Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Chicago Marathon 2016 Race Report

When I posted last time I didn't expect it to turn into a 2 part series.  I also didn't expect it to be over a week before I had a chance write up the second part.  Sorry to leave you all hanging.  Actually, I'm also aware that I left you all hanging about Howl at the Moon too and I'll be honest, too much time has passed and too much has happened to even go back and try and finish that post. Which makes it even more important to get this Chicago race report down & in the books.  While this year wasn't my first Howl and I doubt it'll be my last, this year's Chicago will be it for a really long time.  That I am fairly certain of.

As reported before I was dreading this race for so many reasons.  Of the few good things I was looking forward to was the fact that we had a friendly, comfort of home place to stay the night before the race.  I have nothing against hotels, but when it comes to an already costly race, adding the additional expense of lodging is not what we find ideal.  Plus, with our busy lives and schedules, when we can work in a visit with a friend while traveling to a race then it's nice to kill 2 birds with 1 stone.  So, on Saturday night after I was done coaching my team we headed to the suburbs to stay with a good friend.  We didn't do much besides visit, prep for the next morning and get a good nights sleep.

Sunday morning we were up and on the road heading into the city by 6 a.m.  We didn't want to make multiple trips to and from so even the kids were dragged up and out the door with us.  Only 3 of our kids were able to make the trip, which actually made things easier.  After having many years of traveling with 6 kids, it always seems easier when we have less kids with us.  And as the kids are getting older, it's just a reality we face.  This was, however, the first time we've ever traveled as a family to one of my races.  In the past it's always been just my husband Jim & I going to a race.  Sometimes he'd race, other times he'd be there to support me.  I don't know if we'll continue to do the family thing or not, but since this was Chicago and so close to home it seemed like a good chance to do this as a family,  Plus, it's about time I show my kids the fun and excitement that these big races bring.  I never had such exposure to anything like this growing up and I don't want to completely shut my kids out of this process either.
Heading into the city

Traffic going is was pretty light and fast.  We were planning on it taking 50-60 minutes to get me to my race spot, but I was there and dropped off in 40 minutes flat after leaving my friends house.  Getting into the city as no problem.  Once in, it was a little more tricky trying to get me as close as possible to the start.  We had to take a few U turns and long ways around, but eventually we were in an area that I knew was somewhat close to the start and I saw many other runners so I hopped out and started following the crowd.  Since this was the first time I was doing this race there was a big internal sense of "I have no clue where I'm going or what I'm doing", but I'm a believer of fake it till you make it and I eventually found my way to where I needed to go.

Gear drop off was no problem, easy to find, easy to handle.  I was expecting the temps to be a little cooler than what it was and had packed plenty into my bag.  I was planning on meeting up with my family right after, but I'm definitely guilty of being a "what if" worrier.  So, what if it was pretty chilly when I finish?  What if I can't find my family?  I'm going to be wet (from sweat) and cold.  In hindsight it was likely a little left over worry from when it was SO COLD at Boston and how I had under dressed and was under prepared for that finish.  I also had worn throw away sweats to the start, but even though there was a little chill in the air, it wasn't that cold and I ended up putting my throw away stuff into my gear drop bag.  Chicago definitely gives you a really big bag to put plenty in to and the bag is very functional and easy to handle before and after the race.

Right as I was dropping my gear I could hear them announcing that the first wave or corrals was going to be closing in 5 minutes and they were urging us to get into our corral.  I really had to pee, but the lines to the porta potties were sooooo long.  I was ready to just hold it, but then saw a hedge of bushes.  I'm a firm believer when you gotta go you gotta go.  And living in a house with 6 kids, do you think I'm used to a ton of privacy?  No.  So problem solved and my bladder was feeling so much better.  I was ready to get to the start.

In my corral, waiting to start.

I was in corral D and in the first wave to start the race.  Since I waited until the last minute before they shut that gates, I didn't have to stand around too much.  We waited through the formality of them announcing all the elite runners and the national anthem and before we knew it the race was off.  Except in a race this big and being in the back half of the wave, it took about 10 minutes of slowing walking forward for us to actually get to the start line.  It was certainly crowded, but not overly crowded.  The weather was also near perfect.  The temps were in the low 60's, which after warmer than usual temps the week right before, felt perfect!!  The sun was shining bright and I felt extremely comfortable in just capris, a tank top and arm warmers.  I actually didn't need the arm warmers, but it wasn't bothering me to keep them on so I left them.

Once I was past the start line & officially running I just moved as my body allowed.  I was definitely very slow and hesitant, waiting and worried for that deep intense pain that I had experienced in previous weeks.  One very good thing about this race course is that it is packed with people.  That meant a lot of cheering, screaming supporters and a lot of funny good signs along the way.  I served as a very good distraction.  Not to mention with the streets cleared of traffic it provided a different view to be running down the middle of the streets and take in the sights and sounds of Chicago.  It was an experience and a view of the city that I've never had before.  This helped pass the time, kept me distracted and before I realized it I was enjoying myself and having a really good time.

At some points it was too much to take in, which allowed me to focus in on the actually running.  By mile 6 I realized that I wasn't having any of the bad awful pain I was expecting.  In fact, I felt really REALLY good.  Between it all I almost felt like it was too good to be true.  Upon further thought though it made me realize that deep down inside I am truly made for this kind of running.  I've been so focused on many injuries and pain that I haven't been able to actually enjoy my running for almost a year now.  Since I felt so good I decided to speed up and continue to enjoy this race to the fullest.

As previously mentioned there were many great spectators and signs along the way.  I was snapping some pictures along the way, but couldn't possibly get every good sign I saw.  Most of them made me laugh.  If you have no idea what I mean, just google marathon signs and plenty will pop up.  I was also fortunate to see my family twice along the way.  Both times I ran right past them, but they had seen me & yelled out.  It was fun and very nice to have them there to cheer me on!

I was also able to find another young lady whom we are good friends with her parents.  She had mentioned that she would be at mile 11 so when I passed that spot I looked for her.  Except I didn't see her.  I was really looking!  It's kind of a gamble finding someone in such a crowd.  The entire street is filled with runners and there are hundreds of thousand of spectators on EACH side.  For some reason my gut was telling me to stick to the left and after I passed mile 11 I decided I'd still keep looking for her.  It paid off and I ran practically right up to her!!

I'm sure you can tell from the big smiles on my face that I was in fact having a really good time.  My running was much better than I expected.  Again I realized that I was just defaulting to natural basic instinct.  Take away all the details and elements and man I can run.  God put this love, passion and ability to run into every fiber of my body.  I was BORN to run!!  The miles ticked off one by one, I was having fun and really enjoying every aspect of this race.  I was even on pace at one point to finish sub 4 hours.  I had no solid goal for where I wanted to finish.  I had mentally prepared myself for 5-6 hour finish.  But, I'll be honest, finishing sub 4 hours was a very nice thought, especially with my lack of training.

I had a solid group of friends and family who I know were specifically lifting me up in prayer, which I have no doubt helped carry me through this race.  Although I should also mention that I was popping extra strength Tylenol & Alleve like candy.  I did a lot of other common sense things to keep me going.  This race lacked nothing when it comes to support so I had plenty of water, Gatorade, energy gels & bananas to keep me running strong.  Eventually though at mile 20 everything began to catch up with me.  I was beginning to feel like slowing down.  I kept pushing though.  I knew if I slowed down or stopped that I would have a hard time getting going again.  I could see my sub 4 slipping away from me, it was going to be close though.  At mile 24 I completely hit the wall.  I slowed to a shuffle and no matter how hard I tried I just felt like I was sloshing through mud.  When I had reach mile 24 I had actually been thinking of my cross country team & since they race 2 miles I wanted those last 2 miles to be for them.  Our team motto is KEEP MOVING FORWARD!  So it seemed fitting that when I struggled the most I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other and get to the finish line.

Those last 2 miles seemed the longest, but I finally rounded the corner to the finish line.  My finish time was 4:09:46.  I was so happy to be done I burst into happy tears.  I've teared up before when finishing a marathon, but this time I actually cried and let a few big crocodile tears roll down my cheeks.

Shortly after I finished. 

I threw on my shirt after picking up my bag.  I'm a little particular when it comes to wearing a race shirt.  I very rarely will wear it until AFTER I've finished.  It's an honor to be able to wear it.  The lead up to the race wasn't ideal, but the race itself was a big success.  All things considered this was a great & memorable race.  It may still be a long time before I decide to run this race again, but it has a special place in my heart!!!!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Getting back on track

I am this close *pinching my fingers together* to having my full Chicago race report ready to post.  I Promise!  However.....

It's been 2 weeks now since my running of the Chicago Marathon.  Recovery has been pretty brutal.  This turning 40 stuff has been a real game changer!!  However, I am at least wise in my years and am taking my rest & recovery to a whole new level.  One that I've never done before.  So, 2 weeks of nothing!  Well, I do teach classes, coach running & have a son in his last weeks of cross country so inevitably there has been plenty of movement going on.  A by product of being an active person.  Nothing formal to speak of & I'm actually pretty proud that I'm attempting to do this right.  So all you well intended nay-sayers who like to lecture that I just do too much....shush!

Coming off this break though I am itching to get back to a regular workout routine.  I'll expand in another post how I'll specifically handle my running,  In the meantime I planned to get back to my normal routine, but scaling back on all the running I usually do.  That means that Monday's start off with a solid chunk of non running cardio & weights.  A good 2-2.5 hours of working out was sounding pretty heavenly.  Except last night (or rather this morning) I didn't go to bed until 1:30 a.m.  And my regular routine has me out of bed at 4 a.m.  Do the math.....that just wasn't going to happen,  Although being the eternal optimistic person I still set my alarm.  And when it went off, I re-set it for 15 minutes later in case I somehow sprung out of bed all energized and ready to go.  Yeah, no.  Have I mentioned how things have really changed now that I'm 40?

I still didn't get a full night of sleep, but going on more than 3 hours was much more ideal.  When I woke up, I was kinda mad and beating myself up.  I mean it's not like I was up late for piddly reasons.  Some days there just are not enough hours in the day and last night, actually all of yesterday, I was on a roll getting things done left and right.  And it feels so good to be productive!  So even with my good intentions and productivity I was pretty mad at myself.  Kind of the wallow in self pity and want to give up and do nothing, but eat doughnuts and get fat kinda thinking.

But I realized that just because things didn't go perfectly, just because I wasn't up doing my ideal workout doesn't mean I had to give up completely.  I threw some clothes on and headed out the door for a run. This worked out perfectly anyway because my return plan to running actually has me doing very little.  So since I didn't have a lot of time I set out to run 1 mile.  I'm testing the waters anyway to see how I'm going to feel in light of all of the pain and problems I was having leading up to Chicago,  Since I didn't have time for a full set of weights I also threw in a Les Mills Grit Strength workout too.  I need to be practicing that for my class that I'll teach later this week.  In the end, I felt like it was a win-win.

While I tend to be a worse case scenario thinker and a feast or famine/all or nothing do-er, I also am eternally optimistic and will always see the glass as half full.  Or if it's empty then figure out how to get it filled up again.  So I'm back.  It's not what I had planned for or wanted, but I never intended to walk away for good.  I'm going to keep fighting to get me back on track.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Leading up to the Chicago Marathon

I had never been drawn to the idea of running the Chicago Marathon.  Having grown up in Iowa, then living in Illinois for over 20 years, I just don't see Chicago as that big of a deal.  Yes, there are a lot of neat things about the Windy City, but running through it didn't seem that enticing.  So I had resisted ever getting signed up.  I had my eyes set on other races.  I'm not even sure when I ran my first marathon 6 years ago that I'd be doing bigger races, but after qualifying for and running Boston I had my eyes fixed on so much more.  Still I was in no rush to complete Chicago.

I had actually wanted to run the New York marathon next.  In talking things through with my husband though, he suggested getting Chicago done.  Even though fall is a busy crazy time for me, it is closer and more logistic for us to handle right now.  Knowing how the process is handled in getting into NY, I figured, why not, let's get this done.  Even though I run a lot there is still so much I don't know about these big marathons.  I'm really just a little fish in a big pond.  But as I'm branching out to bigger races I'm learning more about things like the lottery, guaranteed entries and signing up months in advance.

Rewind to a year ago and my running began to fall apart.  In November I decided to scale back my running and "take a break" which really meant I was still running, just not nearly as much.  For awhile that was ok and when 2016 began I decided to launch back into running and training.  Except that never really happened.  I knew about the sign up dates for Chicago & assumed I was going to have to sign up for the lottery.  Anyone I had known to do Chicago before had done this so I assumed that aside from the elites I had to as well.  When I went to the website I kept seeing the phrase guaranteed entry.  I almost ignored that figuring it didn't apply to me, but I did some digging around and realized that I in fact qualified for this type of entry,  So I signed up and wham, bam, thank you m'am, I was going to run the Chicago marathon.

Fast forward many months and a lot of time with my physical therapist, my running was still in shambles.  I did struggle my way through Howl at the Moon and ran 36 miles at that race in August.  That gave me some hope that despite my issues I could in fact still run such a distance with little to no training.  It certainly isn't ideal, but do-able,  I kept trying to get my running back on track and it just wasn't happening.  I could handle small distances, but anything more than 5 miles and I just hurt and it seemed impossible.  Yet I kept trying.    Thanks to insurance issues I had given up on seeing my physical therapist.  She was wonderful enough to email with me and still guide me as I was attempting to train.  Then my chiropractor came across an issue that really seemed to explain everything that was attributing to me/my body not being able to run.  So I set out on a 10 mile run day & tried to fix it all.  Which seemed to work perfectly, but fixing one thing lead to an issue on another thing.  And suddenly I had a whole new set of problems and a lot of pain.  The pain was so bad and persistent that I was constantly hurting and running any kind of distance became impossible.  All of this was just 2 weeks before I was supposed to run.

Logistically getting the marathon ran was also becoming a messy situation.  It turns out that the same weekend was our high school homecoming.  I have 2 kids in high school and we as a family are very involved with the school on many levels.  Luckily my 2 high schoolers were not interested in going to the dance so that let me off the hook, but there was still the assembly, parade and game on Friday that was going to occupy my time.  AND on top of that Saturday was the sectional meet for my Jr. High cross country team.  While there are 2 of us head coaches I would never want to miss this meet as it determined if we as a team or any individual qualifiers made it to the state meet.  It's kind of a big deal.  So Friday afternoon & evening was consumed with homecoming, Saturday morning with the sectional meet.  I would still have time to shoot over to the expo, pick up my packet and settle in for the race.

EXCEPT 10 days before all of this was to happen I found out that our sectional meet was not going to start until 3 p.m.  This changed everything.  I would not have time to get to the expo before it closed and Chicago has very strict guidelines with picking up your packet.  This was also complicated because my family was coming with me to watch me run.  So the implications of zig zagging across the state with husband and kids in tow trying to get it all done just were not practical.  Essentially nothing was going to be practical with getting this done.  Unless I gave up not going to sectionals and coaching my team and I just couldn't bear to miss that either.  Long story short as a last resort and even though I didn't want to do it I drove up to Chicago on Friday morning.  I left early, when it was still dark out, drove 3ish hours, spent 1 hour at the expo/packet pick up and then got back in my van and drove straight back home to Galesburg.  I arrived home just in time to get to the assembly that I've grown accustomed to going to that kicks off Friday's homecoming festivities.

I was bummed that  I couldn't fully enjoy the expo.  After I picked up my bib and shirt, I kinda zipped through a few of the of the booths, drooled over the amazing merchandise  that I couldn't afford anyway and left.  My parking ticket had me parked for 56 minutes and probably 20 minutes of that was just walking to and from the parking garage.  And the whole time my hip/IT band is in excruciating pain.  Even just jogging down the block was impossible.  I had very serious doubts if I would even be able to even finish this race.  So you mix my pain in with the craziness and non practicality of getting my stuff picked up, all while still trying to be fully present as mom and was all just too much.  I actually resented this whole blasted marathon and it wasn't really the marathon's fault.  If it wasn't for the fact of losing out on money I actually would've rather not even run it at all.  I wanted to walk away and forget the whole thing!!  This all makes me very sad because this is not the person I am when it comes to running and racing.

Even though I was highly skeptical about being able to run this distance or finish, I had my bib.  And everything else seemed to go smoothly.  Homecoming was great, sectionals awesome and with 2 kids qualifying for state.  From the meet my family picked me up and we headed into the Chicago suburbs to spend the night with a dear life long friend.  My cross country kids were so sweet to send me off with a bunch of hugs and good luck cheers.  They are the best and it lifted my spirits to have them send me off with such enthusiasm.

But deep down I left with a heavy heart, fully of doubt, confusion and anxiety.  My hip/IT band still in pain and wondering how I was going to get through these 26.2 miles I had to run.........