Sunday, November 04, 2012

Chicago Marathon 2012

Sunday morning arrives. The sun has not yet risen.

I rise to put on my carefully laid out outfit, adding a layer of bodyglide with each article of clothing.

I eat the same breakfast I have every morning - maple brown sugar oatmeal, flax seed and milk.

I run over the race day checklist, carefully checking that each item has been placed into the partcipant bag.

This year, thanks to the cool weather, I am wearing pants, gloves, arm warmers and my Team Universal Sole warm up jacket as I walk out the door.

The streets are quiet. I'm reminded of my very early morning runs in the heat of summer around this time. A wait a few minutes, then board the bus.

Jeff, Brian and I have planned to meet at the Congress Hotel (which on race day functions as the CARA compound) just before 7am.

We meet inside the hotel among the bus of hundreds of CARA shoetag wearing runners.

The line for the bathroom is long, so we head to a special set of porta potties for CARA members in Grant Park. Porta Potties are a hot commodity on race day, and CARA knows all too well what it's runners need!

We drop off our bags at gear check, pack our Gus into our compartmentalized shorts, grab a cup of water and head to our corral.

This year the marathon is using a wave start format. Each runner is placed in a corral based on a past race time (for the faster runners) or estimated finish time (for the average to slower runners). We are in wave 2 which starts at 8am.

As we stand in the corral, I think about how lucky I am to be not sick (like last year) and not injured (like the year before). The three of us make fun of the music being played (Bruce Springsteen's 'Born to Run' pumps people up to run? We don't get it)and talk about the aide station strategy and other miscellaneous small talk as we wait.

We cannot see the start line from where we stand. 7:30, the start time of the first wave, comes and goes. Slowly, the mass of people moves north. We step over piles of clothes and water bottles. Then, in the distance, we see it. The red arch that is the start line.

We cross the start line and start our watches. We're nervous, but excited to get started. We want to warm up and get this show on the road.  The weather is great. Cool with a slight breeze.

Jeff presents a new fact at each mile. Brian and I follow with a comment to Jeff's fact. The only one I remember now is that we all talked about prom. Just goes to show that while running, you talk about everything but.

Jeff and I both have our names taped onto our shirts. People cheer for one of us or both of us. It's encouraging to hear random spectators cheer your name.

As we reached Wrigleyville, Brian decided to slow down a bit and saw us off. Jeff and I both ran in to family and friends around Addison. No matter where family and friends may be on the course, it always proves to be a huge boost to my morale. Instead of the race being about miles to go, it's how far until I see my Mom, or my Dad and brother, or Kim.

We work further south and I see my friend Maggie who's out today, a few months pregnant, with her husband Mike. I look for her on the steps of the Lakeview Athletic Club, but then see them standing on chairs just south of the club by a Jimmy John's. I'm happy to have spotted them.

As we work our way back through the loop and then head west, Jeff and I talk about how we feel. We're approaching the half marathon mark and we both feel pretty good. We thank the cool and overcast weather for letting us conserve much of the energy we're usually using at this point. As we hit 13.1, Jeff comments that we're on pace to run a 4:24. I try not to think about that number. A lot can happen in the next 13.1 miles. But as we continued on through the high teens, we seemed to keep a great pace. Maybe that time wasn't out of reach.

We traveled through the party zone that is Pilsen. Far off the street, I saw two tall men dressed in a combination of Carhardt and camo. They both held Dunkin' Donuts cups in their hands. That had to be my Dad and Dan. I waved and they smiled and waved back. Jeff and I checked in with each other, yep, still feeling pretty good.

Soon 20 miles came in to view. It was around this time that we began making motivating comments to each other. We were both impressed with each other's efforts. Today was (probably) going to be a PR for both of us.

Kim met us around Archer. She's a great coach. She was happy to see we were together and keeping a good pace. We worked our way through Chinatown and Bridgeport.

As we crossed the 33rd street bridge, I saw my Mom, Dave and Sara, then Tricia and Jim not long after. Tricia jumped in with me for a few minutes. She asked how I was feeling, then said I looked great.

Now it was just a matter of finishing the last piece of the south before turning north on Michigan. Here's where I truly started to feel the hurt. My body was done with this experience. But my mind was set on that time. How close could we get to it? What would our excuse be if we slowed down now?

Truthfully, I don't find myself on south Michigan Avenue all too often. But when the course takes me to mile 23 of the marathon, I have 23 blocks of it to take on. They are the longest, toughest, 23 blocks of the race. This year, I try not to focus on the numbered cross streets, starting at 35 and going down to 13 before I reach Roosevelt Road.

Jeff had been looking for a porta-potty for most the race now. We really wanted to stay together, so he said he'd only jump out if he found one with no line. As we finally turned north on Michigan, he pointed off to the right. He said I could go on without him. The porta pottys are positioned at the beginning of an aide station, followed by medical, gatorade, then water. Each aide station is a few blocks long. As the race had progressed, we'd gone from running through the aide stations to power walking the portions where we were drinking and running in between, to a slower version of power walking. As Kim and I reached the end of the water, she asked if I was going to start running. I looked back for Jeff. I didn't see him. I decided I would count to 20, then go. As I reached 20, I started shuffling my feet. At that time, Jeff showed up next to me. This made me very happy. Ok, now we can go!

We kept together and kept pushing. All the way until we were staring the Roosevelt bridge in the face. Then we were running over it and turning the corner. There it was. The finish line. As we turned onto Columbus, Jeff looked over to the spectators and raised his hands to encourage cheer. They return with cheers and call our names.

We both had huge smiles on our faces as we crossed the finish line side by side at 4:32:54. A huge PR for both of us. 

Chicago Marathon 2012 was a huge success.

Thanks, Jeff. Thanks, weather.

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