On Sunday, I ran the Chicago Marathon. I have started this race three times and finished the last two years. Since the first time I ran it, I had to DNF due to a ruptured ovarian cyst that ended up with my surgery, and the second time, my asthma didn't let me run as well as I wanted it, we can all call this race my nemesis. I was expecting nothing less from this race.
My coach prepared a training plan of 10 weeks that mimicked the Paris Marathon training we did, which was very successful for me (after all, times post surgery have been in the 4:40s and I ran Paris 2 seconds off my 4:34:09 PR with an asthma attack, a migraine and high blood pressure, so the plan looks to be a miracle provider). Between these two races, I ran the San Diego Marathon as an easy run with my new blood pressure meds (never taken any before) and ran 4:4X and had a great time. This time, I was on a second blood pressure med that tends to make me overheat. I trained 95% on the treadmill since, as I mentioned on my previous RR for the Montreal HM, my heat indexes at 6am were 96F and my highs were in the 102-106F range forever and ever with a dewpoint of 80. I am glad we are just hitting 90F lately, sheesh.
Anyway, training went great but I never felt mentally there. I hit my MP runs with success yet I guess I never believed I was as fast as when I trained for Paris. But, overall, the log is clear, this is the fastest I have been in years, if not ever. With the two new medications for the blood pressure, I didn't know what to expect. If Montreal was any indication, I sure would have a tough time again.
The temps for Chicago kept getting worse every time I refreshed the forecast. Initially, we had 50-67F, then 55-70F, then 57-79F for the day, full sun, and winds of 18mph. So, my mental unreadiness caught a break and I felt it was best to not try to PR in this race and let the PR happen just by the fact that my easy runs are as fast as my current PR. I talked to my coach and we both felt confident I could hit MP +10% (or 9:50-10:10) during the race even with this weather. I felt confident I could do that since most of my LRs were at MP +10% or MP and I have done plenty of miles at that pace to know how it feels. With that, I felt that a 4:22-4:25 was possible. Still a PR, but not the PR I know deep down I can do on a perfect non asthma/perfect weather day (which never happens, BTW).
Since Montreal, I've been having a lot of stomach issues. I am just going to say I am glad to be running on the TM with easy access to the bathroom. I went from normal eating to vegetarian, and even that, which helped cured my stomach woes years ago, is not helping. I am going to start eliminating complete food groups in an attempt of finding food that won't make my stomach want to kill me. My reflux is at an all time high.
We arrived to Chicago at 9:30am on Saturday morning, had breakfast at our favorite Cuban place (ironic, isn't it?) and headed to the expo. This time, not sure if it was me, the expo was very disorganized. Everything was not where it had been in years before. Very hard to navigate, IMO. There were not enough shuttle buses this year so it took us until 4pm (from 11:30am) to head to, be at, and head back from the expo. I am very surprised because this race is very well organized and pleasant to run. We paid for one of those hop on hop off tours after lunch, and then headed straight to dinner at Carmine's on Rush Street. We had a nice beer, pasta, and by 10:30pm I was asleep (an early record). Woke up at 5am instead of 6:30am. My corral started at 8am and I was staying across the street so I had all the time in the world to sleep...if I could! But no. By 5:30am I was up with stomach issues, yay me. Got dressed as slow as I could and headed out of the room at 7am instead of 7:15am to meet a friend of mine. Met RV Downing after that to head to our corral (Corral F), tried to eat my donuts and my Mtn Dew, but it was a day where my stomach said nothing, please. By the time the corrals were closed, I told RV Downing, fuck, I need to use the potties. Good luck with that.
With RVD at the start:
People kept saying later, ooh, there was good weather for the race. Eh, no. Only if you started in the first wave at 7:30am and finished in around less than 4 hours, I would say. Our wave and corral started at 8am and it was already close to 60F. By the time I got to the halfway point, it was 70F. By the time I finished the race, it was close to 80F. And whoever tells me (again) this is good weather to race a marathon, I'm going to slap someone.
Since all GPSs go crazy during the first 5-6 miles of the race, as we run in downtown towards the North, I used the best alternative I have, my trusty HR. I know what HR I am supposed to have for MP + 10% and I hit that from the get go. You can see my splits being very consistent even after the HM point. I had no idea what I was running except whenever I stepped onto the 5K, 10K, 15K mats and I could sum it up myself, but otherwise, I used the lap button to keep accuracy. I took a gel at Mile 4.5 and it went down OK.
Splits: 10:13, 9:59, 9:55, 9:47, 9:53, 9:53. (5K Split: 31:10, 10:02mm; 10K Split: 1:01:54, 9:54mm).
So far, I felt fine. The first half of the race had a lot of shade, there was a nice breeze but nothing like the 18mph we experienced later. We headed back South to downtown and the GPS went crazy again, and by Mile 10, my HR was a bit higher than my usual (but still within my usual range) so a couple of the miles were done by feel and one of them was too slow cause I apparently felt too easy, ha. I took a gel at Mile 9 and it went down OK. Kept drinking water at every water station, albeit a little sip. I do remember passing by a clock atop a building around the halfway point and it already had 70F. It had warmed up 12F since I started. The sun was now all we had until the end. Sun and wind.
Splits: 9:52, 9:55, 10:01, 10:05, 10:01, 10:01, 10:13, HM Split: 2:11 (take that, Montreal). This is just where I wanted to be at this point. (15K Split: 1:32:53, 9:58mm; 20K Split: 2:04:08, 10:04mm; HM Split: 2:11:05, 10:12mm)
Now it's warm and sunny. Did I mention there was no cloud in the sky? I start having stomach issues and my foot had been bunching the sock since Mile 2 but I waited until after Mile 15 or something to fix it. I had to fix it 4 more times (that's at least 4 minutes wasted). At this point, I can only keep running and fixing it. After years and many socks, shoes, etc., my arthritis is not going to let me run in peace. But I waited so long to fix it, I now have a hot spot on the ball of my feet that is starting to hurt. Awesome. The weather continued to warm up and I am sure we were close to the mid 70s by Mile 20. I am still running my normal effort for MP +10% albeit a few seconds slower due to my stomach. Still taking water at every water station and now throwing some over my head. So far, I have not seen any photographers but one, so I will probably look like an idiot in the pictures when they come out. This is where I lost my PR. Somewhere around Mile 18, I bet. You can tell from the splits. I took a gel after the HM mark and that one did not set well. Still tried the one at Mile 18 and I think that did me in.
Splits: 10:03, 10:00, 10:13, 10:28 (this is the one I ran by effort, ha), 11:27 (fixed my sock/toe), 10:47, 11:48 (fixed my sock). 25K Split: 2:35:38, 10:08mm; 30K Split: 3:09:10, 10:48.
And then, I threw up. The end. My stomach was bad at this point so the going was slow after that. I didn't walk anything, except one water station somewhere after I threw up where I tried to get some Gatorade in me (it worked) and more water on me. But, apart from that I never walked but used LTH's mantra: you can slow down but you cannot walk. I just had to stop a lot, to fix the sock, to almost throw up again, etc. The sun was brutal at this point and there was no relief from it. I kept seeing the Willis Tower on the horizon but it never looked like I was getting closer to the finish any time soon. Sigh.
Splits: 12:43 (vomiting), 11:18 (ran), 12:37 (walked the water station and drank the G, fixed the sock), 11:34 (ran), 11:31 (ran), 12:17 (fixed the sock), 10:46 (0.22 to the finish).
I was not going to stop that last time to fix my sock/toe, but the foot hurt like crazy. A cop immediately came to me to make sure I was OK and I had to fix the sock under his piercing eyes because apparently he didn't believe I was fine. At Mile 24 I passed a beer station and I said fuck it, I already threw up, what's the worse that can happen? It was delicious.
I crossed the finish line in 4:39:22. I would've been ecstatic last year to run this time, yet I ran 4:46:XX. I was not happy with my time but I was happy to have come 5 minutes off my PR (my PR was run in a race that was 42F and flatter than Chicago) and with a 7 minute course PR when last year it was 50F and a nice weather day. In fact, this is my second fastest marathon since the surgery. I know I am faster than this and one day the weather and the asthma will align to give me that perfect PR. But for now, I have fun.
I will do Chicago again. Many times, I suspect. I love the race. I don't think I longer fear it like I did last year. I passed Mile 7 when my cyst ruptured and waved at it. I passed Mile 11 where my husband picked me up in tears and I waved at it. I might not ever PR in Chicago, but I am sure gaining ground there.
Thanks for reading.