Yesterday I ran the Chicago Marathon. So I guess it's time for a race recap!!!
I haven't blogged much about my training, but after several marathon training cycles using Hanson's Marathon Method, I made the decision to shake things up for a few reasons. First, I was getting bored with HMM. Marathon training is a slog. A slog that I love, but a slog nonetheless. During my training for my spring marathon (Illinois Marathon), I started realizing that I was not looking forward to any workouts. Second, I was stuck on a bit of a plateau at 3 hours. My last 3 marathon finish times were 3:01:52 (spring 2019), 3:01:58 (fall 2018) and 2:59:50 (spring 2018). I felt it was time for a change if I wanted to keep shaving time off. I asked my friend Eric, who has accrued several coaching accolades, if he would make a training plan for me and he agreed.
We focused on speed in the early summer before switching to more marathon based work. I was running more miles than I had ever before (weekly mileage peaking in the low 70s a few times) and it was paying off. I ran a 5K PR and a half-marathon PR in training leading up to the marathon. However, in his words, "It was not a perfect build-up." I continue to be plagued by anxiety-related insomnia and sleep is CRUCIAL for running recovery. The biggest change, and the best one, is that I was excited to do workouts again. (Well, except for ones that had me sh**ting my pants like NINE one-mile repeats.)
My favorite change about the actual workouts was incorporating more marathon paced work into my long runs. In HMM, the longest run you ever do is 16 miles and it is done at an easy pace. I was doing lots of variations of long runs with chunks of miles in my goal pace range (6:30-6:40/mile) and they were my favorite part of training. I ended up doing 3 20+ milers, and several in the 16-19 range.
Day Before The Race
Our plan was to leave for Chicago early morning so we would get to the Expo relatively early in an attempt to avoid crowds. We ended up not leaving our house until close to 9 AM because we left way too much to do for the morning, including packing and I still had a 3 mile shakeout run to do. (We are in the middle of a bathroom renovation so had to spend Friday night at Menards buying and ordering supplies.) Traffic was not in our favor getting to the Expo (on the south side of the city) but we made it there! It was a ZOO. I love marathon expos but was completely overwhelmed. My kids managed to get a few swag items, I got my packet and shirt and then we went to our hotel. We stayed at the Embassy Suites on State Street which was a great location. We went to one of our favorite spots, Eataly, for lunch, which was also a complete zoo. My son really wanted to go to the Bean so we walked there and back. I was having a bit of a mental tantrum about how much time I was spending on my feet and suggested maybe a swim/hotel time. My husband took the kids swimming and I took a nap, which was glorious.
After that, we headed to the American Girl store, which was another item on my kids' to-do list. Their Christmas lists are made, ha ha ha. Everyone was good and tired by that point so we headed to the hotel for the night. We hit up the hotel happy hour and snacks and then my husband went to a nearby pasta takeout place to bring dinner back for us all. Once I finished dinner, I went to the train station to buy my tickets for the morning in case it was a zoo. The red line was only a block from our hotel! I got my stuff all ready for the morning.
I also had a few text threads going. First one was with Maeluen who I met at the Boston Marathon in 2016 and also ran Ragnar 2018 with and was in the American Development Program (ADP) with me (more on ADP later). We could not decide if we were going to wear race crop tops or singlets given the weather forecast. Another text thread I had going was with Eric decided on race strategy. He thought I could do a 2:51. I was not so sure about that. But the strategy was start with 6:40 pace for mile 1-2, ease into 6:35 until mile 16ish and decide what to do from there based on how I was feeling. (Spoiler alert - this was not what happened.) I decided that I was going to do the crop and bring the singlet in my race bag. How cool was my outfit?! I was proud of this one:
Initially, my kids were going to sleep together on the pull out couch in the living room area of our hotel and that left a double bed each to my husband and I. At the last minute, my son wanted to sleep with me and I let him. So that meant getting thrashed all night long. I still actually got more sleep than I thought I would!
My alarm went off at 4:30 AM. I got up, grabbed my overnight oats from the fridge and holed up in the bathroom, which is my usual process for races. I was not hungry at all but made myself eat the whole bowl. [I always eat a package of Picky Oats How 'Bout Dem Apples oatmeal prepared as overnight oats on race days.] I chugged some grape Nuun and braided my hair. Layered on all of the clothes and left the hotel around 5:00 AM.
I got to the train station expecting to see tons of people but only a few other runners were with me. I rode the train a few stops to Jackson. My husband figured out all of the logistics for me the night before but I still ended up walking the wrong way out of the station. Seriously - I used to live in Chicago but had no brain that morning. I finally realized, DUH. I could use my phone, so I was walking around downtown with the race map in one hand and my phone in the other. #Tourist
I arrived at Gate 1 and was early enough that I had no lines to wait in to get through security. SO DIFFERENT from the last time I ran the Chicago Marathon (2006) and I literally handed my mom, best friend and then boyfriend (now husband) my warm up clothes over the corral gate before the start.
After I found the right gate, it was time to find the American Development Program tent. This required me to pull up another email on my phone and try to make sense of the directions. I clearly was looking like an idiot because another woman asked me, "Are you trying to find the American Development tent? I am too." We managed to figure it out and then walked into the tent and HALLELUJAH IT WAS HEATED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Backstory on the ADP: After I barely got the sub-3 at Grandma's, several people said to apply for the ADP in Chicago. The program standards for women are qualifying with a 3:01 marathon finish time or better. I was so happy that I applied because the pre-race experience was incredible. We had this heated tent to sit around in and chat, our own line of porta potties (which made it easy to use the bathroom 6 times before the race) and a little "track" of park paths to warm up around. We also could just leave all of our stuff in the tent without having to go through gear check.
I loved meeting some other FAST AF runners in that tent, many of which were going for the Olympic Trials Standard (sub-2:45 for women). I chatted with fellow Wisconsin-ite Jessa Victor who, spoiler alert, ENDED UP GETTING THE OTQ! Everyone was so freaking nice. Another woman (who OTQed but I don't know her name) let me borrow some Vaseline. Since I was wearing a sports bra under my crop, I had created a nice little pouch for gels between the two in the middle of my boobs and idea that I got while watching other people store their gels. I used (and loved) the SIS gels which are longer and bigger packages than other gels and storing more than two in my shorts is difficult. I ended up storing two in my hand held water bottle, two in my bra and a bonus in my shorts. I took two warm up laps around the "track". At around 7 AM, the corral directors started telling us to get out to the race corral. Maeleun let me use one of her throwaway layers so I could save my hoodie.
We ended up getting escorted to the race corral but having to wait for the Elites. I cannot even explain how much I was fangirling when the parade of elite runners walked right past us to the start line. At the risk of being a huge cheeseball, I yelled out "GO STEPH" to Steph Bruce. We had to wait for the elite runners to warm up before getting to go in our corral. AND THEN WE GOT TO STRIDE OUT NEXT TO THEM. My foot was on one of the starting mats ON THE STARTING LINE of the Chicago Marathon!!!
I ditched my clothes with a few minutes to go and then felt that I needed to pee, despite all of my pre-race bathroom visits. The woman right next to me crouched down, pulled her shorts aside and peed. I was desperate so I followed suit, except that I got stage fright and couldn't actually pee. Apologies to anyone who may have gotten a crotch shot. Runners are gross.
At the advice of many, I had turned my watch to manual lap setting given that I knew the GPS doesn't work well in the city. I had it all ready to go and BANG! The gun went off.
I had no way of knowing how fast I was running (because the GPS was wonky) and literally EVERYONE WAS RUNNING PAST ME. I felt like I was crawling. My plan to manually tap my watch at every mile marker was only ok because I missed the first mile marker. I knew I was going to see my husband and kids at around miles 1 and 3 so I was scanning the crowds. They ended up being right next to Sarah Sellers' mom (who graciously let my kids in front of her so they could see) so after the race Nate was telling me all of these facts about Sarah Sellers which I obviously already knew from listening to podcast interviews about her, but it was cute. I digress.
I saw them at mile 1 and waved enthusiastically. The noise from the crowd was almost deafening. People were still flying by me and I still felt like I was barely running. But ahead! I saw the mile 2 marker and tapped my watch. 12:48. My Garmin had that at 2.17 miles which is 5:54/mi pace. UMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. Yeah. Went out way too fast. I started slowing down even more but it was so difficult because people just kept passing me which was the biggest mind f. I almost missed my family again at mile 3 but at the last second I heard them and turned around and waved.
I just kept focused on the blue line on the course and trying to maintain pace. I missed a few mile markers but overall, my watch kept saying 6:33 pace and I felt good. I took a gel at mile 5. I saw Leslye and Josh at mile 7ish and was so excited.
I ran through the next miles which all feel like a blur. More low 6:30 miles and feeling good. I missed the 10 mile marker and didn't even think to look at the distance ran on my watch so I took my second gel late - a little after 11 miles. I was still holding my water bottle of Tailwind, which I hadn't used yet. I started coughing and feeling like I was going to vomit. Thankfully this was short lived.
I got through the halfway point at 1:26. I didn't know whether this was good or bad. Did I go out too fast? Am I going to die? These questions started popping up, though I still felt good.
I honestly don't remember a lot from the halfway point to Mile 17. I know that I took another gel around mile 16 - the gels between the bra and crop top worked AMAZING - and I threw my water bottle away during this stretch. It started to feel like a 20 lb. weight in my hand and I really did feel very light after ditching it. At mile 17.5 I saw the Oiselle Cowbell Corner and got a huge burst from that.
After this, I was still in the 6:40s for pace. I just kept telling myself little mantras that people told me leading up to the race - "Have yourself a day" is one I remember. At mile 23 we turned to go back north and then the wind also picked up. I grabbed my hat because I thought it was going to blow off.I remember trying to calculate if I was going to even sub-3 and I thought it was going to be close. Somewhere in this stretch it started to smell like poop. I felt so bad but a man passed me with poop all over his back and legs. [After the race, I found out that Steph Bruce was the 2nd American woman finisher, ran a race PR and also pooped herself.] I told you runners were gross!
I got to the top of the "hill" on Roosevelt with a little under 0.5 miles left and just willed myself to "sprint" to the finish.
I looked up at the finish clock when I rounded the corner and was THRILLED to see 2:54:xx. I crossed at 2:55:36 and let out a huge "YESSSSSSSSSS" scream.
Then, I had to walk through the finish chute.
My legs hurt a lot but I kept walking. Got my medal, heat sheet and then I hear, "AMY!" A former colleague, Patti, was running over to me. I lost it. I just kept hugging her and crying.
I FINALLY GOT THROUGH the long ass finish line chute and saw two cute faces poking through the chain link fence. MAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Followed immediately by, "Do you have any snacks?"
One of the photographers snapped a pic of the four of us and it is so so good. I might buy race photos just so I can get it.
We then had to walk back to the ADP tent to get my stuff. My family couldn't come in the tent with me so I was going quickly but I learned that Jessa and another girl at my table got the OTQ and also learned that Maeluen had a huge PR. I also took two Gatorades for my kids. THANKS ADP! ha ha ha
We headed back to the red line to take the train back to the hotel. We had arranged for a late check out but still had to be out by 12:30pm. We got all of our stuff packed up and got in the car and went to the Chicago Children's Museum, which fulfilled the last thing on my kids' Chicago to-do list. I was moving pretty slowly but the extra walking likely did me good. I ended the day with almost 50,000 steps (inclusive of the race)!!!
So that's that. I am happy with my time, AND am a little disappointed that I was on the high end of my pace goal range. I am proud of myself for going fast off the line (even if it was too fast) #gofasttakechances and for NOT STOPPING OR WALKING, which might be the first time I can say this. AND I FINALLY GOT OFF THAT DAMN PLATEAU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!