Friday, October 14, 2011

Chicago Recap

I'm not entirely sure where to start with my recap. The weekend was amazing. The race was incredibly. My family was awesome. Chicago is wonderful. My race performance...well that's another story.

Best hotel key ever!
On Friday, the future hubby and I got up at the crack of dawn to catch our 6:45am flight to Chicago. I was fighting off sickness, and the early wake up call didn't help things. I passed out pretty much as soon as our flight took off. Two hours of rest later, we were in the Windy City.

We grabbed our bags and a cab and headed to the hotel. After sitting in rush hour traffic (really didn't think about this when booking the tickets. Whoops!), we made it to the hotel. Check-in was 3pm, so we planned on having them hold our bags while we hit up the expo. The man at the Hilton instantly became our new best friend when he told us we could go to our room right then.

The Hilton was the Marathon headquarters, so the entire staff was wearing Chicago Marathon t-shirts, the elevator doors were covered with Marathon images, and there was a shuttle that would take runners directly to the race expo. Even the key to our room was Marathon themed! It instantly got me excited for the race.

We went to our room and settled in for a bit before opting to head the the expo. The expo had a ton of booths to check out, and everything was very spaced out. I remember feeling totally cramped at the NYC expo, but didn't feel that here. Between being sick and the 4am wake-up call, I was in a total fog, so I didn't explore as much as I usually do. We decided to head back, grab food and then nap.

My brother and Mom came into town that afternoon, and the four of us walked around Millennium Park for awhile. The park is filled with very cool art and lots of greenery. I loved the outdoors feel with the city skyline as a background. The race would start in the park area, so it was great to feel out the lay of the land.

Mmmm Peanut Butter
Upon rummaging through my race schwag, I discovered we got pretty much the best giveaway ever. A nice big sample of Smuckers Natural Peanut Butter. Not only is this one of my all time favorite kinds of peanut butter, but PB makes a perfect pre-race fuel. Saturday, morning we all met up for breakfast in the hotel. They had a great spread including whole wheat english muffins and bananas. I made some comment to Rob about how I had to smuggle these items out and then I'd be set for my race breakfast. He brought two english muffins over to the table, and before I knew it, they mysteriously disappeared. A guy who is willing to steal food for you? He's a keeper.

My mom and I hit up the Chicago's Magnificent Mile, when my running buddy Erin joined us. Erin and I basically only talked about the expo and the race. Luckily, my mom was preoccupied with shoe shopping. Happy day for all.

That night carbs were consumed, race gear was laid out, and cold medicine was taken. I even put a few cough drops and tissues in my race pouch right next to my Gu. I was prepared.

Ready to Run!
Typical race anxiety hit around 3am, making the next few hours of sleep difficult. My alarm went off at 6am. With a 7:30am start, this was on the late side for most races. That was definitely a huge perk to staying at the official hotel. We were nice and close to the start! I threw only gear, chowed down on my english muffin and peanut butter, applied body glide, and headed out.

I had on my "throw-away" clothes, which I'd worn to keep from getting cold before the race. I had planned on just tossing them once the run warmed me up, but as soon as I got off the elevator, I knew I was over dressed. The lobby was FILLED with other runners, all in shorts and tanks. I ended up checking the shirt and sweatpants and was totally comfortable in my sleeveless top and shorts. I knew I was in for a hot race!

Erin and I met up, and headed over the start. We couldn't even get into the corral it was so crowded! As we prepped for the race, Erin realized her ipod wasn't charged. I felt kind of bad putting mine in right in front of her, so I tucked my headphones into my tank top knowing I could grab them once we were separated.

Soon enough, the crowd started walking, we hopped into the corral and made our way to the start. I tried not to think about how far I had to go. I told myself to take it easy for the first half and then see how I was doing. Going out too hard is a killer for such a long event.

As we approached the start, we all broke into a run, Erin and I managed to stick together (a first for us!) and we started our journey. I was so glad not to have my music! The crowds were amazing! I couldn't believe how many people were out for the start of the race! We approached an underpass (I actually didn't wear my Garmin because I'd heard this underpass would screw up the signal) and spectators cheered from above.

Erin and I stuck together until the first aid station. I was thirsty before we even started, so I stopped for some Gatorade. I kept my ipod tucked away and just enjoyed the crowd. I even started to tear at a couple points. I get so emotional during marathons!

I trucked along stopping for water at the next few stations, eating a Gu at mile 8. My family had planned to see me at mile 2, 13, and 23. I had missed them at mile 2, and now things were getting a bit tough for me, so I kept counting down until 13. I briefly saw Erin at mile 11 (yay!). Again, I lost her at an aid station. While they were very well organized, the water stations were a bit crazy! So many people use it as an opportunity to walk, so there's a lot of weaving and running into people.
Yay Marathon!

Mile 13 came and went. No family. The crowds were still pretty awesome. I'd never run with my name on my shirt before, and I highly recommend it. So much fun to hear people cheering for you! Each time it was a huge boost. I remembered how during Boston, I loved when runners acknowledged my cheers, so I tried to wave or fist pump every time.

Around mile 14, I was hot and disappointed that I missed my family. I took my first walk break for a couple of minutes, and finally put in my ipod. I knew I had a long road ahead of me so I tried not to loose hope.

I thought about how awesome this race was. The crowds were amazing. The course was nice and flat. The bridges were carpeted. Yup, instead or running over the grates, there was actual carpet on the ground. Nice and cushy! They even handed out wet sponges a couple of times. So nice and refreshing! (Though running on discarded sponges made the next mile a bit of a challenge)

Clearly, less excited here.
At mile 17 I was pushing through a bridge when I heard someone cheering extra loudly for me. There was my family! I ran over, and pretty much threw myself onto Rob. They said I looked good (lies!) and that a family friend wasn't too far ahead of me, so I should try to catch him (ha!). I looked at my little brother, who I should add is training for the Marines, saw he was wearing sneakers and said "at mile 23 you want to hop in with me?" My stunned and confused brother agreed, and I went on knowing that in 6 miles, I would have a buddy.

I really don't know what I would have done without the energy of the crowd. They definitely pushed me to keep running. At this point, I'd taken 2 Gu gels and had planned to take another around mile 20, but at this point I was feeling too hot and felt if I had anything besides water that I would throw up. So I kept trucking along counting down until 23.

I swear the first 10 miles of a marathon fly by, 10-20 were slower, but 20-26 breaks all the rules of time and some how lasts as long as the previous 20. At this point, I was walking through every aid station and then some. Around mile 22, I looked at my watch and saw I was at a little over 4 hours. At the NYC Marathon, I was done by that time. So weird to think about! I knew that this Marathon was going to be a slow one for me but I just wanted to finish.

At 23, I didn't see my mom or Rob, but around a turn I saw my brother by his lonesome. He jumped in with me and was exactly the motivation I needed! He got the crowds cheering and would tell them to cheer for me! I told him he could hop out after a mile, but being the awesome brother that he is, he stuck with me. We hit the sign saying just one mile left, and I admit, one mile felt so far! 

They kicked my brother out shortly after the 800 meters left sign. He told me I could do it, and I knew he was right. I pushed myself as fast as I could, and soon the giant finish sign was in sight. I was just under 5 hours, but I crossed that finish line! I had finished the Chicago marathon!

Eventually I made it through the crowd, said hi to Erin and met up with Rob. He escorted me back to the hotel, where this sign greeted me.
I did it!!
My mom is such an artist! I was so happy to have her there in Chicago! I have to say I am so pumped for the Disney Marathon, and this race only inspired me to work harder. I took a break from running  this week to rest up, but look forward to returning to it this weekend.

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