Bank of America Chicago Marathon 2014 Race Recap

(For the sake of “brevity,” [lulz. There's nothing short about this post.] we’ll keep this exclusively as a race recap. You can come back later this week for the rest of my musings from the weekend :) ).

Race morning dawned dark and early, as they tend to do.



One of our group leaders last year was famous for counting down our miles on a long run by saying, “X miles down, Y to go. That aiiiiiiiiin’t shit!” Though he didn’t run with us this year, we certainly kept his positive thinking going throughout the season, so this seemed like the most appropriate message to wake up to Sunday morning. I also set my alarm to Gonna Fly Now (the Rocky song), because is there a better way to wake up on the morning of a marathon? I think not.


After getting ready while blasting my marathon pump up playlist (thank you, Caitlin!!), I headed out to join the masses on the CTA making our pilgrimage downtown. There’s nothing quite like the CTA on marathon morning :) Like last year, I completely ignored the fact that I had access to Charity Village and instead opted to use the CARA Compound at the Hilton for gear check and face time with my CARA friends.


After chilling at the Hilton and taking approximately 23948237 pictures, we all headed over to our corral where we waited, and waited, and waited for Wave 2 to go off. When 8:00 finally rolled around, we started processing from Congress to Monroe, and then we were off!


I ditched the group instantly. Or rather, got ditched. Pete offered some good insight on my attempt to analyze what went wrong on my 20 miler and suggested that I may be going out too fast. With that in mind, I made a SUPER concentrated effort to go out slow in the marathon. I hit the first mile in 10:55, which was 15 seconds faster than I had hoped for, but still substantially less than 10:30. It also was probably the first time in my entire running life where my Garmin hit the mile exactly as I crossed the mile marker (this didn’t happen at any point for the rest of the marathon, so my remaining 25 splits are probably slightly off). It sucked to not run with my friends, especially since I hadn’t done a single long run without them all summer, but it didn’t seem worth it to me to risk blowing up at the end of the marathon for the sake of having company to start with.

My plan, per a suggestion I had read in Runner’s World a couple days before, was to go out at 40 seconds slower than goal pace (11:10), run the second mile at 20 seconds slower than goal pace (10:50), run the third mile ten seconds slower (10:40), and then attempt to run goal pace or faster for miles 5-20, and hang on for the last 10K. This…ended up not happening at all. Haha. But it was a nice thought!

I continued to force myself to run much slower than I felt capable of running as we wound through downtown to LaSalle. When I was heading up LaSalle, I passed a blind runner on crutches and his guide, which was arguably the most inspirational thing I’ve ever seen in a race.

One of my CARA friends had posted on Facebook Saturday night that they had painted a blue line on the course, in case anyone happened to need guidance. I don’t know why the marathon didn’t bother telling any of the runners this (or at least if they did, I definitely missed it), but as I was running up LaSalle, I realized that the blue line on the course followed the tangents. BEST REALIZATION EVER. I signed up to run 26.2 miles and not one step farther, thank you, so once I realized the marathon had made my life SUPER easy by literally showing me the most direct route on the course, I made every effort to stick to that blue line, even when it seemed to do weird things. There were points along the course where the line disappeared, but MAN was this a lifesaver, especially on super wide roads like LaSalle.

I was feeling all right headed up through Lincoln Park (and saw Katie! So exciting!), but not having my friends around made it tough for me to not focus on everything that felt slightly off. One of my coworkers who has run several marathons advised me earlier last week to only worry on the mile I was running, so I did my best to not think too far ahead and stay in the moment. I saw my old roommates on Addison and then headed down Broadway. I remember being slightly underwhelmed by Boystown last year, but this year it was ROCKIN. I loved it. So much fun and enthusiasm!

I saw my family just beyond Wellington, as expected, and then was quite pleasantly surprised to see a friend from church (who I had no idea was spectating the marathon) at Surf. My splits through this whole section were all over the place, but all fell between 10:30 and 11:10 (depending on aid stations, mostly, since I walked whenever I grabbed water at an aid station — but only where I was drinking water, not through the entire aid station), which was quite all right by me. I really wanted to try to speed up, but with so much of the race left to go, I was scared to push it, so I told myself I had to at least hang back until I made it to Damen and Van Buren at mile 15.

I saw a friend from college in Old Town (side note: I did not particularly like the crowds around Wells and Division. They had all gotten off the sidewalk and were closing in on Wells, making the course really crowded. This was the only point of the entire marathon where I felt like I couldn’t move.) and continued truckin’ along back to downtown. That whole stretch of Adams from the turn through Old St. Pat’s has SO much energy, and I loved it. I hit the halfway point in 2:23:40, which is just over a minute faster than last year, when I hit the halfway point in 2:24:53.

The funny thing to me about a marathon is that when you pass 13.1, mentally it seems like you’re basically done. You have less distance to cover than you’ve already covered, so it should be a piece of cake, right? (True life: I was actually disappointed I was halfway done with the race. I didn’t want the marathon to be over!) Physically, however, my body knew exactly what was up and responded appropriately. Though I felt all right, aside from sore legs, my times crept into the 11:00 territory. I had a 10:43 14th mile, but beyond that, it was all 11:00+ or slower basically for the remainder of the marathon.

I made it through the charity block party (though I didn’t see my charity anywhere, even though I know they were out there :( ), and then things got real quiet. There was no one out by the United Center in terms of spectators, and that was kind of a bummer. Fortunately, my disappointment over the lack of crowd support at that point quickly dissipated, because I had turned onto Damen, and then turned onto Van Buren, at which point I had hit my goal of running the first 15 miles :D I gave myself a very proud pep talk and continued running along. I saw my physical therapy company at Jackson and Halsted (though not my PT, sadly. I’m not sure if he came out to the race at all, actually. Some fake boyfriend he is! Hahaha :P ) and gave them a hearty thank you, and then enjoyed that beautiful stretch of Jackson between Halsted and Whitney Young. I LOVE that stretch of the course. It’s so different from everything else in the West Loop area, with all the trees and old houses. It feels much more like Lincoln Park than the West Loop, and I, for one, am a HUGE fan. MarathonFoto also sets up camp in this area, and I am oh-so happy to report that the pictures they got of me in there look AWESOME. No slouching, no look of death — man, if I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t have had a clue those pictures were at mile 16!

I was feeling REALLY good all the way down Jackson and even to Halsted. I saw my family by UIC, just like last year, and I was SO blown away by how much better I felt seeing them there this year than I did last year, when I was already dying. Soon after I passed UIC, though, things started to get rough. I began to have a bit of trouble breathing, which led to me having a LOT of trouble not panicking. I knew I was going to have to switch over to my run/walk plan soon, but I wanted to make it at least to Erin’s aid station before doing that. I did, but just barely. While I had been walking only the points in aid stations where I was taking water, I started walking a little earlier at this aid station and actually thought I was going to pass out. Fortunately with a little bit of walking through the aid station I got my situation under control, and once I got past the aid station began to employ my 4:1 plan.

Originally I thought I’d do three sets of 4:1 and then reevaluate, but since I still wasn’t feeling super stellar during set two, I decided I’d keep it up at least all the way down Ashland to Pilsen. When we were heading into Pilsen, I happened to reach up and touch my face and found that I was SUPER salty. This presented me with an interesting problem. I know I’m a bit of a salty sweater, but it’s never been enough of a problem that I’ve felt like I need to replace electrolytes. I felt so salty, though, that I started to worry I had gotten too dehydrated. I knew I needed salt, which meant I knew I needed Gatorade (or pretzels, but OF COURSE at the one point on the course where I need spectators with pretzels, I saw none. Lame.), but I’ve hadn’t taken Gatorade once during this ENTIRE training cycle, and the marathon itself was not exactly the time where I wanted to start experimenting. I didn’t think I had much of a choice, though, since I still had a solid seven miles left in the marathon, so I grabbed Gatorade in Pilsen and also took a cup of water to dilute the Gatorade a bit.

MIRACLES. Not only did I feel a lot better (well, actually I felt a bit nauseous, but I could at least breathe again), but I could suddenly run again. Granted, my Garmin splits are not an accurate representation of the actual course miles, but I went from having a 12:45 and a 12:49 at miles 19 and 20 (which realistically was probably more like miles 17.75-18.75 and miles 18.75-19.75) to having an 11:25 at mile 21 and then out of NOWHERE busting out a 10:48 in mile 22, all while still using my 4:1 run/walk plan. The 10:48 was actually the only split I happened to see on my watch, but that was more than enough to convince me to keep up with my run/walk plan.

Bridgeport was a bit of a struggle. Once we were along the highway, I started to have breathing trouble again, and I was in rough shape when I saw my family at mile 23 (though, terrifyingly enough, they said I looked better at mile 23 this year than I did at mile 23 last year, which means I must have looked really, really bad at mile 23 last year). I could feel myself starting to panic over my breathing, so instead of walking one minute I walked two at this point (even through the MarathonFoto stations! I told you I wouldn’t deviate from my plan no matter what :P ).

I was in bad shape rounding the corner from State Street to 35th. I had my name on my singlet this year, and as I was going around the corner, some woman I’ve never met before in my life yelled out, “AUTISM RESEARCH! BETHANY! YOU CAN DO IT!”

Tears. So many tears. (Guess I wasn’t that dehydrated after all ;) ). I waved a thank you to her and then felt motivated enough to pick up my 4:1 plan. Plus at this point we had all of one block to run to Michigan Ave., and once you get on Michigan — home stretch, baby.

Around Chinatown, I began to worry that I wouldn’t break five hours if I kept up my run/walk plan, but when I turned onto Michigan, I saw that I had more than enough time to cover the remaining couple of miles and make it to that finish line before my watch hit 5:00. I continued to run/walk until I got to mile 25, at which point I knew I was going to run all the way to the finish. I actually ran into one of my CARA friends around here, but she told me to go on without her, so I did. I was so tired and so ready to be done, but I kept repeating over and over again, “Round the corner, up the hill, round the corner, then you’re done.” This was basically the only thing keeping me going through that last mile haha. The hill on Roosevelt, once again, felt like absolutely nothing, and then there it was: my finish line.

I didn’t have much left in me for a kick, but I managed to run the last bit at a 10:33 pace (according to my Garmin stats, that is. My Garmin says I ran 26.54 miles, and that 10:33 is for the last .54). Most importantly, I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face and a 4:57:51 on my watch :D (Well, 4:57:52 on my watch, but a 4:57:51 on the marathon’s watch, which is the only one that matters).

Oh, I was just thrilled. I didn’t cry (what?!), but I was SO, SO, SO happy. I had some serious doubts when my breathing started to go downhill about the likelihood of me breaking 5:00, so to do it was just the most wonderful relief. I knew I’d have no trouble PRing, but to PR by 28 minutes…! (27:39, technically, but whatever. Close enough to 28.). Just. Thrilled.

I made my way through the finisher’s chute (with a bit of concern — I had taken my sunglasses off to cross the finish line so I could have good photos [priorities, people], but found that my vision was all sorts of funky. It took me a second, but I realized that my pupils weren’t contracting in response to increased light like they should, which made everything way too bright [especially with all those white space blankets everyone gets at the finish]. Eventually they started working again, but that was a scary moment for me), got some Gatorade, water, and food, and cringed as the post-run pain set in my legs. I hobbled oh-so slowly back to the Hilton and met up with my family, who was, once again, quite shocked by how much better I looked compared to the year before.

Overall, I am just beside myself with how the marathon went this year. I ran fairly even splits (2:23:40 first half, 2:34:11 second half. That’s a 10:31 [!!] difference, which is about 48 seconds/mile slower — not a bad average at all in my opinion, considering I ran/walked seven of the last 13.1 miles), which makes me feel like I ran a smart, smart race. Obviously there’s this whole breathing issue, which is something I intend to look into in the near future, and there’s the whole how-to-properly-hydrate thing, but other than that I think things went really, really well on Sunday. I achieved every single one of the goals I set out to achieve, and at the end of the day, I think that makes for a very successful marathon. And man oh man do I want to do it all again in 2015 :)



Filed under Marathon Training

Chicago Marathon Training Week 18

I know, I know. You’re bored of these posts. Last one for the season, I promise :)

Sunday, October 5: Rest.

Monday, October 6: Personal Training.
I was under the false impression my trainer would take it easy on me since it’s marathon week. No such luck. We had a good session, however, and I’m bummed that I’m done with personal training. To be honest, I don’t feel that I look much stronger, nor do I really know if I am much stronger, but I will say that I’ve been substantially faster throughout this entire season than I was at any point last year. Granted, this summer was cooler than last summer, but not to such an extent that I would think my running would have been quite as affected as it was. I think I had one run all season that averaged an 11:xx pace? That’s never been the case before, and if my trainer wants to take credit for that, well, I’m not going to stop him haha. I really enjoyed working with him over the past 18 weeks, even if it did mean getting up at 4:45 every Monday morning all summer long. I doubt I would have strength trained in any capacity this marathon season if I hadn’t had a trainer, and I certainly would not have done the vast majority of things I did. Hooray for one-on-one attention! And hooray for now knowing that I can get up and go to the gym before work, which was something I previously swore I would never do.

Tuesday, October 7: Physical Therapy + Dance.
Back in the blissful moments of summer when I thought I would, you know, some day actually finish PT, I only scheduled one appointment for this week. Then my knee exploded on the 20 miler, and my PT thought it’d be best to keep me coming in twice a week through the marathon. Unfortunately, err’body is injured at this point in marathon season, which makes finding appointment times that work with my schedule a bit of a challenge. My PT and I talked about me coming in Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m. to meet with the same PT I saw last Tuesday (not my normal PT), but since that wasn’t super ideal, when I *officially* made my appointment with the girl working the front desk last Friday, we scheduled me for 7 a.m.

So I, being the responsible person I am, showed up at my PT clinic at 7 a.m., bright eyed and bushy tailed. When I went to sign in, however, I saw that my name was next to the 8:30 appointment slot, not the 7 a.m. slot. HMM.

Well, even though I was at 7 a.m., no one in the clinic could confirm that. The PT there had other patients, so I ended up doing a LOT of exercises and then got 10 or so minutes of manual therapy at the end. It all worked out just fine, though I did feel pretty stupid over the whole thing :/

Wednesday, October 8: 4 miles in 40:01 for a 10:00 pace.
Oh, these runs make me so sad! :( This was, most likely, my last weekday afternoon outdoor run until March or so. By the time my month of running ends, it’ll be way darker than I like it to be for running, so any future afternoon runs between now and next year will likely be on the ‘mill. BAH :'(

Anyway, this run went just fine. I tried to take it nice and easy and more or less succeeded. My left leg felt weird again, but I’m just blaming that on taper.

Thursday, October 9: 2.01 miles in 20:39 for a 10:18 pace + Physical Therapy.
I honestly had a pretty hard time working up the motivation to go out for a two mile run. It seemed like so much work to get all geared up to go run for just 20 minutes haha. But I did it anyway, because there was no way I was going to skip my last run of training because it felt like more work to get ready than to do the run itself.

I had my last pre-marathon PT session Thursday afternoon, which consisted of like one “exercise” (which was really just a warmup) and lots of my PT loosening up everything he’s worked on over the past…oh, 18 weeks (#foreverinPT). It hurt, per usual, but somehow I didn’t gain any bruises. What a disappointment! :P

Friday, October 10: Expo.
Aka “active rest.” Expo was good, per usual. Lots of things to see, lots of samples to pick up, lots of places to throw away my birthday money (darn you, Nike!). I actually was rather unimpressed with all the other brands’ gear offerings, so I think I spent less money than last year? Though I did buy more Nike swag this year than last year…. UGH. It was all so CUTE! If I were a gazillionaire, I would’ve bought one of everything, but I’m not, so instead I used the experience as an exercise in self-control.

Saturday, October 11: Rest.

And that’s a wrap! Marathon training cycle #2 is in the books! Honestly, I do these posts more for me than anything–I’ve found it to be extremely helpful to have this sort of online training log so I have something simple to refer to later on–but I really appreciate everyone who’s read and commented on these posts. I know they can be tedious and boring, but your feedback has been very helpful. Thanks for sticking with me!


Filed under Marathon Training

Thursday Things

1. So I’ve got this race coming up on Sunday, in case you happened to tune me out for the past four months ;)

Does anyone remember me at this time last year? How I was FREAKING THE EFF OUT over basically everything? I think I have done a remarkable job of staying level headed throughout taper up to this point. In fact, I think I’ve been more rational over the past two weeks than I had been at any point between the start of training and the 20 miler.

Exhibit A: I’ve had all sorts of random aches and pains for the past week and a half. My hip flexor was sore out of nowhere last Sunday and Monday. On my run last Wednesday, a fair portion of my left leg hurt in all sorts of weird ways. This past Monday and Tuesday, my right big toe was sore (or, if you want to be technical-ish, the metatarsal head of my first toe. Look who’s learning her anatomy!). In each and every one of these situations, I said, “You know what? It’s probably just taper.” I think my PT was shocked by this turn of events ;)

Exhibit B: Last Saturday, they were predicting thunderstorms for race day. Instead of FREAKING THE EFF OUT like I did last year, I said, “You know what? Last year on Monday and Tuesday before race day, they said it was going to storm, and it ended up being beautiful. I refuse to waste any emotional energy on this until at least Friday.” And then I got mad at everyone who was worrying about the weather for wasting their emotional energy. (I do wish the local meteorologists would come to a decisive conclusion, however. Every single day this week the forecast has changed, and I’m tired of the mind games. Pleeeeeaaaassseeeeeee no rain!)

My parents put various relatives on Bethany-Losing-Her-Mind Watch while they were in Italy and unreachable by phone (since I have a tendency of calling my mom over every single crisis, no matter how minor), and on Sunday night I was surprised by a phone call from one of my aunts, who was concerned that I hadn’t called, as she (unsurprisingly) had expected that I would have multiple mental breakdowns throughout taper. But I hadn’t! I was (and still am) doing just fine! This is my kinda taper :D

2. Lest you think I’m the picture of sanity, however, I’m happy to assure you that I and my pre-race germophobia have gone completely off the deep end.


Last Thursday, one of my roommates was coughing up a lung, and I immediately went, as one of my co-workers put it, into “full on Ebola mode.” After we ran the dishwasher Thursday night, I took two of everything–plates, forks, spoons, glasses, etc.–and have been hoarding them in my room to 1) make sure none of my roommates spittle them germs all over them and 2) to make sure I don’t have to touch anything my roommates and their germs may have touched.

This is just the tip of the crazy iceberg. All of my food in the fridge is double bagged. I think I’ve singlehandedly gone through a roll of paper towels in my aversion to touch anything anyone else could have touched (including, but not limited to, door handles, microwave buttons, the refrigerator, and so on). I now carry around my own towel instead of using the one everyone else uses in the kitchen. I even took out a brand new sponge that I’m also keeping with my dishes hoard, so as to avoid using the common sponge in the kitchen. And let’s not even talk about how frequently I now wash my hands.

I’m blaming it on taper so my roommates don’t think I’m totally insane (LOLJK. That ship sailed a loooooong time ago.)

3. Are you tired of marathon talk yet? Oh well!

So. Game plan/goals. Goal #1, as it always should be in my opinion, is to finish alive. Just slightly below that, however is Goal #1.1: to PR.

Realistically, I don’t think PR-ing is *too* high of an expectation. I at least have an idea of what I’m getting myself into this year, which certainly was not the case last year. I know the race is going to be a challenge. I know I’m going to be in a LOT of pain. That being said, I have, at least from a pace standpoint, had a MUCH better training cycle this year than last year. According to my meticulously tracked Garmin stats, last year I averaged a 10:42 (5.6 mph) training pace for the duration of my marathon training. This year, I’ve averaged a 10:20 (5.8 mph) pace. (I’ve also run 30 less miles in this cycle and logged nine less runs, but let’s not worry about that ;) ). I only couldn’t keep up with my pace group on one long run all summer, and I’ve seen more 9:xx miles in this cycle than I ever imagined possible. I really believe I’m capable of running this marathon faster than last year.

Goal #2: Stick to my plan if I need to walk. One of the things that I think destroyed me last year was not being prepared to walk and not having an effective way to maintain any sort of decent pace while walking. Thus, my plan for this year, if I need to walk, is to start with a 4:1 run:walk ratio that I will not deviate from, not even for aid stations (which is not to say that I’ll skip the aid station, just that I’ll run through it if it happens to coincide with running minutes if I’m using my run/walk plan). If that becomes too much, I’ll switch to a 3:2 run:walk ratio, and if (heaven help me), THAT becomes too much, I’ll switch to a 2:3 run:walk ratio. My method last year was “walk until you think you won’t die, and absolutely walk through every single aid station you see no matter how not-on-the-verge-of-death you feel.” That was ineffective, to say the least. I’m hoping that having a plan and sticking to the plan will help me with Goal #3…

Goal #3: Finish in under five hours. 4:59:59 is totally fine by me. I actually dreamt on Monday night that I finished in 4:55, which would be just lovely. I just want to break five hours.

Goal #4: Run the whole thing through the corner of Damen and Van Buren. Last year, I started walking just a bit before we got to Damen, and I’d like to at least make it to Mile 15 (Damen and Van Buren, essentially) this year before resorting to my run/walk plan (ideally, I’d like to make it a lot farther than that, though).

Above all, I really want to enjoy myself on Sunday. Last year, I was nearly sick with nervousness in the week leading up to the race and for most of the race itself. This race is not the be-all end-all of everything: it’s a time to celebrate what I’ve worked for over the past 18 weeks. Regardless of what happens with my time, with the weather, or with my body, I want to cross the finish line crying tears of pride rather than tears of relief.

Who’s spectating at Chicago on Sunday?? Let me know where you’ll be and I’ll keep an eye out for you!


Filed under Life