Monday, October 12, 2015
Chicago 26.2: A recap of #10
I had a very different mindset coming into this race than I did last year in Chicago. Last year I was aiming for a PR and walked away without it. (I can't even go back and think about that because it will make me cry.) This year, I knew that a PR wasn't going to happen and and pretty much had expected that. I knew I'd be okay if I finished this race under 4:45. With the feelings of perpetual leg fatigue most of training, putting on ten pounds out of nowhere (stop telling me its muscle from training cause its not), and the whole bladder issue, I knew this wasn't going to be my best race. I also however, did not expect it to be one of my worst. And that sucks. It really fucking sucks.
Leading up to race day I was a ball of nervousness and excitement, as per usual. I was worried about chafing, cramping, and my bladder pain. Oh yeah, and the nice little cold I caught on Wednesday from all my coughing and sniffling students. Grrr... I was excited to run the streets of Chicago and actually see my hard work play out. I landed in Chicago Thursday night and relaxed. Friday morning I laid around the house and watched a ton of TV. It was awesome. Then my mom and I headed to the expo like we always do. As soon as I got my bib, the tears started flowing from the both of us. Whenever my mom doesn't do a race with me and we go to the expo together, she always gets that "I should have done it" feeling and it makes her upset. I get that. Totally. For me, my tears were pure anxiousness. After we had a solid cry, we walked around the expo checking out all the booths and trying for me to get a good picture of me and my race bib. Of course for every 87 pictures I take, I only like one. Blah. We bought headbands at Sparkly Soul and I bought two magnets. Those were our only purchases. There was this amazing electric massager but at $200 I couldn't pull the trigger to buy it. They also had a bunch of really nice official race gear at Nike, Brooks, New Balance and North Face, but I always hate buying race gear because I feel it jinxes the race. I wish they had a flash sale the day after the marathon with everything else. I mean, what do they do with the stuff they don't sell??? Someone find out and let me know. K, thanks.
After the expo, we stopped over at one of my friend's house than grabbed Lou Malnatis on the way home and relaxed. Saturday I woke up early and did my two mile shake-out run. It was probably the best run I have had in a while and my legs felt great and my head decently clear. After taking obscene amounts of ginger and Vitamin C, my cold was almost out the door. Phew. For the rest of the day, I pretty much laid around the house, watched football with my dad, ran an errand or two, and just relaxed. My parents had a wedding that night so my dad cooked me pasta and meat sauce before my parents left for the night. I was asleep by 10:15 that night and slept pretty well.
Race day morning I was up at 5:30 and my mom drove me into the city. She was nice enough to get up early and take me to the city. (Thank you mama!!) I met up with a friend from NYC and we walked to the start corrals together. We had about an hour to kill so we basically used it waiting in the porta lines, going to he bathroom, and then getting back in the lines. That literally took us the entire time. When we got into the corral, it still hadn't totally hit me I was running a marathon. I was glad to have my friend to help not totally stress out and panic. Right before the gun went off, I had the feeling I had to pee again. But after going twice in the portas I assumed it was just nerves. Once that gun went off, it was time to run. And not stop until I crossed that finish line. After the whole debacle with my Garmin lying to me last year, I knew not to trust it. And the fact that it said I was running a 7:48 minute mile by mile two (which the watch said I was at 2.5 miles), I knew not to trust it so I just flipped it to the time and kept running by feel. My friend and I stayed together the first 10k and then she pulled ahead and kept going. I was feeling okay (except I really did have to pee) and just kept telling myself put one foot in front of the other and I'd get to the finish. I really didn't feel like I was running the Chicago Marathon. It just felt like another race; it was strange.
I knew I would have some friendly faces along the way and would probably see others randomly that I knew so looking at the crowds for familiar faces kept me busy. Many strangers were cheering me on along the way which I love. Even though these Chicago crowds do not hold a candle to the NYC Marathon crowds, they were pretty good. As I was approaching the halfway point, I knew it was slower than usual and I really don't know why, but I was happy because I knew I'd see my parents super soon. Right after the half marathon mile marker, I saw them with their signs and I was so happy they were there. I was still feeling okay at this point. Knowing I have people at certain mile markers makes me keep going. It really is helpful. At this point though, I was starting to get nauseous because I had to pee so bad. I have never had to stop to use the bathroom during a race ever and always told myself I would just pee in my pants if I had to go bad enough. I kept looking down alley's for places to pop a squat and there were many portas along the route but I didn't want to waste the time waiting in line and going. Plus, pulling spandex down and then having to pull them back up when all sweaty and with tight legs is a major struggle. By mile 15 though, I couldn't wait anymore. My full bladder was making me so uncomfortable that at the next stop I saw there was no line so I ran in the porta, peed, and ran out. I maybe lost 60-90 seconds but the relief I felt afterwards was worth it. I didn't feel nauseous anymore and I felt my speed pick up a bit. But then, I felt a slight twinge in my right calf. It was way too early for this shit to start so I thought it was just nothing and shrugged it off. Soon, I was approaching mile 16 where my brother and sister-in-law would be. They had a sign and were cheering loud and I was so happy to see them. (My sister-in-law also captured a great picture of me during the race!) This is when things started to go downhill. Right before the mile 17 marker, both calves started to go crazy. Charliehorses over and over again. This was too early for this to happen. Way too early. I had done an 18 and two 20-mile training runs without any cramping. Why was this happening? It was not okay. As the cramping got worse and more frequent, I stopped to stretch out my calves on a wall. This was one of the many times I would have to do this for the last nine miles.
I knew I had to get to mile 22 where my parents would be again, but it was a struggle to get there. I had to do a combo walk-run that whole time. The pain was intense and very frequent. I had been drinking the water and the gatorade and taking my gels. I also had half a banana at this point too and it didn't help at all. At mile 21, it got so bad, I started crying. I had to pull over to a wall again, hysterically crying to stretch. A very nice lady who was about my mom's age, who was spectating came over to see if I was okay. I appreciated that and told her I was okay and I kept going again. I was hobbling because of the spasms but kept at it. By now, the 4:40 pace group was passing me and I all I knew now was I wanted to finish before five hours and I wasn't so sure if this would even be a reality if I had to keep walking. If I was to finish in over five hours, I don't even know what would happen to my mental state. To add to the stress of this, I had no idea of my time either because my stupid Garmin died. It was fully charged in the morning so this was unacceptable. This watch should last at least a marathon so they will be getting an email from me about this! You better believe that.
When I finally saw my parents at mile 22, I was hysterical. My dad gave me more water and I just kept going. There were only four miles left and I had to do it. Every time I picked up speed, it my calves would cramp. On its own, this was frustrating, but what was more frustrating was that my legs actually felt good. They didn't feel tired. There was no quad cramping issues like last year and they seemed like they could keep going. My stupid calves were angry. So very angry at me. My parents were going to be at mile 26 again and I was able to run very slowly through mile 25 and get to 26. I saw them one final time and at this point I knew I was in the home stretch. I started crying again because I knew the end of this was near and this made it hard to catch my breath. Anyone who knows the Chicago course knows that the last .2 miles of the course is uphill. I got halfway up the hill and had to walk for about a minute to compose myself and then started running again. My calves spasmed the entire straightaway and I hobbled my way across that finish line. It was something I have never had to do before. But, luckily I finished. And I did it in under five hours. I always knew that not finishing was not an option. My official time was almost a full half hour longer than my PR (that's almost a minute per mile slower). This was a hard pill to swallow. However, this finish was one I really had dig deep for. I don't know if I had ever had give so much of myself in anything. Ever. For 9 miles I dug and dug and reached for something that I knew was mine. This is the kind of stuff people talk about when they talk about marathoners. There really is something special there. It takes a certain kind of person to do that. I know I have that mindset and I pride myself on that. I know I should be proud of myself, but I also know I am capable of more. Of being better. And this I can't shake at the moment. (I also can't shake the horribly unflattering picture I actually posted post race. How did I not notice how gross it was? The wind blew my shirt very awkwardly and it makes me look like I have an innertube stomach and a FUPA. Which I don't have! I know this shouldn't bother me, but it does. How did I miss that?!?! Not okay.)
This race just wasn't my race. And that happens. It was my third worst time ever and probably the most pain I've ever been in running. Even running two marathons in the span of three weeks last year, I had better times than this. I just don't get it. I don't know what happened. I don't want to dwell on it, but it's hard. As I sit here on the couch this morning writing this post, I have tears running down my face and my calves are still very, very sore. Like the most sore I've ever been post-marathon. But there is a reason I keep doing this. There's something there for me. Lately it's been disappointment in this arena, but I like the discipline, commitment, dedication, and pride that goes along with it too. And this keeps me going. I know I have the ability to be better and that one bad race can't deter me from trying again. But for now, its time to take a week or so off from running and get my head back in the game. Thanks to everyone for the kind words and the support leading up to the race and afterwards. You knew how important this was to me and continued to stick around with all my crazy. Get ready to do it all again next year.