This is going to be a loooong post, so grab a glass of wine and some popcorn. Ready?
We flew in Friday night and got in to Midway Airport around 8:30. As soon as we stepped off the plane, marathon signs were everywhere!
The next morning we got up bright and early and drove downtown for my FIRST EVER blogger meet-up. I was kind of nervous.
We met Leslie, Bobbi, Meghann, Kelly, and Theodora at Jamba Juice. Everyone was super nice! (And I can vouch for the fact that everyone ate and finished their normal-sized breakfasts, Marie Claire. Hmph.)
After the meet-up, Tim, Bobbi and I went south to the Expo! We got a little lost (sorry, Bobbi!) but eventually got there. It was yooooge!
I stopped by the Team in Training booth to make a sign, which Tim modeled…
I met up with a few other internet friends, including speedy miss Shelby from Eat, Drink, Run! Again, super nice.
After the expo, we went back out to the burbs for my best friend’s baby shower. We had a quick lunch at Panera, then spent the next three hours watching her open every possible baby item one small human could need. (What the hell is a pacifier wipe?)
THEN, we hightailed back to the city, to check into our hotel for the night and grab some dinner. My stomach had been in knots all afternoon and food did not sound in the least bit appetizing, but I knew I needed to eat. We went to the hotel pub, and I ordered the only thing that sounded like I could choke down a little bit of—spinach and artichoke dip with bread.
Serious carbs ahead:
Then I went back to the room and compulsively laid out everything I would possibly need for the next morning.
I was so tired from shuttling around the Chicago area all day long that I slept really, really well. I woke up around 5:45 and had to force feed myself a bagel with almond butter and about 16 oz. of water. One thing I didn’t realize about marathon training was all the disgusting times I’d have to make myself eat—the night before the race, the morning of the race, during the race, and right after the race. I had no appetite from about 2 pm on Saturday until about 5 pm on Sunday, which is HIGHLY unusual for me.
I took a quick self-portrait before I left. (The DIY armwarmers weren’t really necessary. I ditched them before the race even started!)
A breakdown of what I wore/used during the race, since I like to know these things about other people:
- Team in Training Singlet
- C9 by Champion (Target!) Sports Bra
- Lucy Propel Knee Shorts (with inhaler zipped into the handy back pocket)
- SPIbelt (stuffed with three Gus and my iPhone)
- Feetures Socks
- FuelBelt handheld water bottle (stuffed with a much larger bottle, since I lost mine—three Gus and my headphones in the pocket)
- Garmin Forerunner 305
I have absolutely no complaints about my marathon outfit—I had zero chafing!
I left Tim in bed and walked to the starting line, about half a mile from my hotel. It was a beautiful morning, but I could tell that later the weather would be brutal—there was pretty much zero cloud cover.
Anyway, I was reaaaally nervous. I chewed some gum to keep my mouth from drying out and mostly kept to myself. I chatted with a nice lady from Georgia who was running with the American Lung Society for her children with asthma, and an older lady from Arkansas in Vibram Five Fingers who was running her eighth marathon!
Zero miles down, 26.2 to go.
Eventually our corral started moving toward the start line slowly. I choked back tears (for about the fifth time) and kept moving. Although the corral was packed, once I hit the starting line, everyone started jogging and I was not crowded at all.
The first half of the race was a dream. The crowds were incredible the whole way! The first two miles were absolutely packed with spectators, and it was pretty crowded for most of the route. I ran 2 miles, walked 0.25 miles from miles 1-11.
- The Moody Church at Mile 4! They were cheering and handing out water bottles and were so happy and enthusiastic. I loved it.
- The nursing home, somewhere between miles 5-8, where the nurses had wheeled the elderly patients out and given them pots and pans to bang on with wooden spoons to cheer racers on. They were clearly having an awesome time and they made me smile.
- Lots of people stopped to tell me how much they liked my sign with my dad on it. One woman told me, “He is with you today!” and I nearly lost it.
- BOYSTOWN. Hands down, the winner for the most awesome support along the course. They had the Boystown JROTC spinning rifles and dancing, the all-male spirit club with cheerleading uniforms on, and tons of hilarious drag queens. (Including one carrying a sign that said, “26.2 miles is NOTHING compared to walking 2 blocks in these heels!”)
- Around mile 8.5 or so, Theodora found me! We chatted a bit and when I was due for my next walk break, I waved her on. I hope she had a great race! (PS: I’m sorry if I was a little short at that point—I was having a tiny mental freakout that we still had a long way to go!)
At mile 9.5, I took a picture and tweeted it. I was honestly feeling insanely good for the first half. My pace was right where I wanted it to be, the weather was moderate and breezy, and the crowd support was incredible. See how happy I was?
My family first caught up to me at mile 10 or so. They were at mile 2, but I missed them! My sister was going crazy screaming my name, and they had made a really cute sign for me. My mom said they both started to cry they were so proud of me. I waved and fist-pumped at them and shouted that I was feeling awesome. (I knew my mom was really worried about me getting hurt or sick or having an asthma attack.)
I had so much fun reading all the signs along the course. Some of my favorites:
- Run like a beagle! (accompanied by two beagles, snoozing on the sidewalk. I imagined Milhouse was there and ran a little faster.)
- Don’t die, Jenny, we like you!
- Shut up, legs!
- Run faster, Chuck Norris is behind you!
- Toenails are overrated.
- Only 24.7 miles to go! (Seen at mile 1.5, I’m surprised that guy didn’t get smacked)
- Wall? What wall? I don’t see any wall!
- Channel your inner Kenyan
- Run faster, you’re only 30 seconds behind the leader!
- You are really good at exercising
Side note: I LOVE it when people bring their dogs to races. In the first half, I saw tons of adorable pooches—two big fluffy Bernese mountain dogs, adorable beagles and dachshunds, giant Great Danes, a Weimaraner, and one very confused terrier who barked at every single runner that went by.
I hit the half at 2:37:50; which was right where I wanted to be. I was secretly hoping to finish between 5:00 and 5:15, but I had been watching the weather reports and knew I might have to adjust my expectations later in the race (SPOILER ALERT). At the half, I felt incredible, and the crowd support was amazing.
I also saw my mom and sister again! They were ninjas spotting me in this race. I saw them four times, and they made it to five locations!
LITTLE DID I KNOW, right after I passed, he spotted Carla from Top Chef! We are both huge fans of the show, and rooted for her when she was on. (And we have been known to yell “Hootie hoo!” on occasion.) He went up to her and explained that his wife was running and was a big fan, and she was really nice and asked where I was so she could cheer for me! He said I’d just passed, but asked for a picture, and she obliged. Apparently she was going crazy for all the runners! Hooray for celebrity cheering squads! We will definitely be rooting for Carla when Top Chef All-Stars starts soon.
Anyway, back to the race.
At mile 14, I ran through Charity Village and was cheered on by the Team in Training cheering squad. I have to say it was really great to be a part of a charity team—there were tons of TNT cheerleaders along the course that always rooted for me by name and yelled, “Go Team!” I loved that.
At mile 16.5 I saw my mom and sister again. Ninjas, right?
At mile 18, I hit the wall. I thought I was fueling enough, but by this point the sun was out in full force in the sky and I was just constantly thirsty. Here’s what I ate and drank throughout the race:
- I carried a 32 oz. handheld bottle that I drained probably three times. It was filled with the Gatorade at the start, but I refilled it with water twice, once at an aid station, once from a wonderful charity volunteer.
- I drank one cup of fluid at every single aid station on miles 1-12 or so; either Gatorade or water. After the half, I made sure to drink two cups at each station.
- I took Gu at miles 5, 10, and 15. At mile 15, the Gu nearly came back up. I was starting to get really nauseous from the heat.
- A wonderful savior lady was handing out orange slices around mile 20, and I ate one of those. It was seriously the best tasting thing I’d ever eaten in my life.
- At mile 21, I found Tim, and I’d given him a pack of Sharkies to hang on to just in case. I grabbed it and ate half.
Here is what the wall looks like.
The crowd support really dwindled a lot from miles 14.5-20. This coincided with the heat really getting bad. I didn’t have my headphones in until about mile 16, when I decided I needed that boost. It helped a tiny bit.
Anyway, the race had a very clear alert system. When the race started, it was green, meaning it was ideal racing conditions. By the half, it had been raised to yellow, which was basically, “be careful, the weather sucks a little bit,” and by mile 20, it was at red, which means, “it’s really fucking hot, please don’t die” and is one step below the race being cancelled due to dangerous conditions.
Around mile 19, I started to see people drop like flies. The aid stations were VERY well-staffed, and the med tents looked full. I saw a man just fall over and faint. I saw multiple people hurling and/or dry heaving on the sidewalks. It wasn’t pretty.
Thank God for the wonderful people of Chicago. Those hard parts of the race were through a pretty poor neighborhood, yet people still brought bowls of ice, grapes, pretzels, hard candy, and jugs of water from their houses. I gratefully took ice from a few people and stuffed it in my sports bra. (Attractive, but it helped.) The heat was brutal. I could feel myself frying to a crisp, and I was feeling very nauseous but was covered in goosebumps. And my mouth was dry, no matter how much liquid I took in.
Around mile 11, I switched to running .75 miles, walking .25, and I kept that up pretty well until mile 21.
At mile 20ish, thank God, the crowd support picked up in Chinatown! (A lot of these pictures from here on out are from my mom.)
At mile 21.5, I saw my mom, sister, and Tim in Chinatown. I was so happy to see them. I pulled over for a second and told them that I just wanted to finish, and I knew that if I kept up mostly running I would probably wind up passing out from overheating or dehydration. (And, thus, not finishing.) I told them I was fine, but I was just going to power walk through until I almost hit the end. They told me to take care of myself, and I took Sharkies from Tim and kept going. My sister hopped into the road to try to run with me, but I told her to please not to—I am really against race banditing and didn’t want to be one of those people. (Plus, I’d seen a few people get pulled off the course early on.)
As difficult as it was, I had a smile on my face for most of this race. Really, the race was just one long finish line…training was the hard part. I walked as fast as I could for miles 21-25 and just focused on a) not throwing up; b) not passing out; and c) taking in as much water and Gatorade as I could without hurling all over.
At mile 25, I saw my Team in Training coach and she was awesome. She told me that there were just a few more turns and I was going to finish! I decided at that point to run to the finish. It was verrrry, verrry slow, but I finished running. Of course, I cried.
5:51:22 was not what I imagined, but conditions were terrible, my training was rough, and there’s nowhere to go but faster from here. And I finished.
I went through the chute, got a Mylar blanket (not really necessary), a banana (necessary), water (necessary) and my medal (VERY necessary.) I kept walking towards Charity Village, where I was supposed to meet Tim and my mom and my sister. As soon as I saw Tim I just broke down. (Some poor lady tried rushing up to me to see if I needed medical attention. Sorry, lady.)
I just kept saying, “I did it. I did it, baby, I did it.” and crying.
I fell into a chair and choked down a banana and some water. It felt incredible to sit. I love sitting.
(See that? Doesn’t it just look hot? Absolutely no clouds in the sky. My iPhone read 87 degrees when I finished.)
We got in the car and drove back out to my mom’s house in the burbs. We stopped to pick up carry-out pasta on the way home, while I ran in to Walgreens to pick up some ice (and a few impulse buys. Whoops.).
One thing I didn’t really realize about marathons was how DIRTY you get. My legs were caked in sticky lemon-lime Gatorade from the knees down from cups being thrown along the route. I also had paper pulp all over my socks and ankles, and I was salty from head to toe. It was generally pretty disgusting.
I took a hot shower and changed into my official race shirt.
(Random side note: the logo on my shirt is totally off-center and it really, really bugs me. I wonder if I can get a replacement?)
Then, last night, I finally got my appetite back and ate a huge plate of pasta, garlic bread, and ice cream. It was awesome.
All in all, I feel pretty great for the day after a marathon. My right knee is stiff and swollen, and my hips, hamstrings, and quads are on fire, but that’s all par for the course. My main issue is that I suspect I got seriously dehydrated during the race. This is TMI, but I did not pee from 6:30 am Saturday until about 6:30 pm Saturday, and when I finally did, it was very, very little and very, very dark. I am still trying to rehydrate, but not peeing very much at all. I’m pushing fluids as much as possible, but it’s rough. Also, TOTAL TMI: after a 91 day absence, I got my period back. During the marathon. Awesome.
A final thought:
I am so lucky to have run this race in Chicago. What an incredible course. I felt like the whole city came out of their houses to help out and encourage the racers. I saw little kids handing out cups of lemonade, grandmas handing out PB&J sandwiches, teenagers with buckets of ice, dogs with signs…mariachi bands, bagpipes, Chinese drummers, impromptu DJs…and people of all shape, size, color, and ages simply cheering me on. This marathon reminded me of why I love that damn city so much—it’s real people, with a great spirit, always willing to help out a total stranger.
NOW: the eternal question…will I do another marathon?
If you’d asked me this Saturday night, I would have said, “No, absolutely not. This was the worst idea ever.” But now? I think I will. I know I have a better time in me—I know the heat messed with me in terrible, terrible ways and I think that with the right conditions and better training, I could go sub-5.
Tentatively, VERY tentatively…I think that for the rest of the year I am going to focus on getting faster and doing some short speedwork. I want to do a 5K in under 27 minutes, and I got really close to that back in June. I also want to do more cross-training; specifically weightlifting and maybe some swimming. I think I will shoot for another long race next spring—maybe April—so I can start distance training again at the first of the year.
Thank you for all your support. I could not have gone on this crazy, horrible, amazing ride without you guys.
But if you’ll excuse me, I have a finish line photo to mail to a certain doctor right about now.