Oh yeah, it was also the date to motivate.
Two years ago, I arrived in Chicago to tackle my second marathon. I arrived alone and unprepared, but surprisingly excited to take on the challenge. My training was horrible that summer - I lacked the discipline and motivation to properly train (I ended up only doing a handful of long runs). I don't even think I made it to 18 that summer. Terrible. In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have run that year. The only thing that got me out there was the fact that I had already paid for my registration ticket and hostel!
Flash forward to the present. I signed up for this year's Chicago Marathon for a few reasons:
- I'm a nerd and get excited at the idea of running on 10.10.10
- I kept reading about other bloggers signing up and it made me want to run it again
- It's flat, it's fast and I was determined to finally drop my marathon time to under 5 hrs.
I think they're pretty good reasons, don't you?
I was determined to redeem myself during this year's race. I was sure the hill training and extra speed would pay off.
I woke up wired race day morning and headed out for my 3/4 mi walk to the start. I threw on a trusty pullover since, you know, dark mornings usually mean a slight chill in the air, right? Wrong. Had to be a least 65 at 6:30am. Wruh-wroh!
Checked my gear and weaved my way to the giant blue 4:45 Nike pacer sign. I had hoped to meet up with Val since we were planning to run around the same pace, but of course we were wearing the colors everyone else decided to wear. D'oh!
I ended up getting trapped in the massive crowd at the start, but I told myself to chill out and just stick with my pace tattoo. I could find the pacers later. The first 1/4 mile or so zoomed by...next thing I knew we were zipping past my hotel (ha!) and nearing the first mile mark.
One minute ahead of pace. Calm down.
I felt like I finally hit a comfortable pace around mile 2...not too fast, just a smidge faster than a comfortable jog. Enh. I was now hitting my splits consistently...4 min ahead of my pace band. I'm sure anyone running near me from miles 1-6 could hear me chanting "calm the f down. Keep a steady pace." O yeah, I was talking to myself.
I kept this up for the first 16 miles...teetering between 3 and 4 min ahead of pace. I was running strong and steady and felt like I could maintain this speed for awhile. All of a sudden between 16 and 17, it hit me. The sun, the heat, defeat. I finally hit a split. Then I watched everything go downhill. I went from hitting my splits to 1 min slow to 2 min slow, to I stopped paying attention.
I want that puppy.
Nerves/hypochondria set in and I started taking sips of Gatorade and water at every aid station. I stepped my pace back big time and focused on what my body sounded like. Breath (huffing and puffing or calm?), heartbeat (pounding or not?). My brain went into overdrive. Why? I've been here before. I know how to run in the heat. (o yeah, that was chant number 2) I guess I was just super freaked out that I wasn't prepared. And I was bummed I wasn't going to meet my goal. The goal I had trained all summer for.
Around mile 21 in Chinatown, I looked up and saw part of my cheering section! My brother and his girlfriend drove down from Ann Arbor to cheer (slash hang w/their friends in town, obvs) and snagged an awesome spot along the median. Woo!
I got a burst of energy soon after that. Maybe it was the crowd, or the giant pink dragons, or Jamie was sending good vibes from the crowd (even though I didn't see him), or perhaps it was Chariots of Fire blasting as we turned a corner. Yeah. Could have been that. Haha.
At some point during all this (I have no idea when because I must have blocked it out) the event level went from yellow (less than ideal) to red (potentially dangerous). Seriously Chicago, cut a girl a break! This was like a repeat of 2008!
I struggled through to 22, telling myself that I had to make it to the Redhead and her awesome cheering skills! I think I ended up missing the Redhead by 20 min or so and decided it was finally time for a pee break. Guess all those liquids finally got to me. HA.
Not the best idea since I watched all my energy go down the hole. I left that porta potty surprisingly drained of all energy and I didn't think it was possible to go any further. At mile 23, I had mentally given up. I'll admit it, I also turned into a giant baby and had a silent boo hoo session as I shuffled along.
I knew there was no way I was going to make my goal of 4:45 so I reassessed and decided I just wanted to come in under 5 hours. Slow and steady. Drink and walk through the water stops.
The last few miles were tough and they seemed to drag on forever. More chanting took place along the way...this time it was more like me yelling at myself. I knew I could finish. I had done it 3 times before. I knew I could run in the heat. It was all I ever trained in. Why was this so difficult?
Next thing I knew I was 800m from the finish (hallelujah!) and I knew that little speed bump was coming up. Muahahaha. The speed bump I refused to let beat me. Charged it through to the finish...4:57. Done.
I have mixed feelings about this race. I'm happy I shaved 13 minutes off my PR and that I finally dipped below 5 hours. I trained properly this time. I ran 14 minutes faster than 2008. I got my redemption.
I know there's no such thing as a perfect race or perfect conditions, but I can't help but wonder what if the heat didn't get to me. What if I stuck with my pace band?
Meh. What ifs are no fun. There's always next time...