Sunday, April 28, 2019

Illinois Marathon Race Recap

Disclaimer:  I ran the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon as a BibRave Pro, which means my entry fee was covered for me. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador) and check out to review, find, and write race reviews.  You can read my review of this race on BibRave here.

Lesson #10: You're not always going to get what you think you deserve. These trials can help you realize what's really important. 

I ran my eleventh marathon yesterday!  As someone who said she was "really, really never running another one again" after her fifth marathon, I am a testament to 'never say never'.

Let's start this (really long) recap on Easter, shall we?  That day, the Lord rose and brought me a sore throat.  I didn't even have to find it in a colored egg.  I had been waiting to get sick, because both of my kids were sick the week previously.  Every day from Sunday to Wednesday, I progressively felt worse and worse.  And every one of those days I was a crabby toddler, my brain basically living in the petulant "why me" whine.  

I completed my taper training runs, which were all to be done at an easy pace.  Despite running at an easy pace, my heart rate skyrocketed on all of them.  I know heart rate can be a fickle thing, and perhaps I invested too much mental energy into thinking about it.  Eventually I came to have some peace of mind about the whole race - what was going to be was going to be.  I took all the supplements, I got all the rest I could and all I could hope is that I felt ok on race day.

Thursday afternoon, my friend Anne (who was also going to be running) texted me that she had found rooms at a closer hotel than we initially had booked at.  This was awesome because we were pretty far out there.  Our new hotel ended up being two blocks from the start/finish area. 

We left for the race on Friday morning.  My kids were very excited because we let them skip a day of school to go.  The drive to Champaign, IL is about 3.5 hours from our house.  We arrived at the hotel a little after 1 PM on Friday.  We grabbed some lunch and then went to check out the Arboretum on campus.  I had plans to meet up with BibRave people at 4 PM at the Expo so after my kids got some swimming in at the hotel pool, we headed there.

I had applied to be considered an "elite" runner for this race (as had Anne).  This was going to be my first experience with this and you can bet I was REALLY EXCITED about it.  One of the advantages of this program was getting to start right at the start line, having three bottles of fluids on the course, and access to a special hospitality room (with REAL TOILETS) before the start of the race.  When I got to the Expo, check in was easier than ever because I checked in at the elite table where my shirt, and gear bag were already there.  Then I had to put my bottles in special marked coolers for the next day.  I had gotten a bunch of BibRave water bottles that I was excited to use for this purpose as their bright orange color would stand out.  I also had my kids right on them.

After getting my number and gear bag, we headed to the Expo.  The Expo was larger than I was anticipating.  My kids LOVE marathon expos and there was plenty of swag for them to win.  I also had brought a bag of used running shoes to donate so I was happy to clean out a closet at home.

We went to the race's pasta dinner after the expo.  They had meat and vegetarian lasagna, kale salad, cookies and breadsticks.  It was fun to eat with some of the BibRave people, even if my kids were driving them crazy asking questions.

At 6 PM, those in the elite field were strongly encouraged to attend an informational meeting.  I was excited to see Anne there and I got to meet Rachel Schilkowsky ( @rachelandherlaces on Instagram).  She was so nice!  They went over the course rules and made sure we were all familiar with them.  We had to have our bib on all times, we couldn't accept food/drinks from non-official aid stations, we couldn't run with headphones.  Nothing surprising.

We then headed back to the hotel where another pasta dinner was waiting.  Even though my kids had eaten a ton at the race pasta dinner, they wanted more.  So, we grabbed some more noodles and ate...again. More swimming and then we settled in to watch Mamma Mia 2 and get everything prepped for the next day!  I read a chapter in my book and then had lights out at my usual 9:30 pm.

Race Day
My son woke up around 1 AM because my daughter had rolled on him in her sleep.  He quickly returned back to sleep and surprisingly, so did I.  My first alarm went off at 5 AM.  I shut it off and feel back asleep so when my second alarm went off at 5:15 AM, I had to get up.  I grabbed my cold Picky Oats and chocolate Gen UCan from the fridge and went to the bathroom where I could eat in the light without waking anyone up.  I was pleasantly surprised that my throat felt pretty good and I didn't have to cough out any phlegm immediately upon waking like I had in the previous days.

After I finished my breakfast, I started getting dressed.  We were going to have excellent race day weather - cool and in the 40s to start.  I wore my usual race outfit - Oiselle distance shorts, Oiselle crop, Balega Silver socks, and because I was running this race for BibRave, my BibRave Rabbit tank.  I had made the decision not to run in my VaporFly 4%s well before race day.  I ran my last two marathons in them and both times had a lot of foot pain.  Instead, I was going to wear my Nike Zoom Pegasus 35s.

I braided my hair, took my allergy pill and Flonase and then both kids were up.  My daughter gave me a big hug and told me, "Good Luck" and my son gave me a big wet kiss before crawling back into bed with my husband.  I had made a plan to be downstairs in the lobby by 6 to meet Anne.  I headed downstairs around 5:50.

I sat in the lobby and listened to my montage song (Satan Pulls the Strings by the Avett Brothers) and then used the bathroom.  Then Anne and her husband, Sean, came down and we were off!  Even though our hotel was close, Sean offered to drop us off right at the hotel so we wouldn't have to cross under train tracks.  He dropped us off and we got to the hotel and headed to our elite hospitality room.

It was a larger conference room with circular tables set up and they had coffee, bottles of water, bagels and fruit for us.  The tables were all already occupied so Anne and I headed over to some chairs on the side.  We were being a little self-deprecating saying that people were wondering who those 38 year old moms were over there.  I definitely had imposter syndrome sitting there among tiny people talking strategy and wearing buns.  Anne and I made sure to take our picture to document "that one time...when we were elites....".

I went to the bathroom three times while we had access to it.  We could leave all of our gear in that hotel room - they were going to have someone stay there and watch it while we were all running.    Anne asked me what my plan was for the day.  I said that I planned to run by feel for the first half as I was unsure how I was going to feel.  [My original race plan (prior to getting sick) was to start at 6:40 and see how it felt.]  If by some miracle 6:40 felt comfortable in the beginning, so be it.  I decided to wear my Knockaround sunglasses and my BibRave visor as well.

At about 6:55 AM we headed outside for the start and walked right to the start line.  I saw Tim, the co-founder of BibRave, and we hugged and took a selfie.  And then the gun went off!

Miles 1-5
The half marathon and marathon started together so there were a lot of people in the front running fast.  I stuck to my plan of running by feel and Anne stuck with me and while it was tempting to race up with all of the herd, I also knew that the marathon rewards patience.  I did feel good during this section.  My heart rate was already high but I didn't let that bother me.  I actually didn't even check my pace very much during this part, relying on Anne to call out our mile splits.  

Mile 1: 6:43
Mile 2: 6:42
Mile 3: 6:48
Mile 4: 6:44
Mile 5: 6:44

Miles 6-10
I took my first gel (a Maurten 100) at mile 5.  While I felt good during the first five miles, I also knew that I would not be able to push the pace much beyond where I was at this point.  I wanted to try to stick in that 6:45-6:50 zone and help get Anne her first sub-3 and get a sub-3 in the process.  We got our first bottle in between the 6th and 7th mile and I held onto mine which was filled with Tailwind orange.  Around mile 8 we were on a path through a park and it was a little congested.  I did not appreciate a group of guys making gross sexual remarks about a nude statue that we passed on this section.  During this section, we also caught up with Ben, another BibRave Pro who I knew was trying for a sub-3.  I told him to try to stick with us and offered him some of my Tailwind bottle.  I took my second gel at mile 10 (Gu Roctane in vanilla orange) using some of my bottle to wash it down, giving the rest to Anne to use for her gel and then threw it.

Mile 6: 6:38
Mile 7: 6:53
Mile 8: 6:47
Mile 9: 6:53
Mile 10: 6:55

Miles 11-15
By this point the 1:30 half pace group caught up to us and I was not happy about this.  I thought we were running faster than a 1:30 half.  Initially I thought maybe their pacing was off, but then the pacer said something about being right on.  The half marathoner's split right after the 12 mile mark from the marathons and then Anne and I were with some guys.  I remember thinking at the halfway point, "Ok, that first half wasn't so bad.  Just pick it up and run another one of those." Someone came up and was telling this detailed story about how the wind was going to pick up in the second half and to be psychologically ready for it and that there were a lot of turns.  Anne commented, "I could have done without that whole speech" and I agreed.  It was super annoying.  I remember running by a band playing that Wagon Wheel song and throwing my arm up and cheering for them as I ran past.  During this section, I lost Anne.  At one point I saw Sean on his bike and asked how far back she was and told him to tell her to get up with me.  I was trying to yell for her but don't know if she heard me.  I took my third gel (a Maurten 100) at mile 15 with my second bottle of Tailwind.

Mile 11:6:51
Mile 12: 6:48
Mile 13: 6:54
Mile 14: 7:02
Mile 15: 6:53

Mile 16-20
I was sometimes running these miles with a guy named Jim.  Sorry Jim, but he was annoying me so I was glad that we weren't running together the whole time.  I remember thinking that I was tired but not totally out of it and I was determined to not blow up at mile 16 like I did in Madison.  I remember being very very tired of turning so much.  I had a burst of excitement at mile 18 which didn't last long.  I don't remember why I had so much energy but I do remember Jim consulting his pace tattoo at Mile 18 and yelling (out loud) to himself that he should not have ran a 6:38 mile.

Mile 16: 6:55
Mile 17: 6:55
Mile 18: 6:40
Mile 19: 6:46
Mile 20: 7:00

Miles 20-26.2
Mentally, it took everything I had to hang in there through this last 10K.  I know you run the last 10K of a marathon with your heart but even my heart wasn't in it at this point.  I could not make my legs go.  At mile 20, I saw that I could maybe push and get under 3 hours... at mile 24, I realized this wasn't happening. I did the tricks of "just get up to that tree ahead", I kept telling my brain that it was not really tired, I took a gel (Gu Roctane) at mile 20 WHICH NEVER HAPPENS and had my third bottle of Tailwind around mile 21.  Although I took a few sips, I was not interested in the contents much and it felt like I was carrying a 20 lb. weight in my hand so I tossed it very early.  [Funny enough, Ben told me he saw the bottle laying in the grass and was tempted to pick it up when he saw it! I wish he would have - 20 oz of Tailwind, just went to waste!]  At this point, I was coughing more and while I did a good job of clearing my throat and nose (hello snot rockets!) while running throughout the race, I did stop twice during this section to really hack and try to get the phlegm out.  This section was made more difficult for me for the simple fact that I was running completely alone.  At mile 25.5 a woman passed me and I just yelled at her to GO GO GO.  My brain wanted to go with her but my legs weren't having it. I saw Jen, an IL Oiselle bird right before I turned into the stadium.  I gave her a wave and mustered everything I could to stadium, where I knew I would see my kids and husband.  I looked right as soon as I got out there and there they were!!! I was excited and waved before heading into the finish.  It was here I saw that I was approaching 3:02 and thankfully finished at 3:01:52 - six whole seconds faster than my finish at Madison in fall.

Mile 21: 7:06
Mile 22: 7:23
Mile 23: 7:25
Mile 24: 7:34
Mile 25: 7:34
Mile 26: 6:56

First half: 1:29:08
Second half: 1:32:44

I stopped running, took a moment to find my breath, and continued to get my fleece blanket and medal.  I wasn't upset, but I did want to try to see Anne and get to my family.  I ran into the stands to them and my kids immediately ripped open the blanket and wrapped up in it.  I cheered Anne to a finish and then ran back into the field to give her a big sweaty and salty hug.  

We walked out of the field and to our cars to go back to the hotel to pick up our pre-race gear.  I grabbed one of the free beers on the way out but it didn't taste very good.  I didn't eat any of the huge variety of pre-race food available because my stomach wasn't having it.  I saw Rachel again at the hotel where she told us she got 2nd and also had a PR (she has great recaps on Insta!) and then it was to the shower for me.  My face was covered in salt.  I had some bad armpit chafing which thankfully I didn't notice until I went to take my clothes off.  I stopped by Anne's room to say goodbye and we were off to try to beat the SNOW that was headed our way on the drive home.  


I do wish I was going into the summer coming off of a PR race.  Throughout the last 18 weeks of training, I was hoping to be in the 2:50-2:55 range in this race.  I think an OTQ is really out of reach for me this year and that's ok...for the most part.  It was a bit of a crazy dream anyways.

I did get caught up in the thinking that putting more work in would translate immediately to faster and faster marathon times, even though I know it doesn't usually work like that.  The marathon is a fickle beast.  I had a lot of 3:30ish marathons before I got a 3:11 and then a 2:59 and now two 3:01s.  When I started this blog back in 2015, if you would have told me I would someday run a 3:01 marathon, I would have told you you were crazy.   And here I am four years later sorta kinda disappointed with a 3:01.  It feels a little snotty...and yet, honest, to admit that.

I am now going to take my standard two weeks off of running.  I am registered for the Chicago Marathon in October, which will be my 12th marathon.  And though I've been dedicated to Hanson's Marathon Method for the past 4 marathons, (and credit it for taking me from a 3:25:50 PR to a 2:59:50 PR), I am ready for a change.  Even saying that makes me excited to get training again!

DON'T WORRY!  I am not going to run!


Though I have to admit this is probably the BEST I have ever felt after running a marathon....


:) Thanks for reading and for the cheers.  There may be a lot wrong with social media and the Internet, but I have gotten a lot of love in the past few days and every single message felt like a big hug.

1 comment:

  1. I think you are definitely capable of an OTQ. You are just now starting to really add volume to your training and so you have a huge gains to make still. I also agree with you that progress isn't linear, it looks more like a staircase. Flattens out for a while before making a big leap. That can be super discouraging especially when you know you are more fit. But soon everything will fall into place you will get your sub 2:55.