Race Report – Chicago Marathon

Where does the time go?! Chicago was marathon #4 and state #7. It doesn’t feel like all that long ago when I was in Boston chatting to my friend about entering the Chicago lottery…

Pre-Race

I flew in on Friday morning and my friend Beth & I grabbed tea (coffee for her) and headed to the expo. Luckily she lives in Chicago so I didn’t have to pay an outrageous amount for a hotel stay! *whew*

We spent 2.5 hours geeking out over all things running =D

We snagged all the freebies (including trying the beer of Chicago, 312) we could before leaving to check out the Nike store downtown so Beth could look for a new pair of shorts. It was supposed to be a warm race day and she wanted to look for something shorter and breezier than she had originally planned to wear.

Cue seeing my first DJ in an retail store. She was awesome BTW.

After that we went to the John Hancock Tower to see the view (from the women’s bathroom – the best view in town!), before heading to dinner at 9 pm. I was pooped. We had walked over 8 miles that day…far further than we planned. 

We had originally planned to do a 4 mile shake out on Saturday morning, and meet Deena Kastor & Bart Yasso, but after a long day Friday (I woke up at 3:30 EST for my flight!), we decided sleeping in was more important. The deal was sealed Friday night when Beth mentioned on the way home from dinner that her coach had told her sleep was more important than miles in the final week of the taper. Yes please.

In a nutshell (I swear I’m not trying to bore you with my whole trip…), Saturday was brunch (red velvet pancakes – YUM), and some more shopping (this time via Beth’s car) to see if she could find suitable race day shorts. No dice.

We finally came home and ate spaghetti while watching When Harry Met Sally and simultaneously being excited, and incredibly nervous about the race. It was supposed to reach 77 degrees on Sunday, and be fully sunny. Like not a cloud in the sky sunny. Beth had run Chicago in 2014 and said that the last miles of the race were not shaded, so it would be hot if the weather prediction was indeed correct. We fretted over race goals – should we go for the PRs we had trained for, or play it safe and try again another time?

We decided to go for it. We agreed we’d feel much worse after the race if we didn’t give it our all and go for the PR, than if we at least went for it and burnt out/hit the wall. Having decided my plan for race day – go out with the 3:20 pacers so I could save my mental energy for the final few miles when things got tough – I passed out immediately after the movie.

Race Day

Race morning was chilly, but I reminded myself to embrace it as we took the train to the start and parted ways. Beth was in corral G, so we couldn’t go through the gate together. We snapped a quick pic, wished each other luck, and were on our way.

I checked my bag, hit up the porta potty, and ate my Clif Bar before heading to Corral B. I lined up with the 3:20 pace group, and listened to other runners share previous marathon stories. I asked a random guy next to me to toss my jacket a few minutes before the start (he’d kind of become the go to guy for all the women’s throw away clothes), started the GPS on my watch, and at 7:30, we were off.

Instantly the pace felt fast. But not fast to my body, I was mentally freaking out over the thought that I was going to try and run a marathon at a pace just over 10 seconds per mile slower than my half-marathon pace. I focused on the ground in front of me since it was so crowded and I didn’t want to trip. We went through a short tunnel in the first mile and my watch lost it’s signal – it picked up again right after the tunnel, but cut out the entire length of the tunnel. I didn’t realize this until we hit the 1 mile mark and everyone’s watch beeped but mine. I glanced down and saw .75 miles. Womp womp. I took that as my cue to stick with the pace group for as long as possible.

The next few miles were dizzyingly crowded, but luckily with the pace group, we were all moving at the same speed, so I wasn’t too worried about tripping over anyone. I just would’ve felt more comfortable with some breathing room.

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We had 3 pacers, and they were all great in their own way. In the early miles, I was near the oldest of them, Coach Bob. As we would approach a turn I’d hear him shout “shorten your stride around the turn! we don’t want any tripping!” I tried his trick, and found it did indeed make rounding the turns in a crowded pack much easier. Good to know 🙂

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check out my arm…super flattering picture 😉

The main pace group leader was a young guy, fresh out of college, and he was great at telling us about the upcoming turns (for those of us who weren’t on, or couldn’t otherwise see the blue line). He also would run on the outside, just next to the spectators and drum up extra support/cheers/screams. It was awesome – like everyone was out there for us, the special little 3:20 pace group. Some of the other tips he’d shout I already knew, like to run in the middle of the road once you picked up your water/gatorade cup, or to pinch the cup to make it easier to drink out of.

The third pace leader was a quiet guy, who I ran near in the later stages of the race, but it was nice. It was nice to be near a quiet runner that wasn’t quiet because he was dying, or quiet because he was focused so hard on nailing his pace (because after all, this pace was easy for him).

At mile 6, I reached back to grab a GU and realized 2 of mine had fell out. UGH. I was pissed because I’d worn these shorts on several long runs during the summer, and in races and stored GUs without a problem, but for some reason it didn’t work out for Chicago. The thought that consoled me though, was when I had to rely on unfamiliar fuel in Boston when my fingers were too numb to unzip my shorts and retrieve 2 of my GUs. I sucked down a GU and kept moving.

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I didn’t feel as comfortable in these miles as I had during Boston, but I still felt like it was right. My goal was to PUSH myself in this race, and to finish with nothing left, so I didn’t want to be comfortable.

At mile 12, I took my second GU, and I took my one and only salt cap at the halfway point.

*Boredom alert* – At Boston, my GUs had no added sodium, so I took 2 salt caps – one before the race, and one at the halfway point. This time around, I couldn’t find a single GU without added sodium, so I went with the lowest amount I could find- Chocolate Outrage (apparently the new kind, not the ones I had during Boston) with 25 mg per packet. I did the math on Friday and figured that 4 GUs x 25 mg sodium each, + one salt cap (215 mg sodium) would equal roughly that of what I took in at Boston.

Shortly after the halfway point, I saw a group of spectators holding out GUs, so I grabbed one and tucked it in my shorts for later.

Not much happened over the next several miles. I was still with the group, still just outside of my comfort zone, and getting hot. Over the past few miles, I’d been dumping cups of water over my head at every aid station.

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I grabbed a power bar gel at mile 17.8, and took it shortly after. I found myself drifting ahead of the pace group sometimes, but I always slowed down when it happened. Ideally, I had a goal way in the back of my mind to break 3:20, but I didn’t want to leave the pace group too early, then kick myself mentally later when they flew right by me. I wanted to wait at least until mile 20.

Then mile 20 came and I was hurting. My legs were aching – I felt like the last 20 miles had been run on concrete rather than asphalt.

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By mile 21, I was slightly ahead of the pace group, maybe by several yards, but I could hear the leader of the group shouting “fight through the pain, fight it!” I was so hot and so tired, but I kept chugging along.

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I slowly increased the distance between myself and the pace group over the next mile, but by mile 23, they had caught up to me again. I tucked in behind the quiet leader and just focused on moving forward.

After half a mile or so, I pepped up again and went ahead of the pace group. At mile 24, I down the GU I had grabbed from a spectator earlier in the race (salted caramel), and told myself to just hang on. I could do anything for 2 miles.

But oh my GOSH I was aching so badly. My lower back was hurting and my legs hated me. They hated me more than they had at Boston. I decided it was because the course was SO FREAKING FLAT that the same leg muscles were working for the entire race, and never got a break. Yea there were tiny inclines over bridges, but it wasn’t enough.

Finally I was at mile 25. But 1 mile left suddenly sounded like so much more than when I had 2 left. I knew I was on pace for a big PR, but I just wanted to be done.

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I saw the 800 meters to go sign, then 400…then 300. What?! I was expecting to see 200 left after 400. Those jerks! Right on the final “hill” too.

Finally I turned left towards the finish..and tripped. Luckily I caught myself before I went down, but the spectators saw a pretty glorious stumble. That confirmed to me just how tired I was, because I didn’t trip over anything but my own two feet.

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I crossed the line and instantly stopped. My mind was jumping for joy. I not only had a big PR, but I finished the race without an ounce of anything left! I knew I pushed myself the hardest I could on that day. My body on the other hand, was screaming. My legs felt like they were attached to splints. I hobbled on straight legs through the finish chute, grabbed my blanket, my medal, water, and gatorade. I didn’t even stop my watch since I knew it was way off.

I hobble/hurried back to bag check and grabbed my phone to see my text confirmation.

3:19:02

Overall: 2,563/37,408

Female: 375/17,234

Age Group (18-39): 117/3,414

YESSS!

Just over 6 months ago, my PR was 3:31:04.

When I ran 3:26:06 in Boston on April 20th, I was psyched.

To knock another 7 minutes off that (in semi-cruddy weather, again), I am happy

Beth got a 4 minute PR herself as well, so it’s safe to say we showed Mother Nature who’s boss 🙂

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16 thoughts on “Race Report – Chicago Marathon

  1. Yesssss!!!! Loved reading this and LOVED that you embraced being uncomfortable–I’ve been working on that and Chicago was a pretty good test for me, lol! So inspiring; I hope to run a race like this someday–pushing myself til I have nothing left and snagging a PR 🙂

    It was so great meeting you! ♡

    • Yes – being uncomfortable is SO HARD! But wow does it make the finish line so much sweeter 🙂
      It was great meeting you too! Hopefully we can at another race again sometime soon (and I’ll try not to get lost on the way 😉 )

  2. I have been anxiously awaiting this recap! I am so FREAKING STOKED FOR YOU! This is amazing. You have been knocking down some huge PRs, sister! You ran a smart race. I loved how you said you found yourself drifting from the pacer but reeled yourself back in. Such a smart move and it paid off HUGE. Your training runs with your fast finish miles…just YES. It all came together. I hope you are STILL riding the high from this!!! You ROCK!!!!

    • Thanks Allison! I am still so stoked and fully basking in my new PR 🙂
      I swear the fast finishes were the best idea EVER (and I have you to thank for mentioning them on one of your recaps!), I’m definitely keeping them on the schedule for future training cycles 😀

    • Thank you! I’m so happy it worked out the way it did and I went after it on a warm day.
      Yep – sub 3:15 is my next marathon goal 🙂 I’m thinking of spending this spring (possibly the entirety of next year) focusing on shorter distances though. I’d love to nail some new shorter PRs before focusing on the marathon again.

  3. awesome job! you keep hitting these pr’s like crazy! sorry chicago’s weather didn’t play nicely, but it didn’t seem to slow you down at all! i also realized that you were right next to the 3:20 pacer and that i had a picture of him, so i went back to look at the photo and i can juuuuust make out your hat and compression socks next to him!

    • Thanks Brittney!
      The race day weather was a little warm, but it made for fantastic sightseeing weather the entire time I was there, so I can’t complain too much 🙂
      Ha! I’m glad you’re able to pick me out based on my visor and socks. Thank you Nike & ProCompression 😉

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