Warning: This is long, so grab a popcorn and soda before reading! :-)
I set the alarm clock for 4:45 am...probably way too early, but I'd rather be too early than too late. I got dressed quietly and tried to leave without waking up the kiddo. I decided to wear my long sleeved, black Nike dri-fit with a short-sleeved dri-fit underneath, tights and gloves. I also decided to just go with my old shoes...the newer ones, with the new insoles just didn't feel right on Saturday. For warmth before the run, I wore an A&M sweatshirt and tyvek pants. Overkill? Definitely! But, at least I was warm! The kiddo woke up as I was leaving, so I grabbed good luck kisses from her and the hubby. Pam's hotel was only about 1/2 mile away, but I decided to save my legs and asked the hotel for a cab.
The hotel was much closer than I thought and we were there in no time - exactly 30 minutes before I was scheduled to meet Pam! I usually eat a piece of toast with PB before my runs, but there was nothing open at that hour. After chatting with the cabbie, I found out there was a Dunkin Donuts a block from Pam's hotel. I headed there and grabbed their version of the Egg McMuffin...it wasn't really what I wanted, but I knew I would need something in my stomach before the race. I met another runner and we chatted about the weather and the race for a bit. When I made it back to Pam's hotel, I still had about 20 minutes before our schedule meet-up time. I sat in the lobby and watched runners gradually make their way downstairs. I met a man from Indiana and his wife. This was his 3rd Chicago and I learned that he had run San Diego a couple of times, along with many other marathons. He had also run Boston 3 times..amazing!
Pam made it downstairs and we decided that since no one seemed in any hurry to head to the race, we would hang out in the warm lobby a bit longer. We made our bathroom stops and as soon as runners began to slowly trickle out, we followed suite and headed the few blocks to the start area. The cool air felt great!
So we head to the start, but we're not really sure where to go. The start/finish area was pretty huge, so people are spread out everywhere. We decided to head to the open corral where we met a pretty cool guy who was there running his 1st marathon. He was nice enough to snap this pic of me and Pam...too bad I didn't think to turn on the flash! It turns out that he is in Chicago at the Seminary becoming a priest. One of the other men from the seminary got him interested in running earlier in the year and he decided to train for the marathon. He said he finished his 1st half a few months earlier in under 2 hours. I am beginning to think we need to move further back in the corral with the slower runners! About the same time I'm thinking this, I realize that there are now people all around us. I see the 4:15 pace group in front of us and know we need to move back, but there's no room to move! So, we're stuck in the sea of people and can't go anywhere. I know, I know...bad! We did get to chit chat with a few of the folks around us and swap marathoning stories. As we get closer to the start time, an announcer comes on the loud speaker and tells how many minutes are left until the start. People are taking off their outer layers of clothing and throwing them into the air. Pants and sweatshirts are flying all over the place and landing on people's heads. I make a mental note to watch for these items as I'm running.
Note: Most of the race is one huge blur! I wish I had a mini-recorder to note all the interesting things I saw or heard along the way. Here's my account based on some notes I jotted back at the hotel...
The race is on!
Finally, the announcer announces that it's time for the wheelchair participants to start. The national anthem is sung and before I know it we're off! Well, not exactly. We stand there for a little while and gradually begin walking in tiny footsteps toward the start. Thanks to our place in the corrals, we get to the start in no time and begin to run. I think we made it in about 6 1/2 minutes (much faster than the 17 minutes in NYC!). We go beneath a bridge and there are tons of people looking down at us and people lined up and down the steps getting to the bridge. The number of spectators was awesome! I immediately wonder why in the heck I don't have my disposable camera out and quickly grab it in time to capture this pic of the next bridge. I wasn't sure how the pics would turn out since I didn't want to stop to take them.
We quickly realized that the crowds were so loud and awesome that we missed our 1st walk break. Screw it! We decided to just keep going and enjoy the crowds and adrenaline. We made it to the 1st mile marker and I hit my split button - 10:58! Whoa, we were going too fast. We slowed it down a bit. I don't remember where, but somewhere in the 1st couple of miles, there was a choir from one of the airlines (United maybe?) singing God Bless America. It was beautiful and for some reason made me feel a bit emotional. We continued to make our way through the streets of the Loop and to the River North area.
Mile 2 -11:39 (that's more like it)
Mile 3 - 11:47
I was on the lookout for my Dad and Hubby between miles 3 & 4, but never did see them. At this point, it was still difficult trying to take a walk break. The streets were so crowded! We would see that our walk break was coming up, but there was nowhere to move. We'd try to move to the right, but it was difficult to weave in and out of people to get there. Then, we'd realize that there were still tons of runners behind us. Somehow we managed, but I was still afraid of making the folks behind me PO'd.
Mile 4- 11:16
Mile 5- 11:16
Mile 6 - 11:31
Around miles 5 or 6, I realized it was raining. Luckily, it was just a very fine, light mist. I didn't even realize it was raining until someone behind me mentioned it. At this point we're going through Lincoln Park, which was beautiful with all the leaves changing colors. It reminded me a bit of being in Central Park.
Mile 7 - 11:22
Mile 8 - 11:26
Miles 7 & 8 took us through Wrigleyville. Again, lots of great spectators and still very crowded streets. Mile 9 took us through Lakeview and back toward Lincoln Park again. Somewhere in here was Boys Town. It's very much like our Montrose area here and very fun! Here's a pic of some guys dressed up in costumes dancing and lip-syncing to YMCA. There was also a team of rifle-tossing men dancing to Oh Micky! All of the volunteers handing out water and gatorade were wearing cowboy hats and I wondered if they were going for a Brokeback Mountain theme. I chuckled out loud and kept moving.
Mile 9 - 11:36
Mile 10 took us through Old Town. I liked this area - there were trees lining boths sides of the street so that you could run under a pretty orange and yellow canopy of leaves. Again, I was amazed at the number of folks standing out there cheering us on. There were tons of people who look like they were having a big 'ol party out there.
Mile 10 - 11:49
Somewhere between miles 11 & 12 in River North, I found my Dad and Hubby. They were obviously not expecting me, because they were not ready with the camera or camcorder. I made a quick stop to get good luck hugs & kisses moved on. By this point, I had gotten cheers from many of the Texans on the course. They spotted the Texas flag on the back of my shirt and would say "Go Texas Girl" or "Hooray for Texas". A few runners that were passing me (or in a few rare cases, I was passing them), would run next to me and chat for a few seconds about where in Texas they were from or their spouse was from, and where I was from. It was a great distraction from the running. Somewhere along the route, we ran right next to the Sears tower and I grabbed this pic. I managed to drop my camera and the nice guy behind me picked it up and offered to take a pic of me. Hmmm...it's difficult to take a pic while running!
Mile 11- 11:11 (obviously, pumped up from above said hugs & kisses)
Back at mile 9 or 10, I was starting to feel the need for a quick potty-stop. Naturally, when I need a port-a-can, I can't find one! Finally, between miles 11 & 12, I find one...hallelujah! But darnit, there was a pretty good sized line. I had begun to feel the twinge of tightness in my left IT band, right near the hip, during the last mile. I made a point to use my time waiting in line stretching it out a bit. The lady behind me was passing out kleenex tissues and handed me one...I don't know who she was, but I greatly appreciated the tissue! The porta can I got stuck with was pretty darn nasty and there was no tp left.
Mile 12- 16:00!!! (potty break...darn lines at the porta-potties!)
I kind of freaked out after seeing my split on the last mile with my potty break. Luckily, I discovered that grabbing some high fives from the spectators (especially the kiddos) gave me a little boost of energy and made me want to keep on running. Mile 13 took us through Greektown. Maybe it was my imagination, but I swear I could smell the scent of Souvlaki and Falafel in the air. We also passed through West Loop and then back through Greektown again in miles 14-16. There was a section of Greektown that had Greek flags lining the streets and even some cool Greek columns. Very cool! I remember walking through one of the water stops and managing to spill some water on my gloves...that made for some very cold hands!
Mile 13- 11:44
Mile 14- 12:10 (walked through water stop)
Mile 15- 11:44
As you can see from my splits from here on out, I experienced my bonk around Mile 16. Not surprising since I got a little lazy in my 18 and 21-milers around this point. The five minute runs now seemed like an eternity and I finally broke down around mile 17 and changed my watch to 3/1s. As we headed toward mile 17, we were entering Little Italy and the Power Bar power gel zone. Again, lots of crowds. Here and there we would round a corner and feel a huge, cold gust of wind. Luckily, we would turn again and be blocked from the wind again.
Mile 16 - 12:51 (beginning of my bonk! Switched to 3:1s)
Mile 17 - 12:29
Mile 18 - 13:42 (another water stop)
Somewhere between mile 18 & 19, I switched my watch again - this time to 2/2s. But, I made a mental bargain with myself (at least I hope it was mental, although by this point I could have been talking to myself out loud and not have noticed or cared.) Anyway, my mental pact was that if I was going to do 2/2s, I had to really run (to the best of my ability at this point) the running 2s and really speedwalk the walking 2s. I took these 2 pics (and pic) somewhere along the way, but I'm not sure where. We also ran through Pilsen which was an amazing area. Lots of fun, loud crowds that made me want to pick up the pace. I was feeling tired and still had the ache in my hip, but overall I was feeling pretty strong.
Mile 19 - 12:46
When I made it to mile 20, I just remember thinking, "OH MY GOD! ONLY 6.2 TO GO!". I remember telling myself that it was "just another 10K", "no problem", "you can do this", etc. I don't know if myself really cared at this point, because I seemed to just be happy that I was still moving forward regardless of the pace. I kept high-fiving spectators. I also took a "now and later" and a Tootsie Roll from someone...thank you whoever you were! Trying to unwrap the candy and eat it kept my mind off the ache in my legs and I decided to take more candy if I saw it again! At this point we also passed "THE WALL"...literally. There was a huge cardboard wall and Pink Floyd's "The Wall" was playing...god bless those people who had to stand there and listen to that song for all those hours...I have nothing against Pink Floyd, but I would have rather slit my wrists! All in all, my legs were still feeling good, just tired.
Mile 20 - 12:56
For some reason, at mile 21 I started to get excited. I was almost there!!! I began to think about my time. Could I still PR? It would be terrible to come this far and not give it a good effort! I asked myself how I would feel afterward if I didn't really go for it. About this time we were entering Chinatown. It was great! There was a Chinese Dragon and the crowds were amazing! Here's a pic of the Dragon and another pic of Chinatown. Somewhere in mile 20 was a sign that said "5 more miles". Very misleading considering we hadn't made it to mile 21 yet...of course, I didn't even think about that..I was just happy to be close to the end. I remember thinking (and not for the 1st time during this race) that all in all, I was kind of glad this would be my last marathon until grad school was over. This was an awesome race, but This was hard! I know people run multiple marathons in a year and have no problem with it, but this was my 3rd one this year and quite frankly 3 is more than enough for me! The thought left my mind almost as quickly as it entered it.
Mile 21 - 13:03
At mile 21.2, there was yet another sign that said "5 Miles to Go!". For real this time though! I think that's when I looked at my watch and realized I could PR if I picked up the pace a bit. I knew that 5:15 might be a bit out of reach, but I could beat my 1st marathon time of 5:21:17. I could do it dammit!!! So, I ditched the 2/2s concept and tried to run as much as I could, but still take a quickie walk break if I need it (and I did!). It was at this point that I realized that I was running with Wonder Woman, Captain America and Flash Gordon! It was so funny! I wish I had thought to take a picture, but at this point I was not really thinking about anything. Those who have run marathons could probably agree that you do get to the point of exhaustion where you can't think anymore. You keep moving...but you don't think. I was at that point. The hubby called me (yes, I had my cell phone) and told me where to look for him after the race. I think I hung up on him...sorry, but I didn't the energy to talk and run.
Mile 22 - 12:29
Mile 23 - 12:49
Mile 24 - 12:54
Mile 25 - 12:29
I am still moving forward and still thinking PR. After mile 25, there is a sign that says "800 Yards". It was a welcome sight! We were no longer talking miles, we were talking yards! Woohoo! I heard someone say, "Isn't that something like 4 football fields?". Then I heard Captain America say, "Last one there's a rotten egg". He sped up, but after a few feet slowed down again...I know the feeling, it's called exhaustion! At some point we turned a corner and at that point we were heading toward the finish...I don't think I believed I was that close until then. I saw the sign that said "400 yards"...I thought to myself that 400 yards was just a lap around a track or about 1/4 of a mile, but I wasn't thinking too clearly. There may have been a 600 yard sign, but I don't remember it. Then, there was a 200 meter sign and I sped up. I went as fast as my tired legs could carry me. Around mile 25.9 there was a huge hill (cruel!) and I remember feeling one of those huge gusts of wind. Somehow I managed to keep going. As soon as I was up the hill, we turned a corner and there it was....THE FINISH! I remember seeing tons of crowds and hearing tons of cheers, but it's all a big blur. I just remember focusing on finishing. I could see the clock. I looked at my watch and knew I was going to PR. I tried to speed up, but don't think I succeeded. I remember thinking about how one Houston Fit speaker jokingly said that you're going to feel like you're running really fast to the finish...but you're not. That was me! I felt like I was sprinting, but I know I wasn't. I remember finally making it to the mat, raising my arms in victory and feeling a huge wave of relief. I was done and I had PRed! (pic here)
FINISH TIME - 5:20:56
I made my way to the man holding the medals and told him something about how he was my favorite person in the world right at that moment. I grabbed a sexy silver blanket and made my way to the food. There were bananas, English muffins (which taste pretty nasty dry) and fig newtons. There was also a lady from a restaurant specializing in cereal handing out samples. Someone was handing out samples of Tylenol 8 hour, which I graciously accepted as was sure I could use it later! I also got my official race pic with my medal.
I called the hubby to see exactly where to meet him, because my mind wasn’t functioning well when I spoke to him earlier. I made my over to them, what a welcome sight! I got a huge hug and kiss from the kiddo and lots of congrats from my parents and hubby. We took a quick finish pic and headed to the hotel. It was the perfect end to a great race!
I know that even though this report is long, there are things I've left out - like the many bands that provided music, the Mariachi's that entertained, all the cheering squads that cheered for us, the man playing bag pipes on the street, passing only a few spectators near the United Center, etc. I don't remember where I saw these things, but I do remember them and appreciate that they were out there making my 1st Chicago Marathon one to remember. I think that like NYC, Chicago will be one city where I would like to run again!