Race Review: 2015 Chicago Marathon

After completing the Chicago Marathon on October 11 I was completely spent.  For a year I had been leading up to that race.  I had prepared harder than I ever had before and I had spent so much energy to complete the 26 mile loop around the city.  I could not think about anything else for so long that after the race my body just shut down.  I made a promise to myself that I was not going to put any stress on my body for at least a month.

Part of that promise was to stop blogging and to take more time to relax, read, and recover from the race before I entered back into the endurace world in order to prepare for my next race in the spring. I am happy to say that I have accomplished that month off and feel rejuvenated and ready.  To announce that I am back on the training path, I wanted to complete my review of Chicago.  This review was mostly written soon after the race but I wanted to hold off publishing it until my body was repaired.

Enjoy!

Race Criteria: I have divided my experience into five categories that cover what I think is every aspect of a race.  Just to make it easy each category will be numbered 1-20 for a total out of 100 to rank the race.

Before Chicago 2015Race Organization: 19/20
I made a point to get to the expo early this year and was able to very quickly breeze through the registration, get my packet and head to the back to pick up my shirt and bag before the crush of the crowd.  Before I reached the area where I picked up my number they already knew my name (from when I first scanned my bib and got my assigned area to pick up my bib) and had the number packet ready and waiting.  The only blemish on the record of Chicago is the long lines to get into the park on race morning.  Obviously these lines are caused by the sheer number of people who attend the race, and the security is a necessary measure, it is just not the best experience when you are already super stressed about the race to begin with.

Expo: 20/20
If there ever was a perfect experience at an expo that had thousands of people then I had it.  I got there early on Friday, with Bride and a friend who was also running the race and we headed strait to the booths that we wanted items at first. We wanted to make sure that they were not sold out before we got around to the booth.  After that we headed to pick up our registration and was quickly pushed through the line.  We quickly got our shirts (which were much better than last year’s) and were off to visit all the booths. While at the expo Bride got a pair of Chicago Marathon Nike LunarGlides, I got a USA Track and Field Chicago Marathon shirt and a few other items.  But the big item was not something I bought, but something I won!  I won a free entry into the Puerto Rico Marathon in March!!! I couldn’t believe that I wont and am so excited!!!

I could not have asked for a better experience.  I beat the crowd, I won a free race entry, and never was I told that something that I wanted was sold out.

After Chicago 2015Course/Race Experience: 20/20
It is obvious that the race is great.  Not only is it organized but it is one of the most well supported races in the world.  Well over 1.5 million people were estimated to line the 26 miles through the 29 neighborhoods.  How can anyone not be inspired to run their best when they know that so many people are there cheering them on.

The whether called for it to heat up to near 70 later in the day so I changed my strategy away from staying locked in with a pace group.  I instead decided to leave it all on the line and go out hard and just hold on for as long as I could.  I knew that with it just getting hotter I needed to take advantage of the cooler earlier temperatures and that is exactly what I did.  I stayed ahead of the 3:40 pace group until mile 20 where I really started to slow down.  As with every marathon I have ever ran, miles 19-23 were the hardest for me.  From mile 24 till the end, I survived on adrenaline and crossed the line with a huge PR of 3:57:06!!! Great time for a warm day.  I saw one analysis where they said the heat could have caused the times to increase by almost 10 minutes, so that made me feel even more confident with my time.

Post Race: 16/20
This year’s post race was different from last years.  This year I got to spend it with Bride who made the trip up for the race.  She said this was her favorite race that she has ever watched me in.  She got to see me twice along the course, and our hotel was just a block from the two locations where she could see me!

After the race we met by the family reunion area, after I wobbled over to it.  We relaxed under the sun until I was recovered.  I enjoyed my free beer, some food and some time to take in my new PR.  We then moved on to the hotel where we packed and headed back home.  The Chicago Marathon might be one of the biggest in the world but the way that it is set up makes it very manageable for any runner.  There is plenty of room after the race for you to stretch out and enjoy some time off your feet in the park. That being said, there are still thousands of people walking around and many of the lines are unbearable to stand in.

Extras: 18/20
With any big race there is going to be plenty of themed items.  Virtually every major running brand is at the expo and everyone of them has Chicago themed clothing and items available.  Goose Island Beer is always one of my favorites.  This year I got a themed pint glass to celebrate another year in Chicago.  I also was happy to find a great t-shirt that had the outline of the skyline on it. (I was disappointed at the Nike official clothing this year because this years logo was almost identical to the one used last year.)  One of the best experiences at any major race is getting to see all the extras that are available for that race and this year is no different.

MY OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 93/100
Simply, the Chicago Marathon is one of the best Marathons in the world and definitely one of the best races I have ever ran.  I understand that big races aren’t for everyone, and I have ran some small ones as well, but a marathon major like Chicago is unique and I would recommend every runner to aspire to someday run those 29 neighborhoods.

-Runner

Tomorrow Begins the End!

Tomorrow I am leaving to head to Chicago for the weekend.  This trip will culminate 16 weeks of work and dedication towards one goal.  On Sunday I will be participating in my second Chicago marathon.  Before last year’s race I had done 6 previous marathons but in none of them did I feel as if I had given 100% into doing the best that I can.  After that race all I could do is smile and looking back at it one year later I still hold it to be the most accomplished I have ever felt while running.

I hope that the same feeling will greet me as I cross the finish line in Grant Park on Sunday but I cannot be 100% sure.  I have worked hard to get to where I am and I feel that I am ready for the race but it is so hard to estimate what your body will do when pushed as far as I will have to push it on Sunday.  I know that I am mentally ready for the race and that physically I am as ready as I ever will be, but on race day it is impossible to know how you are going to do.

The Chicago Marathon is one of my favorite races.  Not only is it so great to hear millions of people cheering and screaming for the 40,000+ runners but it is great to know that all the hard work, early mornings and long miles were worth it.  Although I started my year working on becoming a triathlete, I knew that I had to try to come back to Chicago and experience the race again.

The race is just a few days away now but I am going to try to appreciate and enjoy the experience of the race.

-Runner

Chicago Marathon Training: Week 5-6

The last couple of weeks have been tough.  I knew that I needed to add the weekly mileage to my legs to test out their strength and their endurance so I have used these last two weeks to do just that.  Although these runs have not been the best runs of my life, they have allowed me to feel very comfortable with where I am now.  Last year my 17 mile run did not happen until September 21 so I am almost two months ahead of schedule compared to last year.  Knowing that the next couple of weeks will see my focus change a little before going into my longest runs of the cycle at the end of the August.

WEEK 5: 
Monday July 20: 3 Mile 5K Tempo Run
Tuesday July 21: 8 Mile Easy run in the heat! Evening 30 minute core session
Wednesday July 22: OFF DAY!
Thursday July 23: 8 Mile Run with 6 miles at Marathon Pace. Evening Strength session focused on core and legs.
Friday July 24: OFF DAY!
Saturday July 25: 14 mile run that started outside but finished on the rec center track because of the heat.
Sunday July 26: 4 mile run followed by two baseball games
TOTAL MILES: 38.1 Miles

WEEK 6: 
Monday July 27: OFF DAY! (Holiday World Trip)
Tuesday July 28: 10K easy run.  30 minute strength session focused on core and stretching.
Wednesday July 29: 7 mile run in the heat with 4 miles at marathon pace.
Thursday July 30: 8 mile easy run outside with a 30 minute arms and shoulders strength session.
Friday July 31: OFF DAY!
Saturday August 1: 16 mile long run. Did a portion inside when it get too hot.
Sunday August 2: 4 mile recovery run.
TOTAL MILES: 43 Miles

As mentioned above, my focus will change for the next couple of weeks to build the required strength in my legs, core and upper body that is needed to go as far and as fast as I want to.  I will continue to build mileage but my longest runs are still to come in the future. It looks like the heat will not give in yet and will continue to cause my runs to be more stressful than they will be in the future when it cools down.

Lastly, I have a major challenge in the next 10 weeks until the race.  That challenge is LIFE!!! On August 19 I start last school and until then I have a work and a personal trip that will make it difficult to fit in all my workouts.  I will need to plan out my runs ahead of time and stay focused on what I need to do and not waste time when I have no time to waste.

-Runner

Chicago Marathon Training: Week 3

This week’s theme revolved around the heat! Most of the week included temperatures that included heat indexes into the 100s and lows still in the 80s.  I tried to run outside earlier in the morning (including getting in my 8 mile run on Thursday done before 7:30 in the morning) to minimize the heat.  I kept telling myself that even though the runs will not be as good in the heat they will help when the weather cools off but it is tough to get out there and suffer through the miles.

WEEK 3: Heat Acclamation & Strength Training Starts
Monday July 6: 7 Mile Easy Run
Tuesday July 7: 6 Mile Fartlek (Track Fartlek with Decreases Mile Times)
Wednesday July 8: Arms and Shoulder Strength Training Session
Thursday July 9: 8 Mile Run at Marathon Pace
Friday July 10: OFF DAY!
Saturday July 11: 13 Mile Run (Cut 1 mile off because of the hot and humid weather)
Sunday July 12: 5 Mile Track Run & Legs Strength Training Session
TOTAL MILES: 38.8 Miles

This week is supposed to see the extreme temperatures continue, which will continue to restrict many of my runs to remain inside. Luckily this week is scheduled to be my first rest week (happens every 4 weeks) so this week will include lower miles with some more strength training sessions.  My miles will be focused on easy miles maintaining good form while building endurance.

-Runner

Race Review: Freedom 4 Miler

Some people might call me a snob for admitting this but I do not normally sign up for races that are shorter than a half marathon because they are usually just too short for one of my weekend long runs.  But sometimes, those shorter races fit perfectly into my schedule…this weekend was one of those perfect times.

I have just started training for the Chicago Marathon in October and this weekend I was scheduled to do a four mile run followed by my longer run on Sunday.  I couldn’t help but sign up for the Freedom 4 Miler in Forest Park on the morning of July 4th!!! Some holidays just call for you to run and 4th of July is definitely one of those holidays.

Leading up to the weekend I made plans to head to my brothers house in the Illinois suburbs on Friday night and head over to the race on Saturday morning before spending the rest of the day back at my brother’s with the rest of the family.  As the race day approached Bride said that she wanted to race it too!!! I love racing a good race, but one thing I admit I love more is racing a good race along with Bride so my day could not have started off any better.

Freedom 4 Miler Course

MY RACE:
Bride and I left early that morning and there was actually a little chill to the air.  The temp was only in the 60s, although it would eventually reach the high 80s, and the humidity had broken.  I knew it would be one of the best racing mornings possible for a 4th of July in St. Louis.  We got there with plenty of time to sit down and relax before the race and enjoy the beautiful forest park.

My goal for the race was 30 minutes although I knew that my legs were tired from the training and that goal was definitely going to be hard to meet.  I compromised with myself by saying that I wasn’t going to look at my watch the whole race and was going to just run as fast as I felt like I could and see what time my body was going to give me.  The start of the race was my worst nightmare.  The largest, and only, hill on the course was within the first half mile.  I don’t mind running a good hill but I always feel like I run them better when my legs have a few miles in them first.  This hill wasn’t tough when I was running it, but my legs felt it a lot later on in the race.

Mile 2 was when I really got into my zone and just focused on keeping up the pace and pushing though the miles.  I did try to enjoy the scenery a little through the beautiful forest park.  The 3rd mile left forest park and went west along Lindell Blvd where I saw 3/4 of a mile full of beautiful homes (and some much needed shade).  Entering the park again began the 4th mile where we curved our way until the finish line.

I felt strong when I crossed although my time on the clock was approaching 32 minutes I knew that my total time was going to be just a little below 32 which I was proud of. Sadly, in the hassle I forgot to stop my watch (a rookie mistake!).  I went home and checked my time and I got 31:50 for the race. Not the best that I have ever ran, but I am happy with the time and know that I can use that and grow from it.

Pre RaceRace Organization: 16/20
This is a good size race for a 4 miler.  There were a total of 880 finishers, including Bride who finished in 50:32! They had multiple locations where you could pick up your bib and shirt the day before, including one in Illinois where Bride and I went, as well as having race morning registration and packet pickup.  They had a bag check available for a fee, but biggest of all, they successfully communicated to everyone the night before the race that because of all the rain in St. Louis that week the parking location was moving from a field in the park to the parking lot of the zoo.  This problem could has wreak havoc on race morning but I felt like they handled it well and had plenty of signage around the park pointing everyone where to go.

Mitra and the Shopping CartExpo: 14/20
There was no expo for this race in the regular sense.  But that is completely understandable.  It was a holiday small mileage race and there was no need for an expo.  I gave it this ranking because the pre-race festivities were well run and there were booths there set up by the sponsors as well as one great display by Schuncks Grocery Stores, the presenting sponsor, that will never be forgotten by Bride or myself.

Race Experience: 18/20
As written above, even though I did not get the time I wanted, I really enjoyed the race. I felt that I raced well, the course was in a great location, set up in a challenging way and provided a great test to see how fast I could go that day.  I was impressed that they had water stations at every mile, but I was disappointed at how badly the Power Ade was mixed.  The portions were not right and it did not taste good at all.   I know that the 4th of July is a prime day for running in America and I am sure to do future races on this day as well but it will be tough to get a better race experience than this one.

Post Race

Bride is Showing off her Bling!

Post Race: 16/20
After I finished the race I got my initial recovery snacks including a banana, a protein bar and plenty of water.  I watched the runners come in behind me and cheered them all on, including an Army group running in cadence.  The atmosphere was great including an announcer who tried to mention as many people’s names as he could (he even pronounced Mitra correctly!).  There was always music playing and always a good crowd cheering on the finishers.  It was a great time.

Extras: 18/20
This race is never going to be the one with the best swag, the best perks or the largest field but that doesn’t mean it can’t have something extra to give to a runner.  First, I must admit how much fun it was getting to run through Forest Park.  We ran by the 1904 bird cage at the zoo, the Muny as well as the Missouri History museum in the park.  Also, this race, which only cost $30, included a free beer and a pretty nice t-shirt, which is about as much as you can ask for with that price.  Once again, they did a great job with what they had.

MY OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 82/100
You can’t compare this to the major marathons I have gotten to run but for what this race is, it doesn’t get much better.  If you are looking for a race that has sights, sounds and hills this is it.  Starting off my day with the race and finishing it with fireworks are two characteristics that, by themselves, mean a great day.  I am looking forward to not only doing this race again, but hopefully participating in more races in St. Louis in the near future.

2015 Chicago Marathon Training: Week 1

Just 7 days after I finished my first Half Ironman my next training cycle began.  This week I started my 16 week training plan for the Chicago Marathon on October 11!  I fell in love with the race last year and fell in love with the idea of going back and accomplishing my goal of getting a sub 4 hour marathon (last year I got 4:06!).  Each training cycle I try to pick out some specific areas of practice that I want to work on during the weeks ahead.  For Chicago I am going to focus on a few things that I haven’t focused on as much in the past, and some that I have found have helped me get faster during some previous races.  These foci are:
1. Stretching before and after training
2. Run fast when you should run fast, and run slow when you should run slow
3. Strengthen the hamstrings and the core
Although I will obviously work on many other things during my training runs I am going to make sure to remember these goals each day.

I have never been one to just take a training plan created by one group and follow it through a race.  I have always created my own plans and have adapted them for what I am doing, what I want to do, and what I think will be best for me.  That is no different this year. I have taken a lot from Nike’s advanced Chicago Marathon training plan but have woven in many aspects of previous plans that I know helped me out a lot.  Last year in Chicago I slowed down after mile 20 and had some stomach issues that ruined my chances of a sub-4 hour race.  This year I am going to focus on increasing my mileage so that I am confident that even with any unforeseen issues, my legs will be able to carry me through to the end.

My first few weeks will be used as a base building time before I will start to ramp up the mileage later on in the cycle to build the needed strength into my legs.  Triathlon training allowed me to build the endurance that is needed so I will focus a lot more on building the strength that will compliment this endurance to cross the finish line!

WEEK 1:Building the Miles
Monday June 22: 4 Mile Slow Run
Tuesday June 23: 4 Mile Track Fartlek-Ran almost a mile at increased speed throughout the workout.
Wednesday June 24: 6 mile Slow Recovery Run
Thursday June 25: 4 Mile Slow Run-Was hampered by the heat and the run was slower than planned.
Saturday June 27: 11 Mile Long Run-Ran through Indianapolis, IN including around Lucas Oil Stadium, their downtown cultural trail and along their beautiful Canal path!
Sunday June 28: 5 Mile Recover Run
TOTAL MILES: 35+

This week I am going to continue to build more mileage while continuing to work on strengthening my running specific miles.  Although the runs where your legs are tired are the hardest, they provide a lot of mental as well as physical preparation for what I know will be a hard day in October.

-Runner

Race Recap: 2014 Chicago Marathon

Simply put, the Chicago Marathon is one of the best Marathons in the world and definitely one of the best races I have ever ran.  I has some of the best features and qualities that runners, spectators and professionals look for in a race.  Between the 1.7 million spectators cheering you on, and the huge expo and the adventure of running around the city on such a beautiful day, there is not much that could improve on this experience.

Race Criteria: I have divided my experience into five categories that cover what I think is every aspect of a race.  Just to make it easy each category will be numbered 1-20 for a total out of 100 to rank the race.

At the Expo

Race Organization: 19/20
This is my second Marathon Major that I have completed (first was NYC Marathon in 2013) and my 6th marathon overall and I feel comfortable saying that it was the most well put on race that I have ever had a number for.  Throughout the months that I was registered and selected for the race I received multiple e-mails from the race about the progress of the planning, the schedule and any events that had recently happened involving the race.  Lastly, I was so impressed that I received the participant guide in the mail before the race.  This would make any runner feel more comfortable and, as a runner who has never ran in Chicago before, I felt much better going into the race that I would have otherwise.

Expo: 18/20
Expo Welcome SignThe expo took place at McCormick Place and this convention center is a wonderful host for such a large expo.  The only negative part involving the McCormick place is that it is just tough to get to.  There is no mass transit station near the convention center so the traffic around the center was chaotic.  Not only was the center hosting the race convention, there was also a large convention of plastic surgeons that was taking place at the same time which just added to the number of cars and people trying to enter the convention hall.

Once I arrived at the expo  I was simply impressed.  I have been to large expos before, including at Boston and New York City but the Chicago expo was the best.  The race implemented a lot of new technology that greatly quickened the check in process.  They used a QR code on my participant guide that they mailed before the race to scan it and get all my information.  I quickly went to my corral to get my bib and was quickly able to move to the back of the hall and get my t-shirt.  After getting my shirt my friend Kathleen and I walked around the expo and looked at some of the best displays I have seen at any expo.  Every major company had a display and many were offering special deals exclusively for that race.  I will go over some of the things that I got in the extras section but overall I had a blast walking around the hall.

Nike + Personal WallCourse/Race Experience: 20/20
If you read my run review you can tell what I thought of my race experience.  The volunteers were great, the crowd was the best that I have ever seen, and the course was one of the best that I have ever ran.  The course was flat, the weather was great and the energy was electric.  All of these characteristics allowed me to set a PR by exactly 26 minutes!  Although I thought the course had a few to many turns, I would not change anything about it.  The course, much like New York, allowed you to see the whole city and experience the neighborhoods around the city.  I have been to Chicago dozens of times but some of these neighborhoods were ones that I had never been to and I loved being able to experience the personality of these many neighborhoods.

Post Race: 16/20
Every runner cannot wait for the post race celebration, because that means that the race is over.  After I ran through the finish line and relaxed after having post run high and made my way, slowly, to the post run area to meet up with Kathleen.  Going into the area I quickly found that there was not much available.  Although there was the obligatory free post race beer, and some refreshments for sale, there was not much else.  I found that it was mostly full of families waiting for runners to finish, or waiting for the runner to recover before they could leave. Kathleen and I waited here for a while until two other friends finished up and were able to meet us before heading to a great post race dinner.

Extras: 18/20
Phone CaseEvery big race has great extras and this one was no exception. While at the expo I saw many products that had Chicago spins including a couple that I had to purchase. A couple of these extras were given to me.  I am a member of Nike + and just for being a member Nike gave me two extra gifts.  These gifts were a phone cover with the course on it.  Although the cases were only available for Samsung S4 and the IPhone 5 it still makes a great souvenir and one that I will definitely hold onto.  Also they gave away a black bandana that included a map of the course. Although these are not expensive, they show the care that the sponsors took in the runners.

Goose Island Bottle OpenerThe coolest extra I have ever seen, before Chicago, was in Boston where I saw that Samuel Adams had a special bottle opener for the race.  When at the expo I saw that Goose Island had a special bottle opener and I had to buy it.  Not only is this opener a unique gift from a Chicago company for a Chicago event but it really shows the love that the city has for the race.

MY OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 91/100
The Chicago Marathon is a great race and no matter how many people or other blogs told me that before the race I had to experience it for myself before making a judgement.  Now that I have experienced all there is to experience about the Chicago Marathon I agree with everyone’s assessment.  The race is a great race and I know that I will do it again in the future.  Leaving Chicago the night of the race I knew that not only did I have a great time at the race but I was lucky enough to experience another great race.  Chicago was my 7th Marathon but it was my favorite.  Not only did I get a great time, I also had a great experience, and was able to really feel happy about the whole race.  I encourage EVERY runner to run in Chicago and I hope to see you there next to me in the future.

-Runner

 

Chicago Marathon Run Review!

In 2012 Bride and I went to Boston to see her sister’s senior recital and when I found out the weekend was the same weekend of Patriot’s Day I made a point to stay and watch part of the Boston Marathon that day.  Throughout the whole weekend as we walked around the city I was able to experience a true big city marathon for the first time.  The whole city was a buzz with the energy of the marathon.  All the news stations were talking about the upcoming race, all the papers had the latest information and the light poles were decorated in Boston Marathon colors.

Last year this love of big city races grew when I was able to run the New York City Marathon.  Turning the corner off of the Queensboro Bridge and into Manhattan was one of the greatest feelings that I have ever had as a runner.  The crowd was amazing and the people of the city truly embrace the race and what it means to so many of the finishers.

This past weekend my love of big cities races continued to evolve and grow.  I had the honor of running the Chicago Marathon on Sunday along with 45,000 others including two very close friends. I felt lucky to get my name drawn earlier in the year and ever since I looked to this race as my goal.  I knew that the course was notorious for being flat and the place that the elite runners come to for a chance at a new world record so I knew that this was a great opportunity for me to reach for a great PR.  That opportunity, plus knowing how well the race is put on and how much the city embraces the race (which I will write about in my race review later this week) made this weekend a wonderful opportunity.

PRE-RACE:

I will go over the expo and other events concerning how well the race was executed during my Race Recap early next week.

It is closing in on 3 years since my first marathon and I have been searching that whole time for a pattern that I can follow as a pre-race routine. I have tried different foods, sleep patterns and advice concerning how to prepare your body without much success before my Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in VA Beach on Labor Day weekend. While there I figured out a pattern that worked for me that I wanted to replicate that same pre race routine which includes, of all things, Chick-fil-a the night before for dinner.

The night before the race I stayed with two great friends, Huyen and Andrew, who were both running the marathon as well.  They live on the north side of the city so we just hoped on the red line and headed down town the morning of the race.  We entered the staging area and I was able to quickly check my bag at the red bag check.  The one issue I ran into was that we just arrived a little late and after checking my bag I had to rush to my corral before they closed them at 7:20am. I was able to make it to the corral a few minutes before it closed and I pushed my way towards the front of the corral near the 4:00 pace group that I planned on staying with throughout the race.

The start was spectacular including introducing all the elite runners to the whole crowd of runners and quickly after the elite runners stepped off the first corrals started. At 7:41 I crossed the start line and took the first steps of my 26.2 mile journey.

Just got to the starting area.

Just got to the starting area.

MILES 1-6

  • 5K 28:20, 9:07 min/mile

The start was exhilarating, like all big race starts are.  I quickly found the 4:00 pace team and stuck with them.  The first couple of miles winds around downtown before heading north on LaSalle and into the park that is home to the Lincoln Park zoo.  Throughout these early miles there were constant crowds three, four deep, sometimes more.  They were loud, excited and cheering everyone on their way.  The early miles of any race are easy when looking back on them but these were definitely made easier because of the enthusiasm permeating from the fans.  Heading north on LaSalle St./Dr. you first hear the silence of a road race when you enter Lincoln Park.  Soon after entering the park I was shocked at the quietness that occurred.  Luckily I wasn’t the only one since multiple runners around me commented on the same quietness.  Luckily this quietness would not occur often during the next 21 miles of the race. Between miles 5 and 6 there were 2 water stations and our pace team was quick to give us the warning that after the second water station during the 5th mile there was not another one until just past the 8 mile mark.  This long gap was an anomaly but one that, without running the race before was hard to notice and could cause your race plan to change.

MILES 6-13.1

  • 10K 56:40 (28:20), 9:08 min/mile
  • 15K 1:24:59 (28:19), 9:07 min/mile
  • 20K 1:53:33 (28:34), 9:12 min/mile

Mile 6 exited Lincoln Park, right around the 10K mark, and entered the first neighborhood area where the crowds were not packed on each side of the road.  We went up next to Lake Shore Drive at mile 7 and was able to see parts of the lake over to the right side of the road.  Around 7.4 we made the left turn onto Addison St. and reached the northern most point of the race. After a brief time on Addison we turned onto Broadway and headed back south towards the Loop and downtown. Miles 8-10 contained many different neighborhoods, each with their own attitude and crowds.  As I approached the 10.5 mile water station I was excited because my friend Kathleen (from Sister to Sister Running Blog) was working the water station but unfortunately I didn’t get to see her because I thought she was working the right side but she ended up being on the left side of the road. As I approached the 11 mile marker I realized that we were back downtown and the crowds were accordingly larger that they were just a few miles earlier in the more sparse neighborhood areas. After mile 12 we passed over the river and experienced the worst part of the course.  When crossing the bridges, which all runners had to do 6 times, there was a thin fabric over the grates that still caused the grates to dig into your foot as you went over them. As I went through the 20K mark I knew the Half marathon point was close and turning the corner around 12.75 you could watch the screen on the corner and watch the runners go by. When I got around the corner I could see the half marathon point and the starting point for the rest of the race.

MILES 13.1-18

  • Half Marathon 1:59:42, 9:08 min/mile
  • 25K 2:21:47 (28:14), 9:06 min/mile

The half way point is always the a great part of a marathon.  From there you start counting down the miles, rather than counting up. As I went through the half way point I felt great.  I had actually never felt so good after running a half marathon.  My legs were feeling fresh, I was in a great state of mind and I was confident that I could reach my goal time of 4 hours.  On top of that, I knew that if I just followed my pace team I would make it to the finish under that goal.  We passed the half marathon point just under the goal pace (at 1:59:42) and I knew that I could do the second half at the same pace.

Mile 14 started with one of the greatest parts of a race that I have ever ran.  The Charity Party was a loud few blocks where each of the many official charities of the race had a tent and and supporters cheering.  This was also the place where many of the runners for these charities were able to get extra refreshments.  Although they were there representing their charities, they continued to cheer just as loudly for every runner as they did their own.  Once again the Chicago crowd surprised me and spurred me on to the next mile.  miles 15 and 16 were uneventful except that I continued at the 4 hour pace, with the pace team and was still feeling good.  Mile 17 began the final section of neighborhoods with Little Italy being first.  The crowds were great and at 17.5 there was the Power Gel station.  I had never really had one before and was not impressed with my strawberry banana selection.  I prefer GU but that could just come from using GU more often than the Power Gel.  After the water station it was on to mile 18 and what I thought was finally the beginning of the end of the race.

MILES 18-24

  •  30K 2:50:14 (28:27), 9:10 min/mile
  • 35K 3:20:43 (30:29), 9:49 min/mile

The section that I just finished have always been the hardest part of my previous races.  I find that miles 12-18 is always the hardest.  You still have a ways to go, the crowd is usually sparse during these miles and you cannot imagine the finish line yet.  When mile 18 comes the finish line is all of the sudden a reality and you can envision crossing under it with a great time.  As I past the 30K mark I knew that I was going to PR (my previous PR was 4:32:42 in St. Louis in April) it was just a question now by how much.  I continued with the 4 hour group and noticed that it had gotten quite a bit smaller since the half marathon point and we began to see more people with the 3:45 pace markers on.  Passing mile 20 is always a milestone and today was no exception.  20 miles is usually the longest training run that anyone does and the last 10K of the race is ran on heart alone.  Between the 20 and 21 mile markers there are 2 water stops.  As I approached the second I felt a little soreness coming on so I decided I would get a banana to combat the pain.  After eating the banana I passed the 21 mile marker and all began to go wrong.

My stomach, not my legs had given up on me.  I felt like I was going to puke and the feeling brought me to a walk for the first time in the race.  I began to contemplate the best place to run over and throw up without getting to much attention.  I decided to push on at a walk and let my stomach settle down.  I walked for about a half mile at what my watch said was about a 20 minute mile pace.  At that point my stomach was settled so I began a slow run and quickly got back up to my nine minute mile goal pace, knowing that I had lost the chance of breaking 4 hours.  As I went past mile 22 and approached mile 23 I came to a turn where I got to see First Cellular Field where the Chicago White Sox play, and despite my negative attitude for missing 4 hours, the baseball fan inside of me couldn’t help but love to see the stadium while running in such a great race.  As I went through the 23 mile marker my attitude began to change and I realized that I was looking at about a 4:10 finishing time and how could I be upset with a PR by over 20 minutes!!! Mile 23.5 is the best turn anyone can make in the Chicago marathon.  Here is where you turn onto Michigan Ave and can see the city skyline ahead of you and you know that all you have to do is run strait and you will make it to the finish.

What a beautiful day for a beautiful race.

What a beautiful day for a beautiful race.

MILES 24-26.2

  •  40K 3:54:24 (33:41), 10:51 min/mile
  • FINISH TIME: 4:06:42, 9:25 min/mile
  • PLACE: 14,348 out of 40,801

The skyline is ahead of me, acting as a compass, rather than a wall.  I know that I will run down Michigan Ave. and make a hard right and go up a hill before turning into Millennium Park and the finish. The crowds are picking up again and all I can do is smile at how happy I am.  My legs are obviously tired but I know that my fitness will get me to the end.  The final water station was just after the 25.2 mile marker.  Everyone is cheering and encouraging “just one more mile”!!!  The one cheer that I hate the most during a race is “you are almost there”, since you usually start to hear it at around mile 2.  But at this point it is true, and music to my ears.  Yet, in my head I know that after turning right at the southern end of Millennium Park I have to go up a small but punishing hill before turning on Columbus towards the finish line.  I can’t even remember taking the turn or how tired my legs were as I ran up the hill, all I remember is seeing the finish line ahead and going towards it.  After stopping my watch I read what it said 4:06!!! a PR by 26 minutes!!!

CONCLUSION

Although my goal was a sub 4 hour race I can not ever be upset with getting a PR by 26 minutes.  Entering this year my PR at the marathon was 5:02, set at the 2012 Marine Corp Marathon, now after Chicago I have cut almost an hour off that time!  I have trained hard but it was definitely worth it.  I always miss the training after a big race like that, all the emotions and the energy all you want to do is get out there and do it again but everyone knows that is the last things your legs will allow you to do. I cannot wait to see what my future races have in store for me and I know that with continued training I am not only going to break the 4 hour mark soon, but I am confident that I will be able to get a better time than I could even hope for at this moment.

Thanks for sticking with me through all of that rambling.  I loved my adventure at this race and would recommend it to anyone else.  What a great weekend, and what a great race.

-Runner

Chicago Here I Come!

Well the time is finally here.  This weekend is the Chicago Marathon.  Since January 2012, when I ran my first Marathon, I have ran 6 full marathons with Chicago being my 7th and this is the one that I have looked forward to the most.  I have ran many big marathons, including the New York City Marathon last year which was the largest marathon ever, in terms of number of finishers and there is nothing like feeling the energy from the crowds that are all over the course.  I knew when I finished the NYC Marathon that I wanted to work to get into the Chicago Marathon this year and I was sure to register for the lottery on the first day that it was opened.  The day that the lottery was picked was one of the most nerve racking day of my running career and when I finally got that e-mail I was so excited and couldn’t wait to turn on to Michigan Ave at the end of the race.

The Chicago Marathon has always been a goal of mine.  I was born and raised in Illinois and even though Chicago is over 300 miles from my hometown it has always been a city that I have loved visiting and have many fond memories of.  In just less than 72 hours I will be done with the race and I will be able to smile with my accomplishments and know that I have completed a major goal of mine. Each race is special and this one is going to be special for every person that crosses that finish line on Sunday and I will be no different. What will be different for me is with my own accomplishments and the large steps forward I have been able to take during the training.

I am, admittedly, a very busy person.  Last year I got married, after proposing after my first marathon, and between working well over 40 hours most week, travelling and living it is was often tough for me to fit my training in.  This cycle I strove to make sure that I got in as much training as possible and despite having to take approximately a month off due to some IT Band issues.  I began to run in the morning to make sure that I got the miles in and allowed my miles to take a front seat to other activities.  I got up early to run instead of letting my schedule dictate weather I got to run or not I found time in my schedule to run.

Going into next year I have taken many steps forward and I know that because of the Chicago Marathon I have become a better runner, gained a better sense of commitment to a cause and have become more focused on issues that I feel passionate about.  I am thankful for all that the Marathon has done for me so far and I am sure that it will not disappoint.

Look for my race recap next week, but just a heads up, this will be a great race.

-Runner

My Most Unusual Long Run Ever!

Today I planned on continuing to follow my training plan leading up to the Chicago Marathon in 29 days.  I was really excited to say that this week was a shorter week for me, after a tough 18 miles last Saturday.  I was scheduled to run only 14 today but then I realized that I was also supposed to run a 5K this morning.  The “Race for Every Child” is put on by Children’s National Hospital in Washington DC and it raised over $1 Million for its foundation.  Since I wanted to do this 5K and I needed to finish my long run I came up with an unusual plan.

Thinking about how to best accomplish both of these I decided that I would run 9 miles before the 5K then run a couple of miles back to the car after the race.  So that is exactly what I did.  I woke up before 6am just to get downtown in time to put in the miles before I met the ophthalmology group before the race.  During those first early morning miles I felt GREAT, in fact it was the best that I have felt in a long time.  As I approached the meeting point for the 5K I was actually a little sad that I couldn’t just keep going.

I met the group and took about a 30 minute break before I started the 5K with one of Bride’s coworkers.  He ran slower than my normal pace so it was an easy 5K for me, but at the same time I was coming off such a great 9 miles I did wish that I could speed up and continue my great pace.  I did stay with the coworker and we finished with a respectable time just over 30 minutes.Race for Every Child Course Map

After the 5K we waited again for the rest of the team to finish and after a photo I started on my way for the last couple of miles before I finished.  The first half mile or so of this section was by far the hardest. My legs had tightened up and  my whole body had to get back into the running mode.  With that being said, I did get back into the groove and and was able to finish at the same quick pace that I had during my earlier 9 miles.

Overall this morning was the most unusual long run I have ever had.  This run was divided up into three obvious sections and included two long breaks where my body got tight and caused two uncomfortable starts.  With that said, breaking up my long run like this caused it to feel a lot quicker and easier than runs at these lengths have in the past.  I think that this formula is one that I will look for in the future, especially on my lighter weekends in the future.

-Runner