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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Race Report: Chicago Marathon

I know! I'm sorry. But the past week at work has been BRUTAL. But anyway... I'm back now and ready to tell the story of my Chicago Marathon...

Everything was perfect. The flight in, Seeing Matt and Maureen on the train, the city, traipsing around on Saturday, meeting up with Liz and heading to the expo, taking a nice evening stroll to Whole Foods to grab dinner and settling back into the hotel around 7pm. Perfect day before a marathon.
On my way back to the hotel Saturday night.

The morning started off perfect, too! Liz and I had no problems getting up and getting ready before the race.

Let's do this!

We headed out of our hotel early, met up with Matt and Melanie, made a stop at the porta potties and then made our way into the corral (which was already closing. Ugh. Kind of a pain).

So... Liz had a time goal for the race and I knew it was going to be hot, so my strategy was Classic Amy: Start off fast with Liz and try to bank some time before it gets hot and miserable. 

And you guys... I was totally psyched up for this race. Like... I don't think I've been that excited about a race in a LONG time. I had no idea what was going to happen. Would I PR? Would I not? I was so giddy and ready to run 26.2 miles in a town that I truly love.

And then the race started. And all my excitement flew out the window.

Yeah. I should have known better. I KNOW that I hate running in crowds. Why did I think that it was going to be any different in Chicago? Ugh. I tried to stay upbeat, but trying to keep up with Liz and dodging people and trying to pass people and going from sprinting around people to almost stopping when you get behind more people... STRESSES ME THE FUCK OUT.

So, around mile 2, I told Liz good luck and tried to just settle down and zone out on my own. Which was a good plan... but OMG the people! Do you have any idea how many people 45,000 is?? I didn't. That's a lot of freaking people. I kept telling myself to let it go. There's nothing to do now but enjoy the run and take it all in.

So, I tried that. And I will say this... if you like crowds... this is your Marathon. Not only the crowds that were running.. but the crowds along the streets. It is truly amazing and even that wasn't lost on me (while I suffered through my own OCD neuroses. Seriously... how could I not being enjoying that marathon? EVERYONE else around me was having the time of their lives and all pumped up and having fun... and I was struggling to get my head into the game and I was barely 3 miles in!).

Finally, at mile 5, I turned my headphones on. And I have to say that quieted my head down a little. But, I was just way too overstimulated. My body felt fine, but my head was just not in the game. It sucked.

Also... umm.. it was kinda warm. I started pouring water on my head at the 2nd water stop. Yeah... that's kinda early to start doing that. I also drank gatorade at every water stop.

Seriously though... you have no idea how amazing the spectators are at this race. THERE ARE SO MANY. And they all have cute signs about Chuck Norris not running a marathon, and signs about how impressive our stamina is, etc. It was really awesome.

Despite how awesome it was.. I still felt like shit. I started slowing down and trying to just enjoy the race. But, it wasn't working.

My first half wasn't too awful by the numbers... But it was mainly just my head giving me problems. Which, sucks.. but I can deal with. Until mile 11.. when I had to use the bathroom. I started feeling it around mile 10, but by mile 11, it was GO time.  At that point, I was like.. okay.. I'll feel better after this and things will pick up. I haven't had to stop to use the bathroom in a race in a LONG time. It sucked. But, my stomach did feel a little better and in general, I felt a little better. For like a mile.

And then my stomach started jacking up again. I hit the half-way point right around 2:20. Which, I'm not going to lie... if you had told me that in the morning before the race, I would have been disappointed, but by this point.. with the sun and the crowds and my head.. I was totally fine with it.

As soon as I crossed the half-way point, I started noticing that I just wasn't feel good in general. My stomach was cramping, I was getting cranky, I was hot and couldn't keep the sweat off my face... it was not pretty.

At mile 16, I saw Melanie and I was so happy to see her, so that I could tell her... "DON'T WAIT FOR ME AT THE FINISH. I feel awful!" She looked good, but said she wasn't feeling too great either... I tried, but there was no way I could keep up with her and so we parted ways about 1 minute after we first saw each other. Haha.

And I hit up the porta potty again. Again, hoping that okay.. I'll use the bathroom and feel better.

No such luck.

At this point, I was stopping to walk. I had stopped sweating and I was starting to feel light headed. Like I couldn't focus.

At mile 18, I took another potty break and I couldn't run after that at all. As soon as I passed the aid station at that mile marker, I regretted my decision. I felt awful. I felt like I was going to puke and/or pass out at any moment.

I started to tell myself that this was going to be my first DNF. And you know what? I didn't even give a shit. All I cared about was getting to the next aid station and quitting.

Finally I got to the aid station that was around mile 19.5. I walked up and stood there (this was my first time to ever stop at an aid tent). Someone approached me and told me to sit down. I sat. I was afraid I was going to puke, right there in front of everyone. I sat there for a few minutes and someone came up to me and started asking me questions. They asked me the date. I didn't know (to be fair... who knows the date on the weekends?). They asked me the who the president was... I couldn't tell him and I started to tear up. The guy didn't have the best bedside manner and he made me feel like I was disappointing him with my answers (or lack thereof). Finally he asked me where I was... CHICAGO MARATHON I was able to muster through tears.

Then he starts asking me how I'm feeling and once he finds out that I hadn't thrown up.. he leaves.

About a minute later he comes back over and hands me a gatorade while announcing to everyone that the shuttle to take people back to the finish line is there and is leaving ASAP. So if you are going to get on the shuttle, you better go now.

I wanted on that shuttle. But honestly, at that point.. I couldnt even get up and walk over there, so I just decided to wait for the next one.

Meanwhile.. everyone else who came into aid station area that has some kind of physical problem got IMMEDIATE attention. They got their own personal PT who stretched them out, they got a thing of ice, etc... and here I am sitting in a chair all by myself. Someone else hands me another cup of gatorade (that was intended for someone who had already left).

Finally another guy comes over to me and starts asking me the same questions... I still don't know the date (it's the weekend PEOPLE), but I do remember the president this time. This guys name was George and he was SUPER awesome. He was attentive and caring and didn't call me "honey" in a condescending snappy tone like the other guy did. He starts filling out some paperwork on me and I'm like... "the first guy already did that" and he asks the guy (the condescending prick guy) and he huffs around and starts looking on a table.. "what's your number, honey?" and he finds it.. CRUMPLED UP. (Seriously? WTF. Way to give up on me asshole).

George is like.. that's okay, I'll just fill out a new one. So he tells me... I want you to see a nurse. So, wait here.

I wait... and wait.. George keeps coming over.. "has a nurse seen you yet?" No.

Finally, he comes back and brings a nurse with him. A lovely woman who is very respectful and asks me how I'm feeling. And honestly.. by this point, I'm feeling much better. My stomach has settled. My head felt better. I'd had 2-3 cups of gatorade and a cup of ice. I'd started plotting what I'd say to that douche bag if he came back over to me again (of course he didn't).  And I asked her.. is it okay if I try to keep going? She tells me to stand up and see how I feel. So, I did... and I didn't feel as well as I thought I would... but I definitely felt better than I did. She tells me to go, but that if I start feeling nauseous again to stop at the next aid station.**

So, I told myself to walk till the next water station and see how I feel... I started feeling better and better. I started sweating a little. And finally by the time I got to the water station, I was feeling good. so I started running... Every step I took, I thought... well, this is one more step than I thought I'd have...

And I just kept feeling better and better... By the time I got to Chinatown (my favorite part of the race), I was starting to get excited again. I realized.. holy shit.. I'm actually going to finish this thing.

I'm sweating again! Hooray!

 I knew my race time was going to be AWFUL. But I didn't care. All I cared about was crossing the finish line. And I knew, that I was going to do that.

I was having fun for the first time in the race. I was enjoying the spectators and I was just enjoying running.

By the last few miles, I was blowing by people... and then finally I could see the finish line...
And after 5:47:31 of running.. I crossed the finish lines and for the first time ever in a race, threw my arms up in glee!!!!
And... I didn't let Father Mike smoke me at the finish. Haha. Sucka!

I was beyond thrilled. I was so sure that I was quitting in the middle of the race.. so the fact that I actually crossed the finish line of my 14th marathon that day was a miracle! And I was stoked!

Final thoughts...

Okay, so... I realize, I had a shitty day. It happens. I also realize that I'm in the minority and I don't like running in crowds... so, if you take these two personal things out of the equation... then I have nothing to say but GREAT things about this marathon. There are ample aid stations and water stations, they had hoses out there and wet sponges to keep us cool. The spectators were the most enthusiastic I've ever seen. Everything was first rate. Really. I can't recommend it highly enough...

But, I will also say.. this is the first and last Chicago Marathon for me. I went in expecting to enjoy the city and the spectators.. but, I can honestly say I've never felt such a disconnect with other runners in a race. Like, there were so many people... that it was like we were all out there on our own. Very strange indeed. I also was so distracted by the crowds (both runners and spectators) that I didn't get to enjoy the city at all. I was bummed about that. I have very few memories of any parts of the city. 

Regardless. It's over and I finished! And I have no bitter feelings towards the race at all. (And I'm so thankful that I didn't get into NYC now. I don't think I could handle two big city marathons that close together).

**I also want to say that the people at the aid station were great. I realize it's a tough job and it's super chaotic and I was just thankful to get any medical attention at all! It's a thankless job and dealing with cranky, hurt, and hot runners can't be easy. I'm sure the one guy that was a total asshole to me (and to others I heard him with) was just having a bad day.. it happens to us all.


LAPT said...

So, my other friend Amy ran this race too. And she HATED THE CROWDS. She got there after her corral closed, she had to jump over the fence, and then she couldn't get away from the crowds until halfway through. She'd planned for a sub-4:00 marathon and finished in 4:30.

Personally, I think I'd like the crowds only because I AM a slow marathoner, but I don't have any large marathon experience. Meh. GOOD JOB FINISHING!

Morgan said...

Yowzers!!!!!!!! What a race!!! Chicago is definitely crowded, I never once didn't have elbows coming for my face but I definitely had the opposite reaction, the crowd fueled my run. Sorry you had a crazy day but I'm so glad you were able to rally and finish! This race will help you in races to come when you remind yourself that you've survived so much worse!

T said...

There is SO MUCH about your experience at Chicago that I can relate to! How the crowds are huge and yet isolating in particular. Last year I finished and went promptly to the medical tent, feeling like you were. They were amazing there, at least - fans for us, and cold compresses on our necks, and soothing nice people talking sweetly to us.

But for the price? Yeah, do a smaller race!

Tanya said...

Great job of smoking Father Mike!

Sorry it kind of sucked...I feel the same way. I ran Chicago once, and that's enough for me. My fave part was running through the tunnel at Wrigley Field (or whatever) because I couldn't really see anyone.

Katie said...

Good lord. I can't believe you got up and finished after that stop! You are made of tough stuff.

That Pink Girl said...

VERY scary! I'm sorry you got so sick. Ad I'm sorry it took a bit for you to get the attention you needed and deserved, but wow woman, you really turned this thing around! Way to perservere through really rough conditions! Congratulations on marathon #14!

Meredith said...

Chicago is a tough race. It's either cold or hot, nothing in between, and yes, it's A LOT of people. Myself, I can zone all that out, but I also enjoy a small quiet marathon too. Enjoy a little downtime and you'll be back fresh in no time.