Monday, October 20, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon

I'd like to think I did.  FIRST MARATHON, BABY! 
I'm sitting at LaGuardia Airport right now, about 40 minutes away from boarding a flight to St. Louis, where I plan to run the Rock 'n' Roll St. Louis Half Marathon tomorrow morning. Yes, I may be a little bit crazy, attempting to do 13.1 miles only a week after finishing 26.2. But I feel I'll be able to manage :)

Chicago at night, from the plane.
Probably one of my most
favorite Instagram photos
ever!  #nofilter
Anyway, back to the original point of this post... My race report for my first ever marathon, the Chicago Marathon! I arrived Friday evening, after having a five hour work day...flight out was a little harrowing - I had to connect in Cincinnati and upon landing, realized my flight to Chicago would be delayed two hours and I wouldn't get into O'Hare until 10:30pm. Luckily, my travelers savvy won out and I got myself onto standby for another O'Hare flight that was also delayed, getting me in earlier - actually, even earlier than my original flight if it was on time! (Basically, I should be on The Amazing Race... CBS, I'm waiting for my call! LOL...)

My cousin Kristine picked me up from the airport and we proceeded down to the southern suburbs to Lemont to see my parents who were staying with my aunt and uncle. Had some dinner, played with the kids of another cousin who were also there, and then went back to her house in Oak Lawn for a good night's rest since tomorrow we'd be in the city to get our bibs at the expo and just prepare for Sunday morning.

Our accommodations were just
two blocks away from the John
Hancock Building!
The following morning we made our way into the city (with a stop at Salvation Army to pick up some throwaway sweats to wear in the hour before the race) and to our accommodations for the weekend. Kristine is a nurse and the doctor she works for was nice enough to lend us her downtown condo along Lake Shore Drive (WITH a spectacular 25th floor view of Lake Michigan, too!) after dropping our stuff off, we made our way to the Health and Fitness Expo at McCormick Place.

With American Ultra Marathon
Record Holder, Scott Jurek 
Typical expo photo ops!
The expo was MASSIVE. So massive, that we ended up spending four hours there... Probably not the wisest decision to be on our feet for that long.  Spent a little too much money (compression sleeves, some commemorative shirts since the participant tee that everyone got was plain and boring, Clif SHOT Bloks, a FlipBelt, among other things...) and got to meet some luminaries in the running world, including ultra marathoner Scott Jurek and Olympic track athlete Nick Symmonds. And Kristine even won a free race entry to the 2015 Puerto Rico Marathon or Half Marathon spinning the wheel at that marathon's expo booth. We made our way back to the condo to drop stuff off and then went off to Edgewater for a proper carb loading with Frontrunners/Frontwalkers Chicago. After dinner, we made our way back to the condo to prep our running kits and bags for the next morning and a good nights sleep.

Selfie while in line for the port-a-potty
The alarm clock rang at 5 for Kristine, 5:30 for me.  We got ourselves dressed and out the door and took the Red Line down to Jackson to get to our start corrals. The anticipation was electric. It was a chilly morning, but not too cold.  We had our thrift store purchases on to keep warm (super smart idea!!) and after going through packed security clearance, we finally got inside Grant Park, quickly dropped off our bags, and then lined up at the port-a-potties.  And this is where I started to get nervous.  It was 7:30, our corral was set to close at 7:45... and we were to be off by 8.  We got through the line and to the corral, and started to move along slowly.  We actually didn't even cross the start line until about 8:17... and then we were off.

The calm before the storm. Kristine
and I waiting in our start corrals!
I tried to keep in my head to not go out too fast. The first mile brought us down the lower level of the multi-level Columbus Drive.  Immediately, men were going off to the side and peeing.  Supposedly this happens a lot at marathons - the immediate need to pee just as the race starts.  Heh.  We approached the first bridge crossing over the Chicago River, and for the marathon, they lay out carpets on top of the bumpy grates that look through down over the water.  I witnessed a girl trip over her feet on the carpet within the first mile and end up on her hands and knees... rough start for her :(

One of my favorite signs on the course.
Thankfully all my toenails stayed intact.
The crowd support was just awesome. Everywhere along the route, there were people cheering us on.  They really kept me going - and it helped that I had my name in big letters on a custom bib I had made on my chest.  Some of the signs were really great, too... it seems like every race I see some new signs that make me chuckle along the route.  I was trying really hard to be wise about my tangents too, having really scoured the course map and knowing how the turns would be.

I only hope I looked this good
through the great first half of the race.
My Garmin REALLY doesn't
like Chicago's tall buildings.
The first half of the race went by really fast.  I remember the long few miles up LaSalle Drive, and then the turn into Lincoln Park along its pathways where we approached the 10k mark - but those minutes just seemed to whiz by.  I had a lot of fun making the turns back south through Lakeview and Boystown at mile 8 (Thank you Mike Terry!) and seeing everyone decked out in pageant garb.  We came back downtown and approached the Sears Tower (ugh, I don't want to call it the Willis Tower, that's just too weird), and that's when my Garmin decided to go haywire.  This was only my second race in Chicago, but both times, my GPS watch hates being surrounded by tall buildings, and it throws my pace and distance way out of whack.  The official times list me crossing the halfway point at 2:10:53, which would be my second best half-marathon time if I ended right then and there (a 9:59 per mile average pace.)  It started to get warm, so I decided to strip off the gloves and the compression sleeves right around mile 15.

The loop westward near the United Center was not easy.  I finally started to eat some of my shotbloks at this point, and even took some snacks from spectators giving out baggies of pretzels, and even butterscotch candy to suck on.  Immediately after crossing the halfway mark, my pace slowed down considerably.  What was 9:30-10:00 mile paces started to slow down to 10:30, 11:00 pace.  I started to walk at times just to shake out my legs a bit - but it would only be for a maximum 30 seconds before I'd run again for about 15-20 minutes.  Never really stopped to stretch on the course - it was just go forward, one foot in front of the other, which is a mentality that I think helped me get to the finish line in one piece.

Looking tired and sad
at mile 21 in Chinatown.
Where are my parents?!
We went through Little Italy, the UIC campus, and Pilsen, and this is where I started getting antsy.  Mile 18... Mile 19... Mile 20.  In my head, I knew that after Mile 21, I'd be approaching Chinatown, and that at Cermak and Wentworth, I had arranged for my parents, aunt, and cousin to be there, where I needed them.  I looked everywhere on the left side, but they were not there.  Tears started to form... where the heck could they be?  We left Chinatown and made our way further south, alongside the Dan Ryan Expressway and away from downtown - a truly difficult trek, going further from the finish line.  We made a turn and hit mile 23, crossing the bridge over the expressway and I officially had run my longest I had ever run continuously.  Just a little more south, past IIT and a turn near the Vandercook College of Music, and a photographers area (really, right there, where we probably look exhausted and awful?!?), and then we were finally on Michigan Avenue headed back north.

Trying to look decent at
the photographers area.
Devil horns suffice.
There was a second spot that my family was to meet us, just down the street from the Chinatown stop, at Cermak and Michigan.  This was just before mile 25.  Yet again though, searching the left side of the crowd I didn't find them.  More tears.  But I trudged along and just inched my way further and further up Michigan Avenue, slowly, yet surely.  My pace had debilitated down to an 11:30 mile - my feet were definitely just shuffling along.  This stretch was ROUGH.  I ended up spotting a fellow Front Runner, JJ, on the course.  We connected, and encouraged each other onward - there was only a little over a mile left to go!  The crowd support down this last stretch was just amazing, and as soon as you make the turn onto the Roosevelt Avenue Bridge where you hit mile 26, you know you're almost home.  The tank was almost empty, but I barreled on through.  Right after the mile 26 marker, on the bridge (which, frustratingly, is the only significant elevation change in the entire course - you can call this the marathon's only "hill"), a guy directly in front of me keeled over and started vomiting and medics were rushing over.  I curved around and just kept going, knowing I just needed to get to that damn finish line.

#VictoryHeadstand in front of Buckingham Fountain.
I am a marathoner!
I made the left turn onto Columbus, and there it was.  I crossed the finish.  4:45:46.  And then the tears started flowing.  They wouldn't stop for a good ten minutes.  I retrieved my medal, a power bar, banana, bagel, everything they could give me.  Hell, I was so excited for the Goose Island 312 Urban Pale Ale that I got even before heading to the Post-Race Party in Grant Park's Butler Field - I mean, I had taken a little two-week alcohol cleanse just to be in tip top shape for my first marathon.  As I slowly got my bag check, texted my parents (who apparently were watching at the corner of Roosevelt and Michigan just before the mile 26 point, and didn't even see me...) and realized I had just finished a freakin' marathon, I made my way near Buckingham Fountain, and got a chance to do my victory headstand photo.  Despite it being on hard ground, it was so worth it.

We did it!  2014 Chicago Marathon
Finishers!! #cousinswhorun
I made it into the Post-Race Party and reunited with my family.  Kristine would finish about a half hour later, unfortunately hitting the wall at around the mile 17 point - but she finished as well!  Both of us, super tired, headed back toward the condo with a stop at Cheesecake Factory for a well-deserved meal, which included our ritual post-race burger and fries combo!  And alcohol, 'cuz #duh.  We headed back to the condo, and Kristine packed up her things to head back down to the suburbs while I stayed, since the downtown location would be more convenient for me when I left the following day.  I immediately showered and got into bed to get some much needed rest.  ...well, for a few hours, at least - tired legs be damned, I still felt social, and met up with Front Runners JJ and Ricci for a nightcap (at 9pm, haha) at The Gage, a cute little bar just across the street from Millennium Park.

Deep dish pizza from Gino's East.
It was effing delicious.
My 2014 Chicago Marathon medal
with the Monday edition of
the Chicago Sun-Times
Recovery was a bit rough the next morning.  I took nearly half an hour to just get myself out of bed and moving around.  Legs were sooooo stiff.  There's an unwritten rule that the day after a marathon, one should run a mile, to help the lactic acid break up - I didn't really do that, because I didn't quite have the ability to "run" in me - but I did walk (briskly... and brusquely -- I am a New Yorker, after all...) quite a bit to make up for it.  Made my way to the Nike store and was able to get a finishers half zip pullover, and finished off my trip with a great deep dish pizza from Chicago's iconic Gino's East.  Even brought a slice back home with me on the plane as leftovers for lunch the next day.  My flight got delayed (surprise!) another couple hours, so I stayed downtown for a little while before heading to O'Hare.  I proudly wore my medal on the plane and made my way back to NYC, landing just before midnight.  Still went to work the next day... wearing my medal. Heck - I wore my medal the entire week!  Legs were back to normal by Wednesday, which I'm super happy about - shows my body recovers pretty quickly now and is getting used to these distances!  All in all, it was a blast of a trip, and sadistically, I look forward to my next marathon!

But in actuality, I look forward to my next half marathon.... which would be the following weekend in St. Louis!  Yep, I'm a crazy one.  And a report of that race to come soon! :)

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