And just like that, marathon weekend was here. Steve, Kai and I managed to be up and on the road Saturday morning before 8:30am, which is huge and highly impressive for us. We made the drive down to my brother’s condo, and didn’t hit traffic until the last few miles where there is always a back up. My mom and Joe had arrived about an hour before us, and Mike and his wife Omoleye retuned home from the store a few minutes after we got there. We decided to walk to a new to them (and us) restaurant for brunch called G & O.
I was boring and ordered eggs, toast and potatoes because I am always worried about how my system is going to handle race day. Steve had a burger and Kai had a waffle. The food was delicious, and I would love to eat here again and order something a little more adventurous. After brunch, we headed back to the condo and put Kai down for his nap. Steve and I then took the train to the race expo to pick up our stuff. We had to walk about a mile from the train to McCormick Place, then what seemed like another mile inside the massive building. We got our packets and glanced at a few things in the expo, but it was very crowded and we opted to be in and out rather quickly.
We walked back to the train and I texted by brother asking him to pick us up at the stop near his house (which we were apparently made fun of for since it is only 1/2 mile, but we already felt like we had walked a ton and I wanted to get off my feet as much as possible). Kai woke up just as we got back and after he had a snack, we walked a couple blocks to a park for him to run around for a while.
We went back to the condo around 5pm so Mike and Omoleye could start making dinner. They made a delicious looking baked pasta dish (which sadly I did not try because pasta does not agree with me before running). I baked a sweet potato and had that with half a chicken breast, sautéed kale and marinara sauce. Omoleye also made a carrot cake for my mom’s birthday which was the day before, which I had to pass on but I did take a piece home after the race. We put Kai to bed shortly after 8pm, and he took forever and a day to fall asleep in his pack n play. We were all sleeping in the same room, so I couldn’t go in and go to bed until he fell asleep, which was well after 9pm.
I had probably the worst night of sleep I have ever had before a race. Between hearing Kai throughout the night, sharing a small futon with Steve, and pre-race excitement there was little sleep to be had. I was already wide awake at 4:30am, 10 mins before my alarm was set to go off. I got up and tip toed out (Kai woke up and said “I cheer mama daddy,” and I had to tell him it was still dark outside and not quite time to cheer yet :))
I drank my coffee, got dressed, made sure I had everything I needed in my drop bag, and around 5:40 I woke up my brother to drive us to the train (thanks Mike!). I ate a banana in the car, and had two more with me to eat at some point before the race. We rode the train with some other racers, and then we were deposited just a block or two from Grant Park. It took us a while to get through the security check and into the park, I think it was about 6:40 by the time we got through. I ate another banana while we were waiting. We went straight to the gear check and dropped off our bags, and then lined up for the port o potties. I got two bites in on my last banana, but I just couldn’t do it. The lines are crazy, and after a while I became nervous about even making it into the starting corrals before they closed at 7:20. Luckily, we got to the front of the line around 7:15. I said bye and good luck to Steve (we were in different starting corrals), emptied my bladder, and made it into corral B just in time, as the national anthem was playing.
Next thing I knew, everyone was moving forward and it was time to start! I didn’t feel very nervous, just excited to run my favorite course on a perfect day. Seriously, it was highs in the low 60’s and clear. The first few miles wind through downtown, and between the tall buildings and running under some bridges, GPS watches don’t really work so it was hard to know what pace I was running. My watch told me I was ticking off miles in the low 7’s, but I knew I wasn’t running that fast. In actuality, my average for the first 5k ended up being 8:07, which was slower than I planned but I was happy with myself for not going out to0 fast.
After the first 5k, my pace dropped into the 7:30’s and stayed in that range through the half way point. I knew that I would see my family sometime just after mile 14, so that was my only focus. The miles were ticking by fast and when I hit mile 14 I got a little choked up knowing I would see them any second. I saw Joe first, as he was a little bit ahead of everyone else, then I saw my mom, Kai, Mike and Omoleye.
I was so excited to see them! I veered off the course so I could give Kai a kiss. He was so cute sitting in his stroller just looking at all of the runners. I am positive he wouldn’t have actually seen me if I hadn’t stopped, and it was totally worth the 5 seconds.
I headed back out with a little pep in my step, but I also knew I wouldn’t see them again until mile 25 (if they could even make it there).
They waited for Steve to pass through mile 14 and saw him a short while after me.
Best cheer squad:
The next couple miles flew by and I remember hitting mile 16 and thinking holy cow, I only have 10 miles to go! (Ha. The foreshadowing. Hint: there is no such thing as ONLY 10 miles to go in a marathon). At mile 18 my legs did not feel great. My pace slowed into the low 8’s, then the mid 8’s. I was struggling, but I knew I could still finish in a pretty good time if I just kept running. Looking back now, I think I was crazy dehydrated from taking in too many salt tablets, despite drinking water at every aid station. I took 5 of them over the course of the race, which is about what I would do if it was 85 degrees outside and I was sweating like crazy. When my legs started to cramp, I took more to try to alleviate that issue (which usually helps), but I think it actually made things worse. I wasn’t lacking in nutrition, having taken in 4.5 gels as well, so I really think it had to do with the salt.
I got a boost at mile 21 running though Chinatown because the crowds there are awesome and there is so much energy. By mile 23, my good old GI system decided to act up on me. I debated stopping to use the bathroom, but I just wanted to finish the dang race and never run a marathon again. I ended up walking most of mile 24. Every time I would try to run, I was moments away from pooping my pants (TMI, sorry just keeping it real), so walking it was. There was an aid station one mile from the finish, and I realized it was either use the bathroom there, or walk slowly to the finish line whilst clenching my butt cheeks. I used the port o potty, felt much better, and was able to run it in at sub 8 min pace again. Around mile 25.5, I heard my cheer squad yelling from the opposite side of the street. I waved like a maniac and couldn’t believe the race was finally just about over.
I was so happy to cross the finish line and stop running. I finished in 3:37:12, about 12 minutes over my goal time. I really thought I could finish in the 3:20-3:25 range. Here are my official splits:
The finishers area at Chicago is huge and probably about a half mile long. I got my space blanket, medal, food, etc. and made my way through to the other side. After another bathroom stop, I picked up my gear bag and walked slowly to the runners reunite area where I would be meeting Steve and my family. It was super crowded and I just plopped down on the grass by the letter C and figured someone would find me. I got my warm clothes on and tried eating a few pretzels. A short while later, Mike and Omoleye found me. I was so glad when they told me that my mom, Joe and Kai were waiting to cheer on Steve (they never saw him) versus bringing Kai into the crowds at the post race area. They took the train back to the condo while we waited for Steve.
Side note: Kai’s favorite part of the entire weekend was riding on the train. He got to do it twice, and both times he didn’t want to get off and wanted to “go fast again.”
After a while, Steve finished and made his way towards the meeting area. He had some problems with his ankle during the race and wasn’t able to run as fast as he wanted to either.
And a photobomb on the way out. We took the train back to the condo, and I was elated to find out that Mike parked his car at the train stop so we wouldn’t have to walk the 1/2 mile back. We called in an order of Thai food on the way back. Steve and I showered and then I devoured two bowls of pad thai. Unfortunately we had to get everything packed up and head home right after lunch. It was after 3pm by the time we hit the road and Kai had not taken a nap. We said our goodbyes and headed out, and Kai was asleep approximately 4 seconds into the drive.
This race was almost surreal for me. I was so excited for it (it had been 8 years since I last ran Chicago!), and then it went by so fast it was almost as if it didn’t happen. Later that night at home, I told Steve that while my legs could tell I ran a marathon, I couldn’t believe it was over and just like that we were home. The last 6 miles of the race were really tough, and all I could think about was how happy I was that I didn’t have to run another marathon for a very long time (or ever). Now I feel like I totally have to do this race again next year. Ha. The course, the spectators, everything about it is just awesome. Until next time Chicago…