Monday, October 14, 2013

Chicago Marathon 2013 Race Recap

Race Highlights:
* Near-perfect marathon temps 50 to 55 degrees. 
* Meetup with fellow BRC team members
* Huge, enthusiastic crowd with a few blogger sightings
* Course 2nd best time and BQ time of 3:18:30 for 26.5 miles

My goal was to set a sub 3:10:40 course PR, and I came up a little short. However, I have lots of positives from the race. One of those positives is that I now know that I can train for a marathon in nine weeks, still BQ and have an excellent time running the entire city. 

Pre-Race
I shared a cab with two of my neighbors (Tad and Stacey) to Grant Park. The cab dropped us off 100 yards from one of the main gates. We were there early enough that there were no lines at the security check point.
Tad, Stacey and Me Pre-Race
After clearing security, we wished each other well and headed in separate directions. I walked over to the gear check to wait for my fellow BRC members to show up. A few minutes later they were all there and we made a little campsite:
Camp BRC
Declan doing warm-ups at our campground
In front of Buckingham fountain
Declan getting a tattoo pre-race from Erin
BRC Team Photo (Erin, Annabelle, Ken, Erin, Me, Declan)
After we completed our pre-race rituals, we left our campsite and made our way over to the start corrals. I used the corral porta-potties and waited for Declan and Annabelle to arrive at the "B" corral. Luckily I spotted them and we got in a line to enter to the "B" corral. Unfortunately, the guards would not allow a runner with an "A" bib to move back to the "B" corral, so they told me to fight the surge of humanity and make my way over to the "A" corral. I was disappointed that I couldn't run with them. It would have been a blast: All three of us had the same goal pace!

The Race
After shedding my throw-away clothes, the corrals were herded closer to the start line. Then at long last we were off!

First Half
My goal was to run the first two miles at 7:45, 7:35. I actually ran them in 7:34, 7:13 despite a concerted effort on my part to relax and slow down. By mile 3, I had to use the bathroom again, and found a porta-potty with a green symbol by the door and darted in. Mile 3 was a 7:50.

Then, for whatever reason, I decided that I needed to make back the time lost in the porta-potty (even though I was basically still perfectly on track) and started laying down some 7:10s, which although felt okay, did cause my heart rate to go up more quickly. This could have been due to the fact that my legs were tight and were not loosening up as much as they typically do once I get in my cadence. It was harder to get turnover. I blame the short taper, but I did my best to tell myself that I could run the rest of the race at 7:10/mile.

I passed by Maggie and she shouted my name and got this great shot of me:
Hi Maggie! (source)
Then I side-fived my aunt and uncle who were holding these awesome posters near mile 8:
BRC support
They remembered the "T" 
I ran south through Lincoln Park still hoping to get my leg muscles to cooperate.
On N. Sedgwick St. in Lincoln Park
On top of drinking lots of Gatorade at each aid station, at around mile 10 I broke open my first GU. I quickly realized that the gel must have been about two years old as it was kinda mealy and had an bland taste. I debated whether it would make me sick if I ate it. In my infinite wisdom, I decided to eat only half of it. Luckily, I did not get instantly sick, but my stomach was starting to feel the effects of too much sugar. 

 Erica, yelled to me just around mile 13 and I gave her a wave. I basically averaged 7:15s for miles 4 through 13.1. Total time for first half: 1:36:17 (avg: 7:21/mile)

Second Half
The second half started out with a positive as Emily shouted my name and I waved back at her. However, by mile 14, I realized that my goal of setting a course PR (3:10) was likely out the window. Holding my current 7:15/pace was becoming more of a struggle. My legs were still tight and my stomach was not doing very well. Every whiff of bad air by a porta-potty or a garbage can made my stomach feel like it would be sick. On top of all that, my heart rate was about 10 bpm faster than it was for the first half just to hold the same pace. In order to go sub 3:10 for the race, I needed to drop down to 7:00s for the last 10 miles. That feat was merely a dream given my condition. So, I decided to see if I could handle running 7:30s which would hopefully enable me to at least run the rest of the way (i.e. not walk at all) and BQ (<3:25) since I had banked lots of time so far.

Around Comiskey Park, I suffered the indignity of the 3:15 pace group passing me. After that happened, I was determined to avoid letting the 3:20 group to pass me later on. This gave me motivation to keep my legs moving in a running-type fashion.
Trying to smile, trying to run
At about mile 20, I spotted Annabelle about 10 yards ahead of me. She had passed me without me noticing. I wanted to say hi to her, so I kicked up my pace a couple of notches. Once I reached her, I told her she was looking strong. She said that she was having leg issues and had to stretch every so often. She then took off and I spotted her the next mile or two taking stretch breaks, but still running too fast for me to catch up to her again. These two or three miles were a great distraction from my leg and stomach problems. Thanks Annabelle for passing me (and congrats on the PR)!

Upon reaching Chinatown at mile 21, I felt myself really slow down. I stopped looking at my splits and just focused on my overall time. I wanted to make sure I crossed the finish line by 3:23 (BQ -2). My legs grew heavy, my stomach sent some nauseous signals to my brain, and I decided to only drink water on the way in as I had overdosed on energy gels, shot blocks and Gatorade. My arms were starting to lose feeling in them as they had been in essentially the same position for over 2.5 hours. Even though it felt like I was running 9 minute miles, in retrospect my pace was actually about 7:55/mile for 21, 22 and 23.

In Chinatown: Hurting but still alive
I made the turn onto Michigan Ave. for the three mile homestretch. As I slowed to what felt like 10 minute miles, I kept waiting for throngs of runners to pass me. However, I only got passed occasionally, as most everyone was struggling at that late stage. Negative thoughts started creeping into my head, and I even questioned why I liked marathoning so much! I banished such thoughts and kept pounding my aching feet on the pavement. I told myself that all I had to do was to run straight ahead for the next three miles and I would essentially be done. I spotted the jumbotron at Michigan Ave. and Roosevelt Rd. which was about two miles away. No matter how hard I seemed to run, it did not look like it was getting any closer! It remained a tiny object that resided in a fantasy land that I could never get to. So instead, I started concentrating on the various mile marker signs off to my right. I passed the 40k sign, then the 25 mile sign, then the "1 mile left" sign, then the "800m left" sign. Before I knew it, I had passed the jumbotron, and turned onto Mt. Roosevelt and the 26 mile sign. I began my ascent up the hill slowly, but still running. I made the turn at the top and moments later I held my hands up high for my finish line photo.

Edit: Finish line photo Not available at this time...


  Total time for second half: 1:42:12 (avg: 7:48/mile)

Results 
My splits







Analysis: My official pace was 7:32/mile, but my Garmin shows that I ran 26.5 miles for a 7:27/mile pace average. I BQ'd by 6.5 minutes, which takes some pressure off of my 2014 spring marathon performance. Now I can just focus on a marathon PR in March!  My overall time was 8 minutes slower than goal, but given my nine week training cycle and short taper, I think I may have been too aggressive in goal setting. A 3:15 would have been within reach if I had paced for that and not a 3:10. I now see the value in having a solid base before training, as well as having an adequate taper so my legs can have some time to relax.

 Post Race
Once I stopped, my legs cramped badly and my stomach headed even further south. Luckily, I spotted Declan, Annabelle, Erin, and even Lindsay and my focus shifted to talking and walking with them instead of finding the nearest place to get sick! We made our way through the finishers' chute, and got wrapped in space blankets. We then got our medals and collected bananas, water bottles, ice, snack boxes and even beer. I did not have a beer as it would not have stayed in my stomach for very long if I had taken a swig. We got a group photo from the race photographer.
We all finished within a few minutes of each other
so we were able to get an official picture!
Then it was off to gear check.
Declan post-race with his blanket and icy head
I collected my stuff and changed clothes in the changing tent. It took me what seemed like 15 minutes to change, as I had some bad leg spasms once I sat down. Once I managed to stand up again, I met up with the BRC for the last time. Declan and I then made our way over to the family reunion area.
Ready to for the after party!
Yay!
We met Declan's cheering section, and thanks to Declan I got into the VIP post-race area.
Declan's Cheering Section
I said goodbye to Declan and family and made my way to the Brown line and got this picture down Wabash Ave.
Runner leaving
All-in-all it was a memorable experience: My first marathon as part of a team, my first marathon on very short training, and a marathon in which I had my struggles, but overcame them to finish respectably. Ten weeks ago, when I was sidelined with an injury, I would not have thought that this day would have been possible.

39 comments:

  1. Congrats on the BQ! I was looking for you near the 15K mark but didn't see you go flying by me :-)

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    1. Thanks. Yeah, too bad we didn't see each other. Thanks for looking for me though!

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  2. Awesome performance. Kind of amazing someone can do so well with only 9 weeks training. Maybe I'll eventually get to that point.

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    1. Thanks Eric. I'm sure you will soon enough!

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  3. Congratulations on a fab run, especially considering your abbreviated training! Well done!!

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    1. Good run, Pete! Especially with your time off (way to cross-train!). Now recover so you can ramp it up for some uninterrupted training in the spring :)

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  4. Pete, thanks for the kind words and congrats on crushing the race. Looking forward to reading more as you continue and make your way Boston-bound.

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    1. Thanks. I hope to keep blogging all the way to Boston 2015!

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  5. Awesome job given your short training time! Congrats on another BQ! Can't wait to read about what the future has in store for you! :)

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  6. Congrats on your BQ! Glad I was able to spot you on the course!!

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    1. Thanks Maggie! It was great to have your support out on the course (and your photography skills)!

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  7. Congrats! And yay for a BQ!!! I'm so happy your shortened training cycle worked out for you :)

    I am interested to hear more about BRC.

    Which spring 26.2 are you looking at?

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    1. Yes. Now we have to get you your BQ. Should not be a problem for you, given your work ethic and determination. Then it will be a "CRB partay" in Boston 2015! I lucked out this shortened cycle, by not re-injuring my ankle while running 60 days straight. I pulled back a little on most of my workouts just to make sure I stayed injury-free. Anyway, the BRC is Annabelle's racing team (Bootleg Runner Coalition). Motto: "Beer Tent not Med Tent". We had 2 separate male/female teams for the Chicago Marathon and we score points based on our age group placings (lowest four count), kinda like scoring at a cross country meet. Anyway, it was a fun group to socialize with at the expo, pre and post race.They are all awesome runners and it was cool to be bringing up the rear of such a fast group! For my spring marathon, I am looking at the LA Marathon in March, which is the site of my current marathon PR. I am going to go for a new PR there if I can keep up this injury-free thing! I'm glad it's in March, so I will have a couple of weeks to recover then I can run the Shamrock and other local spring races that I missed out on over the last 2 years because of Boston.

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    2. YES. CRB does Boston 2015! The game is on! :)

      Beer tent, not med tent... LOVE IT. So you guys/gals had to have placed pretty high in the team competition then since youre all speedy McSpeedsters?

      Good plan to run LA. And with it having your PR you have all the good JUJU and good vibes surrounding you there seems like a great choice. Keep doing what youre doing and i have no doubt you'll do amazing there! Loved following your comeback from injury this year and seeing you succeed. Congrats!

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  8. Congrats on getting through the race and grabbing that BQ Pete! Amazing you were able to come back from injury like that. Great recap and great meeting you in person this weekend.

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    1. Thanks! Yes, I lucked out that I stayed injury-free. Maybe that or I'm becoming just a little smarter with my training as I get older... :) It was great meeting you as well!

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  9. Great job Pete! All things considered, you did a great race! Sad that they wouldn't let you back into Corral B with Annabelle and myself! We'll need to do some winter training together!
    And the smell of food in Lincoln Park by the restaurants made me want to puke!

    Enjoy the week of glory!

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    1. Thanks Mr. Declan. Yes, that was the downer of the day that I could not get in the B corral. A warden in the A corral saw me standing on my tip toes looking for you guys. He said that he would have let A corralers in the B corral if he was working there! Let's train for a winter half. Maybe the f^3 Half (I think in January). I am going to do another full in March (probably), Yeah, the smell of food while running made me nauseous as well! Hope you are wearing your engraved medal in your week of glory!

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  10. Weird that they wouldn't let you drop back a corral! Ah, well. Based on my years of volunteer experience every volunteer gets told something different :-)

    Regardless, you ran a pretty awesome race considering your abbreviated training and your pacing and stomach issues. Congrats!!

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    1. Yes, the warden in the A corral said that if he had been working the B corral he would have let me in. Oh well... Thanks!

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  11. Congrats on the BQ! It was nice running into you after race (it's funny we all finished within a few minutes of each other). I hope your legs are feeling better too. Have you picked a spring marathon yet?

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    1. Yes, that was definitely a highlight to be in the finisher chute with all of you guys! My legs have actually rebounded quite well. That Hanson punishment has made them resilient apparently. LA in March is what I'm targeting right now...

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  12. Congrats on a great race, Pete! You are amazing! To do this on such short training, as you said... bravo!

    Like Xaarlin, I am unfamiliar with the BRC, but saw you and Declan had the jerseys? Did I miss a post about this? ;)

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    1. Thanks, and thanks again! Regarding the BRC, check out my comments to Xaarlin above. I don't think I posted about it. I just joined a couple of weeks ago. My entry about the expo features more pics of the BRC as well!

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  13. You looked awesome at 13 and it seems like a great performance for 9 week training! Congrats on the big margin BQ, too! Sorry about the bad GU!! Great recap and analysis, too. This was the first Chicago since the disaster of 2007 that I had marathon envy! I enjoyed seeing great performances by BRC/running bloggers!

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    1. Thanks Erica and thanks for being out there and cheering me on. Yes by mile 13 I was still doing fairly well, although the thoughts about scaling back my 3:10 ambitions were just starting about that time! Yes, you'll have to run it next year and be part of the gang! Sorry if you have bad memories from CM 2007. :( That was the year of the brutal temps/race stoppage, correct?

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  14. Congrats! It was a great day to run a marathon!

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  15. I think the fact that you managed to join two running clubs AND get your story published in the Tribune all during one very short training cycle is pretty cool, not to mention what a great finishing time you had based on said short cycle. Congrats on your BQ! Not that anyone doubted you'd do it, but still, qualifying by over 6 minutes is awesome.

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    1. Thanks Anne! Yup, looking back at all that happened in nine weeks is pretty amazing. The finishing time is only a minor disappointment (and yet another marathon learning experience). But if I really think about it, it shows me that at least I was able "gut it out" when the going got tough at the end.

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  16. Congratulations on a great experience and performance. I had a blast finally meeting you last weekend. :) Great pics on and off the course, too! (and, sidenote, I don't think I realized how tall you were... geez ow I am SHORT next to you in those pics! haha)

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    1. Thanks! Yes, it was nice and a blast meeting you as well. I didn't notice a big height difference in person, but I guess there is one according to the camera! :)

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  17. Congratulation on a great race!! It's pretty impressive that you were able to train for this race in such a short time. I really think there is something to be said for your "lifetime mileage" up to this point in helping you train and race in such a short time! I'm sure it helps that you've run marathons before too. Here's to staying injury free!

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    1. Thanks! Yes, I agree that my lifetime of mileage gave me the knowledge of when to push hard and when to pull back in my training to avoid injury - yet still run a decent time. All of that mileage means that my legs and mind are more used to the trauma that running a marathon entails. Thanks, I will also agree with that (i.e. staying injury free)!

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  18. Congrats Pete! I think you did great given the 9 wk training cycle and questionable GU. I saw you at 13. I was right across the street from Erica. I didn't dare cross the street, plus I headed to 17 after. Reading this almost makes me wanna do another Chicago...almost....but it would probably be boiling hot again,...so no.

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    1. Thanks! Too bad I did not see you, although I just barely saw Erica in time and probably would have had to pivot quickly to see you at the same time! :) Thanks for coming out and cheering. Yes, I'm always nervous that it will be warm like it was in 2010 when I ran my first Chicago Marathon.

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