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:
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:
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!
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!
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:
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.
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.