Sunday, October 17, 2010

Long Overdue Chicago Marathon Recap (beware it is lengthy)!!!!

Wow, it has all come to and end.  The Chicago Marathon is over.  The training time flew by (some days seemed longer than others).  26.2 miles were cleared on Sunday (10/10/10). 

Sunday (October 10th)- MARATHON DAY!!!!     I was awake and ready.  I still wasn’t feeling wonderful as I was fighting the cold that the rest of my family has.  Earlier in the week my ear started hurting so I was on Augmentan   (I didn’t need to attempt a 26.2 mile race with an ear ache).    I was really on the fence about how much to eat before the race.  I had to leave my hotel so early, stand in the corrals for a while and then run for 26.2 miles.   I decided on a bagel with peanut butter and a banana., drank some water and had some Nunn before I headed out.   Headed out of my hotel (Palmer House Hilton) at about 5:40a.  I had plans to meet my friend B at her hotel (Hilton on Michigan) at 6a.   Wow, even on the ½ mile walk from my hotel to hers there were people everywhere.  I saw all the wheelchair racers getting to the start line, what an awe-inspiriting site to see.      I met up the B, and we talked about how we weren’t feeling the best and how the weather was not going to be ideal.  She and I began to strategize; ‘we will start out with the 4:30 group, and just adjust accordingly (how funny that sounds now, I surely adjusted).  After going to the bathroom a couple times at the hotel we headed out to join everyone in the corrals.  45,000 runners are a lot of people to work your way through.  We made our through the gates, and began our duck and weave process to get up to the 4:30 pace group.  Phew, we made it.  It was about 7:10 by the time we got to exactly where we wanted to be.    I was looking around and right next to me was Dan Herman (one of the other diary writers).  I don’t think we could have started the race off that close to each other if we planned it.  It was so nice to start the race off with my friend B to my left and my fellow diary writer Dan to my right.    

The National Anthem always sends chills down by back.  When that song was played there was absolute silence in the corrals, very surreal.  I didn’t hear the starting gun go off, but the people started moving forward.    It took me 15:20 to clear the start line (not to bad considering the amount of runners).  We are off and running. 

Mile 1 - The first mile always chokes me up, and can only smile.  The fan support right here (well and everywhere) is insane.  People are yelling, banging cowbells, you name it.  I love looking up at the bridge and seeing people 3 to 4 deep.    When the race started the 4:30 pace group was right behind me.  I wanted to make sure that I could keep them in my sights (did not want to start to fast).    B and I were commenting that we could smell all the bakeries making cookies. 

Mile 2- First aid station, grabbed some Gatorade.   I didn’t really want that, but then I saw the water farther down the line.  Had a quick swig of water.  I knew my parents would be around here somewhere.  That is the fun part about this marathon, spectators.  Holy molly there is a lot of them.  I spotted my parents, I ran right in front them and was so excited to see them. 

Mile 3 - First 5K, I was holding great.  Actually, I was running a little faster than I wanted to (31:15).  Made the comment to B that we better start slowing down so we don’t die at the end (ha ha, funny to say that now).    Now, the 4-mile trek north bound. 

Mile 4-6 - Still running strong, I was starting to have the urge to go the bathroom (maybe it had something to do with the zillion people that I kept seeing peeling off to do the same).  I didn’t want to stop here because the lines for the port potties were really long, nor was I up for a tree stop.   Earlier when I met B at the hotel, she and others were putting their names on the font of their shirts.  I decided to join in and it turned out to be the best idea.  All the way spectators are yelling your name.  What a boost.  At the aid station at mile six I lost B (wasn’t sure if she was in front or behind me), so I had to continue on without her.  Bummer.    10K mark and still doing well, 1:01

Mile 7- 8 My Bladder was really full now.  Port potties line was nill at mile 8.  I was in and out.  Wow, the Boys town neighborhood is so much fun.  Loud music, cheerleaders- awesome!!! 

Mile 9- 12 - I was starting not to feel well.   Come on, really, this is only the first half of the race.  I had give myself a pep talk; “it’s just getting hot out (the conditions are not ideal) just go for it and do what you can”.  I had taken some sports beans and chomps up to this point and was cruising along.   There were some wonderful spectators on the left that had bags of oranges, yummy, grabbed one of those.  That gave me a little rejuvenation.  The shade felt very nice through down town.  The heat radiating off the buildings was hot but the shade felt nice.  

Mile 13 - Saw my parents again, my eyes were scanning and scanning.  There they were.  They asked me how I was doing.  I said, “Doing ok, just starting to get hot”.  At this point in the race, I think it was about 69.  I had fallen a little off my time but my outside goal (4:48) was still obtainable.  I was holding about a 10:50 pace.  I knew, after running this marathon last year that the back half was going to be rough.  Not much shade in my future.  The marathon alert level at the point was up to yellow. Conditions were deteriorating.  This is a slippery slope.  The longer you are on the course the worse it gets.  The worse it gets the longer it takes.

Mile 14 - Entering into the Charity Block party.  Wow, what festive area.   I knew that my friend S (the one that cried and took pictures during my 20 mile run) and family were going to be there.  She saw me and was jumping up and down with such excitement.  I asked her if she had seen B, she said,  “Yes, she is not that far in front of you”.   I was so excited she was still in the race.  I was starting to get frustrated though.  I know that B could dig really deep and I had a feeling she was going to blow me out of the water.  I had to keep going.  Being a Diary Writer was a huge force in keeping me alive in the race.  I have to finish my journey.   

Miles 15-17 These miles were rough, very sunny! My stomach was flipping over, and I was feeling really nauseous.  I never did get sick but no matter what I was taking (water, Gatorade, sports beans, etc…) were not settling well.   I was hoping to see my parents around mile 16 but missed them totally.  I knew they were there and that was enough.  

Mile 18 –20  My body was getting very stiff.  It was starting to hurt to run (not a good thing when you are in a race).  Not a muscle hurt, a whole body hurt.  I saw someone in front of me throw up on the course, not something you want to see when you aren’t feeling well yourself.   I was walking at this point, I felt bad, guilty, sick, depressed, and you name it.  It is hard for words to describe unless you have experienced it yourself.  “I CANT KEEP WALKING”. “This is the Chicago Marathon I need to run”.   It became a mental race at this point,  just complete it (I knew my goal time was way out of the window, since the 5:00 pace group had passed me).  At this point my new goal was to at least beat last years time.   At the corner of Halstead and 18th (I think) I saw a bank sign with the temperature on it, 89 degrees.  I was running, walking, whatever, and  I was doing it in 89 degrees.  Finish was the only thing on my mind.    

Mile 21 - Right before the entrance into China town I saw the alert level was up to Red.  Oh man, there is only one more level to go.  As much as I was in pain, and not really enjoying getting beat by the heat, I wanted to finish.  I know it sounds weird to say that I didn’t feel good; I was really tired (I could of just laid right there in the middle of the road and went to sleep).  I wont let the course beat me. I WANTED TO FINISH THIS RACE. 

Mile 22-23 I saw that there were bananas left at the aid stations (last year there were none left).  I had half of a banana and threw the other half on the ground.  As good as a banana sounded, it didn’t taste very good (at least at the moment).     I was drinking so much water but I couldn’t quench my thirst.  I knew that I was getting very dehydrated.  I had 4 miles to go, only 4miles.   One more big turn, and straight down Michigan Avenue.  I was getting really really slow but kept putting one foot in front of the other. 

Mile 24 - I made the turn onto Michigan Ave.    There were signs on the side of the road that said “DIG DEEP”, and I started laughing.  I had dug so deep up until that point that if I dug any deeper I would be in China.  They’re where crazy amounts of spectators throughout the course, but the energy level is starting to pick back up. I swear I could see the crowds at the finish line.  I was running a little but sadly walking more. 

Mile 25 - 26  Not much farther ,  I can do this.  I knew at this point I could crawl the rest of the way in and beat my time from last year.  A 5:15 pacer passed me and one of the other runners asked him if he was on mark.  We both got evil eyes ( I am guessing that was a no).  Not that that is supposed to comfort me, but to know that the pacers even fall off time made me feel a little better.    My parents said that they would be at mile 25 ¾.  I was scanning and scanning but at the same time I was just focused on the big screen that was the corner of Roosevelt and Michigan (knowing that all I had to do was make that final little hill and then run the last 2).   My dad jumped out onto the course (he said he had been yelling my name but I didn’t hear him).  He was so excited to see me.  He gave me 2 thumbs up and said, “You’ve got this, you are going to finish”.  Wow, parents!!!   I was so spent at this point, it hurt to move, but my Dad and Mom were so proud of me despite my horrible time.  This gave me the motivation I needed for the last 2.    I dug really deep and ran through the finish!!!!!

26.2 miles.  -  I said that I wanted to give it everything that I had.  Well, I did do that.  Was it the race that I wanted?   No!!!  Did I finish knowing that I did what I could despite the circumstances?   Yes!!!  I came through the finish line and almost passed out (the lady in front me dropped right at my feet).  I walked for a little bit, got my medal and then my body started revolting.  I walked over to the curb and sat down.  Of course, they don’t want you sit here.  The workers said, “You cant sit here, you need to get up and stretch”.   I could hear the lady, but I just let her keep saying it until she made it all the way down to me.  I told her, “if I stand up I am going to pass out or throw up on you”.  I was done!!!  One of the incredible volunteers went and got me some water and a bagel. They said,” You need to eat and get fuel in your body”.   I tried; I drank some water and ate one bite of bagel.  Sat there for a few minutes and then got up and started to walk down towards the meet and greet area.  Somewhere in there,  I got my picture taken (I don’t really remember that).  I was getting really dizzy and light headed.  I noticed some wheel chairs not that far from where I was.  I walked over to them, grabbed the side of one, scorched to my knees and stopped for a few minutes.  This was crazy.  I had never ever experienced anything like this before.   One of the medical personal came over to me and asked if I was ok.  I said “NO”.  They had me get in the wheel chair and they took me right to the Balbo Medical Tent.  This was defiantly not the end of the race that I dreaming of.  They took my blood pressure and it was way low.  They piled all kinds of ice all over me, under my neck, on my forehead, etc…  They lifted my feet up trying to get the blood pressure back up to rest of my body.  They wanted me to drink, but I couldn’t do it.  I knew I had to, but I just couldn’t stomach the water.  So, since I was feeling sick they ended up giving me an IV in order to get fluids back in me.    The coolness of the IV and the piles of ice finally cooled my body off so then I got freezing cold.  How funny is that, 80 some degrees, 5 hours of sweating and now I am freezing.  So, I went from ice packs to warming blankets.   After about 30 minutes I was good to go. 

After a quick shower (not much extra rest time, because of the medical tent intervention) we headed out for a Celebration dinner at Smith and Wollensky’s .   The body is an amazing thing.  I was just in the medical tent and now I’m off for a night on the town.  I wore my medal out to dinner, feeling very proud that I finished.  A little old man came up to me and asked if I had won the race.  I laughed and said,  “No I didn’t win the race but I won the battle, I finished!!!!”

As a diary writer we are supposed to be inspiriting and not scaring you away from running (this or any other marathons).  So, after this was all done I hade time to think about what happened, what went wrong?   This run was so frustrating for me (as most of training went well, especially my 20 mile run).    I am very frustrated but not defeated!!!!  Here are my conclusions of what happened.    I had been fighting a cold and then an earache.  I did not know (until we started researching) that prescription medicine can throw off your sodium /potassium levels, especially when exercising.  That could have been an issue: Problem 1.   Due to traveling in for the race, did I hydrate correctly, eat correctly, and sleep properly?  Probably not:  Problem 2.  Then the one factor that none of us could control, the weather!!!   I just read in Runners World Magazine, the ideal temperature for a marathon is 50.  For every 10 degrees of increase you lose 3% of your overall time.  Well, since the temperature was 65 to start off with, we were all ready in the negative.  The weather station said on Monday, that it officially got to 84 (but like I said I think it was hotter down town).  So if that were case I would already be about 10% off my overall time: Problem 3.  Did I train hard enough; have enough long runs, train in adverse conditions?   Problem 4.           

My husband stayed home with all of our kids, because we figured that it would just be easier than trekking them all over town (we did that last year and they were miserable).    Of course last year it was 35 and this year it was in the 80’s.  My family tracked me through the tracking system.  That was nice.  I will admit, that when I got home and saw my husband I cried.  This was not the finish to my marathon journey that I wanted!!!
I did improve my time from last year (6:05), so I have to look at the positives.  Neither year has been the best, last year I was coming off an IT Band injury and this year well, heat.    Maybe my next Marathon will be in ideal conditions.  Yes, I am going to do this again.   I have to see what I can really achieve.  I know that I have more; I believe that I can do better.

As for my friend B, she finished 15 minutes in front of me.  She too, along with most of the people running, took a beating from the heat.  She ran a few miles with Dan (one of the dairy writers), after she lost me at mile 6.  Then she lost him at another water station too.   I want to extend a HUGE thank you to her for trusting me (and others) when we told her that she could become a marathon runner!!! You did it.   On a sad note for me, this was our last run together as B and her family are moving to Colorado.  Maybe someday we will get to lace up our shoes and run together again!!! 

I am going to leave with something that Dan Herman sent in email to me and B

Marathoning is a strange thing.  After spending so much time preparing for it, we are left with "this".  Some elation for surviving, some sadness that it is over.  Plenty of questions as to what is next. 

Wow, if  you made it this far in my post- Thank you,  it is so hard trying to summarize what you experience in a marathon.  !!!


  1. Christa you did it! And after reading everything I was so glad to read "Yes, I'm going to do this again." Love the strange thing quote. And you're right it is so hard to put into words the experience of completing a marathon.

  2. You did it! We too had nasty heat. I was told that when I finished it had peaked to 96 degrees. I'm glad to hear you are wanting to do it again. You Rock!

  3. Yes it was a really tough day...and a cooler marathon is a totally different animal...SO much better! Congrats on pushing through to the finish!
    And yes I was totally at the Chica Bands booth! :) I had the 2 little blonde girls with me!

  4. I'd been waiting (impatiently, hehe) for your recap, and you didn't disappoint. I'm still so sorry it went so south for you, but I know you'll kill it at the next opportunity. I hope you keep blogging your journey!

  5. Congrats! I'm glad you directed me to your diary. It was great and inspirational. Thank you again!

  6. Thank you for your honest account of the marathon. This was my first marathon and I felt so prepared and then felt worried once I realized what the weather was going to be like. I had a goal finish time of 4:45 but fell to 5:29. I felt defeated and almost embarrassed to tell people (most of whom have never done a marathon) my time. It has taken me about 2 weeks to realize the accomplishment I DID make! I am a marathoner and no one can take that away. I do admit though that a little bit of my running spirit died in Chicago...

  7. you're awesome. never ever doubt that you. are. awesome.
    Good Marathon, no matter how you look at it. And there you go, you learned that the medical aid at Chicago is TIP TOP. Good to know, right?

  8. Wow I'm so glad you finished and that you were okay despite the IV, etc. UGH! Amazing accomplishments.