Chicago Marathon 2018: Race Recap

 

IMG_1700I was unsure of how early to arrive at the start-line, the recommendation was 5:30am, 2-hours before the start. I knew that was too early since I was not doing bag check, plus standing for that long before a marathon didn’t sound ideal. I woke up before my alarm, sometime before 5am and made a small cup of coffee. I got dressed and applied a lot of Glide. I ate most of a sesame bagel, with nothing on it.

I decided to follow the same fuel plan I used for the Erie marathon, a month earlier since I found it worked well. I had pre-mixed 2 bottles of Maurten: one for in the hotel while getting ready, the second for in the corral. That is a lot of carbohydrates to take in (100g per bottle), and I don’t recommend fuelling this way unless you have trained for it. I used Maurten all summer, spent time figuring out how many grams of carbs would be ideal during a marathon, and fuelled my long runs accordingly. Aside from that I had 5 gels, Endurance Tap, to take every 7km.

It was raining when I woke up, a further reason I wasn’t eager to stand outside for extra time. I was very prepared for rain though, with a poncho, and lots of shower caps, 1 for my head, and 2 for each foot. As shown below, I was runway ready.

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My walk to the start was a mere 800m, so I left around 6:20am and headed over to the race. Once there, it was an overwhelming sea of people moving in every direction. There was a lot of signage though making it easy to figure out where to go. They had security before entering the corral, but since I had no bag, it was very fast. I was able to quickly find the E-corral, which was pretty empty at this time. Immediately, I ran into two teammates, so we hung out until the start.

When I put my qualifying time in for this race, about a year ago, the time I used was 3:31 from the Eugene Marathon in May 2017. The pacers in my corral started at 3:35, which was over 10-minutes slower than my goal. I knew this was not the appropriate corral to be in, so I made sure I was right at the front. We began walking to the start, and saw the corral ahead of us start the race, there was only about a 15 second gap before we started. It was crowded, and the GPS was going wild, like I knew it would. I focused on trying not to weave too much and not worrying about the GPS and feeling the pace.

My plan for the first 5km called for a 4:55 pace, that was my only focus for this first section. I also knew my friend Jess would be cheering by the hotel which was around mile 2. I really didn’t know what my pace was, and I didn’t see a km marker until about 2km, where I tried to lap my watch to fix the GPS. Turns out that first 5km took 24:50, 4:58 average, a bit slower than planned. I saw Jess, easy to spot in a basset hound raincoat, waved, and smiled and carried on.

After the 5km mark, the pace plan was to increase to 4:50 for the next 16km, until 21km. This section of the course took us north until 8 miles / 13 km mark before heading back south. I don’t have a whole lot to say about the course or what was happening for this stretch. I felt like I was just “in the zone” waiting for the next pick-up. I can tell you that the spectators and support were absolutely amazing, but other than that, I don’t have too much memory, it’s oddly a blur. So many runners, so many faces in the crowd, so many cups and gel wrappers on the ground.

I took my first gel at 7km, another at 14km, and another at 21km. I didn’t drink much water, just small amounts, and not at every station. The weather was my ideal, overcast, but not too cold, very comfortable. It rained, I barely noticed. I felt strong  and prepared. My pace for km 6-10 was 4:55/km, again behind what I was supposed to be doing. The watch thing was tricky and in spite of lapping at km markers to try and fix it, my watch still wasn’t lining up. I accepted this early on, and did my best to feel it out. Km’s 11-15 were on track, 4:50 pace, km’s 16-20 were back down to 4:54. I arrived at the half-way point in 1:43:17, a 4:54/km average. This was 58 seconds behind where I was supposed to be at the half-way point. I was aware that I was behind, but I didn’t lose confidence.

I focused on the fact that I was already half way there, and even better, I felt GREAT. I felt like I was just waiting to turn up the pace. After the half-way point, we headed west to where we had been the previous day for the Nike store. After 21km, my pace plan was to increase to 4:45/km, and hold this until 35km. Km’s 22-25 were 4:41/ km average. Yes, a bit faster, I was trying not to go beyond my pace, but it was hard. I really felt high-energy and couldn’t wait to pick it up. I also knew I needed to wait and avoid picking it up too early. I took my 4th gel at 28km. At this point, we began moving south towards Little Italy. Km’s 26-30 came in at a 4:43/km average. Still feeling super strong.

When I hit 30 I knew the race was about to begin, everything I had done up to this point felt like meditative junk miles. I was waiting to see that 30k marker. Km’s 31-35 were an average of 4:46/km. We were now heading south east. This helped even out being a tiny bit faster than planned for the previous 10km. I came through 35km in 2:49:25, a 4:50/km average. Still, I was behind, now by 1:05. I took my last gel at 35km and then it was time to get to work. We were heading south for a few more km’s before heading north towards the park and the finish. My pace plan was now to increase to 4:40/km for the next 5km. Km’s 36-40 were an average of 4:39/km,  I was feeling good and excited. I was also waiting for this rumoured hill, unsure of exactly when I would encounter it. There was a mild incline on a bridge which I figured was the hill,  it really wasn’t bad, barely a hill I thought to myself.

After the 40km mark, I was to go all out until crossing the finish. This was the most anticipated part of the race, because I was curious to see what I still had left. I ran the last 2.2 km in an average of 4:33/km. The rumoured hill was in there, with less than 1km to the finish. I could see the finish around the corner, I could see people being taken by the hill. I embraced it, embraced the temporary discomfort, peaked the hill, and sprinted to the finish.

My official time was 3:22:37. This was 41 seconds off (slower than) what my plan had me coming in at. I took 2:56 off my previous PB at the Erie Marathon in September. I finished feeling SO good. While I am happy with my effort in Chicago, I also know I have more in me. I cannot wait to run another marathon and see what I can do. Is it April yet?

Chicago Marathon 2018: Pre-Race

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I arrived in Chicago on Friday just before 5pm local time, and wasted to time. I quickly dropped my stuff at the hotel before heading to the expo. American race expos have a lot more going on at them compared to Canadian ones, especially the World Majors. Normally I enjoy walking through the expo, but this time I just felt bored. I grabbed my marathon and 5k bibs, did a walk through, took 1 photo and then left. It was time to eat dinner and relax.

The next morning, I woke up early as always and had coffee and a small breakfast at the hotel with my friend Jess, before heading over to the 5km. It was raining with thunder and lightning when we woke up, and my other running buddies weren’t sure they wanted to run in that. Fortunately it cleared up, the start was delayed a little, and since we did not want to stand in the corrals for extra time to seed ourselves properly, there were quite a few waves ahead of us. By the time we were running, the weather was pretty good, overcast, but a little humid. I am pretty sure we laughed for most of those 5km and it was a great way to shake-out our legs before the big day.

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Post-run, I walked by to the hotel, which was under 1 km (pretty pleased with how that turned out), the finish of the 5km was also in the same park as the start/finish of the marathon. I had a quick shower and we headed out to find a proper breakfast. We ended up at a place called Yolk which featured a massive menu. Anywhere that considers 2 full-size pancakes as a “side” knows nothing about portion control, but worked out just fine pre-race. I ended up with an “Ironman scramble” which was egg whites and veggies with pancakes on the side and grits.

The next item on the list was the Nike store, they were releasing the finishers gear the day before the race, so I wanted to make sure I got a jacket it my size. We arrived at Nike only 1-hour after opening and already they said they were out of small jackets, and suggested coming back “tomorrow at 8am”, which would have been 30-minutes into the marathon. After a quick phone call, I decided to make the trip to Nike Bucktown, 4 miles away from the flagship on Michigan ave. They had all the sizes and it wasn’t a gong show like the downtown store. I may have ended up with a few more items than just the jacket.

We grabbed coffees at a cute shop called Red Beard, and then jumped in an Uber back downtown. We had tickets for the Architectural boat tour, but our driver was super confused about where to drop us off, and we ended up doing circles while the boat pulled away. When we arrived, we were told we could do the tour the following day, so we went to Pret a Manger for lunch and then headed back to the hotel. I organized my clothes and fuel, re-read my race plan, made sure I knew my paces and then hung out until it was time to head out for dinner.

I had made a dinner reservation at Mama’s Boy, which considers itself italian peasant food. We were meeting my friend Lisa from BC, who was also running the marathon and her mom. The place was absolutely packed when we arrived, which I’m sure was the case with all italian resto’s that night. There was a large crowd of people waiting for seats which flowed right into the dinning area. The servers knocked and elbowed them out of the way, saying “move” as they passed. The atmosphere was interesting, and the food was pretty good. We were done by 7pm and then headed back to the hotel for final pre-race prep.