Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Hooray for Wedensday!

Val’s Marathon Monday post had me reminiscing about when I ran the Chicago Marathon last year. Since I practically wrote a novel of a comment on her blog (sorry!), I thought I’d take some time to gush write some more about my experience!

I signed up for the Chicago Marathon for a few reasons 1) I knew I wanted to run another marathon 2) I wanted to improve my time (Chicago is known for being a flat and fast marathon) 3) I like running in October and 4) I had never been to Chicago before. Good reasons, no?

I arrived on Saturday morning and checked into the Hostelling International Chicago, adjacent to Grant Park. It was a perfect place to stay – clean, $30 something a night and you could practically see the start line from the hostel! Since it’s so cheap and close to the start, tons of runners choose to stay there. Another perk – free pasta dinner :)

After checking in, I took the subway over to the Convention Center for packet pick-up. OH MY. This was by far the largest and most organized packet pick-up I’ve ever been to! Smack dab in the middle of it all was the Nike store where I ended up buying a couple of t-shirts (I got a Chicago Quick Chick dri-fit tee and a Run it Chicago Style T-shirt for Jamie). I also took note that they would be selling finisher gear post race. I’m such a sucker.

On my way back to the hostel, I remember thinking it was surprisingly warm that weekend and that I didn't pack properly. I was rocking a fleece and t-shirt on the plane - CLEARLY too warm for the fleece! I made a brief pit-stop on the way back to the hostel to scope out the start/finish area (here's my nerdy shot of the day). I kept telling myself it'll be cooler in the morning, don't worry about it! Ha!

It ended up being cool-ish in the morning, but not cool enough - let's just say I was wearing a tank top and capris and wasn't the least bit cold. I watched the sunrise and walked over to join the 5 hour Nike pace group. I was nervous I wouldn't be able to keep up with them since I slacked off BIG TIME on my training (we're talking doing only 5 or 6 of my long runs and the last two were run/walks). The pacers were great - super energized and organized. They introduced themselves and briefed us on the plan for the race (basically walk through the waterstops). I really should have listened and stuck with the group instead of zooming ahead...I probably would have been able to finish closer to 5 hours.

The 2008 race was the first year they implemented the Event Alert System. We started the race off with a yellow warning flag (Green = good; Yellow = less than ideal conditions; Red = potentially dangerous conditions; Black = race shut down). The pacers were a little concerned that it would get significantly hotter throughout the morning and that the race would get cancelled, but we still pushed on!

Once the gun went off, I started getting those fun butterflies in my stomach and was anxious to cross the start line. It was a SPECTACULAR course - a running tour of Chicago's neighborhoods! I got into a nice 11 minute groove and soaked in the sights and spectators. There was such great crowd support from people giving out water and oranges to spraying hoses and blasting music. I can't think of one spectator-less spot on the course!

I was feeling good and running strong despite the increasing temperatures. I remember seeing a bank sign with the temperature somewhere around the halfway mark and it read 90-something degrees. HOLY HOTNESS! By the time I got to Mile 15 or 16, they had changed from yellow to a red warning flag. AGH! The only thing that kept running through my mind was 'They better not shut this course down on me! Not when I'm past the halfway mark!'

When we got to Pilsen (Miles 19 - 21), I heard a TON of screaming spectators and thumping music. It was EXACTLY what I needed at that point. I think that's when the heat started to get to me and my mind started to give up. The music and crowds gave me that extra burst of energy :) It was also at this point where I knew I needed to listen to my body for the rest of the's never cool to push yourself too hard in such intense heat.

They weren't kidding when they said the course was as flat as a pancake, and my legs definitely appreciated that! The last couple of miles were a straight shot up Michigan Avenue - flat and lots of room. This was when I started to notice a lot of people starting to walk and drop out. SO CLOSE TO THE FINISH! That's the worst! Have you ever seen people walking or dropping out of a race and gotten tired/felt like stopping too? I'm convinced it's like a domino effect.

I chugged on through (though much slower than I started) and was actually talking to myself saying 'Only one more mile. You can do this. You've done this. Just one more mile.' And then I saw it - the last turn until the finish - when someone near me said 'Yep, just UP THE HILL to the finish.' WHAAAAT? Sneaky!

IT WAS AALLL WORTH IT :) I didn't make it under 5 hours (that's my goal for Marine Corps this year), but I DID cut 7 minutes off my first marathon time. Not bad considering my poor training (not that you should EVER slack on the marathon training). Plus, I bought my new favorite fleece! I wear this sucker everywhere. I love that it's pretty basic and there aren't any obnoxious logos/designs anywhere. It has a front pouch with a mini iPod pocket (not made for my ancient one) and mitten-y sleeves! I think the sleeves are my favorite part of the whole fleece. It's like little pockets for your hands inside the sleeves. Genius!

Chicago is totally my favorite race by far...I definitely recommend it to first time or even veteran marathoners! Such a great experience :) So great that I think I want to run it again next year!

Ok, sorry for that really gushy/long post! I'll leave you with tonight's salad creation:
Arugula, artichokes, mozzerella, roasted red pepper, chick peas, cucumber, grape tomatoes, chicken (canned, just because it was there) and sun-dried tomatoes.


Anonymous said...

yummy salad! Perfect for today's weather..wasn't it freaking HOT today?
and wow...reading about your experience just strengthened my dream to run a marathon one day!

MarathonVal said...

Thanks for the blog shout-out Karena! ;) I loved hearing about your experience... especially since you had a "better" experience than I did with Chicago! That's great you are doing the Marine Corps, my cousin did that one and loved it. Supposedly it has one of the best crowds, even better than Chicago, they say! Remind me - are you using the Hal Higdon program?

Mia {runs and rests} said...

Oh why do I always get goosebumps reading about race posts? :P
Marathon, the word even sounds so strong!

MarathonVal said...

PS, on my next posting (Thursday morning) I'm going to put a link to your most recent marathon blog :)

Morgan said...

Thanks for stumbling on to my page and leaving me some luv! I love your blog (officially a follower now) and I SO NEEDED TO READ THIS POST!!! Was it fate that you blogged about Chicago today? Because I'm training for Chicago RIGHT NOW! :) I can't wait! There are so many people doing Marine Corp this year (including my friend Crazy B) and I think I'm going to have to put it on next year's agenda! :) Keep up the great running girl!

Jill Will Run said...

That salad sounds wonderful, many of my favorite things!

Great description of the race, makes me want to run Chicago now! Maybe someday!

Thanks for stopping by my site and sharing your thoughts on Nuun!

Julia said...

Hi! I just found your blog! Sounds like you had a great race; it made me super excited to start my marathon training! Reading about races always gets me motivated! I can't wait to read more!

Melinda said...

You make the prettiest salads! I need to have one today - add in some greens :)

Karena said...

Glad everyone enjoyed reading about my Chicago Marathon experience...I definitely enjoyed reminiscing :)