Thought I’d pop in to report on a lovely little jog through the Windy City last weekend.….
Just a little Chicago jog
HA – understatement of the century! I’m having a hard time controlling the sugary sweet enthusiasm, but honestly, my first marathon went better than I ever could have imagined. I mean, those last 6.2 miles were painful, but top to bottom, it was an incredible experience, things came together in a way that I couldn’t even have wished for, and honestly I’m pretty proud of myself for finally accomplishing this goal. Chicago, you were wonderful. Thank you.
Friday night’s flight was really the only not so great part of the weekend, and at 1.5 hours, our delay wasn’t even really all that bad. Instead of drinks with friends, we ordered brownies and ice cream from room service and watched a few Homeland episodes. I was so looking forward to sleeping in the next day …. until I woke up at 7:30 and completely failing to fall back asleep. Guess I was a little amped up?
The wakeup was perfect though, as I wanted to jog over to the starting line to check out logistics, get a feel for how long it would take to get over there in the morning, and just enjoy the excitement that was already building. And Tom was being so so supportive about the whole weekend that I knew I didn’t want to drag him on that adventure as well, so I was glad to leave him sleeping while I set out for a bit and enjoyed the gorgeous day and hundreds of runners doing the same thing.
Scoping it out
The rest of the day involved a trip to the expo complete with braving the horrendously crowded (but surprisingly fast moving and efficient) Nike area for over-priced but worth it Chicago Marathon Nike gear, football watching and delicious dressed up bar food at Public House, and a nap in the hotel after perfecting my playlist while watching more football. After 5 hours of sleep (stupid Homeland has me sleep deprived after catching up on the first two seasons in less than 2 weeks …)
The wings were devoured before I thought to take a picture – that BBQ sauce was amazingly delicious and yes, I tried to eat what was left with that fork so I didn’t have to lick my plate in the middle of the restaurant.
Since several people recommended it, I managed to snag a reservation at Quartino on Saturday, and we had a delicious Italian meal and a couple of glasses of wine. Veal meatball sliders, a couple of different pasta dishes, and lots of bread dipped in olive oil and vinegar – perfection! After stuffing ourselves, it was no question that, despite wanting to rest my legs, walking back to the hotel was absolutely necessary. We even walked by multiple frozen yogurt places and weren’t attempted to stop – that’s some sort of record.
Lots of bread!
Once back at the hotel, I busied myself pinning my bib to my tank top, organizing and re-organizing all of my stuff for the morning. And reorganizing and checking. Until Tom asked if I was almost done and it was clear I was obsessing/driving him crazy. Time to try to go to bed.
I tossed and turned, dreamed some crazy dreams, but did sleep some. And then my alarm went off. Fortunately we were only about half a mile from the hotel (W Chicago City Center – PERFECT hotel for this whole adventure), so I didn’t have to wake up too early, but I wanted to make sure I ate enough, took care of business, and wasn’t stressed about time. A big bottle of lemonade nuun, 2 bananas, a granola bar, and a couple scoops of peanut butter later, I woke Tom up and we headed out. It was incredibly sweet of him to walk me to the start, and I’m so glad he did, because it helped me keep my emotions under control. As we parted at the gates though, I definitely teared up as the emotion of the morning hit me. The atmosphere was amazing, and the excitement, nervousness, and fulfillment at just making it this far hit me.
It was a perfect morning – a little chilly, but warm enough to shiver for a little bit in just a tank top so that I didn’t have to worry about discarding a long sleeve somewhere along the way. I had decided to move back to corral E to stick with the 4:10 pace group, and it was a perfect decision. I picked my way through the corral to find the group, and squeezed into a spot about 7:10. Boy was it crowded! I tied and re-tied my shoes, listened to the chatter around me, and then somehow struck up a conversation with the woman next to me. Turns out it was her first marathon too, that 4:10 felt ambitious but she liked the idea of hanging with a pace group and didn’t want to back up to Wave 2 for the 4:25 group, and that we had basically the same goals – #1 finish, #2 sub-4:30 would make us super happy, and anything close to 4:10 would make us absolutely ecstatic. We talked nerves and music strategy (how long we thought we’d roll with crowd support before plugging in), and exchanged good lucks and hopes to keep seeing each other along the course. Teresa, wherever you are, thank you! You helped calm me down, and I loved making a new friend!
Before I knew it, we were off! The start moved quite quickly and I was across the line and going in about 10 minutes. I sort of remember the details, but honestly, the whole race is a bit of a blur. I wish I was one of those people who could recount every mile, but you know what? That would probably be really boring, and it all really runs together after awhile anyway. So! I’ll stick with the memorable moments:
Under the bridges at the beginning – warm, crowded, and thank GOODNESS I didn’t twist an ankle. A lot of the roads throughout the course had plenty of potholes and uneven spots. I’m not one to usually keep my eyes down, but I really felt like I had to, particularly at the beginning when it was crowded. But no matter, being in the middle of that energy was AMAZING. The crowds at the beginning were the thickest, but there really wasn’t anywhere on the course that lacked fans. THANK YOU city of Chicago for all of your support – you fulfilled that requirement I had for a first marathon and more. I didn’t even consider turning my music on until mile 14, and didn’t even listen for the whole second half, because I didn’t want to miss out on the crowd energy. Truly amazing.
Seeing Tom right around mile 2 – a very unexpected surprise. We had staked out an exact spot at mile 13, but the crowds were so deep I didn’t expect to be able to pick him out earlier, despite knowing the general area he’d be in. Right around the second mile, I was running with one of the 4:10 pacers and he shouted to the crowd “let’s hear it for the 4:10 pace group!” I looked to the left at the cheering crowd and there was my cheerleader/photographer/supporter extraordinarie. THANK YOU TJB!
Also, this dude, who I saw early, and then I passed at mile 26. If you’re wearing a speedo, don’t walk.
After that I tried to just settle into a comfortable pace and not get ahead of the pacers. I would get a little excited and was feeling good, but had to keep reminding myself there was a long way to go. I faithfully ate a margarita shot block every 15 minutes, and took water at each aid station. This consistency proved to be a fantastic strategy. My energy stayed constant, and despite moments here and there of realizing how much time was left, I felt calm and steady through the first half. Teresa and I checked in with each other from time to time as we met up throughout, and I was glad we were both hanging in there and feeling good. I loved running through the neighborhoods of Chicago, and fed off the energy.
I’m super proud of how steady and consistent I was through the first half. It’s not my forte, but I stayed fairly consistent, and I actually didn’t look at my splits during the race as I never once heard the mile beep. I’d look down to check if it was time for another chew, but didn’t sweat the mile splits. Strange for me, but good,I think.
Miles 1 – 13: 9:13, 8:30, 9:13, 9:00, 9:13, 9:23, 9:36, 9:24, 9:31, 9:29, 9:16, 9:16, 8:45 (excitement to see Tom and to be halfway there!)
Mile 13 Tom sighting and water bottle exchange –
Thanks TJB! Guess what, NO HIP PAIN!!
I was THRILLED to actually spot him at the pre-determined spot, since it was super crowded and I got a little nervous that I’d miss him. Should’ve known that he’d pull out excellent spectator chops and make sure he caught me. He switched out my water bottle as planned, which was actually my one mistake of the day. I thought I had come up with this brilliant plan to switch off so I’d have cold nuun for both halves of the race, but the new water bottle I bought for the second half was a different type tht was hard to drink out of and bigger, so it was heavier than I was used to. I dropped it before mile 15. Waste of $25, but oh well. Better than carrying it another 11 miles and cursing it the whole time. There were PLENTY of aid stations, and luckily switching to Gatorade every other water station was no problem for me at all.
The next several miles are not too memorable, other than starting the playlist and hearing those Imagine Dragons lines that were as perfect as I had imagined to pump me up:
So this is what you meant
When you said that you were spent
And now it’s time to build from the bottom of the pit
It’s time to begin, it’s it?
Yes, it is. This is where it starts for real.
I LOVED the energy of the charity village, but other than that I just remember trying to stay steady. I got a bit ahead of the pace group, but just tried to stay comfortable and stick to the plan – chews every 15 minutes until I ran out, walk a bit through each water stop, stay happy. Keep building. Stop fearing that the hip pain will keep in (it didn’t?!)
Miles 14 – 20 were just that, though it was getting a little hot: 9:27, 9:26, 9:29, 9:23, 9:17, 9:38, 9:37.
Still really happy with my consistency here. Mentally, mile 20 was a little rough. I got a little scared, realizing that I was in uncharted territory, and strangely, my ankle started acting up. I’d get weird twinges every half mile or so, and kept waiting for the big one that forced me to walk. It was an easy excuse to let myself stop. And I did, a little, but only through water stops. And that is my proudest moment. After mile 20, it was a mental battle, as I know it is for everyone. I wanted to walk, and I walked full water stops instead of just part of them, but that’s all (luckily there were water stops every mile …) I kept telling myself I could run 5, walk 1, but I never did. I kept powering through to the next water stop. I was afraid of cramping, so the bananas were a life saver.
I kept trucking. I tried to smile. I kept not believing I could keep running, but I kept running. I was vaguely aware of my pace, and that it was still in the high 9’s. I kept running. I kept negotiating with myself. I kept running. I kept running. I walked and poured water on my head. I kept running.
Somewhere around mile 22, the 4:10 pace group passed me. I almost let this act as another excuse. I knew I could make 4:30, and almost let that be ok. And then decided come hell or high water, I was finishing under 4:15. No reason not to.
I continued to walk the water stops and then pick it up, but the last two miles were really really tough. It was getting hot, we were right in the sun, and man alive 26.2 miles is a long way to run. I knew I was getting close, but wasn’t sure exactly how close. I let myself slow to a walk and told myself it was only for a minute. Only a minute. Right about then I saw the 800 meters to go sign, and I’m ashamed to say I kept walking for bit even through that. 800 meters isn’t far, but it felt like a lifetime. I knew I needed a little break before powering through to the end. After 45 seconds, I picked it up again, with determination. I could do this. I knew the hill/bridge at the end was coming, and I was ready. I turned the last corner buoyed by the amazing crowd support (wish I had found TJB in the crowd, but was too focused to look!) and powered up the hill, proudly refusing to walk (thank you Nashville for the unavoidable hill training!) and overwhelmed as I rounded the corner and saw the finish line.
21 – 26.2: 10:06, 9:51, 10:23, 9:53, 10:15. 10:07, 9:18 pace for last .2.
I couldn’t believe it. I was there. Crossing the finish line with my arms raised. I MADE IT!!!!!
I’m still comprehending the emotions that hit me at that point. I was shocked that the tears that threatened at the start didn’t come, and instead I was just happy. Proud. Strong. Amazingly feeling ok despite a deep tiredness in my legs. Already feeling like I at some point in the distant future wanted to try it again and try to do better? Woah woah woah Betsy, calm down. That was NOT what I expected to feel, and yet it was there. THAT is actually my definition of success. Wanting to do it again. Don’t get me wrong, I am SO SO happy with my time. But I actually do know I can do better. And that’s exactly how I wanted to feel at the end. And I was able to enjoy my beer. Which, after wanting nothing to do with my beer after my poorly trained for first half marathon in 2009, is strangely my definition of successful training. That sounds super unhealthy, and my mom is really trying to understand it, but it’s true. Maybe it means I didn’t push hard enough, but if I hit a time that I wanted and I can enjoy it? Success in my book.
Somewhere just after the finish line, I met up with Teresa again, and was thrilled that she finished right around the same time I did, maybe a little faster. It was awesome to hear how much she enjoyed it, and was amazed to hear that she never walked. Go Teresa!
After finding Tom in the meetup area and offering a sweaty, enthusiastic hug, we hobbled back to the hotel. One of the first times I’ve had to ask him to slow down, but I was moving slowly. But moving. And happy. And grateful for DD coffee and a blueberry cake donut. Donuts AND marathons today!
In the meantime, texts and calls rolled in from friends and family. I was truly overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and congratulations. I thought everybody was a bit annoyed at my incessant chatter about the marathon in the last few months, but hearing how proud and impressed my parents, Tom’s parents, our siblings, and so many friends were …. it was truly humbling, and I appreciate it so very very much. Much much love to you all, and thank you for the support (and listening to my marathon drivel!)
The rest of the day included a trip to the Nike Store for a finishers t-shirt, and then the icing on the cake – a devoured Gino’s pizza. Amazingly delicious. And sitting down by my name written on the booth! Awesome!
Not awesome? The 4 trips up and down the stairs to the bathroom. Mostly the down. BRUTAL.
Sweet gluttonous victory
And that’s that! We flew back home that night and I had the best night’s sleep imaginable. Took me till Wednesday to walk down stairs normally again, but now I’m feeling good. Haven’t run yet (maybe this afternoon after the Vandy game), and I expect to take it easy for the next few weeks. But I can’t wait to get going again. There are goals on the horizon, and I can’t wait to tackle them. It’s true – you finish a marathon, and you feel like you can do anything.
Thank you Chicago, it was everything I hoped for.