Monday, October 15, 2012

Chicago Marathon - A 12 minute PR!

Boy this race sure seemed to show up in a hurry.  When I started training last spring it seemed like I had forever to get ready.  Next thing I knew it was October and I was ready to run my first Chicago Marathon.  I found myself arriving in Chicago likely a little under trained due to the latest Ragbrai incident, but still with a goal of running a 3:05, which would qualify me for Boston.

My parents and I rolled into town Friday. Saturday, all I had to do was hit up the expo. The rest of the day was spent watching football in order to stay off my feet. I woke up at 5:30 on race day to down some breakfast then rocked out to some tunes while letting that digest. The hotel was just a couple of blocks to the start so that helped a ton. We got there with plenty of time to spare, but I chatted with my parents until about 10 minutes before the corrals closed. This was a mistake as there were lots of people heading in at that time and it took 10 minutes to get to the actual corral. I barely had time to try and move up and probably started back a little further than I wanted to. Oh well. Before I knew it we were ready to go.

Ooh baby, marathon #4! I was ready to run and the people of Chicago were ready to cheer. The start of the race was nuts with all of the spectators lining the route. There were a couple of times I found myself smiling in awe at the sight of it. When I wasn't smiling, I was working my way around people, although it was tough in the packed streets. As a result my first 5k was a little slower than I wanted it to be. Things started to thin out a bit after that and I settled in near a 7:00 pace. For all the fans that were on the course I was disappointed in the originality of the signage. Laughed a bit at the the "Don't poop you pants" sign but that was about it. Thankfully the bowels were cooperating.

I took stock of how I felt at this point. The pace felt easy. The heart rate wasn't up and I wasn't breathing too heavily. The weather was great and I felt quite comfortable in my lightest singlet and shorts, even though I was sweating quite a bit. If I could run in 40 degree weather all the time I would a happy man. I made a brief mental note of all the old injuries that kind of cropped back up after forcing too many miles in September after my bone healing hiatus.

Achilles....that feels good. Right hip.....nothing there. Left shin.....good as gold. Shin splints had reappeared the last week of taper out of nowhere so I was particularly worried about that. I had to take a few extra rest days, but as I got going it felt great. All good, all right, let's run.

The pace felt easy, even in to the slight wind as we headed north. I was shooting for 7:00 miles so as I passed each mile marker the math was nice and easy. After the slow start I saw my times dropping. I was slowly catching the pace groups that started ahead of me. By the time I passed the 3:10 group I knew I was right where I needed to be. I stuck to my nutrition plan for the most part: Gu and salt tab every 45 minutes, but by the time I was nearing the halfway point I was already starting to feel some soreness in the ol legs. That did not bode well.

There were lots of spectators around that halfway mark so that was exciting. Crossed the checkpoint at 1:32:02 so I was right on track at that point and really not too far off my PR at that distance. At that point I started taking in some Gatorade at each aid station to help stave off the cramps, but it didn't do a lot to slow them down. I was in pretty much "go hard or go home" mode from the outset so the goal was just to survive as long as I could at the pace I was at. Whether that was 15 miles or 26.2 miles so be it. The cramps started slowly getting worse, but thankfully slowly enough that I managed to get in a few more miles at seven minute pace.

My first two marathons I started blowing up around mile 18-20 so when I got past those miles I was relieved. Mile 21 came and I was hurting, but I was so focused on mentally exceeding those efforts that I was able to ignore the pain. MCM last year was the first marathon where I didn't have to walk and knowing that I kept myself going. There is no backtracking, only progress. So while I was probably cramping the worst I ever have in a marathon, I was still running, and I was still holding out on the hope that a BQ was in the cards.

But I was starting to breath heavy and the legs were so hard to turnover that I knew I was starting to lose some time. I was keeping a good eye on the pace and when I started losing ground to some of the people I had been running with the last 10 or so miles with I knew things were in danger. I knew this was a possibility from the start so instead I started concentrating on how I could still set a huge PR if I just kept on running. I thought back to all of those ungodly early morning runs and running one armed in a sling. I didn't want all that hard work to go to waste so I kept pushing.

At mile 23 I remember thinking if I could crank out 3 sub 7 miles it just might still be doable, but the legs were having nothing of it. I was running hard, because I wanted it so badly, ignoring the pain, but the body just wasn't cooperating. I was resigned to running the fastest pace I could and seeing how things would play out. It was kind of a blur running up Michigan Ave. The 3:10 pace group passed me, but I knew if I stayed in contact I'd still run a sub-3:10. Then, before I knew it the turn on to Roosevelt came and I knew the end was quite close. I pushed hard up that stupid final incline and then rounded the corner. There's the finish! I staggered across the finish line in a time I was quite proud of, 3:08:43, but just short of a BQ.

Split Time Of Day Time Diff min/mile miles/h
05K 07:54:50AM 00:22:21  22:21 07:12 8.35
10K 08:16:39AM 00:44:09  21:48 07:02 8.55
15K 08:38:11AM 01:05:41  21:32 06:56 8.66
20K 08:59:44AM 01:27:14  21:33 06:57 8.65
HALF 09:04:32AM 01:32:02  04:48  07:03 8.52
25K 09:21:30AM 01:49:01  16:59 07:00 8.58
30K 09:43:26AM 02:10:57 21:56 07:04 8.50
35K 10:06:12AM 02:33:42 22:45 07:20 8.19
40K 10:30:53AM 02:58:24 24:42 07:57 7.55
Finish 10:41:13AM 03:08:43 10:19 07:35 7.92

Time: 3:08:43
Overall Rank: 1429/37314
Age Group Rank: 289/3502

After running that hard walking takes a little getting used to. I stumbled around a bit then found some food and drink and then BEER! It seemed like a crazy long walk to the post race party/meetup area. Waited around for my parents who were on Roosevelt but failed to see me come in. Facebook updates let them know I finished. We sat at the park for a bit while my dad and I enjoyed a few post race beers.

Overall I thought this was a fantastic race! It was extremely organized, and had tons of volunteers and spectators. The course was crazy flat as advertised and should have been prime for BQing. Although I didn't quite manage to BQ (Dang lower standards!), I was still extremely pleased with the result. A 12 minute PR is nothing to sneeze at and once I shape up race goals for next year I know I will easily put up a qualifying time. I'll just have to make sure to avoid broken bones in the meantime.

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