Thursday Things

1. In an effort to put myself in the best position possible to have a fantastic marathon, I decided the most logical course of action would be to pack the days leading up to the marathon with a zillion activities, guaranteeing elevated stress levels and next to no relaxing! A foolproof plan!

Sarcasm aside, I did way more in the week before the marathon than I should have/would have if I had been thinking, and it really stressed me out–like, crying-in-the-kitchen-a-week-before-the-race-because-there-are-so-many-dishes-and-I-don’t-have-time-to-do-them stressed out. I would definitely not recommend following my method, but in case you’re interested, here’s what I did!

2. First up (and, frankly, a big contributor to the crying-in-the-kitchen incident) was my first-ever trip to Montrose for the purpose of birding.

Montrose Beach/Point/Harbor has a reputation among local birders as being the place in Chicago to go birding, and it’s been on my bucket list to go there during migration since last fall or so. As I learned while I was there, at one point, there was a military base at Montrose Harbor that had a honeysuckle hedge surrounding the ground level. Birders noticed that, during migration, warblers would dart in and out of the hedge “like magic,” which is how the area got the name Magic Hedge. Since the base closed, there has been an intentional effort to develop the area in a way that will cater to migrating birds, with a variety of environments (open prairie, woods, etc.), so it has become quite the hot spot for birders.

I wasn’t able to make it during spring migration this year, so I circled Sept. 29 on my calendar as the day I’d go during the fall. I only had eight miles on tap that morning, it was during the height of migration, and, conveniently, the weather was pretty cooperative. What could possibly go wrong?!

While I certainly agree with the assessment of birders of ages past that warblers flock (heh puns) to the place, that was, ultimately, the root of my problems. There are nearly 50 different kinds of warblers that you might find in North America, and it felt like all 50 kinds were there on Sept. 29. In reality, I saw seven different kinds, most of which were brand new to my life list. You’d think that’d make the day a success, and I suppose in retrospect it did, but I was so overwhelmed. I had a hard time taking pictures of the birds I saw since they never sat still, which frustrated me, and an even harder time trying to identify them, especially since they’d all lost their breeding colors and looked basically identical. I was in way over my head and felt like a total failure of a birder, and that was obviously discouraging.

The American Redstarts were the only warblers that came close to taking pity on me. Here’s an out-of-focus, too-high-ISO female:

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And a male, also with too high ISO. This is what happens when you put an amateur (aka me) behind an SLR. Isn’t he striking, though?

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These pictures aren’t exactly high quality, but I do like that I captured the female on the prowl for some bugs for a mid-afternoon snack. In the second picture, you can see her leaping for a tiny little green bug. I think that’s pretty cool. I also think the coloring on the underside of her wings is very pretty, even if it’s a bit understated compared to that of her male companion.

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I did see several other birds I could identify, easy ones like cardinals and catbirds and chickadees, but overall it was not even close to the enjoyable experience I hoped it’d be. I think I need to practice at a less populated spot before I go to Montrose again. Either that, or I need to go to Montrose just to enjoy it, rather than to try to log the birds I see on eBird.

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The bees, for what it’s worth, were much more cooperative to my photographic ambitions.

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3. The Tuesday before the marathon, I skipped dance in favor of seeing Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally at the Chicago Theater!

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They were there as part of a tour for their new book, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told. I LOVE Parks and Rec and like Will & Grace a lot, too (not as much as I love Parks and Rec, but that’s one of my favorite TV shows, so not much else really competes), so I was SUPER interested in seeing Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally live. Their conversation was moderated by Will Forte, which was a huge surprise. The Chicago Tribune sponsored the event, so I figured it’d be a journalist from the Trib moderating, not another celebrity!

I enjoyed hearing them talk about their relationship and careers, and being in the Chicago Theater for the first time. It’s a beautiful space! The event ticket included a copy of the book, which I have yet to start, but hopefully I’ll get around to it sooner rather than later.

4. The Thursday before the marathon, I had yet another event: Ed Sheeran at Soldier Field. Sort of.

I had a few other family members running the marathon, and one of them has wanted to go to a show at Soldier Field for awhile. When she found out that Ed Sheeran was playing the Thursday before the race, she asked if the rest of us wanted to go. I don’t really have strong feelings about Ed Sheeran one way or the other. I don’t actively like his music, but I don’t actively dislike it either, so I didn’t care one way or the other whether or not we went. Everyone else wanted to go, so we all got tickets.

By the time we got to the aforementioned crying-in-the-kitchen incident, I no longer had any interest in attending the concert. I felt behind on and overwhelmed by everything, including that little 26.2 mile run I planned on doing 36 hours after the show, and I seriously considered bailing. I felt like that wouldn’t be very nice to my family, though, so instead I ended up taking a half day Thursday and all of Friday off (which was really for the best, since I was to stressed to be remotely useful at work in the days leading up to the race anyway) in order to accommodate this concert I didn’t want to see anymore.

I was going to try to be a good sport about things, but then it ended up being FREEZING the day of the show. The Real Feel was in the 40s (a bit of a difference from the 88 degrees we had had the day before) and it was ridiculously windy. I did what I thought was a decent job of bundling up, but I don’t think anything short of full-blown winter gear would’ve been enough to keep me warm against the north winds in my seat on the south end of the stadium. I ended up staying for the two opening acts and left before Ed Sheeran even got on stage >.< Fail. I felt bad for being such a wimp, but I also didn’t feel bad about putting non-numb toes two days before the marathon ahead of seeing an artist I don’t care about all that much, so it is what it is, I suppose.

5. This didn’t happen before the Chicago Marathon, but this past Sunday while walking from the Post Office to Wintrust during Open House, I passed some tourists who asked if I spoke Spanish. Why, yes, I do!

They were trying to get to a cruise on the Chicago River but didn’t know where they were in relation to where the company launches. They showed me their map, and I gave them directions on how to get there in Spanish. I think I was fairly successful, though I wasn’t sure I used the right word for “block.” (Upon looking it up later, it appears that I did use the right word, though my pronunciation probably could’ve used some work, since they initially thought I was saying “cuatro” (four) not “cuadra” (block) 😛  )

It was so fulfilling! This was, literally, the first time in my life where I’ve actually needed to use Spanish. Didn’t get that Spanish minor for nothing, darn it! I genuinely enjoy giving tourists directions, but to have the chance to do it in Spanish was extra special 🙂

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Open House Chicago

There are two October traditions I consider sacred:

  1. Running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on the Sunday before Columbus Day
  2. Traipsing around the city in pursuit of pretty buildings, historic buildings, and awesome rooftops the following weekend during Open House Chicago

Having finished the Chicago Marathon the weekend before this past weekend, it was obviously time for Open House! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this is my favorite weekend of the whole year. Without further ado: a one(ish) sentence per site summary of my weekend!

Saturday

Railway Exchange Building
I started Open House at the Railway Exchange Building this year, where I saw the offices of not one, not two, but three different architecture firms *dies* I only semi-secretly wish I were an architect, so going to offices of major firms and interacting with real life architects is amazing for me.

First, I visited SOM (Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill), which *flails wildly*

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SOM is such a storied firm, especially in modern Chicago architecture. They’re responsible for small projects like the Hancock Building and the Sears Tower, so you might be familiar with their work. It is a LANDMARK firm in Chicago architecture history, in my opinion–right up there with Holabird & Roche, or Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. Getting to see their office definitely necessitates more than one sentence 😛 I attended Open House with a few friends, and I don’t think any of them quite grasped the significance of being in SOM’s office, but whatever. thought it was an amazing opportunity.

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The Railway Exchange building itself was also stunning, especially the interior atrium.

After SOM, I visited Stantec and Goettsch Partners. I…much preferred Stantec, mostly because I much prefer their work, but it was still cool to see both offices and learn more about each firm.

200WJ
An office building with a nice view from its top floor.

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The National Building
Another building with multiple sites: WeWork (unpictured), and the Revival Food Hall, including its event space and outdoor deck on the sixth floor, which really could’ve used a tour guide to fill us in on the history of the space, because I will forever wonder about this fireplace and why it’s there.

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Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and Money Museum
The Fed had a beautiful grand hall, and at the Money Museum, I saw $2 million: once in the form of $20 bills and once in the form of $1 bills, both of which led me to think, “Surely this cash could be put to better use than just to show what $1 million physically looks like?” and also made me ponder how interesting it is that we assign value to pieces of papery fabric.

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Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
This building has been on my bucket list for years, and it gets more than one sentence, too. I was interested both in the physical space itself and the history of Jane Addams’ work in Chicago, and the work of Hull House more broadly. Learning about all the services the organization provided for immigrants and their families was really interesting, and, per usual, I wish I had been alive 100 years earlier to see what it looked like during its heyday rather than just what’s left.

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UIC, Richard J. Daley Library IDEA Commons
Another picture-free entry, this time for half of the first floor of UIC’s library that was recently-ish redesigned as a collaborative, flexible work space that I think I would’ve really liked for group projects in college, had I gone to UIC.

St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church
This church was originally built as a synagogue and has survived multiple fires to become the space it is today. I was super fascinated by this stop, mostly because I know absolutely nothing about Orthodox Christianity, and I loved talking to the guide and learning more about their services and traditions.

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Sunday

Brewster Building
I’ve been meaning to get to the Brewster Building during Open House for years and was SO excited to finally do so on Sunday. The building is fascinating for several reasons, but the main draw for Open House purposes is the interior atrium that replaces where you would expect hallways in any other similar building. All of the units open into this atrium, which was designed to help keep them cool during the summer. It also, unfortunately, basically functions as a gigantic chimney, so none of the windows to the atrium open anymore, nor does the glass at the top.

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2650 N. Lakeview
I’m sure this is a nice enough condo building, but the real point of going here was for the 45th floor rooftop, which was everything you would expect a 45th floor rooftop facing Lincoln Park and the lake to be.

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National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini
This shrine is mostly hidden by a gigantic condo building these days, but the interior is certainly worth it once you find it. It memorializes St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, who died at the location of the shrine and was the first United States citizen to be canonized.

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Church of our Saviour
Church of our Saviour is an Episcopal church in Lincoln Park with a lot of interesting architectural features, including a bunch of terra cotta tiles throughout the interior…none of which are in this picture, naturally. Oops.

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Cortelyou Commons
This stunning building on DePaul’s campus made me wish I had gone to DePaul for college.

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DePaul University Holtschneider Performance Center
This is DePaul’s brand new music building (it literally smelled new) and ho.ly. cow. I realize I was kind of roughing it in the music department at my alma mater–the music building I had was built in the 50s and hadn’t really been updated since, though they tore it down soon after I graduated and built a new structure–but this was truly incredible. I was particularly impressed by their jazz performance space. The student usher told us it was designed to absorb sound, since jazz tends to be so loud, and he wasn’t joking. When he turned his back to us, I could barely hear him talking, even though he was only feet away. It was amazing!

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The Post Office
This was, hands down, the highlight of Open House for me. I became a member of the Chicago Architecture Center ahead of the announcement of this year’s Open House sites 1) so I’d have access to member-only locations and, more importantly, 2) because I believe in the work the CAC does. Best. Investment. Ever.

In case you’re not familiar with the Post Office, it was built in the 1920s and, at the time, was the largest building in the world. It was built, in part, due to the fact that both Sears Roebuck (… 😦 ) and Montgomery Ward were headquartered in Chicago. Being mail-order businesses at that point in time, the city obviously needed a pretty substantial facility to handle all the shipping required, hence the gigantic post office. The building closed in the 90s and has gone through several failed proposals for adaptive reuse. Within the past couple of years, a viable proposal came through, and it’s currently being renovated into office space that will open next year. The public isn’t allowed in the building, but for Open House, members had access to the lobby, and you guys. ALL of the heart-eyed emojis.

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It literally took my breath away. It is an incredible space, and I felt like I passed through a time machine when I went through the doors. It was like being transported back to the 1930s. I couldn’t help but think about all the people who had been in that lobby, all the packages that had been shipped through that building (a bittersweet thing to think about, in retrospect, since Sears filed for bankruptcy the following day). This was definitely one of my all-time favorite Open House sites.

Wintrust’s Grand Banking Hall
Though this was a close second, and also made my membership more than worth it, because I got to skip the 30 minute line thanks to my Priority Access Pass.

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111 West Jackson
I finished my Open Housing for the year at 111 W. Jackson and its two rooftop decks, one of which came with a delightful view of Ceres on her perch atop the Board of Trade and the Sears Tower.

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Thursday Things

Annual marathon edition!

1. I went to the expo on Friday, per usual, and it was NUTS. I got there around 1:30, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so swamped at that time of day. I had no trouble getting through the security line to get into the expo itself, but once I got in, it felt like the entire race field was there. Lines for everything were so bonkers that I was ready to leave without buying anything. Fortunately, it cleared up substantially within about an hour, and I was able to buy a tank top from Nike without having to wait 30 minutes in line to do so.

2. The haul:

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Everything aside from the non-race shirt clothes was free (“free.” “Included in the registration price” is more accurate.), but I still feel like I spent way too much money at the expo. I suppose that feeling is a hallowed part of marathon weekend, though 😛 I LOVE the Twenty Six Point Two shirt from Goose Island. Love it. I love the design, the colors, everything. I bought the grey hoodie from the Chicago Tribune before going to Under Armour, where I discovered that I could’ve gotten an equivalent Under Armour hoodie for the exact same price, instead of an off-brand hoodie from the Trib *rolls eyes* Oh well. I suppose I’d rather spend my money with the Trib than Under Armour, anyway. I did buy a thin hoodie from Under Armour (the navy shirt) that I anticipate will be my go-to around-the-house shirt all winter long.

I bought the red tank top from Nike even though I didn’t ~love~ it because I knew I’d regret it later if I didn’t. I regretted not buying more Nike stuff soon after the race last year, so I figured whatever, I’ll buy it now and trust that I’ll like it later. I’ve wanted a new tank top for awhile anyway, so I guess this will get the job done, even if I hate the color and am apathetic about the design.

I am more upset than I should be, though, over the fact that I wasn’t able to get a hat this year. I’ve been involved with the Chicago Marathon in one capacity or another since 2011, and I have a hat from every race since 2011 to commemorate my involvement. I actually got a visor from this year’s race for my birthday, but I really wanted a hat and planned to buy one at the expo. They were completely sold out! None at the expo, none online, none anywhere. I know it’s stupid that I’m upset about this, especially since I have the visor, which is basically the same thing. But I am upset about it, darn it! I wanted a hat!

Nike continued to let me down when I went online to buy a finisher half zip on Tuesday for the first time EVER to commemorate my PR, and all they had left were extra larges. Boo. I guess I should’ve known that those things wouldn’t last, but I did figure they’d last at least 48 hours. I underestimate my fellow marathoners, apparently.

3. We need to talk about the official race shirt. I was…not in love with the design from the moment I saw it. It felt way too busy, and way too…mass produced, I guess. I feel like the Chicago Marathon has a certain sense of gravitas, and the design of this shirt does not match that sense, in my opinion. It’s far and away my least favorite shirt of the six I own, and that includes the 2014 shirt, the design of which was so boring it was downright insulting.

My obviously refined race shirt design sensibility aside, my much bigger concern–and I think a valid concern–was how much of the shirt was covered in screen printing. I learned very quickly when wearing my shirt from the 2014 BTN Big 10K that shirts with a ton of screen printing are heavy, uncomfortable, and don’t breathe well. I wore my race shirt on Tuesday, and what do you know: it was heavy, uncomfortable, and didn’t breathe well–and that was while I was standing on an El platform waiting for a train. I would be surprised if I ever end up running in it, which is disappointing. I didn’t run a marathon to not brag about it, darn it! 😛

4. I liked that CARA handed out temporary tattoos with motivational phrases on them at the expo. I put one that said I AM CAPABLE on the back of my right hand to remind myself that I am, you know, capable. One of my go-to mantras since 2013 has been, “Strong, powerful, capable,” so it seemed appropriate. I also wrote “I WILL” on my left hand along my thumb and “FEARLESS,” stylized as:

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LESS

on the back of my left hand in permanent marker, so it read both as “FEARLESS” and “FEAR LESS.” Corny? Maybe a little. But I’ll be darned if it didn’t help when I looked down at my hands and saw those reminders.

5. Always a sucker for a topical and unique race sign, my favorite sign this year was, “Banksy shredded my first sign.” Ha. I also saw an ABUNDANCE of literal puppies (as opposed to adult dogs that I call puppies anyway) and I would like to formally request more of those at every race I run from here on out. Little baby golden retrievers > topical signs.

6. I interviewed Deena Kastor for Chicago Running Bloggers the Thursday before the race, and omg you guys. It was awesome. When I walked into the room, she was all, “Hi! It’s so good to see you!” and gave me a big hug like we were friends, rather than my favorite runner (that would be Deena) and someone trying to be professional but fangirling on the inside (that would be me). I got through the interview just fine, primarily attempting to absorb as much positivity from her as I could, and then at the end was like, “So, uh, not to be totally unprofessional, but could I maybe have your autograph?” What a nerd. But she was super nice about it!

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*dies*

And then at the end she gave me another hug for good luck (definitely why I PRed), which you’d think would’ve been my favorite part of the whole thing, but what actually was my favorite part was after that when she was walking me out and just started chatting with me, runner to runner. I mean, guys, she asked what I use for fuel, of all things. These are the things I discuss on my long runs with my running buddies, not things I ever thought I’d be discussing with an American record holder! Honestly, that’s one of my favorite things about running: how even though elites are on a totally different level than I am, at the end of the day, we’re all humans trying to get our bodies through 26.2 miles of running without falling apart.

7. You would think, going into Sunday’s race with six marathons under my belt, that I would remember by now that most of the people cheering for me by name don’t know me, and only cheer for me by name because I literally have my name pinned onto my chest. But man, those first couple of, “Go Bethany!”s get me every time! I always think it must be someone I know! Haha. I also took all of the words of encouragement beyond “Go Bethany” (particularly the “You look so strong!”s) to heart, so thank you, every single stranger who told me I looked strong, because I 100 percent believed you, even if you were just saying it because it’s an appropriate thing to say to a runner during a marathon, and it definitely motivated me to keep looking strong.

8. I moderately revamped my fueling strategy this year, and I think it made a big difference. I took Honey Stinger chews at miles 5, 10, 15, and 20, per usual, but I also had 10 pretzel sticks (the mini ones, not the gigantic ones, obviously) at miles 13, 18, and 23. I’ve carried pretzels with me during every marathon since Fox Valley 2016, but I don’t remember ever having a strategy about when I ate them before this year. I think what I did this year was perfect. It allowed me to take in extra carbs (and salt) starting at the halfway point, which meant I never went more than slightly over 30 minutes without taking in carbs in some capacity. I’ll definitely keep that in mind in the future.

9. Even though it clearly didn’t thunderstorm during the race on Sunday, I still maintain that the Chicago Marathon should’ve been more proactive about communicating what would happen if it did storm. As of Saturday morning, the forecast still included the potential for storms, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the marathon to take that potential seriously and say something–anything–about what would happen if it DID storm. Would the race be cancelled? Delayed? Suspended? If stormed mid-run, what was I supposed to do? Where was I supposed to go?

While my storm-related anxiety did not stem entirely from a lack of information from the race, not knowing what would happen if it stormed certainly contributed to it. With 44,000+ runners, 12,000+ volunteers, and goodness only knows how many spectators, I think the marathon has a responsibility to tell people what to do in case of inclement weather before that inclement weather arrives, not in the moment, especially when you consider the challenge of communicating a message to all of those people spread out over literally 26.2 miles (as opposed to, say, all being contained in a stadium armed with state-of-the-art video boards in every corner). I don’t think they needed to give everyone a detailed play-by-play of what to do in every possible scenario, but again, just SOME information, even if that information was just, “In case of thunderstorms, participants will be directed to the nearest shelter by race volunteers and will be updated on the status of the race as soon as possible,” would’ve been much better than the radio silence we got. It made me feel like the race just had its head in the sand and refused to acknowledge the possibility in the hope that refusing to acknowledge the possibility would make storms impossible.

10. I knew I’d get a goodie bag for using the CARA VIP Experience, which I assumed would be a bunch of 10 percent off coupons and ads, with maybe a sample size protein bar or something thrown in. Boy, was I ever wrong!

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Holy cow! I was so overwhelmed! This was a far better haul than I ever expected, and made the CARA VIP Experience totally worth it.

11. Speaking of things that made running with CARA totally worth it:

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Yes. Please. CARA was offering free NormaTec sessions to members, and oh man, those 20 minutes were more than worth the price of my membership. I felt like a new person when my session finished. I don’t know if the NormaTec session is entirely responsible, but I recovered from this marathon a LOT faster than I recovered from last year’s marathon. I know it took me until Thursday to not fear stairs last year, and this year I felt totally normal by about noon on Wednesday. I’m still taking the rest of the week off, but it’s nice to not hurt anymore (because let me tell you, I hurt on Monday.)

12. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over my splits for this race.

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Before the race, I put all the mile splits that I have from past marathons into Excel to look for trends, with the hope that I could use those trends to structure a race plan around them, or, at the very least, to have an idea of what to expect might happen on Sunday. I discovered a few things:

  • Mile 7 is almost always one of my fastest miles
  • Mile 16 is almost always 30 seconds slower than mile 15
  • Miles 18-26 are almost always significantly slower than all my other miles, leading me to believe I usually hit the wall at mile 18. This information was what influenced me to be intentional about increasing my fueling after mile 13.

It’s crazy to look at that graph now with 2018 data included. The 2018 line (light blue) is so straight compared to the others, at least until the end. I don’t know if I’ve ever run a race of any substantial distance at such a steady pace.

13. Speaking of races of substantial distances: the two half marathons I ran during the Chicago Marathon rank as my #3 (second half) and #4 (first half) half marathons of the year, and the second half was only seconds away from being my second fastest half marathon of the year. If this doesn’t confirm how difficult Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego and Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle were, I don’t know what does 😛

14. I feel like I nailed my training this year. Since I knew I was going for a 4:45 this year, it was critical to me that I get in every workout possible, and that those workouts would be quality workouts. I biked way more than usual: 133.75 miles over 14 workouts (9.6/workout), compared to 72.66 miles over eight workouts (9.1/workout) last year. I’m sure all my strength training (48 total workouts) also made a gigantic difference. I only missed 18.7 running miles all season long, 12.5 of which were during taper, which I think is the best I’ve ever done. Knowing that I had done everything I needed to do to train to run the time I wanted helped me convince myself that it was possible to run that time, and I don’t think I would’ve been able to do it without so much confidence in my training. I don’t want to discount the physical work I did, because obviously that was critical to preparing me to get it done on Sunday. Nevertheless, I think believing in myself (and insisting on believing in myself from the moment I got into the corrals until the moment I crossed the finish line) was the x factor that enabled me to surpass my expectations.

15. When I ran my first marathon in 2013, I had it in my head that there was no way I’d finish after 1 p.m. I was extremely wrong, and even though it’s not entirely logical (after all, my time-of-day finish is directly related to my time-of-day start), it’s been an ongoing goal of mine to finish the marathon before 1 p.m. What time of day did I finish on Sunday? 12:59:56 p.m. CRUSHED IT.

Bank of America Chicago Marathon Race Recap

Normally, I don’t struggle too much with how to open these marathon race recaps, but this year, I’m at a loss for words. Sunday defied my wildest expectations in the best way possible, and I don’t know how to summarize it.

So I guess I’ll start at the beginning.

I got a good night of sleep Friday into Saturday, and then spent nearly all of Saturday fretting about the forecast. It seemed like the meteorologists were getting a little wishy-washy on the potential for thunderstorms on Sunday, but it wasn’t until around 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon when AccuWeather took storms out of the forecast entirely that I actually relaxed. I knew it was still possible that it could storm, but I hoped that the fact that Saturday didn’t get as warm as predicted meant the warm front that was supposed to cause all the thunderstorm-inducing instability had stayed south of us and that we’d get by unscathed.

It’s a good thing I slept well Friday into Saturday, because my sleep Saturday night into Sunday resembled my night of sleep before my first half marathon, which is to say: it barely happened. I tossed and turned throughout the night, but I was able to keep my wits about me. I’ve been running races long enough to know that a poor night of sleep the night before the race is normal and nothing to worry about, which helped keep me from getting upset about it. I also discussed my insomnia issues from earlier this summer with my therapist when I was in the thick of not sleeping between the hours of 1 and 3 a.m. on weeknights, so I had some breathing exercises and other helpful tips (i.e.: no playing on my phone or looking at the clock) to try to help lull me into dreamland. All told, I was up for about three hours the night before the marathon, but I refused to let it bother me: something that would quickly become my theme for the day.

I was in a good mood when my alarm went off at 4:45, and made a point of doing everything in my power to maintain that good mood. It was raining, but AccuWeather said it would stop raining in 90 minutes, so I figured it wouldn’t get in my way too much. I broke the cardinal rule of racing and tried something new for race day. That something new was Aquaphor, which I slathered all over my feet, anywhere I had previously experienced chafing on long, wet days (my sports bra line, under my arms), and anywhere I thought I could experience chafing during the race on Sunday. Holy smokes, you guys. Everyone who’s sung the praises of Aquaphor to me since I started all of this in 2013 was not kidding. I have so many regrets about not jumping on the Aquaphor train sooner. I’m still a Body Glide believer for everyday runs, but moving forward, I will 100 percent be an Aquaphor user on long, wet runs.

The CARA Compound (CARA VIP Experience, as they called it this year, and have possibly been calling it for plenty of years, since I stopped paying attention a long time ago) returned to Hilton this year, so I went there before the race to meet up with my friends from my training group and to stay warm and dry. I ended up leaving the Hilton a little later than I should have, and was antsy waiting in the security line to get into Grant Park. Fortunately, I made it to my corral with about 10 minutes to spare.

I was in Corral G because I asked to be, but didn’t really belong in Corral G, so I lined up at the very back, just like I did last year. It started to drizzle a bit while we waited to start, which reminded me a lot of Rock ‘n’ Roll back in July! It wasn’t too bad, though, and around 8:20, I was off.

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As my post on Thursday may or may not have implied, I didn’t really have much of a race plan for Sunday. I still hoped to run a 4:45, but like I said in that post, my real goal was to give it everything I had and see what happens. That’s all well and good, but it does help to have some sort of an idea of what you want to do in the pacing department, so I decided I’d try to run somewhere between a 10:50 and 11:00 pace at least to start and see what happened.

I manually lapped my watch at every mile, since GPS is useless during the Chicago Marathon, and came through mile 1 in 11:18. That, obviously, is a bit slower than my 10:50-11:00 target, so I tried to step it up a little after that point. I saw my parents and grandma at mile 1.5ish, waved hello, and continued down State Street, and hit mile 2 in 11:01. Still not *quite* where I wanted to be, but better. I came through mile 3 in 10:58, and then hit the first 5K in 34:28, which seemed reasonable enough to me for a 5K pace during a marathon (for me, that is).

I don’t know why I decided to do this on Sunday, but it occurred to me when I hit the first 5K in 34:28 that if I added 34 minutes to that time, I could predict my 10K time if I maintained a consistent pace (1:08:xx. I don’t usually pay attention to the seconds during long races like this, so as far as I was concerned, I had run a 34:00 5K). So then that was my goal: hit the 10K in 1:08.

Somewhere in Lincoln Park, it started raining. There was also a decent breeze out of the north, and honestly, I thought the combination of the two made things downright perfect for running. Several people have commented on how terrible the weather was on Sunday, and while I agree that it was objectively terrible, I would argue that it was PERFECT for marathon running. I have been begging–begging–for 55 and overcast ever since 2013, and I never got it until Sunday. The rain and breeze made 55 and overcast even more pleasant for marathoning in my opinion. They kept me from getting too warm, which I think is one of the most important parts about running a marathon. I also truly do enjoy running in the rain (as long as it’s not storming!), so I will happily take rain on marathon day over sunshine every time.

I continued on my way, going past the zoo and onto Fullerton. Just beyond the aid station in front of the Nature Museum, I saw a spectator making a bit of a commotion. Turns out he was trying to scare away a CANADA GOOSE that had wandered onto the course and was just walking along Cannon as if there weren’t 44,000 people running around him. It was seriously one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen during the marathon. He didn’t even seem interested in flying away! Perhaps we inspired him 😛

Just past Mr. Goose, I crossed the 10K mark and looked at my watch. Lo and behold: 1:08. I felt like I had been maintaining a steady pace, and that confirmed it. I did the math for the next 5K, and determined I’d want to hit 15K in 1:42. I also noted the temperature on the Presence building at Diversey/Sheridan/Cannon, and was oh-so pleased to see 60 degrees on the sign. I always check that when I run past it during the marathon, and it was much nicer to see a temperature I liked at 10K rather than a temperature that was already too warm at 10K!

We got to the top of the course at Sheridan (instead of Addison like in the past), and at the intersection of Sheridan and Broadway, Biofreeze had a video screen up where cheers people sent you would display. I had sent two cheers to myself to remind me of my mantras for the race, but neither one of them showed up. I started to worry that something was wrong with my bib, and in the past, I think that easily could’ve derailed my race. I would’ve panicked, fumbled around with my phone to pull up the app to see if I was being tracked, lost time. Instead, I decided that if my timing chip was malfunctioning and somehow not working, 1) it was too late to do anything about it at that point, and 2) I didn’t *need* an official time anyway. Regardless of how the day went, I most certainly was not going to BQ, after all. (For the record, my chip was working, so who knows why my messages didn’t show up.)

This is part of a bigger theme of my entire race day: my mental game. I really thought having a good attitude was going to be critical to succeeding on Sunday, and I was bound and determined to not let myself get in my own way. I decided in the corrals that Sunday was going to be my day, and I wasn’t going to let anything keep that from being the case. When things felt challenging, I told myself that I liked the challenge. If I felt like I wasn’t pumping my arms enough, I reminded myself that I did not drag myself out of bed at 5:45 for 16 consecutive Tuesdays to let my back get away with not putting in its fair share of effort at the race. When my legs started to burn around mile 19, I told myself that I liked the burn (which is true, for the record. The burn I felt was more of the “comfortably hard” burn of a tempo run rather than the “searing pain” burn you sometimes get in a marathon.). I told myself over and over and over again that the wall did not exist because I decided it didn’t exist, and me deciding it didn’t exist was all it would take to keep it from existing. Rather than feeling good at mile 16 and thinking, “Well, don’t get too far ahead of yourself. A lot could happen in 10 miles,” I thought, “10 miles?! That’s nothing. That’s a Tuesday. That’s easier than most of my Tuesdays!” (Metaphorically speaking, because I don’t run on Tuesdays, and because my Tuesdays are usually long days.). I told myself that I was going to PR, period, and I was going to run a 4:45 to do it.

Every time I’d tell myself these things, negativity followed immediately. “You can’t just decide that the wall doesn’t exist. You don’t have control over that.” “You know you can’t really run a 4:45.” “You’ve been through this enough times to know that 10 miles is a lot at the end of a marathon. You know you always slow down here.” But I refused, absolutely, wholly refused, to listen to those thoughts. I’ve always been a pessimistic person, assuming the worst, expecting things to go bad, but on Sunday I fought tooth and nail against those tendencies. I was not going to let my pessimism get the best of me, even if, especially early on (before I had 3+ hours of practice at shutting up the doubt in my head), my insistence on staying positive felt like lying to myself. I was a little surprised at how many f-bombs my positivity entailed (“You are going to f***ing do this!” was a thought that went through my head many times, haha), but whatever works, I suppose. If aggressive positivity works for me (as opposed to, say, more sunshine-y positivity: “You are the best runner in this race! You are amazing!”), then so be it.

Anyway, back to the physical race. It rained most of the time I was in Lakeview. I could tell that there were definitely fewer spectators than normal–not that I blame them! I wouldn’t have wanted to spectate on Sunday, either!–but it was hardly empty. I saw my mom at Wellington and Broadway, and soon after that hit the 15K mark in 1:41: quicker than I expected, since a steady pace would’ve gotten me there at 1:42. That was great as far as I was concerned! I still did my math as if I had arrived at 1:42 so I’d know when I wanted to get to 20K if I maintained my first 5K pace (2:16).

Somewhere on Sedgewick, I realized I was starting to get some chafing under my left arm, so I grabbed a swipe of Vaseline at the next aid station to slather on the hot spot. What did not occur to me was that, in doing so, I’d end up with fingers full of Vaseline and no good way to get rid of the excess. I wiped a bunch on my arms and shorts, but it took most of Wells for me to clean it all off. Other than that, though, I was chafe-free throughout the marathon, which felt like no small accomplishment.

It had stopped raining awhile ago by this point, and I was getting a bit warm. Once I got downtown, I started dumping water on my head and splashing some in my face at each aid station. I did that during the marathon last year and it made a huge difference. Even though the weather this year was quite different from last year, it still made a huge difference. I felt a lot cooler, and consequently a lot better, once I started doing that.

Downtown was fairly active, and once we headed into the West Loop, I really started to feel the impact of the course change up north. When I learned that they changed the course, I thought it had the potential to be a really good thing for me mentally, and boy was I right. Getting to miles 14 and 15 way before their location on the old course was such a boost. I couldn’t believe I was already there, not because I felt like I was running so fast, but because I’m used to those mile markers being a lot farther along. It made the middle miles feel like they flew by, which is a great way to feel during the middle miles of a marathon!

I had done some analyzing of my past marathon times a couple of weeks ago and discovered that mile 16 is always about 30 seconds slower than mile 15 for me, so this year, I made a point of not letting that happen. When I lapped my watch at mile 17 and saw that I had turned in a 10:43 mile, I pumped my fist. This was happening!

I was still tracking ahead on my 5K splits compared to what I anticipated (I hit 20K in 2:15 and 25K in 2:49, instead of the 2:50 I expected), so when I saw my family just beyond the UIC Halsted Blue Line stop, I yelled at them, “TODAY IS MY DAY!!!” Again, in the back of my head I knew that things could still go downhill, but I pushed that thought away and kept going.

Taylor Street was so different this year compared to what I’m used to. Hitting mile 18 around Carpenter instead of Laflin was a GAMECHANGER. I could not believe I was already 18 miles into the marathon. I felt like I was blowing through the whole race. I also loved running down Loomis instead of Ashland. I’ve said for years that the stretch on Ashland was my least favorite part of the course, and I did not miss it one tiny bit. I crossed 30K in 3:22 instead of 3:24. I knew I had been hitting my 5K splits early, of course, but I didn’t realize I had sped up by two(ish) minutes.

Pilsen was fantastic, as always. When I hit the 20 mile mark, I looked at my watch: 3:37. A couple things to note about that:

  1. GUYS. I FINALLY RAN A 3:37 20 MILER DURING THE MARATHON.
  2. As I mentioned in the linked post above, a 3:37 20 miler works out to a 10:51 pace. What pace do you need to run a 4:45 marathon? All together now: 10:52!

Now, I didn’t realize either of those things during the marathon itself. What I did realize (or rather, knew without needing to realize) is that there are 10 kilometers between the 20 mile mark and the finish line, and that my 34 minute 5K split from the beginning of the race worked out to a 1:08 10K. Do you know what 3:37+1:08 is?

Folks, it’s 4:45.

Even though I had been hitting my splits earlier than anticipated since 15K, that math was the kick in the pants I needed. I didn’t plan on backing off my pace, but knowing that I didn’t have room to back off my pace if I wanted to finish in 4:45 (or rather, thinking that I didn’t have room to back off my pace if I wanted to finish in 4:45) was enough to keep me from even allowing myself to entertain the thought of backing off. I won’t lie: it was getting harder around this point. The burn was more difficult to ignore. I felt like I was working. I had been smiling for most of the race, but that had faded. I did. not. care. Like I said, I had decided the wall didn’t exist, and I was not going to let anything, not even biology, prove me otherwise.

I knew if I could just get through Chinatown, I could probably cruise through the last four miles on willpower alone. When I hit 35K in 3:55, as opposed to the 3:58 I expected, I knew I was in good shape. That was when it really hit me that I had put plenty of time in the bank, and I was, for sure, going to PR. (I should note that never during the race did I even attempt to figure out what a 34:00 5K works out to in terms of a marathon time. In case you’re curious, it’s a 4:46). I saw my family on 33rd Street, and this time yelled, “I’M GOING TO PR!!” A person in a T-rex costume right next to them gave me a congratulatory high five, which was delightful.

I’ve never been less afraid of the last three miles of a marathon than I was on Sunday. I knew for sure that I could do it, and I was nearly positive I’d get in in under 4:45. Indiana was tough, I won’t lie, but once I got to Michigan it was go time. According to my 34:00 5K pace, I expected to hit 40K in 4:32. I got there in 4:29. Just past 40K was the 25 mile sign, and I lit up at the crowd support. I no longer had to fight to keep my mind off the pain in my legs: I was too happy to even bother thinking about it. I was smiling without thinking about it again.

Past the one mile to go sign, past the 800 meters to go sign. 800 meters! How many 800s had I run this summer? How many times had I done it under five minutes, even on tired legs? There were so many spectators, there was so much support, there was nothing in the world that could stop me.

I had a visualization session on Wednesday, and during that session, the therapist leading it talked about me hitting mile 26, looking at my watch, and seeing 4:40. When she said it, I truly could see it in my mind’s eye. Since I missed the mile 26 sign last year, I made a serious point of watching out for it this year (I understand why I missed it last year: it was nearly hidden in the trees on Roosevelt). Right before I lapped my watch at mile 26, I looked at the time: 4:40.

After the visualization session ended and I was debriefing with the therapist, I commented on how she said I was at mile 26 at 4:40. “If that’s the case,” I said, “I’ll run a 4:42!” So, upon seeing 4:40 on my watch at mile 26 in real life, I thought, “Well, I guess I have to finish in 4:42 now.”

I was huffing and puffing by the time I crested Roosevelt, but I wasn’t going to let anything stop me at that point. I turned the corner onto Columbus, saw the finish line, and went for it. I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, and threw my arms in the air. When I brought them down, I looked at my watch: 4:42:49.

I was over the moon. I couldn’t believe it. I did it. I more than did it! I’ve wanted to run a 4:45 marathon for five years, and I finally, finally, finally did it. I PRed, taking 10:03 off my previous PR from 2015. I f***ing negative split a f***king marathon, running a 2:22:56 first half and a 2:19:53 second half. I didn’t just kind of negative split: I negative split by 3:03. If I never thought I’d run a 4:45, I never, ever in a zillion years thought I’d negative split a marathon, and I certainly didn’t think I’d ever negative split a marathon by more than a second or two. I didn’t even MEAN to negative split! I didn’t even know I negative split until someone told me later that afternoon. Like, what?!?!

I got water, Gatorade, my medal, my heat sheet, and for the first time ever in any race, I even got the finish line beer (what can I say? I liked that Goose Island designed cans specifically for the marathon.). I was also shivering despite the heat sheet (being soaking wet in a tank top and shorts when it’s barely 60 degrees outside will do that to you), so I only managed to get four or five sips of beer down before having to dump the rest upon exiting Grant Park. But whatever. The four or five sips I had were well earned 🙂

I’ve said many times that your marathon performance is the result of a plethora of factors, and any one thing going wrong can derail your race day. On Sunday, everything went right. Everything I could control–my running training, my strength training, my diet leading up to race day, my sleep, my attitude–and everything I couldn’t control–namely, the weather–aligned perfectly.

I thought nothing would ever top my marathon experience last year, but somehow this one did. No, I wasn’t comfortable from start to finish, but I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be uncomfortable. I wanted to run without fearing the pain that comes later. I wanted to go for it. I WILL.

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I DID.

Chicago Marathon Training Week 18

Sunday, September 30: Strength training – legs + 50 minutes bike
I was in a FOUL mood from late Saturday afternoon through Sunday afternoon, and had no desire to go to the gym. I felt off, mentally and physically, and didn’t know if going to the gym was really the right call. BOY was it ever! It occurred to me that since I wouldn’t have time to do my strength training on Monday and I had barely done a long run the day before, there was no reason I couldn’t do my Monday workout on Sunday. I did my first round of squats and instantly felt better. I was shocked! I could not believe how much better I felt all around as soon as I started working out. My improved mood continued for the rest of the day, so I wonder if my angst was rooted in taper-induced antsiness/anxiousness. Whatever the cause, this was a great workout, and I’m so glad I got it in.

Monday, October 1: 5 miles in 56:31 for an 11:18 pace
I had PT Monday morning (hence doing my Monday strength training on Sunday), and it took a toll on my legs. My muscles were quite tired, making this a taper run if ever I ran one. Everything felt hard and difficult and impossible. So much fun! 😐 At least that made it easy to go slow, haha. Fortunately I’ve been expecting to feel like this on most of my runs during taper (even though I hadn’t until Monday), so it didn’t upset me as much as it could have.

Tuesday, October 2: Strength training – upper body
I definitely could’ve gotten away with not going to the gym for this workout. I really don’t want to push it this week, so I stuck to five and 10 pound weights for every exercise Tuesday, when normally I’d use somewhere between 10 and 25 pound weights. Even though I could’ve done this workout at home, I’m glad I went to the gym. Now that I’m in the habit of going every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday morning, it feels weird to not go (like on Monday).

Wednesday, October 3: 30 minutes yoga
This one:

I have been a sentient lump of stress and anxiety all week, so I turned to this yoga practice hoping it would help. It didn’t, but A for effort, I guess. Let’s be honest: no amount of yoga, meditating, chamomile tea, praying, listening to calming music, spending time in nature, journaling, or any other stress-relieving technique you can think of is going to relieve my marathon weather-related worry. The only thing that’s going to solve that is an improved forecast, which no one seems to be willing to give me.

Thursday, October 4: Strength training – legs (AM) + 2 miles in 21:50 for a 10:54 pace (PM)
One last (hopefully) trip to the gym before the marathon. As should be painfully obvious by now, I’ve spent the entirety of this week becoming more and more convinced that it will storm during the Chicago Marathon, that the race will get cancelled mid-run, and that my marathon season is going to end up lasting two to four more weeks than I originally anticipated–though that’s only if I get lucky enough to get into another marathon, of course. If that’s the case, my morning strength training sessions will resume as well. I’m just a bundle of joy to be around these days.

I took a half day on Thursday, because by that point, I was really just wasting everyone’s time being at work when all I could do was fret about the forecast. I did this easy peasy “shakeout” run as soon as I got home around noon. I don’t know if it really counts as a shakeout run if it’s so far ahead of the race, but whatever. It was very cool outside, so that made for a delightfully comfortable run.

Friday, October 5: Rest

Saturday, October 6: Rest

 

Well, folks, there you have it. My sixth marathon season is (hopefully) in the books. I won’t lie: as I write this on Friday, my race day forecast anxiety has not improved one bit, and I don’t anticipate that it will on Saturday, either. I’m disappointed that the season ended on such a stressed-out note, and I hope that all the cortisol I’ve been pumping into my system since Monday doesn’t have too negative of an impact on my performance on Sunday. I’m also just hoping that I have the chance to perform, period. With the forecast as it stands right now, I’ll consider finishing to be a pretty significant accomplishment. And if I don’t, well, you can look forward to some bonus training posts 😛 Thanks for coming along on this ride with me. I hope that the next time you hear from me, it’ll be with a race recap of my 26.2-mile run through Chicago.

 

Thursday Things

1. I’m trying to not spend too much time obsessing about the race this weekend, but it’s hard. I’ve said it before, but this is one of the things I hate the most about the Chicago Marathon. It’s less of a race and more of an event, if that makes sense, and as a result the whole thing feels like The Biggest Deal of Your Life. It’s difficult to not put a lot of pressure on yourself to have The Best Day of Your Life when everything around you seems to suggest that that’s the expectation.

I’ve analyzed my mile splits from my past four marathons (the only ones I have. My splits from my first two are lost to some long-forgotten Garmin account.) six ways from Sunday in an effort to try to find patterns so I can predict how my race will go. I’ve used race time predictor calculators to get an estimate of how fast I might finish (and also retroactively used them on three of my past four marathons, to test their accuracy. They were way off on all of my times, estimating that I’d finish anywhere between 10 minutes faster and 11 minutes slower than I’d actual finish.). I’ve used my favorite time calculator to put together untold combinations of mile times in an attempt to devise a race plan.

I’ve worried that all my worrying and analyzing is going to hold me back. I’ve read Let Your Mind Run. I’ve tried to adopt a more positive attitude about running/life in general. I’ve gone to an hour-long visualization session to get me in the right head space for Sunday. I’ve respected the taper like my life depended on it, aiming to get in bed by 9 p.m. every night (and succeeding…occasionally 😛 ), cutting out nearly all dessert, reducing the intensity of my workouts across the board.

I have found it particularly difficult to balance my desire to be realistic about my expectations with my desire to not limit myself by putting expectations on myself at all. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve been concerned that my struggle to believe I can actually run a 4:45 marathon will keep me from doing that. There was a point in my running career where I believed that was attainable, but after six years of chasing that goal and never even coming within spitting distance of it, it’s become much more difficult to believe that’s possible. I was reading through my pre-marathon Thursday Things post from 2015 the other day where I talked about intending to run a 4:35 marathon, and I could not believe that I actually hoped to run that fast. After three consecutive 5:00+ marathons, it’s incomprehensible to me that I ever aimed to do a 4:35.

What if it’s all in my head? What if the thing keeping me from doing a 4:45 (or a 4:35, for that matter) is that I can’t convince myself that it’s possible? When I ran my half marathon PR four years ago, the pacing groups were all listed by mile splits rather than by overall finish time. Having no idea what any of those splits translated to in terms of finishing times, I picked one that seemed reasonable. I didn’t know until well into the race that I had selected a pace group that would get me my ultimate dream goal time. If I had known from the start that they were shooting for a 2:05 half, I don’t think I ever would’ve lined up with that pace group. I would’ve been scared I couldn’t hang and would’ve lined up with a 2:10 pace group, thinking that seemed more reasonable. I didn’t think I could run a 2:05 half marathon. I ended up running a 2:02:50.

But what if it’s not? What if I truly am not capable of running a 4:45 marathon? What if the 4:52 I ran a few years back is the best I’ll ever be able to do? What if my marathon fate is to be a permanent member of the 5:00 Club?

You see how good of a job I’m doing not obsessing over the race on Sunday.

With all that being said, my hope/goal/dream for Sunday is to be fearless and limitless. I WILL. Even though I have talked without ceasing about my 4:45 time goal, I would like, ideally, to run without a time goal in mind.

I want to run fearlessly. Instead of holding myself back, worrying about what might happen in the last six to eight miles, I want to run boldly. I want to run responsibly, of course, so when I talk about running boldly, I’m not talking about going out at a 9:00 pace, or even a 10:00 pace, or, honestly, probably even a 10:30 pace. Last year, I went into the race with the plan to run the first half at an 11:30 pace because I knew I could run the whole race at (close to) an 11:30 pace, so if I just started there to begin with, I wouldn’t have too far to fall. It was safe. It was comfortable. But I don’t need a comfortable marathon this year. I felt like I cracked the code on how to run a comfortable marathon last year, and I’m happy with that. This year, I want to run the fastest marathon I’m capable of running, and I don’t expect that to be comfortable. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

I want to run without limits. I don’t want to restrict myself to a 4:45 if I’m able to run faster than that. I don’t want to box myself in, tell myself I don’t have the ability to do better than 4:45. Maybe I don’t! I don’t know! But I’d rather find that out by giving it my best shot rather than by never allowing myself to realize my potential in the first place.

I anticipate that Sunday’s race will be my last Chicago Marathon for awhile, mostly because I’m tired of committing to a wildly expensive race 10 months before race day. (Though who knows. In typical fashion, the closer I get to the race, the more my conviction to not run Chicago again wavers.) So, darn it, I want to go for it. I want to leave everything I have on the course. I know it’s nearly inevitable to avoid asking yourself, “What if?” after a marathon: what if I had gone out slower, or faster, or pushed a little harder in the middle miles, or sped up my walk breaks, or taken fewer walk breaks, or taken more walk breaks, etc. etc. etc. But the one question I do not want to ask myself is, “What if I had tried harder?” I want to cross that finish line knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I put everything I had into the race, knowing that I never gave up on myself, knowing that I ran the best I possibly could under the circumstances I faced. Whether that gives me a 4:30 finish or a 5:30 finish, that’s what I want: to be proud of the race I ran.

No fear. No limits. No regrets.

2. All that inspirational speech stuff aside, I have spent far too much time this week worrying about the forecast, and I’m annoyed with myself for worrying about it. For one thing, I know both from experience and from actual documentation that just because the forecast says one thing early in the week most certainly does not mean that it’s guaranteed to happen on Sunday. For another thing, I’ve been through this six times before!! I wrote an entire missive last year on the uselessness of worrying about the forecast for a marathon!

I know why I’m worried. I’m worried because the forecast includes thunderstorms, and the five forecasts I’ve been following all week aren’t budging on their inclusion of thunderstorms nearly as much as I’d like. As of Wednesday morning, Weather.com and Weather Underground had at least changed their forecasts to “PM Thunderstorms,” and WGN had dropped down from scattered thunderstorms to a 30 percent chance of showers (WGN had also dropped its predicted high for Sunday from 80 to 69, which I appreciated.). NBC Chicago and AccuWeather both still insist that there’s a chance it’ll storm in the morning. Yes, a chance that it will storm somewhere in the Chicago area Sunday morning is hardly an apocalyptic, damning forecast. But I still can’t help worrying about it, because if it storms during the race, you know they’ll black flag it, and that’ll be it.

I realize it’s not the end of the world by any means if I don’t finish the Chicago Marathon this year because the weather forces a mid-race cancellation, but that certainly doesn’t mean that I want the race to be cancelled in the middle of things. I have backup marathons picked out in case that happens, but that brings a whole other set of stressors, chiefly: what if they sell out between now and Sunday? I’ve come very, very close to registering for one of them “just in case,” because they’re both fairly affordable (compared to Chicago, at least), but I’m not sure if it makes sense to register for a marathon I have no intention of running unless the Chicago Marathon gets called mid-race when I have no way of knowing if the Chicago Marathon will get called mid-race until the day of the race itself.

I hate that I’m so stressed about all of this when I just want to relax in the days leading up to the marathon so I can have the best race possible. I just have these visions of 18 weeks of training harder than I’ve ever trained before going down the drain because it starts thunderstorming at Mile 20, and I can’t get into my backup marathon because it’s sold out. And, again, I realize it’s not the end of the world if that happens. There’s more to life than running marathons. But when there hasn’t been a whole lot more to your life than preparing for a marathon for the past four and a half months, when you’ve put everything else in your life on hold for the sake of preparing for a marathon for four and a half months, the idea of all of it being for nothing is pretty upsetting.

Yay race week.

If anyone has advice regarding registering for a race you hope to not run for the sake of getting in before it sells out, I’m all ears.
Who’ll be in Chicago this weekend for the race??

 

 

Chicago Marathon Training Week 17

Sunday, September 23: 3.11 miles in 31:23 for a 10:05 pace
Life Time 5K by my Garmin.

Monday, September 24: Strength training – legs + 40 minutes bike
I had PT in the morning, so both of my workouts took place in the afternoon on Monday. I did strength training first, taking it easy in the weight department and being very careful about form in order to keep my hamstring as happy as possible. Then I hopped on the bike and put in 40 minutes there. I’ve dialed down the intensity on the bike as well, biking on manual mode instead of interval mode and at a lower level than usual. I might’ve taken it too easy–this was the slowest bike I’ve had all year, and my heart rate was barely elevated.

Tuesday, September 25: Strength training – upper body
I…did not dial down the intensity on this workout. I know it’s taper, and I know it’s important to take taper seriously, but the past couple of days of “workouts,” which felt like workouts and more like ways to pass the time, were getting to me. I felt like everything I was doing was nearly pointless, and I really wanted to feel like I was working for a change. I didn’t go crazy with the weights and try to PR or anything like that, but I also didn’t use the half the weight I sometimes use like I had been doing. I had a pleasant burn in my arms for the rest of the morning.

I didn’t know what to do about dance on Tuesday. Part of me didn’t want to skip, because I already planned to skip next week and didn’t want to fall two weeks behind, but part of me didn’t want to go and risk re-injury. I consulted with one of my friends in class about it Monday afternoon, and she said to not come to class, so I skipped.

Wednesday, September 26: 4 miles in 43:50 for a 10:58 pace
It is seriously such an adjustment to drop down to these short runs during taper! Yes, I ran three and a half miles instead of six during Week 16, but that felt more like a hamstring test than my actual run anyway. Excluding that run, the last time I only ran four miles during the week was June 27. That was a long time ago! I got home so early! While my hamstring feels totally fine these days, I’m not interested in taking any risks this close to race day, so I tried to run as slow as possible on this run. My heart rate was WAY lower than usual–like 10 bpm lower than a usual weekday run–so I think I succeeded in my goal to take it easy.

Thursday, September 27: Strength training – legs (AM) + 4 miles in 43:13 for a 10:48 pace
I once again took it easy in the strength training department on Thursday, reducing my weight across the board for everything other than bodyweight exercises–can’t do much to reduce the weight I use each time on those 😛 I have to admit that I feel kind of embarrassed to be using such light weights, especially when I know I’m capable of using a lot heavier weights. But now is most certainly not the time to make gainz, so my ego’s just going to have to take a back seat to the marathon until October 7 (like, you know, everything else in my life, haha).\

I ran another four miles on Thursday. I very rarely run on back-to-back days, and it’s even more rare that I run the exact same distance on the exact same route on back-to-back days, so this was a fun little experiment! I’m surprised that I did it faster on Thursday than on Wednesday (and not particularly pleased, since the goal is to go as slow as possible these days). I’m using these runs to work really hard on maintaining a slow (although, in light of most of my running this summer, “slow” seems more accurate) pace, not just for the sake of my hamstring, but to practice for the marathon itself. I assume if running at a 10:48 pace on my own feels like I’m barely moving, it’s just going to be that much more challenging to maintain a slow pace on race day.

Friday, September 28: Rest
I did have PT Friday morning, and that involved WAY more exercises than I would normally feel comfortable doing on a rest day.

Saturday, September 29: 8.37 miles in 1:35:33 for an 11:25 pace
My PT said I could run eight miles on Saturday, so I got to join in the group run on Saturday morning! It was FREEZING, especially compared to the rest of the summer (according to my Garmin, it was 43 degrees during this run!), but you won’t hear me complaining about cool temperatures for a run. Saturday morning was just beautiful, and I loved watching the sun rise over the lake. We finished our run by running up Michigan Ave. from 31st St. all the way to Roosevelt and Columbus to preview (or, in my case, review) the last threeish miles of the course. I didn’t expect to get much out of it, since I’ve run that five times before, but it was surprisingly impactful! Or maybe PTSD is more of the correct term, haha. I even almost got a little choked up when we got to Roosevelt, thinking about what it’s going to be like to do that during the marathon. I’m really glad we finished our run that way. It was the perfect way to end the season of group runs.

 

Less than one week until the big day. I have a novel of thoughts related to the big day itself coming for you later this week, so I’ll spare you my missive right now. My hamstring has been pain-free since Sunday (the 23rd), which is encouraging. I don’t want to go too much into my thoughts about training yet, either, because I’d rather save that for another post. But for the moment, I will say that I had a substantially better experience training this year than I had last year. I really enjoyed the company of the people I ran with, and it made a huge difference in my overall experience. Honestly, I’m really bummed that training’s almost over. I won’t miss the 4:30 alarms every Saturday, but I will very much miss the people I ran with after those alarms. It was a fun season 🙂