your splits - barring mi 23 - were all very similar.

Amazingly well done!

Paul :-)

The Laminator said...

Wow...what an exciting race report! It seems like you did really well for yourself and ran strong the whole entire way! Woohoo! Great job, Irish! I'm more excited to run NY now after reading your if I wasn't excited enough already...

Congrats on an awesome race!

Marlene said...

I love the mile-by-mile play-by-play. You have an incredible memory. I always want to do this, but the miles just seem to blu together and I can never remember.

I seriosuly can only imaigne the crowds at the start of this marathon. (Hopefully I will witness it myself some day!)

You were smart to stick together and not waste time weaving.

Way to push through those tough later kilometres. You guys are amazing! Congrats again!!

Morgan said...

Love your recap!!! I can't for the life of me remember what the heck I was thinking during most of the miles, I was so overwhelmed!!! So proud of you for pushing through! Good job girl!

Rachel said...

All I have to say is ...AWESOME!! I don't know how you remember so much detail in every mile. It seems that I forget the miles and they mesh together. Great job and I'm soo happy for you!

sRod said...

"Whew, math is hard yo."

I laughed and sympathized so much with this line.

What a great report. So proud of you. Congrats!

Spike said...

wow, what a great race report! way to go Wilson for making sure he found you--that was no easy task I'm sure.

also, way to fight through the wall. I've felt that pain going up Michigan Ave, it's no joke.

well done!!!

Anonymous said...

"Ouch. Shit hurts. Kill me now. Grumpy. Why do I do this?! " haha! Pretty sure those would be my thoughts around, oh, mile 15?

YOU DID GREAT!!!! Wow, to keep reading mile after mile of "I was still feeling good"? that's inspiring. You pushed through the end and you ran with Wilson the Whole time! (well, almost :) )

I loved this!! It'll be one of those things I read in a few months when I need more motivation to do those crazy long runs.....

Congrats on the PR!!!!