Thursday, October 17, 2013

Race recap: State #1: Illinois (redux)

Race: Chicago Marathon
Date: October 13, 2013
Result: 4:27:21

Charity: American Diabetes Association
Amount Raised: $1100

American Diabetes Association runners Earl and Kory
My home state.  This is my second marathon and was determined to run it again since I left last year's race with a bad taste in my mouth.  Plus I had already registered before even thinking about going 50 for 50.

I arrived at the gate and had split a cab with two other ADA runners I had met at John Barleycorn, ADA's race day HQ, earlier in the morning.  Earl had run one previous Chicago marathon in about the same amount of time I did, and this was Kory's first go at it, an out-of-towner from Rhode Island.  

It was such a beautiful day I didn't need the garbage bag I brought with me and tossed it in the trash.  With the elites already at the 5k mark I was 15 minutes from departure and the nervous energy started to fill the corral.  I decided to finish the bottle of water I brought with me and get my Gu on.

I had just been given a hand-me-down smartphone so I decided to use that to play my music - and have a way to get in touch with Mae after the race - but I was worried since I sweat like a pig it was going to get soaking wet in my gel belt. So bringing a ziplock bag was one of a couple things I forgot to do today.  My playlist was 60 songs deep and about 4 hours long.  It was a stretch to get done before the playlist ended, and realistically my goal was 4:15.  But you tend to get overly optimistic when you put in as much work as you do when training for these things.  

As I crossed the start line right near the front of Wave 2 in my corral I started my watch and headed out for my run. I wanted to keep a 9:20 pace but my Garmin wasn't telling me my pace.  I was freaking out because it wasn't also telling me my distance.  This can't be happening!  Stupid refurb Woot watch!  I guess I have to run by feel.  The problem is I had so much adrenaline that what I felt was 9:20 actually turned out to be 8:55 the first 15k.  That pretty much doomed me for the second half.    

I told Mae that I would run down the left side of the street for the most part, mainly because I like to give high fives to all the kids.  It's an awesome feeling for a regular joe to be treated like a pro athlete, and it makes you forget about the distance in front of you for a short time.  I also punched a sign that said "Punch here for turbo" which gave me a little speed burst.  But for some reason at mile 3 where the ADA cheering section was, I went to the right to look for her.  Of course, she was on the left side of the street so I didn't see her.  

Coming back south down Broadway and eventually Clark towards mile 9 I started looking for the Illini flag that my friends Mike & Wanda had texted me to look for the night before.  Sure enough there it was right on Wrightwood and I spotted Wanda first. Then there was Mike and I waved and hopped maniacally as they spotted me.  

One of the nuttier things I saw was this Japanese guy with a huge professional camera running alongside me. He would race up ahead at around 9 mph, stop and take pics of everyone while I caught up and pass him, then he'd race past me again with his camera in one hand only to stop and take more pictures.  I'm sure I got on his memory card a bunch of times.  And he did it without any camera straps or anything.  Crazy.

Most of the streets are sloped and you really feel it if you run alongside the edge for too long so I started spending more time on the crown of the roads right where the dividing paint is at.  But it may have been too late because just after the halfway mark my left calf stiffened up on me and even though I was eating the Clif Bloks like I had in training and drinking at every single aid station they didn't keep away the cramps like last year.  A quick pull over to the side to stretch at the curb kind of helped, and I was still able to continue running, although at a much slower pace. I kept flashing back to last year, where I saw myself on the sidewalk trying to stretch to no avail and walking in disappointment, and felt so much better and fit this year.

Coming up on mile 21 I looked at my stupid watch and saw that it was 11:22 in the morning - I told my cousin Bern on Facebook who was working the aid station coming up that I would see her at around 11:24, and with a little speedup I was able to get there right when I said I would.  Mae was there too, and as she ran up to me I gave her a big and all-too-brief hug, then saw my cousin right after and gave her a hug too. Then another cousin Jason who was also working the aid station got a quick shoulder pat and off I went with a new-found spring in my step and  kept me strong through Chinatown.  

After Chinatown is such a grind though because you head back south away from the finish line all the way to 33rd street before heading back over the Dan Ryan and back up Michigan Avenue.  I remember that being the worst stretch of the race last year and I was forced to walk all of it.  This year it was a slow trot, but I was still running.  

At the "1 mile to go" sign and my playlist already repeating itself I yelled to myself "Let's go, Mario!  Come on!" loud enough to turn a few heads in confusion, and I just took off as hard as I could.  That lasted about 10 yards as my calves said, "I don't think so, jerk."  And they just locked up on me.  So I went back to my 5 mph trot I've been running steady with the last 3 miles or so.   

Seeing the finish line and crossing it was as good a feeling as I remember it, and with the enhanced security the spectators are fenced off blocks away from the finishing chute.  It took a while to meet up again with Mae, but the under-attended pizza party back at John Barleycorn with her and celebrating with ADA donors and friends Mike and Szymon made the day great.  

An injury self-assessment revealed nothing major - chafed inner thighs (forgot to put on body glide, the other thing I forgot), ouchy big toes, a sore left achilles and a knot in my right calf.  Other than that I was walking around okay on Monday and got my medal engraved at Fleet Feet for posterity and should be ready to start training tomorrow for next month's race in Madison.

Race Registration: $0
Flight: N/A
Hotel: N/A

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