Thursday, October 13, 2011

Race Recap: Chicago Marathon

I honestly don't even know where to begin with this recap and I still don't believe I actually ran a marathon but I can tell you that it is single handedly the hardest most nerve racking thing I have ever done in my life to date and I wouldn't have changed a thing about it!  The sense of accomplishment I feel for myself and my running pals, Stacey and Katie, is still keeping me up on cloud nine.

Let's start at the beginning of the festivities with the expo!

It became VERY real as we stepped into the convention center for the biggest expo I've ever been to.
After picking up our packets we hit up the Nike area to spent way too much money on marathon gear.  We spent multiple hours at the expo looking at everything it had to offer.

Becoming more and more real by the minute!

I think the nerves were really starting to kick in for me because I had an upset stomach ALL day and all I could think about was having an upset stomach during 26.2 miles.  The rest of the day was spent relaxing and eating bland food.

Day before the race!
I woke up bright and early to meet my cousin and her family at the Shedd Aquarium.  After the aquarium we walked through Grant Park and I got to visualize what race day might be like.
Finish chute!
The "hill" in the Chicago marathon

Start line
After walking around for WAY too long I cabbed it back to the hotel to relax for the evening.  Dinner was in the hotel lobby and Katie and I had a great pasta dish that totally hit the spot.  My stomach had been calm all day and I was looking forward to the race finally being here.

Race day is here!
Katie and I woke up bright and early at 5 am when our breakfast was delivered.  I was sooo nervous eating anything was really hard but I knew I had to so I tried to choke down as much eggs and toast as possible.  We ate, put on our race outfits, stalked our race belts with fuel, wrote our names on our arms and headed out the door.
We cabbed to the start line and met Stacey at the bag check.  My long sleeve throwaway shirt wasn't even necessary at 7AM, it was already 60 degrees and sunny...I could tell it was going to be a sweaty sweaty run!
Ok ladies, it's time to run a marathon!
Miles 1-6
We squeezed into the start line around the 11:00 pacers and danced around with nerves until the race started at 7:30am.  We crossed the start line close to 8 and just like that it was happening.  I was REALLY nervous and sweating by the first half mile.  I really don't remember much of the first 6 miles because I was just trying to calm myself down, I don't remember ever being this nervous for anything in my life. The course was very crowded and getting through the water stations without stopping and walking was virtually impossible.

10K - 1:08 - 10:44 pace

Mile 4
Around mile 6
The cutest spectator on the course...thanks for the sign Brady!

Miles 6-13.1
I was still nervous and it was getting WARM!  Luckily, Chicago knows how to run a marathon.  There was water stops before you knew you even needed one and tons of people on the streets with hoses.  The fire hydrants on the course were even open to spray runners and cold sponges were available twice on the course.  Stacey and I split off around mile 11 and we all ran our own races after that.  I thought I wouldn't like that but I actually enjoyed running by myself.

I think this is mile 11...
Half Marathon - 2:23 - 11:04 <--a little slower than planned but with the heat and sun I was happy!

Miles 13.1-20
I finally calmed down and got in my groove...what took so long?!  My hips and IT bands started barking at me at this point so I stopped to stretch for a minute during this stretch.  I didn't end up seeing any of my spectators during this stretch of course and was a little bummed out about it but just took in the surroundings and all the spectators!  Each neighborhood in Chicago came out to entertain runners and spectators and it was really great to see everyone coming together to enjoy one event.

30K - 3:26 - 11:20 pace <---slowing was HOT!
Only professional photo of me with my eyes open and not looking like I'm going to die!
Miles 20-26.2
I was feeling pretty good at this point.  Once I hit mile 20 I knew every step I was taking was farther than I've ever run before.  I tried breaking down the distance to make it more bearable. I knew I would see Lindsey and Mandy on the course at mile 23 so I focused on getting there.  Once I did I stopped to drink some water with them and then they ran with me for a couple blocks and kept my mind off the fact that I wanted to be done running now! Once you go around mile 23 you hit a straight away where you run until almost the end.  I think I was in a daze because I don't remember miles 24 and 25 very much.  I do remember seeing signs for 800 meters left, 400 meters left and finally 200 meters left.  You take a right off the straightaway and up the "hill" before turning left down the finish chute.  Right as I turned left I heard my cousin and her husband screaming my name and I couldn't have been more happy.  I remember I couldn't stop turning around to see them raising my hands and cheering. OMG...I'm going to finish a marathon and just like that I was across the finish line.  I high fived some strangers and started walking...the best feeling on earth!

26.2 miles - 4:54:29 <--Goal 2 met!

With the heat and sun I honestly had NO time expectations but once I hit mile 20 and knew a sub 5 hour marathon was possible I knew I had to try my hardest to accomplish it.

Post race was spent walking through a LLOONNNGG finish area that included my medal, water, mediocre snacks, a cold wet towel, and picking up my bag.  I went to the runner reunite area where Stacey's family was waiting and I was greeted with hugs and roses. I saw my cousin and her family shortly after and celebrated with them.

I was feeling pretty good at this point, although walking VERY slowly and with a little pain.  I decided to switch out of my running shoes for flip flops and glad I did. I discovered some HUGE blood blisters courtesy of wet shoes and socks and took advantage of the medical tent to get them taken care of.  All that hard work building up calluses on my big toes is over...they will be coming off soon (I'll spare you the photo I took of the grossness!)

I was reunited with my running buddies and spectators shortly after where we shared stories of the course and reveled in our huge accomplishment!
We did it girls! What's next? ;)
With spectators Lindsey and Mandy who waited on me hand and foot all weekend!
Our cheer signs!
Some final thoughts:
  • There is NO way I could have completed this race without all the spectator support from my family and friends.  Knowing I would see them at certain miles was what pushed me through many of the miles!
  • I never really hit the so called WALL...yippee! There wasn't a point in the race where I thought there is no way I can finish this which was a huge relief.
  • Would I run another marathon?  SURE!  Of course I was dreaming of how I would do if the weather was a little cloudier and cooler so I'm sure I'll try to find out someday ;)
  • The Chicago Marathon is hands down the most well organized race I've ever been in.  The aid stations, the volunteers, and the start and finish line areas were perfectly organized.  One teeny tiny suggestion would be to stagger the start a little more too avoid so much crowding at the aid stations but that might be impossible with 45,000 runners.  
  • I have never been more proud of myself or my running pals Stacey and Katie, we did it GALS!  I love them both to pieces and couldn't imagine a more exciting marathon experience without them.  It actually makes me kind of sad that it's over now and I want to plan our next adventure so we can start planning now!
I'm sure I will have many more thoughts and things to share about this experience in the coming weeks but I'll leave you with this super long post to start with :).  I don't know what is next for MarathonLar but I'm going to try and keep this blog up to keep in touch with all my friends, family, and new blog friends.

Marathon Lar


Lauren said...

woo! congrats! :D

Janel and Brad said...

Brad and I are still talking about what an amazing accomplishment this was! We are so glad we were a part of it!!

Heather said...

Yay, Lar!! What a seriously awesome accomplishment. I think I hear the Boston marathon calling your name... just sayin'! Again, HUGE congratulations!

Coy Martinez said...

I loved reading the re-cap! It reminded me of my second marathon that I did last year! I wanna do Chicago so I'm glad that I was able to read about someone else doing it first.

So, which marathon do you wanna do next!?

Marathon Lar said...

@Heather...Boston? Not sure about that one, I only have to shave an hour and a half off my time, but what a goal that would be!!

@Coy...glad I could give you a taste of what Chicago would be like, I highly recommend it. As for another marathon, I think I'll wait at least a year and decide, it would be fun to take this running business international though...London, Paris, Berlin? :)

Alexis said...

I'm glad you had such a great time running Chicago! I've done it 4 times and each year gets better and better. The volunteers and spectators totally make this race. Congrats!

jillconyers said...

Hi from a new follower.

Congratulations! I ran Chicago too and loved it. Just posted pics on my blog :)

Blog: Life As I See It [Fitness, Health and Happiness]

FB: Life As I See It [Fitness, Health and Happiness]

ashley said...

congrats on the big race!!!! so glad you had a great experience.. from everything i read, chicago sounds amazing! maybe i'll have to do it soon! so cool that you were able to go check out part of the course already set up for race day... i imagine that would be exciting!