Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chicago Marathon Race Report

A full report from the Expo and the race - and everything in between!
The 34th Chicago Marathon took place Sunday October 9, 2011.
Intro to the Expo Area
 After flying up from Greenville Friday morning, I went straight to the expo. Granted - not the most direct way as I did not realize the shuttle busses ran from the "L" where I got off. So I walked the 30 minutes in the beautiful sunshine to McCormick Place. Let's Run Together was this year's slogan - with close to 40,000 runners, it certainly was appropriate.

After getting my Bib, wandered into the Expo itself. Very spacious, lots of booths, lots of freebies, samples, and of course, things to buy. Carried my luggage the whole time; luckily, I pack light! Got my shirt and bag of stuff and wandered up and down each aisle. Checked out who was doing signings, etc (Dean K, Scott J, Ryan H, Abby W, Abby M, Hal H and a few others. Snacked some and eventually say down to wait for my cousin Becky. While I waited, watched (on a large screen) highlights from the 2010 Event. Incredible seeing two runners racing, sprinting (if going faster than their standard 4:45/mi is "sprinting!") at mile 25.8 of the marathon! I was getting excited...

After issues in the past with the weather (specifically, heat, 4 out of the last 5 years), you could not miss the signage everywhere with the Moderate condition notice. It would stay that category throughout the race.
Becky showed up, we got her packet, etc - and our Hospitality passes for race-day) and wandered more. Right before we left - we did get to see Ryan Hall and got a few autographs. Nice guy who said he was ready for Sunday. After 3.5 hours at the expo - I was ready to leave - and we took the bus! I did end up walking another 2 miles to the hotel after lunch. Too much time on my feet hauling luggage around that day.
My brother Pat came in Friday evening, we ate and rested. Saturday - we had all day to kill - so we walked around, went to the expo again. I did buy some cold/wet weather Nike gloves (to prevent an occurance of this magnitude) and we both had our strides reviewed at the Nike area. They had a huge section of the expo, with some outside walls imprinted with all the names of this year's runners. That was kind of neat. The result of the review - mild pronation, a stability shoe would be beneficial. It's what I am in now (Asics 2140's), but the Nike Lunarglides version is 1oz less in weight and feels worthy of another test run.
Rest of the day was spent watching college football, playing ping-pong in the lobby of our hotel (Hard Rock Hotel) and walking/relaxing. Got to bed around 1030pm and had a 5:30am wake up call set.
Sunday (Race Day)
Nothing out of the ordinary as we got dressed, I ate my bagel, and walked to the start area in the dark. Took a bit to find the hospitality tent, but it sure was nice: food, drinks, aid tables set up, plenty of chairs, music, few dozen port-o-johns with no lines and our own bag drop.
Pat, Becky, and me!
Took advantage of the aid station as I applied suntan lotion and grabbed extra water for the 30min before start time. Met up with our cousin as we rested - the excitement was building so relaxing wasn't easy. Decided pretty early on that my throwaway shirt ($1.50 from Goodwill) could be kept and put in the drop bag for use at another event. Most of my throwaways hang around longer than expected. Got my stuff together: 4 GU's, handheld with water, visor, bib-belt, small ziplock with an aleve and some S!caps, and my camera. And chapstick. Soon enough, we said bye to Becky and got led to our starting corral entrance. We were in "C" and it was a mob getting into the corrals. Once we got there - there was plenty of room. So the countdown started for the 7:30 start. Our plan was to go out between an 8:45-8:55 pace as long as we could.
Heading towards the start line
I can run a pretty consistent pace and Pat left his Garmin at the hotel after charging it all night. Oops. Once we made it to the start line (only 3 minutes or so after the gun), we began to run. It was pretty crowded, but not quite elbow to elbow as it could have been. Good crowds out as we wound thru the downtown area and crossed the river 3 times in the first 3 miles. Placing carpet over the grating on the bridges was a nice touch. It takes me 5-6 miles to start feeling good, not that I felt bad at the beginning. We started off just on pace though:
Mile 1- 8:54
Mile 2- 8:44 (17:39)
Mile 3- 8:51 (26:30)
Mile 4- 8:34 (35:04)

I was keeping Pat from going too fast, it seemed he was often ahead of me by a few steps...this was good though because he knew he shouldn't go to fast - not with a 26.2 mile run. This worked well for us. We stayed in the same vicinity, chatted a bit, and ran. I honestly was not too aware of the changing neighborhoods, or which neighborhoods we would be running thru
Mile 3 or 4, spreading out across wide roads. (Pat in yellow)
The aid stations were also perfect...frequent, well prepared, well advertised, and long. Seemed a good 1/4 of a mile or more for each one with Gatorade and Water separated. Didn't often hear people thank the volunteers, but that is sadly typical. We carried our own, but after the first few, got drinks as needed and refilled when our bottles were near empty. So we headed north for miles 2-7.5 but couldn't see too much of the waterfront as I had hoped.
Mile 5- 8:47 (43:51)
Mile 6- 8:45 (52:36)
Mile 7- 8:35 (1:01:12)
Mile 8- 8:47 (1:10:00)

The course was flat as advertised. It was interesting seeing the signs on peoples back showing their hopeful pace. With the different start times for these groups - you never knew what pace they were at. At mile 8, we headed back south until Mile 13. It's not a full (or half) marathon without me needing a pit-stop, but I held off until after halfway. Old Town (Miles 10-11) had great signs and a nice shopping area - pictures didn't turn out. Photo-wise, not much struck me...buildings everywhere, constant people cheering 2-3 deep and with the temps near 65° at the start and the sun out, had 2 places where sponges were given out. More races need to do that as it was wonderful! And between the aid stations, residents would have hoses out cooling us down, tables of food (pretzels, licorice, even beer at mile 20).
Mile 9- 8:48 (1:18:48)
Mile 10- 8:53 (1:27:42)
Mile 11- 8:49 (1:36:32)
Mile 12- 8:44 (1:45:16)
Mile 13- 8:56 (1:54:13)

So we hit halfway in 1:55:08...and 8:47/mi pace - so I'd say we ran consistently so far! Thankfully, the sun was mostly behind buildings for the first half and the temps weren't too bad (low 70's). But the 2nd half had the sun directly overhead and little shade to be found.
Mile 14- 8:52 (2:03:05)
Mile 15- 8:57 (2:12:02)
Mile 16- 8:55 (2:20:58)

So right near the Mile 15 marker (part of a little west-east section) I took a pit stop by some hedges. Pat had taken the next corner and was about a minute ahead. He was relatively easy to pick out and I ran "hard" to catch him...faster than I needed to and faster than I really wanted to. Should have told him to slow down just a hair...but I caught him before Mile 16 - meaning I was doing about an 8:00/mi pace thru there. Whew...catch my breath. I wish that was the end of the excitement, but it was just about to start...
Smile for the photo! Alone at Mile 18.
Why would it start with me stopping during a marathon to have some random person take my photo? It actually started a few minutes before when Pat had to take a pit stop midway thru Mile 17. Saw a port-o-john available and hopped in. As soon as he did that, I began walking. And walked. And walked. And walked. Where was he?? 4 minutes later - still wondering. A 3:50 pace group passed me. A 3:55 pace group passed me. Was he OK? He couldn't have passed me? I walked and filled my bottles still along the left side where he stopped. After 8 minutes or so - during which I walked backwards some, had the photo to the left taken, and kept turning around looking. I finally decided that maybe he passed me somehow, so I ran ahead. I still was hesitant. I finally got desperate after passing the 30k timing mat, knowing there were people following both of us, and that was the 3rd of four times that would be sent out (10k,half and finish being the others). Desperation to me meant calling out if anyone had a cellphone.

Two or three tries and a guy nearby (running) asked what I needed...I told him my situation and he handed over his cellphone. I called my wife, who happened to be back at home and had just refreshed our computer showing our times...
My 30k time:   2:50:41
Pat's 30k time: 2:45:48


Quickly hung up, thanked the guy (who was running beside me while I called) yet again, and decided I had to catch my brother. We had been planning this for a year or so, and I already felt bad he was having to run this far "alone". So now I ran hard. At least hard for me at mile 19 of a marathon. The next 3 miles or so were a blur. I didn't quite know where I was on the course, which made figuring out how much time I had to catch Pat difficult. I missed my Mile 20 split. Times and splits were going thru my head and I was constantly looking out for him. I knew 5 minutes ahead meant if he slowed to 10's, I had some work to do to catch him, but I was going to try. My splits tell the story:
Mile 17- 12:08 (2:33:07)
Mile 18- 12:15 (2:45:22)
Mile 19- 8:32 (2:53:54)
Mile 20/21- 18:29 (3:12:23)
Mile 22- 9:21 (3:21:45)

Yep - I had an 8:32 mile at Mile 19. Very proud of that. Sure, I was a bit rested after two 12 min miles, but still. I slowed a bit after that though and had my doubts about catching him. Not knowing how his body would respond after not doing over 16 miles during this training (so not doing more than 16 miles since his last marathon in 1994), of course I would wonder. But, as my thighs were beginning to talk to me (hmmm, maybe we'll make him think we want to cramp...), I saw him. Somewhere (early?) in Mile 23. I caught him soon enough as his legs were talking a good bit and walk breaks were present for the remainder of the race. I am very familiar with that as we caught up on the last 6 miles and turned north (at mile ~23.5) towards the finish line.
He was getting mad thinking I was in front of him. Guess we should have had a plan...oops.
(35k split shows he was still 2:03 ahead of me)
together again-mile 24.5
So now it was all about moving forward, walking from one point to another (to that lamp-post) and running from one point to another (let's go to that bridge and we'll then walk in the shade). It worked. My legs felt ok, pretty tight in the thighs, but never cramped. For all those "issues" I had experienced and worried about leading up to this race: My groin/upper thigh never had any issue nor did my right foot/toe. I did feel the start of a blister on my right pinkie toe near the halfway, but that stayed quiet after that. Again, I was so caught up in things, I missed the Mile marker 24.
Mile 23/24- 21:54 (3:43:40)
Mile 25- 11:13 (3:54:53)

We obviously knew breaking 4 was out of the question (unless we could run a 4 minute mile )now the goal was to run four-0-something. Yeah - we can do that.
We ran/walked the same pace/frequency as we got closer. The last walk was at mile 26 or so (missed that split too) to the top of the bridge, then we ran the rest of the way in.
Mile 26.2- 13:00 (4:07:53)

Happy Finisher (again - after 17 years)

Thank You Chicago!
(On the plane 5.5 hrs later heading home)


Mudrunner said...

I love those pics, Congratulations to all the participants and to you for a great job well done. Looking forward always.

imtheguz said...

Thanks! Will always carry a camera...although I didn't take as many as I had hoped. As it was mostly just buildings and more buildings - didn;t make sense at the time I wasn't playing catch-up.