Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Chicago Marathon - Recap!

AKA - I'm a marathoner!

Oh, gosh. So many thoughts. So many things I want to say. This is going to be insanely long. For the tl;dr crowd, my husband and I finished at 5:57:17.


I guess I'll start with the expo. We went to packet pickup at McCormick place on Saturday and the expo was just...enormous. Biggest I've ever seen, thousands of people. So of course, within moments we run into some people we went to high school with that we haven't seen in 10 years except on FB.


But oddity and size aside, packet pickup was easy - we gave our id and packet pickup ticket, they scanned us in and sent us to our station...which because we'd checked in 30 seconds earlier had our packet already out and waiting. It was spooky, we walked up to the station and they asked "Are you Heather?" ...wow! Talk about down to a science.

We wandered for a bit, got our shirts (boring - tiny logo on a grey shirt...) grabbed some samples, nabbed our CorePower power-up bracelets so they'd take our picture for free on the course, took pics with our bibs, registered for the 2015 polar dash, and bought overpriced souvenirs (we each got long sleeve Chicago Marathon pullovers - neon yellow for me, marbled blue for him). And that was that!

Actually at this point I had a headache and wanted to go home, haha.

That night, I actually slept okay - albeit not much, since we weren't staying in the city. 4am wake up call to be out the door by 4:30 for a 4:58 train - yuck! Needless to say, I slept on the train on my husband's shoulder, but fortunately we'd laid out our gear the night before. There was no thinking required to get up and out. Which was good, because my brain wouldn't have even bothered.

When we got there we had a little bit of trouble finding our gear check (Chicago is so huge that there were 3 different gear checks and each check was subdivided by bib # - this actually made gear check a 10 second affair one you found it). But it wasn't long before we were in the portopotty lines and then - our corral! We were in J.

Port-o-potty line selfie!

And let me just say - the weather was perfect...for running, at least. 40* is too cold to stand around in though! We'd gotten throw-away clothes from the thrift store (an extra pullover for me, since I was running in shorts and a tank, and pullaway snap-pants for him plus an extra pullover for him) but man, my teeth were chattering, and since corrals were closing at 7:45 but they didn't expect to release us until 8:15...it was a long time to be pretty cold! I shed my throwaway right near the start line, but man, it was still several minutes of shivering!

In our corral, ready to go!

But by 8:15 we were off and running...his goal pace had been to stick to 12 minute miles, but it became pretty clear that he wasn't quite there. We hovered around 12:30s for the first 5k, when we stopped for a bathroom break. I learned something - don't stop at the early portopotties! It took almost 10 minutes. The later stops had no lines at all. Oops!

Yes husband, we're running, but first, let's take a selfie.

Around the 15k point I started having a hard time staying by my husband; a combination of him slowing down a bit and me having a great time reading all the spectator signs...I got lost in them, it was so exciting! I loved reading them, and we read some really great runs. The best though, was seeing a Breaking Bad one with Jesse going "Run, Bitches" and me telling my husband that that was nice and all, but I'd rather see a Doctor Who one quoting 11 going "Basically, run" ...so of course, within a mile or two, we saw just that!

I'm the Doctor. Basically, run.

We hit the half point at a little under 3 hours. I think my husband was disappointed by the times, but I had kind of expected it. (Running more than 1-2 times a week and a long run more than every 2-3 weeks makes running a marathon easier! Not that it's easy, but yes, you will struggle more if you undertrain!) I had let go of time entirely; the times I couldn't pace with him I let myself drift ahead of him and then would pause and walk until he caught up. I was just enjoy the sites.

At around 13.5 we passed the CorePower office, who had a party going on and a photographer taking pics of people who were wearing their bracelet. We gave 'em a fist pump!

Photo courtesy of CorePower FB! Pump it UP! 13.5 miles in and feeling strong!

Somewhere around mile 14 I started getting choked up and sniffling. "In just 12 more miles, I'm gonna be a marathoner! 12 miles is easy...that's an easy training run, a cutback week!" My husband laughed at me, but I was feeling good.

At 15 I couldn't wait to hit 16 - we'd be then going under double digits, and we had a family member at that aid station. I so wanted a familiar face! Somehow though we missed her, and I have to admit, I was really upset. I had this weird mental blip where the disappointment from missing her just had me near tears! I spent the next 2 miles in a funk and at mile 18 I was just like, I'm ready to be done now, I don't wanna do this anymore! My husband tried to snap me out of, but I was in a pity me mood...if I'd been able to go at my training run pace I'd be almost done! Wah wah wah. Thinking back, I have no idea what happened.

Feel sore but I am 20 miles in - let's take a selfie, because I am about to run further than I ever have!

After mile 20...well, I gotta be honest...it sucked. I was not prepared for how much it would start hurting. I started to dread aid stations because it hurt so much to start running again. It's easier to run slower, but it's a lot more time on your feet, and eventually, that does catch up. I found myself moaning a little bit when I breathed out - I had automatically gone back to my childbirth methods for coping with pain! Miles 20-24 are a complete blur. I know they sucked, I know we had sort of a mutual meltdown where we walked for 10 minutes, I know walking through the aid stations hurt as much as running did but you didn't have a choice because there were so many people you couldn't run, and that starting running again after walking for a minute really hurt.

At mile 24, I told myself I was strong enough to get through it because my 5 year old had taught me how strong I really was, both from her birth and from her life. So that entire mile, I kept myself moving, running, because it was for Lily. I had to stop occasionally because I got really far ahead of my husband - I was still able to put out a 10:30 pace and he..well, by that point we were lucky to average 13:30, but in this mile, I found a deep well of strength. I looked like hell, which you can see at the mile 25 marker, but I had it.

This expression is because I couldn't figure out if my camera had taken a pic or not. Haha. 25 miles in!

Mile 25 was for my son, my miracle. But to be honest as much as I hurt, I somehow didn't notice. I knew on one level my legs hurt, but especially when we got to the 25.2 and then the 1/2 mile point, I grabbed my husband's hand and I was literally dragging him in. I felt like I was sprinting, and he was trying to keep up, but I could not have stopped if I wanted to - it felt like my legs had a mind of their own, and they were ready to cross that finish line.

When we crossed that finish line, I burst into tears. I was a marathoner.


Some final thoughts:

+The crowd support was amazing. There was someone at mile 23 telling us, "Yes, this part sucks. It hurts and it sucks. But you trained for this, and you are NOT quitting now!"

+The signs were awesome. I don't remember miles 8-13 because I was so busy reading signs!

-This would have been so much easier if I had been able to go a little bit faster. I never hit a wall or ran out of energy - what caught up with me was so much time on my feet. On that note..

-I was entirely unprepared for how much it was going to hurt. I should have done more training runs with my husband to spend more time on my feet if we were going to run together, and if we do another marathon together, I will.

+/-On the course I swore I'd never do anything like this again, but as long as recovery goes well, I will go forward with the ultra on 11/1. That might be crazy because oh my gosh, this one hurt, but it really wasn't intense until I got to the 5 hour point...I think in the future, this should be easier. Not easy, but easier if I can be on my feet a little less. My worst training runs were about an 11 in the worst of the heat and humidity, and I didn't come anywhere close to running out of energy - in many ways this marathon sucked because it hurt, but it gave me a lot of confidence, too, because not only did I do it, but I know I could have stepped it up quite a bit on my own, too.

+I worried for weeks over the "hill" at the end - but by the time we got there I was so intent on the finish line...I didn't even register it at all. Whoo!

+ I'm a marathoner!! HELL YES.


  1. Congrats Heather! I promise you, subsequent marathons will not hurt as much as this one. Yes, they suck at the end but your body will adapt from this one. The medal looks really pretty!

    1. Thanks Marcia! I love the medal, it's super pretty. Much nicer than the square ones from last year from what I heard.

      I believe you! My first half hurt badly but they don't hurt anymore. I am so glad I did it.

  2. Congrats! I don't think anything can prepare you for how bad it feels after mile 20, haha. But you are very wise - it's the time on your feet that get you. That's why I incorporate walking into my training (usually at the end as a cooldown, from .5 to as long as 2 miles). If you HAVE to use it, it's there, and you're already a pro.

    I'm SO PROUD of you!!!!! You did it!!!!!

    1. I expected it to hurt and thought I was prepared, but I think you're right! I definitely wasn't expecting that level! I learned a lot from that though.

      That is really smart. I will add that on to the end of my long runs going forward - thank you for bringing that up!

      Thank you!!! I am SO happy. I wasn't at first but I think that was mostly the unprepared for the pain bit. A little bit of distance has me going, hell yes!!!

  3. Congrats to both you and your husband! You did such an amazing job and it was great to read your recap :) I love that there was a Dr. who sign.

    1. Thank you!!

      Yes me too! I had to take a picture, it was too cool!

  4. Congrats on your *first* marathon finish!! And what a special one to boot! The Chicago Marathon has been one of my favorites so far for all the reasons you mentioned; the course, the spectators, the amazing city. Those last few miles are always sheer torture for me, I'm not sure what keeps us coming back for more!

    1. Thank you! I hadn't wanted to do such a big one for my first but I am really glad I did, it was pretty awesome.

      Haha - I have no idea why I want to do another. It was intense and it hurt but oh my gosh - I did it!

  5. Congratulations to both of you! You are amazing!

  6. Congrats, marathoners!!!

    Ha ha, you felt that emotional when you missed that family member because that is what happens when you run a marathon... the littlest emotions are amplified! ;)

    That is so cool you ran in to a HS friend! And that they've mad packet pickup so simple.

    I hope if your husband decides to run a marathon again, he can make the training work better for him. It's really hard to do a much slower pace for so long. Keep in mind though - you could very well be on your feet for that long at the ultra!

    I hope you are recovering well this week!

    1. Thank you!! :)

      And apparently! I was so ready to cry, and then again at 23 when our friend who was working the med tent we were told "wasn't there" - what a bummer!

      I hope so too, but I wouldn't trade the experience we had together. A lot of people told me to tell him I was going to run it by myself, but this was not just a marathon...it was something we did together. I felt bad for him during the marathon because it clearly caught up to him, but I had let it go...he was a grown up who made his own bed.

      And yes that has definitely occurred to me - although I think I could complete the ultra in about the same amount of time. It gives me a confidence boost - this hurt like hell but I made it. I can do it again!

      I have some tightness, and I was sore on Monday. But I am doing good!

  7. Congratulations!! Yes, marathons hurt... I always forget that part, but those last few miles are brutal. Way to push through and do it!!

    1. Thank you so much! Yes, no one told me it would hurt quite that bad - just that it would hurt! But I did it!

  8. Incredible job! I can't imagine being on my feet that long, no wonder they hurt. Congrats!

    1. Thank you!! Yes, it was a long, long time on my feet. I am definitely still feeling a bit footsore. But it was worth it!