Sunday, October 16, 2011

Other Experiences from the Chicago Marathon

After posting my own 2011 Chicago Marathon race report, I asked out on Twitter for people to send me links to their own race reports, so I could read other runners' experiences. Here are the ones who sent me their reports - it was so fun to see so many shared details and a chance to be reminded of some specifics I'd forgotten and/or blocked out!

Phat Girl in a Little Coat: @brownsarahk ran her first marathon. She learned that the data on each Garmin screen should be set to the race conditions (I had changed my usual screen set-ups race eve). Sarah also saw someone trip one of the bridges. @abe_cortes had a great blog post about course race tips, and his warnings about the bridges and their metal grates helped me immensely! And I can totally understand her sentiment here: "I seriously wanted some hills about halfway through."

Cubicle Dad Runs: @cubicledad writes a moving recap. He could have quit at mile 10, he was not having a good race day, but he didn't give up and finished the race! Plus he was one of those people like who Sarah above saw, who fell on the bridge early in the race. Eek!

Turtles Against Cancer: @dpturtle tells a story of pacing gone horribly wrong. But reading the blog, you can really feel the despair and frustration in the moment. I can't even imagine trying to stay with someone for 26.2 miles in those crowds, and especially through the chaos of about 20 aid stations!

Running: My Anti-Drug: @kaylaruns ran her first marathon! I completely sympathize with the annoyance and disappointment when it feels like the race day conspires against you.

The Misadventures of Heldawg: @TheHeldawg has a great recap mile-by-mile with tons of detail. His struggle with the heat sounded a lot like my own recap.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chicago Marathon 2011 Race Report - She's a Maniac!

"She's a Maniac, Maniac!" No, there's no dance scene, water, or any other remnants from Flashdance. But the completion of the Chicago Marathon on October 9, 2011 made me eligible to join the Marathon Maniacs running club, by completing 3 marathons in under 90 days. I had run my first 3 marathons in 70 days - San Francisco 7/31, Kauai 9/4, and now Chicago. But I didn't do Chicago to get the Maniac status. It was just a happy side effect.

I signed up for Chicago Marathon back on February 8. At about 1 am, and I think there might have been a glass of wine in my hand. I had just agreed to run the San Francisco Marathon as my first and had told Jojo, who was the overseer for all the San Francisco Marathon Ambassadors (of which I was the DFW one), of my decision. So I stumbled online and registered for Chicago. Because I refused to follow the path of friends before me who had a bad first marathon and never gave the marathon another look. Even if San Francisco was an awful first marathon (it wasn't), I was NOT going to be a one-and-done marathoner.

It was a solo trip. I flew in Saturday at 12:30 pm. I hurried to the hotel, checked in, waited in a long line for the shuttle to the expo, and then picked up my packet while shopping the expo with friends Amanda and Dana.

Entering the Chicago Marathon Expo

A cool touch! Every runner's name on a wall in the expo

Back to the hotel after a 45 minute wait for the shuttle, rest a minute and off to dinner at Quartino. Dinner was with two new friends, also Dallasites, Christy and Diane, both of whom I was meeting for the first time, and my friend Wendy, who wasn't running the race but had just moved from Dallas to Chicago a few weeks earlier!

I had the typical pre-race meal for me of pasta and meat - pappardelle pasta with a braised beef tomato sauce. Delicious. Everything laid out in the hotel room for the next day, and off to bed at 9 pm.

Up at 5:15 am. I'm at the host hotel Hilton Chicago right by the start line. So I join Amanda A., Amanda H., and Dana at the open corral entrance about 6:45 am. We find a spot with the thousands of others and we sit down to wait.

Waiting for the start - from left to right: Dana, me, Amanda A., Amanda H.
We're at the signs for 10 minutes per mile. I spent too much time in the later miles at San Francisco dodging people by lining up at my average anticipated pace, so I'm going with a faster group and they can go out too fast in the beginning and go around me because I might be passing them anyway in the late miles when they run out of steam.


Smiling at the start line
It's 56 degrees and 82% humid. Since my pregnancies, the hormones that influence my body core temperature have never seemed to calm down because I was like a furnace while the other 3 girls had goosebumps and were cold to the touch. This is not a good start to the day.

Took this pic of the Event Alert System status at the expo - this means: "It's going to be HOT"
But I still had the goal to break 5:30. 5:34 was my PR at San Francisco. I had prepared my race strategy band, and I knew what pace I wanted to run and how much my walk breaks would affect my overall pace. (Run 12:10-12:15 pace, and then I would take about a 0.06-0.10 mi walk break every mile or so that would bring me to a 12:30 average pace)

My race strategy band
The race starts, and we wait. Then we slowly inch forward. I must say the super wide start area is excellent for handling 45,000 people because they had us crossing the start line at 13 minutes into the race! I've seen races half that size take 30-45 minutes for people my pace to start!

A sea of people waiting to cross the start line
Dana sticks with me because she's forgotten her watch at the hotel and we're about the same pace. Garmin is wonky the first few miles, and I have had zero data reception (i.e. no tweeting) downtown. I keep reining Dana in as she wants to take off with the crowd. "Let them go." "Watch them run away." But she's struggling not to go with the flow. About 1.75 miles in, she goes with the crowd. It takes a lot of work to just go your pace and ignore all the stomping racehorses around you. I'm feeling blessed I've learned that lesson right then.

I use the clock time to try to determine pace since the Garmin is zero help early on. About mile 3, I'm able to get a tweet out to the world finally. The tweets will be in bold and will help narrate the race report.

@libbyruns: At mile 3: 12:18 avg - service spotty
See, I'm going 10 seconds per mile too fast, so I'm not immune to the galloping people around me. With 45,000 runners, we move collectively. There's risk of being trampled everywhere you turn. Elbows are thrown, someone's sweaty arm grazes yours. In mile 4, a girl basically bodychecks me at the shoulder, I say, "Dude, watch it" but there's so much chaos I don't think she even hears me.

@libbyruns: Mile 5: 12:22. Mile 6 will be slower - a tweet, a GU, and 2 aid stations!
We go through Lincoln Park, a nice little park area. Weird thing is, in this race, with the chaos of the crowd, the entire 26.2 miles, you stay focused on
FIRST: where you step, especially at aid stations,
SECOND: the teeming masses around you,
THIRD: the spectators which are amazing and deafening at times in the sheer volume of their yells and cheers and music
FOURTH: the scenery
So I know I'm running kinda along the lake on the east. But I never saw it. How did I miss that?

@libbyruns: Mile 6: 12:35. Crowd is clearing slightly. That sun feels warm! :-) #CM11
Yeah, crowd didn't really clear, I was already delirious, HA! Really it's probably that the density of people improved the teeniest bit but in relative terms it felt better.

@libbyruns: Mile 7: 12:28. Heading back towards downtown! #CM11 oh, and feeling good!
Pace is on target. Ride the wave (of people).

@libbyruns: Mile 8: 12:27. Mile 9: 12:30. Found my pace in the crowd #CM11

Shortly after this we went through the LGBT neighborhood in Chicago. And there was a group of men with white wooden rifles and they had some sort of name with "Twirling Corps" at the end. They were up on that stage twirling away, it was so fun. And a couple minutes later, the Lady Gaga twins with outrageous costumes of course, on a stage dancing their hearts out. I was sad because you couldn't really stop to take pictures or you would be instantly trampled. So my few pictures are taken on the run, for fear of losing my life if I stopped at these specific moments engraved in my memory!


Mile 10-13, the satellite reception was off again and I couldn't tweet. Cool to reenter downtown just to be sent west this time.

Also in mile 10, I literally run into my friend Ken from Dallas! So happy to see him, but I realize after a bit I've also sped up. I tell him I'll walk so I'm letting him go, but he's cool with walking. He's just having fun. But when we start running again, he's struggling I can tell to slow to my pace, so eventually, I'm left behind. Which is okay, really, I felt worse watching him try to slow down when it didn't seem natural for him. I ended up leapfrogging with that friend for several more miles. :-) Such an encouraging guy, he coaches for one of the training programs back here at home, so I was secretly happy whenever we would happen upon each other again!

@libbyruns: 13.1 2:44:13. On pace for sub 5:30 but the shade is disappearing. Garmin went wonky downtown. Awesome cheer zone at 12.6. #CM11

Cheer zone lined with spectators
At this time I got a text from my husband that said "Great first half!" So sweet of him. He knew I'd read it with the live tweets.

@libbyruns: Mile 15: 12:32. Right after that, my friend Wendy was waiting waving the Australian flag. :-)need a hose off - it's hot! #CM11

During mile 15, the heat really started to bother me. I just felt like I was overheating. I was losing my pattern of gatorade versus water and how many cups of each, and just drinking out of desperation. And I truly was hydrated going into this race, getting 140 oz a day race week and I typically get about 100 oz. And a good amount of electrolytes race week as well!

@libbyruns: Mile 16: 12:52. Soooo hoooot!! #CM11
Mind is beginning to blur. I'm taking 1-2 cups of water at each aid station to simply dump over all or part of my body. I'm also deviating off course for any water hose I see to get doused. And I personally hate hitting up the hoses or dumping water on my body, especially the chance my feet will get wet as the water trickles down to risk blisters, or any possible uncomfortable chafing it could cause with my shorts or thighs. So you know I'm desperate.

@libbyruns: Mile 17: 12:36. Having to weave around a lot of runners. No thoughts past how hot it is. I picked the wrong pace. #CM11

I'm still mostly trucking but have definitely noticed how many runners are just walking. Like death march walk. Mentally, I think this is where I started to break. My tweet laments that I think maybe I also feel close to death because I went 20 seconds per mile faster than I should have been.

@libbyruns: Mile 18: 13:16. Dumping water over my head. Is this what the wall feels like? I want to cry or call my husband or both. #CM11

Thankful for Corina who tweets back,
@ultramamc: @libbyruns you can cry when you're done!!! Call S[Steve, my husband] but no crying on the race course!!! #mamacracerules
This made me laugh at the moment. Proud to say I didn't cry, but I got awfully close a few times from there until the finish, and just after the finish, and may have sported "crumply cry face" under my sunglasses in some near tears moments.

@libbyruns: Mile 19: 13:05. #CM11 keeping it together... So far
I'm still running a pretty decent portion of each mile.

@libbyruns: Mile 20: 14:04. 10k left. #cm11 I have no cute things to say, lol
I wanted to tweet my split, I know my husband's happy to see the continuous progress of my "not dead"-ness. But my brain had SHUT.DOWN.

@libbyruns: Mile 21; 14:26. Running a good amount but pace dragged down at aid stations. #CM11
I'm really proud of how much of this course I ran. :-) But at the aid stations I slow to a crawl dealing with dumping cups of water, or getting under a hose, or balancing cups I'm drinking, or taking a GU.

@libbyruns: Mile 22: 14:46. I hate bananas and I've nvr seen So many peels, ick. Between that and clif shot zone, stickiest race EVAH! #CM11

It truly was a danger zone at every aid station when 30,000 runners have already come through. For goodness sakes, people, can no one learn to try to toss their stuff to the side. How do you expect me to run through 30,000 sponges strewn in the middle of the roadway?!? And the banana peels, that's just unsafe. And lower your arm, spill out the remainder of your cup, crush the cup, and then it actually throws really well! Don't you dare drop your half full cup right in front or behind me, splashing my leg with your cootie-infested fluids!!!

@libbyruns: 5:30 pacer passed me just b4 mile 23. Trying to hang on
That was the worst image, to watch that pacer pass and realize what it meant. I had lined up to cross the start line a few minutes before that pacer, and my goal was to never see that pace sign the whole race. :-(

The pacer had a big group and I think picked up people like me as he went. I pulled everything in me together and just tried to keep that sign close and in sight. I even caught up enough to see the Sharpie'd "Steve" on his pace bib.

He was doing some sort of run/walk, but I didn't know the intervals. I will say his hand signs were great, he raised his hand high up, and would count down from 5 for the next run time. And they walked through the aid stations too.

@libbyruns: Mile 24 12:23. Hung w 5:30 pacer for over a mile but they are moving!!! Sign is slipping out of sight. #CM11 sloshy belly, drank 2 much

The result of the pacer run/walk-ing is that the run pace was FAST. At the start of mile 24, while I was holding on to dear life in a pack of 5:30 wannabes, was like 10:30. Which makes sense to get it to average to about 12:30 with the walks. But I have a hard time pulling 10:30 in a 5K, so how did I manage to hold on to them for a mile?

I had drunk too much and was starting to feel sick to my stomach. I left the group when I heard medical folks at the aid station yell, "ICE!" I avoided trampling and cut a path over to get a cup filled with the most glorious ice ever. EVERY aid station, I would hope the drinks would be iced down. And none of them were. And logistically, I can't imagine even trying to ice that much fluids, but man, I wish there was a way. But that ice was wonderful. I alternated chewing a piece and then shoving the next piece into some spot in my sports bra, until I was a bumpy lumpy melty mess. I didn't care. But I watched the 5:30 pacer run away, and that sucked.
@libbyruns: Mile 25: 14:46. Somewhere around mile 18 I gave up. No excuses, I just gave up. :-(

It wasn't the heat. It wasn't too fast a pace. Mentally, I just lost the fight in me. And succumbed to the pain and soreness. I was much more sore than my last two marathons, which were actually hilly races. But hilly races let you alternate muscle groups on uphills versus downhills. And the flat terrain here meant a continuous use of the same muscles over and over and that was excruciating. But I found the strength in mile 25 to just recognize there were no excuses, I just couldn't execute my plan that day - ME, I'm the only one to blame for not hitting my goal time.

I walked most of mile 26 and started to run when we turned onto the Roosevelt bridge. And ran all the way into the finish that last 0.4 miles.

Running into the finish the last tenth of a mile. Had to take a picture!
@libbyruns: Finished Chicago Marathon in 5:47 unofficial #CM11 it's 78 degrees, gah

So happy to be done, but kinda depressed about the race day conditions and my personal physical and mental state. I went straight off to ice bath and then clean up. My mood improved drastically over the afternoon, and now I can appreciate the day. There will be better race days ahead.

By the way, runner tracking was excellent at this race - kudos to Chicago Marathon! Here are my official splits at the multitude of checkpoints:


What's Next? MY FIRST TRAIL 50K!!!! I have the Rocky Raccoon 50K in Huntsville on November 5, with my darlings Corina, Alicia, and Fiona!

The splits - with wonky Garmin reception, I tried to hit the Lap button when I would see a mile marker so could figure out split from my actual time between miles.
Mile 1: 11:57
Mile 2: 12:15
Mile 3: 12:32
Mile 4: 12:14
Mile 5: 12:21
Mile 6: 12:56
Mile 7: 12:28
Mile 8: 12:27
Mile 9: 12:34
Mile 10: 12:08
Mile 11: 12:39
Mile 12: 12:52
Mile 13: 12:36
Mile 14: 14:43
Mile 15: 12:03 (may have gotten Mile 14 & 15 commingled a bit, hit Lap button at wrong time)
Mile 16: 12:43
Mile 17: 12:36
Mile 18: 13:16
Mile 19: 13:05
Mile 20: 14:04
Mile 21: 14:29
Mile 22: 14:49
Mile 23: 15:25
Mile 24: 12:23 (tried to hang with 5:30 pacer)
Mile 25: 14:46
Mile 26: 16:53 (walked majority of mile)
Mile 26.2 (last 0.2mi pace): 11:09 (good run pace at end!)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Confidence, or the Lack Thereof - the overwhelming theme of race week

This has just not been a good week for me. I won't go into particulars, but it's been rough. And then you add the taper madness of race week, and I feel like I'm going completely mad. Chicago Marathon is now just a few days away.

I have no confidence in my ability as a marathoner, some days in my ability as a runner, and some days in my abilities as a person. A twitter friend talked me off the cliff late late Monday night about my lack of miles in the last month. He reminded me my last marathon 5 weeks ago WAS my long run training for this marathon.

And then I slowly sunk back into the abyss of lost confidence and the anxieties of my life caught back up to me. Yesterday it had gotten so bad that I was feeling like Chicago was just another item to check off the massive task list for the week. And I know that's not really how I feel, or why I signed up. I just have a lot going on, some major decisions have been happening, and I feel engulfed and overwhelmed.

So I watched the drive-through video of the course for the Chicago Marathon 2011. And I then worried that the whole "flat and fast" was going to mean "flat and boring". Even with the crowds. My first 2 marathons had very varied scenery, so the drive-thru scenery looked kinda boring. But then I reached out to some friends going to Chicago also, and asked them if they were ready and were they excited. And I allowed their excitement to overtake me and help me banish the franticness and anxiety and nervousness.

Then last night, I did my 0.7mi slow treadmill warmup and then my strength training workout with my trainer, Jeff. Jeff's been pushing me really hard the last few weeks, but with so close to race day, he went down 10% or so in the weight on everything, like a plate or two on the machines, and took out compound movement exercises, especially since one glute muscle is kinda annoyed at me. And it made it feel SO SO much easier.

After the workout, I decided to get back on the treadmill, which I normally hate to do because my whole body is gumby-like and tired. But I needed a couple 2-3 mile workouts this week, and it was already Wednesday. Well, a half-mile in, I'm bored and crank up the speed. I hate the treadmill and never do more than about 1.5 miles on it and usually it's speedwork. Longer than that makes me want to bludgeon myself to death with my water bottle.

But at a mile, I'm feeling surprisingly strong, so I just decide to hang on. At mile 1.5, I do the math and figure out I'll come in right around my 5K PR if I can keep it up. My 5K PR was set in training in February 2010, pre-baby, and is 32 minutes even.

At mile 2.2, this seems like a bad decision. I'm barely hanging on, I'm sweating bricks, will someone please turn on the air conditioner in this gym? I'm feeling very overheated.

Mile 2.9, and I'm at 30 minutes, and I almost hit the Stop button. And by almost, the fingers hover over the button and I have to use my whole lifeforce to move my hand away. But at 3.1 miles, I hit 31:57. And I know that included the treadmill belt ramping up at the beginning, so 3 seconds better than PR is a ton.

Now halfway through I wondered if this was stupid physically. I kept thinking, "I have a marathon in 4 days." But part of me needed the mental workout. And it worked in a lot of ways. I needed to see how strong I am since I have a hard time believing it without the proof.

I admitted today to friends that I don't feel strong. Live-tweeting each mile in a race gives me a distraction and lets me turn the race into 26 laps. All I have to do is get to the next tweet moment. Steve enjoys the updates, he worries about me terribly, and I get motivation from seeing everyone's tweets back, but man, not feeling strong enough to do it without it is a big feeling. And I expressed once I feel brave live-tweeting because if you crash and burn, you've committed and the whole world sees it. I'm not one of those who would hide it if I walk the last 6 miles in to a finish, I know lots of fast runners though who would. They wouldn't want people to pay attention to their horribly positive splits. So the live-tweeting is a weird mix of feeling strong in one way and feeling oh so weak in another.

So I'm a work in progress, just like everyone else. And man, I just have to keep working at this confidence thing. :-) Thanks for letting me vent.