Thursday, May 2, 2013

Illinois Marathon Race Recap

I have ran the Illinois Marathon 3 years in a row.  In many aspects, each year has been very different from the previous.  Fitness level, pace, over all time, approach to the race, the weather.  All varied greatly.  This year has turned out to be the most ideal marathon.

The weather was wonderful!  Previous years was very cold and windy.  Waiting at the start line was miserable.  When I left the hotel I had on a light sweater.  A sweater that I should have thrown away years ago so no big deal if I ditched it once we got going.  The craziness of getting to the start line left me worked up and warm so as soon as I stepped into the corral I took off my sweater.  All I wore was a tank top, a running skirt and compression socks.  I was never cold and didn't need anything more or anything less during my run.  The temperature was upper 50's when we started, it climbed to mid 60's by time we finished.  There was little to no wind the whole race.  The sun was shining bright, I even had a faint tan line on my back.

We left the hotel with plenty of time, but a snafoo with traffic got us parked, out of the van & headed toward to start line later than we wanted.  We almost thought we'd miss the start of the race.  In some ways that is not a big deal.  The race is chipped timed.  Doesn't matter what the clock says when you start/finish, it only matters when you actually cross those sensors.  I still felt flustered and frustrated when time was ticking and we were sitting in backed up traffic just 2 blocks from the parking lot & start line.  I probably could have jumped out of the van and yelled "see ya later" to my girlfriends, they would have understood.  I was trying to not freak out and get all caught up in the moment.  I kept telling myself to relaaaaax!

Of course, everyone had their own goal for the race.  Besides myself, my running partner and her sister was doing the full marathon.  They wanted to PR and have a good race (which they both accomplished), but ultimately they just wanted to finish.  They had no ambitions of running a BQ time.  My other friend and her sister were running the half marathon.  It was her sisters first half and she was pacing her & along for support.  I'm in no way implying that my BQ goal is better or more important, but I certainly had this idea of how my perfect race day was going to look like. Getting to the start line late was not in that ideal.  Already that morning I couldn't find my Sport Beans and about had a meltdown over it in the hotel.  Thankfully my friend saved the day by having an extra bag & giving them to me!  Typically in life I am very laid back about the flow of things, but running/racing is completely different.  I am very particular with pre-race rituals and what not.  However since I was traveling with friends I wasn't going to become some crazy psycho over such details.   Plus we had not yet taken a group picture.  Another ritual I did not want to forgo.

(I'm on the far right, next to my running partner)

Once we were out of the van we decided to hit the porta potties.  Very important!!  The line was looooong and again I was anxious of the fun going off while I stood in line.  I was the only one from our group doing a bag check, so we split up at that point and I went to drop off my bag.  Once I dropped my bag & was a tad away from the main point of the start line I saw that Assembly Hall was practically deserted.  I know from previous years that indoor bathrooms are in there.  I took the chance that I could get in and out of there quickly instead of waiting in line for a nasty, stinky porta potty.  My chance paid off, I was in and out there in no time and heading to the start line.  I was about 200 yards away when I heard the gun go off and the first coral took off.  I was assigned to the second corral and I had just enough time to run up, throw off my sweater, jump in the corral and our wave started.

When I took off I went with the general pace of others around me.  No sense trying to speed ahead and getting around people.  The pace felt right at what I wanted anyway, not too fast, not too slow.  After the first mile I felt myself picking up pace and passed the 3:35 pace sign.  My plan had been to use the pace signs to help judge where I was going to finish. I am a little skeptical of those pacers.  I have been in races where they are right on and other races where they are not.  Often when it comes to pace groups they are a big mass of people sticking together.  I try to avoid those.  I didn't want to settle into the 3:35 pace anyway so I picked things up to get around them and have them well behind me.  I then kept my eyes peeled for the 3:30 sign.  I caught up to them right at the 10k mark.  I was very excited to have caught up with them and felt great at the time which helped me pass them and pull ahead & leave them behind.  I never did see any other pace signs/groups.  While it would have been awesome to catch up to 3:25 or 3:20 I was confident just being ahead of 3:30.

I cruised along with the miles.  They went by quickly and I felt great.  I probably could have survived a faster pace, but was mindful that I had a lot of miles to cover.  I in no way wanted a great first half or even first 20 miles and then slow to a much slower speed.  I took fluid whenever it was offered.  Gatorade and/or water was offered it seemed like every mile or two.  They have great aid stations for this race.  I remember passing the half way mark still feeling great, I even remember a song playing that I be-bopped to and even conducted a little while I ran.  (That's talent there peeps, conducting a song while running!!) 

A few miles later, around mile 15 my left hamstring began to bother me a little.  Nothing major, just feeling a little burn.  Typically those nudges help me to be extra mindful of my form.  When I get tired I can get lazy with proper form, foot strike, etc.  Something little can turn into something big after several miles.  The more miles that passed the more I began to feel worn down, tired and my hamstring was beginning to burn a lot more.  Mile 18 is when I felt like I really began to struggle.  I felt like I was really slowing down and it became hard to keep going.  I don't run with a watch, but do run with my phone that has a running app that will tell me my pace.  I have a general rule though that once I start it goes in my belt and I do NOT look at it.  It's tempting to see how fast I was/wasn't going, but I resisted and just focused on running to the best of MY ability, not some clock. 

Runners that I had passed a few miles earlier were now passing me.  Most of them I still kept in sight.  It's always good to pick a person out and keep them in your sight!  One person was a girl that had a pacer sign on her back that said 3:35.  Now I hadn't looked at my running app to check on my time or pace, etc., but I had a really good feeling that I had not fallen that far back.  At least I really, really hoped not.  Otherwise I was in trouble.  The more I saw her right in front of me the more I just wanted to go up and rip that sign off her back.  It bugged me!  If you are going to wear that sign stick to it and if not take it off. Anyway, personal rant.

I felt like things were picking back up again at about mile 20, but then I saw the 3:30 pacer pass me.  Crap!  Still nothing to get worked up about, I had told myself 3:30 to give me a very generous lead on my BQ time.   And I was questioning his pace anyway, which I now know he was ahead on.  There was a clock at mile 20, I saw that I was at 2:40ish.  Based on that I knew I would BQ even if I slowed quite a bit.  I still didn't want to gamble it though.  It wasn't permission to slack off, just maybe not worry so much about hitting my base goal.  Somehow I missed the sign for mile 23, which made for a long gap in which I worried that I was really slowing down or missed the sign.  I was so relieved when I saw the mile 24 sign knowing I had only missed the sign.  I also took a wrong turn.  I had just taken some Gatorade, was running along the side drinking (another great talent, I don't walk to drink, I drink on the go) and when I reached the corner I crumpled up my cup and threw it the ground.  I didn't even look up I just followed the curb around and kept going.  It only took me 10 steps or so to realize there was no one in front of me.  No runners, no spectators.  I turned around, look over my shoulder and saw a volunteer waving his arms at me & pointing the other direction.  Good thing I was paying attention, although I'm sure they would have come after me.  They saw me go the wrong direction and probably even yelled right away, I just didn't hear it.

The last 2 miles were a mix of I can't take another step, I can't keep up this pace & you are almost done, you got this!!!!  I knew the faster I ran, the sooner I would finish and could stop.  I had up to this point not walked or stopped in any way, shape or form.  As a general rule, I never stop, not even to go to the bathroom.  I kept pushing myself, but restrained from going all out too soon.  Once I hit the tunnel I sprinted and went all out.  Once on the field I could see the clock.  It showed 3:32ish as I pumped it up even more, I wanted to cross before the clocked turned to 3:33.  I was completely exhausted and yet full of excitement as I finished.  I started to cry.  I knew I had beat my BQ time with some change to spare, was even pretty sure I had hit 3:30.  I was so proud of myself!!

Since this is long enough, I will wrap things up for today.  I plan to come back tomorrow and finish up with an ending post to recap some other little, but important details.


  1. So proud of you Carmen!! I relate to SO MANY things that you feel on the run.

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