Chicago Marathon 2011

I’ve officially got 2 marathons under my belt now!  AND I still have my toenails in tact 🙂

I'm fiercer than a ninja- Chuck Norris has never run a marathon and I've run TWO!

This year, the marathon started at an alert level of yellow because of the temperature- it was already mid 60’s at 7:30am when the race started!  And this year, I felt it.  It didn’t climb as hot as it did last year, but man, it felt hotter!   Maybe it was humidity?  Maybe it was mental?  I don’t know…  This year was also mentally tougher than last year… I’ll get to that later.

So, the start to the marathon started out pretty much the same as last year with me jumping into the start coral.  I wasn’t late this year, so I didn’t have the panic, but I didn’t see an opening, so my friend Lisa helped hoist me over the fence, following the lead of half a dozen other runners.  I thought I was jumping in where my pace group was lined up… only to figure out once I was in the middle of the sea of people, that I was actually behind the pace team one slower than I wanted to run with.  Oi!  So, I started politely saying “excuse me!” and maybe not so politely pushing my way forward.  It was crowded!  And by the time people started walking forward, I had only managed to make my way to the beginning of the pace team one slower than I wanted.  So, once I finally got to the start line (about 10 minutes after the start), I started booking it to catch up.

I spent the first 3 miles of the race not concentrating on anything but trying to find the 4:00 pace team sign among the throngs of runners packed in the streets and dodging other runners as I tried to pull ahead and catch up.  My garmin lost satellite 3 times during those 3 miles because of bridges we were running under, so even though I had my pace tattoo on, I was already off to a bad start if I had to calculate my time myself.  Finally!  I started seeing runners with the 4:00 bib on their backs and then saw the pacers ahead.  I ran up and fell alongside of them.  For the first 2 miles I was with the pace team, my garmin (and I verified with one of the pacers) said we were actually running a 8:40 pace to make up for the time lost in the slow bottle neck start to the race.  We started slowing down pace around mile 7…

I felt A-M-A-Z-I-N-G the first half of the race.  I was talking to the pace setters, listening to their stories and the mile markers just kept coming up before I knew it!  One weird thing happened at mile 10- all of a sudden, I stepped down and my left leg, the one that I had injured, felt like it gave out under me- that wobbly feeling like you’re just going to crash to the ground.  I took another stride and same feeling.  What in the world??  So, I kept going, 3rd stride felt ok… and as quickly as that feeling came, it went away and never came back throughout the rest of the race- thank goodness!

At the halfway point- 13.1 miles- I couldn’t help but think that next Sunday, I’ll be crossing the finish line 🙂  Not so on this day though… but hey- halfway done already and it had gone FAST!  Lisa was going to be at this mile marker so I started scanning the crowds… somehow I missed her- although she said she saw me after I had passed on the opposite side of the street.

Here’s a little bit about the course- pretty much through the entire first half of the race, the streets were lined with people cheering you on.  It was amazing!  It’s indescribable how much that helps you and makes the time fly by!  I had put my name on my shirt with tape the night before, so people were cheering “Go Nikki!”- it made me feel like I had people I knew pressing me on 🙂

At mile 15, the mental monkeys kicked in.  I have NO idea where they came from.  I started thinking “why am I doing this?  I don’t want to run anymore.  I’m bored.  I could stop now and meet Lisa and just go home.”  What in the world???  Seriously??  And I kept battling those thoughts right up to mile 19! Physically at this point, I felt great!  My legs were loose, I was keeping right up with the pace team, I was breathing good.  The only thing I can possibly think happened, is that running with the pacers, I didn’t have anything “to do.”  Usually, I’m checking my watch, adjusting my pace, watching my time, etc… this time, I knew if I was in stride with the pacer, I was going to finish in 4 hours.  In fact, we were ahead of our pace time and projected to finish at 3:59.

Finally at mile 19, someone in the crowd yelled out- you’ve got this!  And I though, darn right I’ve got!  I’m at mile 19!  I am not stopping now!

But, I need to back up a bit… Lisa had planned to meet me at mile 17 because this was a part of the course that had less of a crowd last year.  I knew she would be on the left side of the road and she had my extra jelly belly sport beans and gels in case I needed them.  I had been taking the sport beans every 5 miles, beginning at mile 5 and so far had not had any GI issues, so I ran up to her and began yelling “beans! beans! beans!”  We did a quick hand off, I thanked her, and continued on with the pace group.

So now, back to mile 20.  I slowed down to refill my water bottle and the pace group didn’t slow at this water station.  I had to make the decision to sprint or to stay at my pace.  At this point, I decided that I didn’t want to re-injure myself since this was supposed to be a “training” run and my goal was to just finish, given I was told in July that I should just flat-out not run it at all.  I slowed a bit and my legs started to tighten up.  This is where it started to get harder to put one foot in front of the other unless I slowed my pace.  I let myself slow down, until I looked at my garmin and realized HOW slow I was actually going!  Then, I gave myself a mental swift kick in the rear, took in the rest of my sport beans, and started to increase my pace again.  At this point, all I had left was a 10k and I would be finished!

Mile 21 is Chinatown and a very fun spot in the race!  The crowd is energized and the music got me going again.  Mile 23 was a very nice surprised with a LOUD and LARGE crowd!  The crowd changed at mile 23- almost everyone I passed was yelling “Go Nikki!”  You’ve got this!  Keep it up!  You’re almost there!  THAT was all I needed, I would just smile huge and knowing someone was rooting for me kept me going!  AND hey- now it’s only a 5K to the finish!

Mile 25- the mile marker was actually at mile 25.2 and said in large letters- 1 mile to go!  I took a gel- which seemed to give me an insane burst of energy and got my pace back up to 9:00/mile pace!  I rounded the corner and saw the infamous last hill ahead, that was lined with people.  I was toward the left side of the street as I started up the hill and people started yelling “Go Nikki!.”  They had their hands extended, so I moved a little closer and gave them high fives- I was doing this and I actually felt GREAT at this point.  I saw the mile 26 sign and it HIT me.  I was overcome with emotion that I cannot describe.  My lips started quivering and I had this wide wide grin across my pace.  I felt like was about to start sobbing and laughing at once!  I made it to the top and saw the finish line.  I decided, this was MY time and took all I had to “sprint” it in.  I know I wasn’t actually sprinting, but it was as fast as my legs would carry me at that point.  I started dodging other runners to cross the finish line in front of them.

After I stopped, the stiffness immediately set in!  I had completely forgotten what that felt like from last year 🙂  I was seriously moving about as slow as you can possibly imagine.  And still, the lips were quivering… I had finished!!!  I can’t really explain how emotional it is when you cross the finish line.  I think it’s because you go through so much mentally and physically during the course of the race- it just- I can’t explain it, it’s emotional!

I made my way through the line, got my medal, water, a banana, and found my way to the gatorade station.  I was so turned around, I asked a staffer where my gear check was- that was also my meeting spot to see Lisa- and slowly slowly started my way there.  One funny story… I dropped my banana.  Without thinking twice, I naturally bent over to pick it up.  Oh my goodness!  I went down just fine!  As I started to pull myself back up, well, I just wasn’t sure I would make it back up!  It took everything to stand back up again.  The girl walking behind me shouted “don’t worry, I was ready to pull you back up!”  We both laughed and she said she was impressed I even tried to bend over in the first place 🙂

I made my way over saw Lisa and she gave me the biggest, longest hug ever!!  I am tearing up now as I write that.  Again, it’s just something that I can’t describe!  It’s such an amazing feeling!  Before I got my gear, I sat down to loosen my shoe strings. My 2 second toes were killing me and I thought for sure I lost both toenails.  Much to my surprise later when I took my socks off at the hotel- not the case!  My feet were definitely swollen, but toenails were still in tact!

So, my finish time is 4:04:19.  I shaved 33 minutes off of my time last year.  And, it was hot!  I began drinking water at mile 3 and continued to sip every few miles- I think I refilled my water bottle about 5 times.  I started fueling with sport beans at mile 5 and continued to take them every 5 miles until mile 25, when I took a gel instead.  For Tucson, I think I’ll start taking gels earlier given the amazing boost of energy that one seemed to give me.

I did not have to stop and pee once!  Nor did I pee my pants 🙂  So, that’s a bonus!  Also, I did not have ANY GI ISSUES!!  I did take 4 immodium in the morning and it did the trick.  I was burping up bile along the course… but that has happened to me before on long runs… I wasn’t puking, just the puke taste (gross, I know- you should have had to taste it!) 🙂

And now, I must log off because I have a much deserved massage scheduled this afternoon 🙂  Followed by mexican food and margaritas at my favorite restaurant Mi Mexico 🙂

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