Chicago Marathon Race Report: Redemption Is Here!

Short Version:

Yesterday, I ran the Chicago Marathon with a time of 4:46:49, my fastest in close to two years (and you know I have run lots of marathons in two years) and my fourth fastest marathon ever.  Considering how this year has gone with my surgery, recovery, rebuilding, and my asthma, I am very happy with this result.

Long Ass Version:

As most of you know, this race was a race I needed to do since I had to DNFd last year at Mile 11 due to a ruptured cyst, which ended up with a total hysterectomy in February of this year.  Last year, I was much faster (and skinnier) and I was training very well on high mileage and amazing paces.  But it was not meant to be.  It was all over before the two hour mark back then.  I did 5-6 marathons between Chicago and the end of 2013, but all were painful and slow, dealing with my issue in the best way I could.  The last marathon I ran was Disney in January and, after that, I DNFd two races and felt just ready to have my surgery.  All those marathons were above 5 hours with my fastest being 5:10 then.  As a gauge, my PR is from February 2012 and it is 4:34:09.

Recovery went well and I was able to get my miles back on track quickly after my surgery.  I ran the Surfer's Path Marathon in May, 2014, and came in at 5:16 which was not bad for it being three months post surgery but disappointing to me.  Then, I trained for the San Francisco Marathon only to crashed and get sick from overwork (handling my job plus two committees at work and maybe a tad of overtraining.  I was very tired of running at the end of July and I had no mojo whatsoever.

So, as soon as registration for Chicago opened, I was in.  Except it was a lottery this time around.    I entered the lottery and crossed my fingers, and I was very happy to have gotten in.  My husband sighed and just said OK.

I talked to my coach before I ran San Francisco and we agreed on a 10-11 week training plan for Chicago.  I told him I knew a PR this year would be next to impossible (not sure if I still think this is impossible) since my paces are way below what I was running last year and I felt like shit, so that I only wanted to improve from SF to Chicago and do the best he could to get me there.  I also asked for less miles this time with no more than 50s for my peak (he gave me 60).  I really felt at my wit's end in July.

But as usual, my coach works wonders and this time was no different.  Since my asthma has been really bad due to the Pollen Vortex, he gave me no short and fast speedwork and nothing faster than HMP.  I seriously doubt I could even hit the HMP and I did not disappoint having a very bad workout on that day.  I have been barely able to breathe this year and my breathing capacity (with medication) has lowered down to 45% in April and 52% now.  I also trained through one of the hottest and most humid years Miami has had, with temperatures above 90s and heat indexes in the 100s for months.  Most of my LRs had to be divided between outside at 5am and on the TM by 8am because the heat index would be 102F by 8am and 78 dewpoint or even more.  It's a miracle I was able to hit all my workouts except one short 5 miler before the 13.1 Boston.

But my coach did not give me an easy plan either.  I had MP miles every week, sometimes two in less than 4 days in between.  I ran the 13.1 Boston as an MP workout and ran 8 at MP and last 3 fast there, only to run 12 with 8 at MP on that following Thursday.  I ran one 18 miler and two 20 milers, not enough compared to what he has had for me before but remember, this was an 10-11 week plan and I was coming off a bad period of running.  But I could feel it working.  My running by HR coupled with his plan was working.  My breathing capacity went up to 52%, I was getting faster, and I was running through our heat and humidity without issue.  Except the HMP workout, which went horribly as I could not breathe even while running at an adjusted pace, I hit everything better than expected.  Those of you who wondered why I did not raced the 13.1 Boston, this is why.  My asthma will not let me run at HMP or faster; in fact, it's an attack waiting to happen.  It's not worth it.

So, with my MP workouts pointing to a PR, I was confident I could hit a sub-5 for the first time in 1 year and 8 months but I did not want to include sub-5 within my goals as I felt that was too soft at this point.  So, after consulting with him and others who will remain nameless but that are part of our wonderful community here in RA. (LRB, Lily, etc.) , I tentatively thought 4:45 was a soft goal easily achievable, 4:35-4:39 as my next goal, and a PR as a far goal that was there just in case the stars aligned.  I felt confident with this race.

The only issue I encounter was during taper.  Because my surgery could not get rid of all my endometriosis, I still have some that have remained painless.  Well, not anymore!  It was not the blinding pain of a ruptured cyst and it will not explode this time around but I am not painless and need to start another round of treatment which I started today.

Because of work, we could not leave Miami until Saturday morning and I was fearing the flight would be delayed and I would not be able to make it to the expo on time.  But we did, except for the little incident in flight I mentioned in the Dailies, where a dude just ran over my husband on the way to the toilet, hit an older man, vomited in front of the toilet and passed out, all while I was using the toilet.   That was, hmmm, fun.  Then, I feared we would be quarantined on the plane with Ebola concerns and I would miss the race. 

We got in on time, checked at our hotel, met with OtterGoRun (and coincidentally met never run and RVDowning at the lobby, you know chance encounters in a city that big are rare) and went to lunch with Otter and hubby, followed by the expo.  Picked my packet up and went to sign the #OWNCHICAGO sign at the expo.  I did not know I would get to see this again sometime during the race and seeing it during the worst of my asthma during the race kept me going:

I wrote Revenge on it.

This is the map of the course.  I stood up in the spot I called my husband to pick me up last year.  I thought it was appropriate:

We head back to the hotel and said goodbye to Otter, which gave us most of her day to spend with us and we appreciated and were glad to see her again.  Even my husband spoke to her, miracle!  We headed out to do some sightseeing:

Had a nap at the hotel and went to dinner.  We ended up eating at Morton's and I had steak and potatoes.  You read that right, steak and potatoes.  And a beer.  Gasp!

Since my corral was F in the second wave and I was staying across the street from the race, I put my alarm for 6:30am.  I slept poorly with my usual waking up 300 times during the night to make sure I could go back to bed and by 6am I was fully awake.  So, I got ready and tried eating something.  As you know, I like to run LRs and marathons on an empty stomach and the coughing that came up when I chewed up a nutritional bar showed me I should just leave it and run on an empty stomach.  That was the start of the asthma, I think.

They were expecting high 40s at the start but it was 51F according to so I left everything (gloves, arm warmers) behind, and opted for a short sleeve and a skirt.  Got outside and everybody appeared to be dressed for a freezer.  I was fine with what I was wearing.  Walked to the race start and walked to my corral as the wheelchair athletes were starting at 7:22am.  The corral was pretty empty and I moved as front as I could (my chip started 28 seconds from the start of Wave 2) and started talking to a girl that was running her first marathon.  She was very nice and appeared ready but she had a lot of questions.  Hope she ran well.

Wave 1 started and all corrals A through E were done in 15 minutes.  Our start time was 8am and they made us wait until then (I thought they would let us start behind E but I guess not).  We started and I had deja vu feelings and all and off we were off.

As you know, I trained by HR and was racing by HR.  My plan was to run the first mile easy and then pick up until I reach 155HR by Mile 3.  The GPSs get crazy during the race and it could have you doing a 6mm mile or a 15mm and no rhyme or reason to it.  The buildings or something wreck with the satellite reception.  A footpod last year was useless as my Garmin kept thinking it had satellites and kept screwing it up for me.  This year, I was running with this baby, the TomTom Cardio MultiSport, with the HR monitor on the wrist.  I ran the last two months with it and it's pretty accurate, both the HR and the distance (as compared to my 910X) and it's cool that I can get different color bands for each outfit (of course, that's important!)

I had planned to look for several people on the course: RobinCD marshaling, Jerryb at the aid station, and AmandainATL with her group sometime at Mile 17.  I can report that I saw none of them.  

As you can see from the splits below, I was pretty consistent with my HR.  I felt great during the first half, but it was windy.  I remember passing Mile 8 where my cyst broke and thought hmm, my insides hurt but nothing like that, KEEP GOING.  I saw a guy between miles 8 and 9 (news said it was at Mile 7 but I swear I had passed the 8th marker) unconscious and people administering CPR on him and I was like oh shit (the guy made it), I passed the Mile 11 marker where I called my husband and ended my PR attempt last year and limped to the El station to have my husband picked me up and I said KEEP GOING, I started coughing at Mile 14 but I said fuck you, asthma, KEEP GOING.  Then, by Mile 19 I was breathing like a fish out of water, my asthma was in full force.  You can see it on the splits that I had been getting slower for the last three miles and I knew that but I just thought I would be able to run through it.  I had a decision to make: I could attempt to run through it some more and risk an attack by Mile 23 and had to walk the rest or I start my asthma attack strategy now and salvage the race and finish strong.  I decided on the latter.  Based on what happened after I finished, it was the right decision.

So, I started walking the water stations and took 0:30 walking breaks whenever I coughed, then restarted running until I coughed again and repeat.  It ended up being only 1-2 walk breaks per mile, but most of the time not that many.  Oh, and I had to slow the pace while running to not raise the HR above 150 because anything above that would start giving me the coughing asthma back.

So, I pushed and I KEPT GOING.  I was having fun, I felt strong, I just couldn't run and breathe, damn it.  I high-fived kids, danced merengue where the Mexican Restaurants were, kept chugging on Gatorade and water, kept eating my gels on time, did everything right.  Here is me around Chinatown:

I swear I was running in both!  My mouth is open because I COULD NOT FUCKING BREATHE.

Anyway, pretty soon, I head to the finish line and I knew I was missing the 4:45 goal by a hair (especially since I weaved a lot and the GPS readings were off), so I pushed and I sprinted to the finish (if that picture above is from the chute, I swear I was running!).  Finished up and this woman put a medal around my neck.  I started crying, mostly because of what happened last year and because I had finished it this year, and she freaked out, ha.  Then, I turned around and I try to breathe and I couldn't.  The amount of air I was inhaling was cut by 90%, I exhaled and tried again, nope, still off.  I kept trying and trying and trying while I was having a fucking asthma attack.  I kept thinking that at least I am close to the medical tent in case I pass out and I am wearing my RoadID that says asthma patient.  It took me 10-20 seconds before I could breathe back to (my) normal.  Phew, good thing I did not have that during the race.  That was the worse one I've had ever.  Probably too much emotion at the finish or something?  Anyway, I kept walking, grabbed a banana, water and left for the hotel.  Tried to find hubby but I could not see him, so I went back, texted him, took and shower and got ready.  I felt fine afterwards, mostly because I was not running in the wind anymore.

The official splits from the race were the following.  I think they are by split (paces per split, not per the whole race).  As you can see, I was slowing down instead of getting faster.  When my asthma is not there, I usually run negative splits without issue, so when you see this, you know I'm not running my normal.


SplitTime Of DayTimeDiffmin/milemiles/h

I am happy with my time.  Like I said, it's my fastest in close to two years and my 4th fastest.  After SF, I seriously doubt I would ever run a sub-5, least of all being this close to my PR.  Had I not have any asthma issues yesterday, I think I would have run a 4:37 or thereabouts.  And I will run that or faster soon.  I am now sure of it.

Thanks for reading (if you did not fall asleep!)

This is a nice finishing pic:

I mean, for me, not for the dude that looks like he is picking up his nose.


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