Monday, October 12, 2015

Chicago Marathon 2015 Race Recap

Race Highlights
* 2nd fastest marathon ever
* Course PR (fastest of my five Chicago Marathons)
* BQ-minus 16:54 minute time of 3:08:06 for 26.5 miles
* Post-race with fellow BRC team members
* Not as hot as I had expected 

In my previous post I stated my "A" marathon goal was to run a sub-3:05:02 PR, and my "B" goal was to run a course PR of sub-3:09:00. Due to the warm temperatures predicted for the race, I knew that it was probably not going to be an "A" type of day. So, I set out to attain my "B" goal. I accomplished that by almost a minute. One of my "running smarter" goals was to run a negative split, and although this didn't happen I got pretty close (a one minute 54 second positive split).

Pre-Race
I called a cab (no Uber, I'm old school) shortly before 6 am, and made it down to Grant Park in about 20 minutes, a few yards from one of the Jackson gate. The lines through security were longer than last year, but only took about five minutes until I was through. Unlike last year, I was not able to secure a spot in the Balbo Hospitality Tent. I found out at the expo that the tent sold out two weeks before the race.

Out in the elements before the race - no luxury tent this year!
Once in Grant Park, I checked my bag and then headed over to my corral. I bumped into Eric who was volunteering, we talked a bit and then I continued on my way.

I waited in the "A" corral as they introduced the wheelchair racers and I actually got to high-five a few of them as they made there way to the front. I then bumped into fellow BRC member Todd and we chatted for a few minutes, just before the start of the race, and then before we knew it, we were off!

The Race

First Half
The first three miles were probably the roughest mentally for me. I was unsure how my legs would hold up since they had been pretty sore during my taper and early on, I started losing confidence that I could hold pace. For some reason, my energy levels were down, my nerves were getting the better of me and I was second-guessing myself as we ran up LaSalle Street. I was wondering if I could even make it another 24 miles of continuous running. I knew I needed a boost, so for the first time in my marathon career I ate some carbs (a Shot Block) in the first three miles. Soon thereafter, my energy levels increased, along with my confidence and I grooved a good steady pace. Crisis averted. My goal was to run the first three miles at 7:25, 7:20, 7:15. I actually ran them in 7:19, 7:11, 7:15. So far so good.

While running, I tried to follow the blue dashed tangent line as well as possible. However, other oblivious runners were weaving around the line as I tried to jostle for position so I could run on top of it. I assume they had no idea that that it was even there. By weaving around they were actually not running the tangents and adding distance. Anyway, at one point in Lincoln Park the blue line swerved way out into a turn, which surely could not have been the shortest distance around that turn. So, I lost a little faith in the blue line at that point. I passed the porta-potties that slowed me down last year and kept streaming ahead. I wanted to lock into a 7:05/mile pace at mile six, but I actually did that a mile too soon at mile five.

So now, I just needed to hit a 7:05/mile pace until the finish and I would have a course PR. The temps were miraculously still tolerable and I had been progressing at a conservative pace with the wind to my back. At mile eight in front of the Treasure Island on Broadway, my aunt and uncle were waiting to cheer me on. I ditched my bottle of water and picked up another one from a spectator. I also grabbed a wet sponge from an aid station and slipped it under my hat. Of course there was a photographer right at the sponge stop to catch all of the action:
Putting a wet spunge under my hat as other runners look on!
I popped the last three of my shot blocks in my mouth and took my first Gu. Luckily in the Loop there was a station handing out entire packages of Shot Blocks which saved me from having to eat more Gu. Woo hoo! Then I spotted Todd just ahead of me and slowly made my way up to him. However, he slowed to get water at an aid station and I kept going, so I passed him. A minute later he had caught back up to me and so we ran together for through the halfway point where I saw Marcia, Emily and Erica who were cheering me on.

First half split: 1:33:06 (7:06/mile)

Second Half
Todd and I ran side-by-side through the "Charity Block Party" around mile 14, I tried to mentally block out the crowd noise to prevent running my standard "surge" at this point in the race. I kept looking at my GPS watch to make sure I remained on pace. Although my Garmin said it was the fastest mile of the day, it sure felt (and looked) like I was maintaining my pace.

Anyway, we made our way back into the Loop and I could see the sun beating down on the skyline ahead. I was bracing myself for warmer temps. However, it did not seem to be getting too much warmer. The wind was strong, but it was seemingly blowing from a different direction depending on the block. So, it was easy to put it out of my mind, even if it was a headwind because I knew that around the corner, it would be tailwind! I kept going, easily hitting my pace mile after mile and felt well. The temptation to speed up was great, but from running this race four times before, I knew that I would need every bit of energy once I got in the homestretch on Michigan Ave. 

Eventually I lost track of Todd. At mile 17, unbeknownst to me at the time, I ran in front of 2012 Olympian and current Women's Running cover runner Sarah Attar. Kelly snapped a photo of her Oiselle teammate and me:
One of us is an Olympian (source: Running Kellometers)
Unfortunately, Kelly and I did not see each other, but luckily she realized I just happened to be in some of her pictures! Anyway, I was probably not drinking enough water because I wasn't sweating as much as I should have been with the temps rising like they were. Not wanting to slow down, I even skipped a water stop or two, something I have never done in the past. Every mile or so, I would get a twinge in my left thigh which was a strong indicator that a cramp was coming on. So, I backed off my pace ever so slightly, not wanting to over-do things and completely cramp up. At mile 20.5 I spotted Annabelle and she cheered me on.

In Chinatown, there were a few spectators smoking. Cigar and cigarette smoke wafted in the air all around me and it filled my already hurting lungs. Once I caught my breath I yelled "NO SMOKING!" in the direction of one of the smokers, which ticked them off so they began yelling back at me. My admonishment probably didn't help things, as they were probably happy that they were messing with the runners' breathing, but I'm glad I said something.
After yelling at a smoker in Chinatown
On a happier note, at mile 23.5 I passed Xaarlin and Eric (again!) and Xaarlin snapped my picture:
At mile 23.5 (src)
Even though I felt strong at the time, a glance at my Garmin showed that my pace was slowing. I ran mile 23 and 24 each in 7:26/mile. I feared accelerating in order to try and get back to pace, as pre-cramp warning signals were coming from my legs. I'm sure dehydration was taking its toll, but in my mental state at the time, I did not correlate the twinges in my legs to needing water. As I turned onto Michigan Avenue, I made some mental calculations and realized a course PR was within my reach as long as I held a sub 8:00/mile pace until the finish. So, I skipped past the last couple of aid stations and just focused on getting to the finish line by putting one foot in front of the other.

I passed Ken from the BRC in front of the Weathermark on South Michigan Ave. and he was cheering and filming a video of me. I rounded the corner at Roosevelt and Michigan and bounded up the hill passing other runners on pure adrenaline. Once at the top, I looked down Columbus Drive to the finish line. I saw that the finish line clock was ticking up to (what for me was) a 3:08:00 and I could possibly score a 3:07:59 if I hauled some major booty. So I used up everything I had left and then did a sprint down the hill, but the finish line did not come up soon enough and the clock passed 3:08:00.

Mustering a sprint to the finish
  Second half split: 1:35:00 (7:15/mile)

Results 


Analysis: My official time was a 3:08:06 for an official pace of 7:11/mile. My Garmin shows that I ran 26.7 miles for a 7:02/mile pace average. I got my course PR by almost a minute. I also BQ'd by 16+ minutes, which means I'm pretty much assured of getting into the 2017 race if I so choose. I re-qualified for the 2016 Chicago Marathon next year, but also I'm now a legacy finisher and I can run Chicago without qualifying for the next four years! Now I can go all out during my (hopefully cooler) spring marathon and really focus on running my PR pace for the entire race.
Enjoying my post-race 312
 Post Race
After drinking water, a Gatorade shake and grabbing my beer, I headed over to the changing tent, got dressed and walked the mile and a half trek back through the race crowds to the Weathermark on south Michigan Ave. I stopped at Jimmy John's on the way and ate a sub sandwich as I negotiated the crowds.

I met up with the BRC - everyone cheered and the bell behind the bar was rung in my honor. Declan was there with his kids - he had just BQ'd the day before in his 2nd marathon ever!
Todd, Declan, Annabelle and Declan's daughter
After chatting and laughing for a couple of hours, we went out on the street to watch and cheer the 5-hour marathoners. I said my goodbyes, and then joined Declan and kids for a ride on the Red Line before I transferred at Belmont.

Perhaps next spring's marathon will include some PR weather so I can be more aggressive from the start and then get my legs to cooperate so I can hang on at the end. But all-in-all it was a fantastic day. So many friends and family cheering me all day long made me feel like a rock star!

44 comments:

  1. Congrats Pete! What a great accomplish, especially when you're feeling unsure of yourself! Hopefully, next year I'll make it into the race and I can run with you! (or behind you since you're hella fast)

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    1. Thanks! Good luck in getting into the race next year! :)

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  2. Congratulations on your course PR - sounds like a strong race!! I can't believe people were smoking along the course, I would have been so mad!

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    1. Thanks!! Yes, I can't believe people were smoking while spectating a marathon!

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  3. Amazing job! You are inspiring! I decided after seeing the forecast to run Chicago for fun and go for a PR at the Naperville Marathon in 4 weeks.

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    1. Thanks. That is a good plan. I'm sure it will be cooler by November for Naperville. Good luck!

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  4. You did so well! I love that you had so many goals going into this. You really set yourself up for success! Congrats on the amazing accomplishment...and what the hell! Who smokes at a marathon?!?!?! (Ps what's your spring race???)

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    1. Thanks. Yes, I think with a marathon I need to have several goals to choose from since I need a definite pace plan before the starting gun fires. Otherwise things will get ugly later in the race if I attempt to run a PR pace regardless of the conditions. I am still thinking about spring races, I guess I need to pick one soon! Thanks again!

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  5. See, I knew there'd be no way it was an "E" day! :) Congrats on the massive BQ and for meeting your "B" goal!!!

    Ewww to the smokers! I hate smokers as it is, but definitely can't stand that smell when I'm running.

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    1. In the first three miles I thought it may be an "E" day, but thank goodness for the carbs I brought along, things drastically improved. Thanks! Yes, ewww. They've got to realize that marathoners are trying to keep their lungs clear and they are hindering that effort by smoking a few feet away from them. I'm thinking they don't really care.

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  6. Nice job Pete! And good for you to say something to the smokers. Sometimes people just don't think of how their actions might affect others...

    Thanks for giving me credit for the pics and I'm sorry I didn't say hi to you! You were literally right in front of me but we were so focused on Sarah! Haha.

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    1. Yes, I hope they were oblivious to how their actions might have affected us, but am not sure. They probably thought it was their right to stand on the sidewalk and smoke a few feet from us - but it wasn't very nice! Thanks again for the pics, it was great to be in them with a celebrity! :)

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  7. Wow! What a great race!! Mine wasn't so pleasant as yours but that's ok! Starting in the 2nd wave and going over 5 hours puts a good portion of us well into 1:00 p.m. time when it was really hot! But I'm happy you had a good race! Congrats on the course PR and BQ time! You are awesome!

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    1. Thanks! Sorry to hear about the heat. When I walked out along Michigan Ave. to head home from the bar, I could see how much the 5+ hour marathoners were suffering. Too bad the weather was more like an early September day, rather than a mid-October day. Thanks again!

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  8. Fantastic job! Congrats on the course PR and BQ!!! And almost negative split - that is SUPER close! Woot woot! Which spring race are you targeting?

    Smart move to eat in the first few miles. I am happy that put some pep in your step! Do you think you should have drank more water?

    WTF with those smokers. Sigh. I hate it when people walk on the trails out here, and smoke :)

    HUGE CONGRATS!!!! So happy the heat didn't get you down!

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    1. Sigh, I knew there was one other thing I wanted to say. I posted a pic on my blog FB page of the blue line last week, and people commented that it's not a tangent line (like in NYCM) - it's just a course line. So... maybe that is the deal with it?

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    2. Thanks regarding the splits! I probably could have run one or two slower miles at the start, but I'm not going to get down on myself too much considering the warm conditions in the second half - I did pretty well overall. I'm going to decide about my plans for the spring in a couple of weeks. I may do a "local" marathon, but I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure I should have had more water. I'm super lucky that I made it to the finish considering the water stops I ran through. I was carrying water for the first 10 miles, but then mostly forgot about drinking for hydration the rest of the way in. I mainly took sips to help me get the Shot Blocks down. Maybe I should have someone hand me a water bottle at mile 10. Yes, it was warm, but having trained all summer, I think I was ready for it (as much as I could be). That is interesting about the blue line, I had initially heard that it was the tangent line, but after my experience and reading your comments (and another blog post) I am starting to believe that it is just the course line. What's the point of it? It's not like the lead runners are going to get lost!? :)

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  9. Sorry to hear about the cramp but WAY TO GO getting a course PR!!!! That's awesome!!!!! Huge congrats!

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  10. Congrats on an amazing race! If only I was able to start earlier and beat the heat. But I"m happy that I was able to pull off the finish that I did.

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    1. Thanks. Maybe you can start earlier next year? Congrats on pulling off your finish!

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    2. Haha! Next year? You're so funny....

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  11. Nicely done! I'm still dreaming of being that fast. Maybe when I grow up haha.

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    1. Thanks Eric! As you once said, "just keep chipping away at it". That's pretty much what I've been doing over the last few marathons and keep improving little by little. You'll get there soon enough.

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  12. Congrats on a good race! Thanks for the race report!

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  13. Congratulations on your BQ and course PR! Sounds like you executed perfectly this year. Did you graph them next to years past yet? Looks like you learned a lot this year and kept your pace remarkably even! Well done!

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    1. Thanks! I have not graphed them yet. I still need to do my post-marathon analysis post! Thanks again!

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  14. Huge congratulations, Pete! You looked SO STRONG when we all saw you at Mile 13. We could all just tell you were going to tear up the course. Way to push through at the end, too. You are AWESOME.

    I can't believe those smokers you saw in Chinatown! I would have totally yelled at them, too!

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    1. Thanks and thanks for cheering for me at mile 13! It is always a nice motivator to know that I will get to see friendly faces periodically throughout the course. Yes, I'm glad I yelled. Although it is a public sidewalk, could they possibly step a few feet down a side street to smoke during the few hours that the marathon is in progress?!

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  15. Pete you ARE a rockstar! Like Emily said you looked great as you cruised through the half. What is it with people smoking at running events?? I came across that when I ran the Columbus marathon and its disgusting. I also find it hard to believe that runners who run as fast as you do would weave. Very annoying. Anyway, congrats on an excellent race. Way to hang on without water!

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    1. Thanks. It's nice to still have some energy left for the 2nd half of the marathon! Agree that it is annoying. Yup, people weave for unknown reason even at my pace! Thanks, I guess I was lucky this time regarding the water. Lesson learned for next time!

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  16. Yay!! Awesome job, Pete! Congrats on the course PR & BQ! Too many people in Chicago smoke,.. gross!

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    1. Thanks Sara! Is it too much to ask if those people could give us clean air for a few hours on marathon morning?! :)

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  17. Awesome job Pete! I always like to read race recaps where the runner ran a really smart race like this! I'm glad you were still able to meet most of your goals on a not ideal day weather-wise! Congrats on the course PR!

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    1. Thanks! I know that there are a few small things that I would have changed, but overall I think I ran a pretty smart race. I think I might be actually learning from my previous outings! :) Thanks again!

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  18. Huge congratulations to you!!! Not only did you BQ but also qualified for Chicago next year. I am glad things still worked out for you and were able to accomplish "Goal B". That sun was horrible wasn't it?

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    1. Thanks so much and congrats to you as well! Yes, the sun wasn't the best, but I can't imagine how warm it got for those who started in Wave 2! Thanks again. :)

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