Damn man.

I gave Josh a whole talk about happiness on Saturday morning before we met with Mel and Syd. Happiness is the moment. The travel, picking up my bib, people watching 40,000 other runners, and seeing a whole circle of a rainbow from Willis (Sears) tower go through the sky and down into the building’s below us. AFTER they continued to tell us there was zero visibility and not to go up. Happiness is doing my best and enjoying the moments in the race when things weren’t going my way. I mean I wouldn’t call the marathon a “tour” of the city because I don’t remember much of it. I remember a few neighborhoods, the university section, old town, the drag qeens, the dragon dances in the Japanese neighborhood, and random other parts of the race. The expo was fun, hanging out with Mel and Syd and my husband was fun!

I woke up at 4:30 AM. I tend to cut time close, so I was overly cautious. You had to be at your corral at 7:20, I was there at probably 6 because everyone said “get there early.” I got there WAY too early. It was also FREEZING. Probably forty degrees. I didn’t bring disposable clothes. I wasn’t thinking. I was turning blue, tried to stretch and get warm but I was so so so cold. Watched the elites warm up on the track behind a gate. It was cool. I definitely would have been able to leave an hour later. A nice Chinese man who was sitting opened up his solar blanket and offered me to go in there with him, but I politely declined.

It was finally time, and I warmed up.  The first mile went SO fast. I was sticking with the 3:00 pacers, and at a mile they laughed and said, “Wow! That was a 5:57 mile. We really got caught in the stream!” Yeah…  I think if you’re a pacer you shouldn’t do that. If you’re a pacer it’d be better if you looked at your pace and just stayed where you were supposed to because to take off that cold that fast kind of fucked me up a little. Anyway I stayed with them til about mile 7. Then I had to pee, and there was no toilet on my side of the course that I could see until the zoo. I peed and caught the 3 hour people again at mile 10. I will say this is a PR for the fewest times I’ve ever used the bathroom in a marathon lol- That was it! One pee!

I lost the three hour people around mile 12, and kept pace with the 3:05 people until about mile 18. Didn’t use mapmyrun app, because people advised that the GPS wouldn’t work and it would be frustrating. I just tried to keep with pacers.

Around mile 12 my hamstrings began to lock up/seize. This NEVER happened to me before. Not even in a training run. They pulled from the top of my ass all the way down behind my knees. My IT bands hurt. My calves hurt. My left ankle shot a pain. This was TOO early for all that. At mile 12 I used speak and spell to send Mel and Josh messages to say not-so-clearly that I was going to finish the race but I knew it wouldn’t be at my race pace.  It wasn’t mental- I can push through minor shit- but this felt all wrong. I slowed down.

It got HOT around mile 11. It was SO hot. My body went from shivering for three hours before the race to me taking in water and gatorade at every aid station. Two waters. One for me to drink and at least one to dump on my head or down my bra. The gatorade didn’t bother my stomach so that was good. I carb loaded appropriately before the race and had zero GI issues on Sunday (that’s a first- another PR: didn’t crap my pants! (kidding.))

Looking back at my splits- it made sense- Around mile 17-23 I was barely hobbling. All my leg muscles were telling me to fuck myself for some reason. I don’t know why! I hydrated, stretched, ate healthy, went to cryotherapy, got massaged, got dry needled- and I even had new and different shooting pains inside my hips make a debut. WHAT. WHY.

I was comfortable with going slow but I get worried about other people being disappointed. There was absolutely nothing I could have done to run faster. I tried to not be frustrated. At one point I wished my ankle would sprain so I could stop (Totally didn’t mean that).

I tried to remain happy through the discomfort. The day was sunny, the course was beautiful, and as I was struggling through the 3:10 pacers went by. I look back on my splits and realize at that point I was running a 8:40 min mile. I tried to play my music/stride game- couldn’t stride. Just people watched and tried not to jump into the Chicago river.

So I didn’t Lubriderm my feet before I put on my compression socks. I mean, I ran Boston with no socks at all because they kept sliding down and I ditched em at mile 2. On Sunday at mile 23 I had a blister on the entire right pinky toe that popped when I stepped on it. I felt the whole damn thing. I said “AHHH!” out loud because it freaking hurt. My already choppy running gait got totally fucked with that blister for the last three miles.

I stopped once for vaseline real quick, once for swedish fish from a fireman, and twice at med-tents for bio freeze. I think I shocked them with my use of biofreeze. I covered my IT bands, hammies, and both butt cheeks with biofreeze. No shame. I was so wet from water and slimey from vaseline and stinky from biofreeze and the sun was beating on me and it was probably very gross (as pictured above.) Oh a lot of snot rockets too, I can’t lie. Probably had some boogers on me also. At some point I stepped in shit and I can only tell you I hope it was animal poop and not human but who knows. My only regret is not putting bio freeze on my socks to soak through- or very quickly taking off my socks to vaseline my feet. That would have taken forever and I’d finish my fourth marathon sockless, too.

This is also where the 3:15 pacers were dancing through “Hop on the 3:15 train!!” They had a lot of energy. Dude was wearing bunny ears and running in circles around the 3:15 marathoners. I tried to hop on the 3:15 train- heard the pacers talk to each other- “Hey! My watch said we are at 27 miles. That’s weird!” That was probably at mile 24. I felt especially frustrated because I just couldn’t hang with 3:15 either. Too much weird shit was going wrong. I think I ran more than 26.2 too. The message boards say when you run Chicago, if you’re not careful running the tangents- you can run an extra mile with all the turns. I believe it.

Haha at mile 25 I picked it back up because the faster I ran the faster I’d just be done. Then it was done! I walked like a t-rex after that. Walked 10 more miles that day. Saw some beautiful architecture, drank a beer, and hung out. I hit 40 miles of walking that day!

OK. So my frustration lies with things I can’t control. I trained for a whole fucking year and got a 2 minute PR- but last year in Lehigh Valley I got 3:21 and waited two minutes for that train to pass through… so basically I feel like I broke even. A whole year. heat. hammies. 22 weeks training for Boston only to sprain my ankle. 250 miles I ran in July. COME ON MAN. I am NOT patient enough for marathon training, sometimes.

That wasn’t all complaining- just explaining how I felt. It was a great day and a great weekend, and I learned a LOT about myself and my training. I didn’t get hurt, shit myself, sprain an ankle, or die. I listened to my body.

On the RRCA board I read lots of people didn’t hit their goals in Chicago this year- specifically due to heat. Many people said it’s too hot every year and many of them won’t do Chicago again. Some people dropped out or lost their goal by over 30 minutes.

So here’s what I learned, and I am actually happy despite an uncomfortable race:

  1. Yeah under different circumstances I could have hit 3:05- give or take a few minutes.
  2.  PR’d my half marathon and my 10K this year
  3. You can’t control 80 degree humidity. You can’t bank on that clear fall weather and “free speed.” The Nike coaches mentioned that coming in the fall- I saw it a few times in CT- NOT in Chicago. I was putting in 100% effort for waaaay less than 100% return. Earlier in September I was putting in 70% effort and hitting 7 min miles. Oh well.
  4.  I don’t need to run more than four days a week, more than 35-40 miles a week. EVER. I can peak at 50. TOPS. I ran up to 67 miles a week this summer and did just as fine as when I maxed at 50 last year for Lehigh. Then this summer I got fatter, more depressed, and burnt out.
  5. I can run my long runs slow. Last year before Lehigh I ran my 20, 22, 24 milers at 9 min miles and my marathon pace was only 10 seconds a minute slower than this year.
  6. I could drink less beer and not run and still stay in shape.
  7. My self worth doesn’t depend on my marathon time- no one else actually cares and it doesn’t make me a better person.

Those are the biggest things I learned. I kind of want to run Philly in November. I am going to evaluate if I’ll be ready for it. I’m also toying with running Providence in May- experimenting with a three day a week plan. I’m also considering just running 5k-10k’s maybe a half here and there and calling it a day. I’m also getting my Crossfit Coach Level 1 certification in December, and I’m teaching yoga on Thursdays and Sundays at Ignite in North Haven. Lots of other stuff to do rather than chase my marathon demons down.  Alright- time for bed!




2 thoughts on “Chicago

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