Monday, May 16, 2016

Chicagoland Spring Marathon - recap

I meant to write this yesterday but was sooooo tired. (Not just the marathon, tired in general.) On 5/15/16, exactly one week after running the Kalamazoo Marathon, I ran the Chicagoland Spring Marathon. I did this in order to qualify for Marathon Maniacs. Why do it when I'm not in racing shape? Because I can't imagine wanting to do it when I am in condition to actually race it - getting sick put me in a place where I could only go and have fun, I couldn't race and couldn't even think about PRing. So I had fun in Kalamazoo with my husband, and at Chicagoland, I had fun and did something for me.

Spoiler alert!

This race is super local, in Schaumburg right near where my husband works - I did the half last year when it was mid 60s and humid. April and May weather in the midwest can be very hit or miss but this year it was supposed to be 40s to 50 and windy -way better than both last year and the almost 70 from Kalamazoo. The wind was tough and bugged a lot of people but I like wind, so hey. Parking at the start was pretty easy; I parked in the Woodfield corporate parking garage. The only snafoo here was it looked like the first lot filled up before people caught on so the traffic cop had a heck of a time redirecting people. It was easy to get to the startline although like last year, the portopotty lines were kind of a mess. They had a lot, but there were still people in line after the gun went off. There were a lot of portopotties but I don't think it was enough for how big this race is.

Obligatory bathroom line selfie...while the dude behind me also takes a bathroom line selfie. 
Headband is swag from Milwaukee and says "Pain is temporary / Pride is Forever". Seemed apropos. 

The gun went off for the race on time - 7:05 start - but the starting line was funneled as badly as last year and it took forever to cross. I didn't start my watch until 7:13. I knew this going in because the set up was identical to last year but it was still weird. But then I was off and repeating my motto to myself "Slow and easy...forward progress, no burning out." My initial instinct was to go out at the same pace I went out at Milwaukee and I had to fight myself down; my first mile was too fast, but I got myself under control. My plan was to try to stick to around a 12ish pace and hold it as long as I could. I knew I was going to do some walking the last few miles, but I wanted to stick a slow but okay pace for as long as I could. The first two miles are on the highway with some mild ups and downs, but mostly flat. About 2.4 miles in you hit the only real incline - the big bridge into busse woods. It's pretty steep for a bridge but it's also the only big hill in the race - there are some little steep climbs around mile 9 and 15, but no real hills except for this. I walked it; I felt weird walking that early in the race but the name of the game was finish healthy and feel strong as long as possible - and burning energy in mile 2 on a bridge to gain a minimal amount of time wasn't in the gameplan.

Okay so I actually took this in mile 23 going back, but same idea. Just picture it with a lot more people.

After cruising down the back end of the bridge, it was onwards at a steady pace. Mile 5 clicked in at 59 and change, which meant I was pretty much exactly where I wanted to be. We crossed an itty bitty short bridge, and the crazy wind was kicking up rapids but it was pretty cool. I was taking both water and gatorade at every aid station, although the gatorade was soooo watered down (and orange! yuck!) that it felt more like taking two cups of water.

The half and the full split off between mile 5 and 6; the course got a lot less crowded and I complimented one of the course marshall volunteer type folks on his awesome shirt. I had to get a picture (which okay, technically I got when I came back at mile 16, but whatever), and the couple next to me joked that they wished somebody had told them that before.

"Try not to suck" - words to live by.

Most of the next few miles were just about being slow and steady. The course had emptied a lot with the halfers gone and we weren't to the loop section yet so there wasn't a lot of marathoner company either, but it was kind of meditative. At mile 8ish we crossed a bridge (walking the incline, of course) to the "DO NOT FEED THE ELK SECTION" I remembered from the Schaumburg Turkey Trot last year. No elk today though, and apparently no picture of the do not feed sign.

The course got a little weird here after this and I'm struggling to think how to describe it. We hit an aid station, did an out and back to mile 9, came back, and hit the same aid station.  Then there's another out and back to mile 12, where you come back, hit the same aid station again, and do the initial out and back again towards what had been 9 but was now 15. Then on the way back you hit the aid station one last time and you go back out towards the elk the way you came in, to reverse the rest of the course. It was not nearly as confusing to run as it is to type, and on the plus side, they weren't watering down the gatorade here. I had continued to grab water and gatorade each time, so while I had my 24oz handheld, I was less than a third of the way through it.

Mile 10 hit about the 2 hour point and mile 15 at the 3 hour point - I was right on pace, but my legs were tired. This is not surprising, considering I was only a week out from Kalamazoo, but I'd really been hoping I'd be a little less tired since the previous week had been at my husband's pace...I'd really hoped that it had taken less out of me than apparently it did. I switched to a walk/run strategy right around the halfway mark - my overall pace went down maybe 10-20 seconds but overall not a huge drop. I had a brief mental struggle with myself that went something like:

"Oh no! I'm going to have to DNF!" 

"Don't be stupid. There's nothing wrong with walk/run."

"But I promised myself not to deathmarch! This was a bad idea!"

"It was a stupid idea, but I'm not deathmarching. Relentless forward progress!"

And on I went. Mile 16 I felt tired but otherwise okay. Nothing hurt, no stomach issues, and a text from my husband said he would meet me with the kids "after mile 20". My pace was still in the low 12s, and I was happy. Tired, but happy.

Still smiling, still able to crouch down for a selfie.

I passed through the elk area again and back over the bridge - at which point I passed a finish line. No, not MY finish line - apparently there was a 5k going on the same bike trail that morning. When I got to the aid station I told them a fake finish line was just mean, and they agreed. And then the true enormity of the situation hit me after I passed them - the 5k had JUST STARTED. A 1.55 mile out and back. Which meant for the next mile, at mile 17 in a marathon, I got to dodge hundreds of people walking and a bunch of runners...on a crowded narrow bike trail. I was absolutely terrified I was going to end up missing my turn on the marathon course and end up on the back end of the 5k course - and trying to run next to the walkers while dodging the people who were running towards me. Let me just say, it was not the most fun I've ever had in a race. I made sure to note course marshals from my race and heard them yell out "There's our marathoner!" which got murmurs from the folks from the other race, but I was just glad for verification I was still on course. Eventually I hit the turning point where marathon marshalls waved me in to the turn and I have never been so relieved in a race. Yikes.

And to be honest I don't remember mile 19 or 20 after that. I know I was irritated because my last gel didn't tear off all the way, so I was squeezing it through a teeeeeny pinprick hole. It must have been hilarious to watch me. My brain seemed to quit working here, I tried to take a mile 20 picture and forgot how to make my camera flip around. My hip flexors were starting to get really tight and getting the picture proved outside my capabilities. Which is really funny in retrospect.


I hereby dub these pictures "No," "Not Quite" and "Nevermind"

I hit mile 20 in 4:02, which was sliiiightly behind where I'd been at miles 5/10/15, but close enough that I was pleased. I texted my husband and kept on trucking. I was running .3, walking .05. My garmin died at mile 21 though, which sucked. It had made it through Alaska and Milwaukee but I need to get a garmin with a better battery life; I'm not fast enough for the F10 to get all of my marathons. If I'm off pace, or running an ultra again, I'm going to lose my record of the race...which I did. I switched to running 3 minutes and walking 1, which I could still time. I texted my husband when I got to mile 22 and he told me they were waiting at the mile 24 aid station. That meant I had the big bridge standing between me and them...and my hips were starting to really protest. I wasn't able to truly time my pace without my watch, but based on watching the clock on my phone I had slowed to a 13 minute pace here. With the big bridge in mile 23 I hit about a 14-15; I had been able to walk it briskly at the start of the race but I was out of energy.

And then at mile 24 my kids were clanging their bells and my husband was waving! I drank some watered down gatorade at the aid station, handed off my water bottle and hugged the kids...and then told them I'd see them at the finish line! This mile ended up being about a 15 too, I think because I stopped to talk to them. No regrets!

Back on the high way, I was running 2 minutes and walking for 1 minute. It was about the best I could manage, and it was more than everyone on course around me was. I was in the back of the pack so this doesn't say a whole lot, but no one passed me the last two miles; I picked quite a few people off though. Mile 25 was about a 13 and then mile 26 was too...and then it was hell bent to the finish line so I could just be done.

Final time: 5:25:36. I have no regrets, today I am tired and sore but I finished without injury, I finished with a smile on my face, and I qualified for the maniacs. I got exactly what I wanted out of this race.

Some final random thoughts:

  • Course was well marked. The multiple out and backs got a little weird, but I never worried I wasn't running the right course.
  • Weather was chilly and windy. I liked it.
  • The medals are not as nice as last year - half and full got the same medal. Weirdly, marathon had blue bibs but medals with yellow ribbons, and half had yellow bibs but blue ribbons. I think they oops'ed that one, to be honest. But since there's nothing on the medal or ribbon to distinguish which was meant to be for the full and which for the half, I don't blame volunteers. Bummed ACE cheaped out here though, I loved last year's medals. 
  • Course food afterwards was meh. Under ripe bananas and granola bars and cookies, plus some cups of watered down gatorade that had junk floating in it. I was in the back of the race and would write it off to that except apparently that's what they had all along. Disappointing after the half, really a bummer after the full.
  • Almost no spectators, which considering the weather wasn't that surprising. Volunteers on course were pretty awesome, especially the ones at the aid station you hit a bunch of times. Lots of enthusiasm. 


  1. Congrats on the finish and attaining Maniac status! That's crazy that you got caught up in a 5k during your marathon!

    1. Thanks!

      It was crazy lol. It was lose/lose for both of us - I was running counter to the people running your pace, which sucked for them, but there was nowhere else for me to be because the throng of walkers was enormous since it was a charity 5k run and 5k walk. Not their fault, not mine. Not really a good way around it either, not possible to weave in the walkers unfortunately.