Last week I ran the Chicago Marathon!! I loved the race and all the buildup to it — it was so awesome to be in a city that was centered around running for a whole weekend. And spoiler alert, I beat my time goal (3:35) and qualified for Boston!
David and I flew into Chicago Friday morning. We each bought a 3-day unlimited train pass, which are only $20! We definitely got our money’s worth — we took the “L” all over, even for really short trips. And so convenient to get from the airport and back. Pay attention Denver… 🙂 We went to our hotel, the Palmer House, even though it was way before our check-in time. But lucky us, they could get us a room! We admired the lobby, settled into our room, and were ready to conquer Chicago.
We decided to hit up the expo on Friday, with the hope that it would be a little less crowded than Saturday. We took the train down to the McCormick Center. The expo was huge, but since the convention center is also huge, it didn’t feel overly crowded. Getting my bib and shirt were easy peasy — I brought the participant booklet that the marathon sent in the mail ahead of time, which had a QR code so that the volunteers could lookup my number right away. After taking care of the necessities, we beelined for the official race merchandise. I picked out a cuuuute jacket, then we wandered for some photo ops and free beer samples.
We took it easy the rest of the day, grabbing some Intelligentsia coffee, strolling around Millennium Park, and eating delicious stir fry (made to order — come to Denver Brightwok!).
We slept a little later than we intended on Saturday. I wanted to do a two-mile shakeout run, and David needed to do his nine-mile long run for the week. We grabbed some breakfast and coffee at Starbucks (just downstairs… I could definitely get used to that kind of commute to Starbs), then headed out for our runs. We headed down to the lakefront, and there were runners all over getting in their shakeout runs. You could feel everyone’s excitement!
We had lunch at a French cafe, then went to the Adler Planetarium, which is the oldest planetarium in the country. We went to a show and walked through the exhibits, which were small enough that we felt we had seen everything, even though we were only there for a couple hours. That was my time limit for being on my feet the day before the race!
We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant on Michigan Ave. I had gnocchi with a pesto sauce and a duck egg — it was delicious! I also had one beer, my usual pre-race routine. I forgot to take a pic when the food came out, plated nicely. So this one will have to do instead.
After dinner, it was time to hit the sack! Our hotel was literally a couple blocks from the race start, so I didn’t need to get up too early. I woke up around 5:30. But I still wanted to get a good night’s sleep.
David and I woke up in plenty of time to have a nice, relaxing morning (as relaxed as you can be when you know you’ll be running a marathon in a few hours!). I ate jam on bread and a PowerBar. Then we made the short trek to the start.
I figured it would be super fast to get through the security checks and into my corral, since I wasn’t checking a bag. We arrived at the gate at 7:00 and my corral closed at 7:20. It wasn’t quite as organized as I had hoped, and I still had to wait in a swarm of people to get through the security gate. I finally made it to my corral at 7:17 — yikes! The good thing was that I was not thinking about the race with all the chaos of getting to the race. I found the 3:35 pace group and only had to wait around for a few minutes.
I knew the race would be warmer than I would’ve liked. The marathon announced the risk level would be yellow, meaning less than ideal conditions. It was in the mid fifties at the start, which didn’t feel too bad, especially with a breeze. By the time I finished, it was about 70 degrees. So not too terrible, but I decided to take some extra measures to account for the heat. I drank Gatorade at just about every single aid station (which were almost ever mile!). In the last half of the race, I started pouring water over my head at each station too. I think this strategy helped me to keep pushing through, even when I started getting uncomfortable.
I wish I could say that I really took in the city sights along the race, but everything is always such a blur to me when I’m racing. The spectators were amazing, and they were everywhere! In what other sport do the fans cheer for the amateurs just as much as they do for the elites?! So cool!
I didn’t really run with the 3:35 group. I stayed around an 8:00 pace for the first sixteen miles or so. I was in Corral C, which had a 3:35 group, and eventually I caught up with the 3:35 group in Corral B (which would’ve started a few minutes before me). I was slowing down a little as my legs got tired and I started getting warm, so I decided to stick with that group for a while. I ran with them until about mile 23, when they went on ahead and I focused on not giving up. I told myself that I could slow down, but I could NOT walk, like I did in the last three miles of Santa Rosa. I felt much better than I did during that race, and I’m proud that my pace didn’t slip too much at the end.
Right at mile 26 is the one and only real hill of the race. It’s really not too bad — in fact, David and I walked up it the day before and laughed at how small it was. But at the point in the race, you better believe it hurt! Some people walked up it, but not me, I would not let myself. We turned the corner to the finish line, and I stopped immediately upon crossing. My watch said 3:33:something! I found out later I did it in 3:33:29, beating my time goal by a minute and a half. YES!!
I’m well aware that that time is likely not good enough to actually get into Boston. Registration for Boston 2017 is next fall, so who knows, maybe I’ll be able to get a better time before then. But for now, I’m content with a three and a half minute PR and my first Boston qualifying time.
My watch GPS messed up pretty quickly into the race, so I paced myself based on just the elapsed time. Here are my official splits for each 5k from the race results:
5K: 24:53 – 8:02 pace
10k: 24:44 – 7:59 pace
15k: 24:59 – 8:04 pace
20k: 25:00 – 8:04 pace
25k: 25:02 – 8:05 pace
30k: 25:06 – 8:06 pace
35k: 25:43 – 8:18 pace
40k: 26:17 – 8:29 pace
The race ended on the south side of Grant Park, but the post-race festivities were about 0.8 miles north. The race people made us keep walking through the looooong finishers’ chute. At the time, this felt like torture, but I think it ultimately helped me stretch out my legs and recover a lot faster. I ate some of my goodies, then grabbed my free beer after meeting up with David.
We went back to the hotel (grateful once again to be so close!) and took a much needed shower. We went to Revolution Brewery to celebrate with some beers and had dinner at Giordano’s, because Chicago.
We had a great time in Chicago, and I loved going on a racecation that was focused only on the race. I made much better decisions leading up to the race than I did for the Santa Rosa Marathon, which was just seven weeks before Chicago — I rested my legs more, hydrated better, ate a fuller breakfast, and fueled better during the race. I’m giving my body a much-needed rest these next few weeks, and I’ll be running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Vegas Half Marathon just for fun in about a month. But after that, it’s time for a new goal race! 🙂