Monday, October 17, 2016

Chicago Marathon 2016 Race Recap

Race Highlights
BQ-minus 13:57 minute time of 3:11:03 for 26.5 miles
* CQ-minus 3:57 time (Chicago Qualifiying)
* Post-race with fellow BRC team members
* Weather was pleasant

My only goal for this race was to break three hours. Although I failed in this endeavor and am still processing how that happened. I could say that all was going well during the race then gradually I understood that it wasn't going to be my day. Once I knew that my goal was out of reach I even considered dropping out and doing a "revenge marathon" a few weeks later. Anyway, I stuck with it and crossed the finish line with a pretty hellacious positive split.

I called a cab (no Uber, I'm old school) at about 5:45 am, and made it down to Grant Park in about 20 minutes, a few yards from the Balbo gate. The lines through security were non-existant. I was able to secure a spot in the Balbo Hospitality Tent so I went inside and grabbed a breakfast sandwich, coffee and some fruit and then kicked up my legs.

In the Balbo Hospitality Tent
Some running celebs gave some inspirational words as well:
Running Celebs including
 Joan Samuelson and Deena Kastor
I checked my bag at the private gear check then used one of the 100 unused porta potties. Then I made my way over to the "A" corral without incident. Since my goal was to run a sub 3:00 I lined up just behind the 3:00 pacer and just in front of the 3:05 pacer. The horn sounded and we were off. 

The Race

First Half
My legs were stiff and sore as they seemingly never recovered at all during the taper, but I figured that they would loosen up eventually. They always seem to once the adrenaline kicks in and I put a few miles under my belt. I even figured that even if my legs didn't "unstiffen" eventually, I had run more that enough miles over the last four months to at least compensate for the soreness and will them to a 2:59:59. Anyway, for the first few miles I remained just behind the 3:00 pacer. Eventually, I made my way up to the group and tucked in behind them. There was much chatter and I was clipped by a runner here and there. I decided to swing out of the group and run to the outside where it was a little safer. I asked a runner or two to make way and was finally in the open. At mile 8 I high-fived my Aunt and Uncle and saw Ken from the BRC soon thereafter. I chatted with a guy who said he was running way too slowly for his capabilities, but that he would open things up later. As soon as he said this I started to evealuate if I felt the same way he did and I realized that at such an early stage, I really was feeling like I could be almost red-lining, that is my legs still felt sore and it was taking more effort that I would have liked to hold pace. However, again, I thought I just needed to have some faith that my training would take me another 16 miles at "pace".

I made it to the Blogger Press Box at mile 13 and saw Erica, Wendy and Marcia. I got a couple of side-fives and started to feel a little better!
Side fiveing the Blogger Press Box (src)

First half split: 1:29:35 (6:51/mile)

Second Half
After running through the "Charity Block Party" around mile 14, I tried took a mental inventory of how I felt and I realized I was feeling how I normally feel at mile 20. My legs were still tight and the soreness was getting slightly more pronounced. I also felt way more fatigued than I should have at running a (for me) pedestrian 1:30 half (I ran a 1:21 PR in July). For the final time, I tried to convince myself that I would be able to "power through" the soreness and mentally block out the increasing fatigue due to my huge training base.

Anyway, for the next five miles I was able to stay ahead or at least even with the 3:00 pace group. However, I couldn't shake the fatigue that was becoming overwhelming. At mile 18 the 3:00 pace group started to slowly separate from me and I could not muster a response. I knew at this moment what lay ahead for me - a slow fade and then a rapid crash. This was the point where I considered dropping out. If I did that I would be treating this race as a long training run and then sign up for a "revenge marathon" in November. However, I decided that I really didn't want to run another marathon in 2016 so therefore I might as well finish. So, I pulled way back on the pace in order to see if I could at least salvage the last 8.2 miles by not crawling to the finish.

On the back 6.2 I passed Lynton at about 21 then Xaarlin at mile 23. She took these pics:
(src Xaarlin)
The final miles were a slow fade into oblivion and I actually switched to a run/walk in the final four miles make sure I could keep moving and not prolong the agony by totally flaming out and having to stop completely. As I crested the hill on Roosevelt Rd. I spotted the famous guy who always runs marathons dressed as Minnie Mouse. I tried to catch up to him so at least my finish line photo would include him, but I couldn't quite catch him. Within the last 100 yards, my right arm and right side started going numb, but I was still able to raise my arm for my photo. I crossed the line and was mercifully finished!
Happy to be done!
  Second half split: 1:41:38 (7:45/mile)


Analysis: My official time was a 3:11:03 for an official pace of 7:18/mile. My Garmin shows that I ran 26.58 miles for a 7:11/mile pace average. It was my fourth best showing at the Chicago Marathon (out of six). I BQ'd by 13+ minutes, which means I'm pretty much assured of getting into the 2018 race if I so choose. I re-qualified for the 2017 Chicago Marathon next year, but also I'm still a legacy finisher and I can run Chicago without qualifying for the next four years!

 Post Race
After drinking water, a Gatorade shake and passing on the Goose Island, I headed over to the Balbo Hospitality tent, where I grabbed a bowl of chicken soup and sat down for a half hour. Then I made my way over to the massage tent and got a wonderful massage which helped at least temporarily with the soreness. I changed clothes, grabbed a ham on pretzel sandwich from the buffet and walked the mile and a half trek back through the race crowds to the Weathermark on south Michigan Ave.

Once at the bar, I met up with the BRC:

At the Weathermark (src)
After chatting, laughing and discussing future races for a couple of hours, I said my goodbyes and walked back through the throngs down Michigan Avenue to the Red Line station at Roosevelt.

Maybe in some future post I'll dissect what happened to me during the race. But, in any case I hesitate to call it "hitting the wall". I think all signs points to my not being fresh for the race, since mile 14 should never feel like mile 20 in a marathon unless you ran those 14 at half marathon pace! I am now in the midst of a two week break from all running. I'm catching up on my sleep, eating with abandon and taking care of other life things that I put on hold during marathon training. I won't start running again until I feel like it. No pressure, just rest and relaxation!


  1. I have been waiting for this recap--since it took awhile, I figured that you were still figuring things out. I am nowhere near your caliber but I will say that last year I knew at mile 14 that my BQ goal was out the window. Do I quit? Or do I salvage the race and finish with a smile on my face? You know what I did. Sounds like you did the same thing.

    Was it the high mileage training? Did you peak too soon? I'm anxious to hear what you think. It was great to see you on the course--you looked great when we saw you. I"m sorry that it wasn't the race you had hoped for. You've had such an epic year.

    Are you running Schaumburg in November? If my PF stays calm, I"m considering it. Let me know.

    1. Thanks Wendy. I definitely think there was something to the high mileage training and peaking too early. I'm going to have to sit down over the next couple of weeks and figure things out. I'm definitely thinking about running Schaumburg in November. I love that race. Hope your PF stays calm! Thanks again!

  2. Hi, Pete!

    I am also nowhere near your caliber of runner but something similar happened to me this fall, albeit during a different race. I ran the Berlin Marathon in a disappointing 4:13. My training pointed to a 3:35-3:38 projected finish. At about mile 11, my HR skyrocketed and weird cramping started. Suffice it to say, I ran/walked the rest of the way. Fast forward to Chicago (which was supposed to be a "fun", easy run after a successful Berlin...): I ran a 1:09 minute PR of 3:44:44. My legs were fatigued from Berlin, but my cardio system did not fail me this time.

    So what does all of this mean? I think sometimes we just have off days. Look at the amazingly successful season that you had! I know you will be even hungrier for your sub 3 next year. It's gonna happen.

    Enjoy your rest and see you on the path!

    1. Hi Alicia! Maybe you ran faster at Chicago because you ran it relaxed and with no expectations, since it was a "fun" run. Yes, agree that it was an off day and there is nothing you can do when a marathon starts going south, except to try and salvage what you can. Thanks. Hopefully you're resting as well after two marathons in a row! See you on the path!

  3. As Wendy said, you looked great when you passed through the blogger press box area and we were thrilled to see you. I know you'll dissect further and pinpoint exactly what happened. Some days it just doesn't quite come together, despite our best efforts. I think you did an amazing job of salvaging and still finishing in a very respectable time. Yeah that sub-3 eluded you this time but not for long. Count on it.

    1. Thanks Marcia! Also thanks for cheering me on at the blogger press box area. It was thrilling to see you guys as well. Thanks again! :)

  4. I am sorry you did not make your goal. I still think you did an amazing job! Congrats on another marathon!!

  5. Pete, Thanks for the recap. Sadly, some days the running gods are not smiling on you. It sucks when that happens on your goal race, but it does. It sounds like you were feeling a little off the last two weeks, so maybe you are not as surprised as I am with your time, but before that it seemed your training was definitely on track for a sub-3. Maybe just tired legs (super impressive training cycle to prepare for the race) (which paid off over the summer and will pay off again in the future). I'm also curious about your change in diet to high-fat and protein. Do you think that had any effect? Feel free to ignore this for now, but when you do your in-depth analysis, I'll be curious to see what your thoughts are. Enjoy your break!

    1. Thanks Steve. Yes, it wasn't my day and yes that especially sucks when it's a goal race. Yes, I never really felt like the taper helped me to "recover". I don't think the high fat diet had any effect on how I felt, however. I "cheated" more than a few times by eating extra carb portions so was not a strong adherent to it before the race. I actually did carbo load in the week leading up to the race as well. I will have to go over what happened on race day when my head is a little clearer and then write it all up for a future post. Thanks, I realize I really needed this break! :)

  6. Pete, first off I always enjoy your recaps. Second, I think we've all had those races where our goals didn't match up with what the racing gods had in store for us. BUT, I think you deserve huge congrats for not giving up. Congrats on a strong finish and a BQ!!!

    1. Thanks as always Michelle! Yes, except for the weather, the racing gods were not looking out for me that day! Thanks again! :)

  7. Congrats on pushing through and still finishing when you were not having the day you deserved after all that training! And congrats on the BQ/CQ! I hope you are enjoying your recovery.

    It's so odd your legs never relaxed during taper. You were doing such a mindful taper! I wonder what the hell is up with that!!! Did you do a pre-race massage and keep up with your yoga? I am actually mad at your legs for doing this to you, lol!

    1. Oh! I meant to say we saw Minnie a few times!

    2. Thanks. At least in my age group even if I don't have a stellar day, I can still likely BQ! :) I'm wondering what's up with the leg tension as well, but most signs point to too many miles with not enough recovery in-between. Anyway, I did do yoga twice/week for all four weeks of my taper. Did not do a pre-race massage, but it probably would've helped. I'm mad at my legs as well! Yeah, I first saw Minnie in my corral for Chicago '10. Then the next year he was standing next to me at NYC '11. I spoke with him a bit while we were waiting to start that race!

  8. Way to go on another slam-dunk BQ, and on nailing another Chicago Marathon qualifier! Even though you didn't hit your A goal, you displayed an extremely admirable level of courage and perseverance in pushing through to the end. It is scary to hear that your right arm and right side were getting numb as you approached the finish line, so I am glad you concluded without incident. I've seen the Minnie Mouse runner and didn't realize he was so famous!!!

    Wishing you a wonderful recovery and hoping you are taking full advantage of as much rest and relaxation as you can!

    1. Thanks Emily! Yeah, that numb feeling happened in one other marathon (NYC '11) so I wasn't shocked when it happened again this time. Maybe I should google it and see what gives! Before the NYC Marathon in 2011 I met Minnie in my corral and told him I'd seen him at Chicago 2010! Anyway, I am enjoying my R&R, but with the cool air and fall colors approaching I will soon be itching to get back out on the trails/roads! :)

  9. I swear I commented on this before...but man. Congrats on what is a great time, but I totally understand the disappointment of not meeting the goal that you had worked so hard to realize. The marathon is so unpredictable, and it seems like a lot of it is simply up to chance (and luck!). I'll be curious to hear more of your analysis comparing your training and such, basically anything that you did this time around (compared to previous iterations), to see if you think that was what caused things to go south on race day. Anyway, you had a great cycle and logged some serious accomplishments, and I'm proud of you!!!

    1. Yes that there is a large part of the marathon that we can't control. I am still processing what happened and need to put pen to paper one of these days to capture my thoughts on why things weren't ideal. Thanks!!