First off, thank you to each and every one of you for your sweet words on the blog and social media. Your support means the absolute world to both of us!
I had a lot of time on Monday to process the race. We had an 11 hour drive back to Virginia and that gives you a lot of time to think and talk. There are a lot of emotions that go through your head before, during, and after a marathon.
I’ll try my best to put it into words, so bear with me a bit!
Let’s start from the beginning. I mentioned a couple time last week that my focus throughout the week was getting my body recovered and keeping my foods plain to avoid all stomach issues.
We didn’t get in until 2:00 AM on Friday morning so needless to say I was tired.
I tapered as I had in the past and by race day I can say my legs were ready to go. My last run was actually Friday (2 miles) as I don’t run the day before the marathon.
Some people do, and that’s great, but I don’t usually find any benefit in it for me. The only real time on my feet the day before was spent walking around the expo with the husband and family. My husband also got a chance to meet up with his coach, who is Chicago based.
I stuck to very plain pasta and carbohydrates the day before the race. My goal is never to gorge myself, but to make sure I am building up my glycogen storage throughout the week. I was very focused on this both to make sure I didn’t run out of energy and to avoid any stomach issues. I stuck to plain pasta, rice, bread and protein.
I laid all of my clothes out the night before after finally deciding on what to wear to make sure I didn’t forget anything Sunday morning.
The morning of the race I had my normal bagel with honey. I got about 4:00- 4:30 am, which was 3 hours before the race, to make sure that it had plenty of time to digest. I also sipped on an apple juice throughout those 2 hours just as I had during Kiawah.
Wes and I left our hotel, which was only about a 10 minute walk from the start line, around 5:50 AM. The crowds hadn’t really begun yet and we wanted to get there before the masses began to arrive. Wes was in the Elite Development Program so had a separate area to go to and warm up. We parted ways a little after 6:00 AM.
I think this is when the nerves really began to set in for me. I headed over to the red gear check. I changed into my compression socks and race shoes at this point and made my way towards the start corrals. I had about an hour and 15 minutes before the gun went off so I focused on finishing my apple juice, stretching, doing my dynamic warm ups, and relaxing.
At 7:00 am, I opened my first Gu, and begin sipping on it as I made my way into the start corral. I was in B which was much closer to the start line than I had been in the past. Just as I had decided in my race plan, I lined up between the 3:20 and 3:25 pace groups. I wanted to chase the 3:20 group while keeping the 3:25 behind me.
As I finished my Gu, the corrals began to get crowded and they began to play the National Anthem. I knew that the time was coming very quickly. I think the biggest difference for me during this race was I really didn’t have the confidence I had going into Kiawah. I knew I had a PR in me but I wasn’t sure exactly where it was.
Before I knew it, it was 7:30 AM and the race had begun!
As I’d been warned from several people, the first half of Chicago is deceptively fast. Seriously, I felt like I was clicking off paces with ease and without much work. However, my watch did not want to show my pacing correctly throughout good chunks of the race. During the first several miles as I would look down I first saw a 4:45 pace and then a 12:30. I assume it was the buildings, but I tried not to panic.
I decided at that point I would run off feel. I would still look at my watch for the time to see if I was coming through where I wanted to.
I made my very first mistake during the first 10 miles. Running off of feel wasn’t a mistake, but I should have realized it was a bit quick for a 26.2 miles.
I was still keeping the 3:20 group in front of me, but probably closer than they should have been.
I took my second Gu of the race at mile 8 and sipped on it until 10 to make sure I had a chance to take it with water as well.
Just like in Kiawah, I decided not to focus on the halfway point because I didn’t want to have a panic attack. However, I did check my watch as I came through 13.1 to what I had written down. I realized quick it was too fast. I had come through in 1:39:55.
It was right on pace to run a 3:20, but I had a feeling that was a bit over where I was in my training to continue that momentum for all 26.2 miles. At this point though I realized I didn’t have much of a choice. I still had another 13.1 to go and I just decided I would give it all I had until I couldn’t anymore.
This is not a race plan I would recommend, but when you get to that point you really don’t have much choice.
I didn’t feel bad at the halfway point, and there was a small hope that somehow I would be able to sustain it but I just focused on giving as much effort as I could.
I took my second and final Gu at my 16 of the race. This was my second “check” point for myself, and for the most part at 16 I was still holding steady.
Mile 19 is where it all began to change for me. I began to feel my hamstrings tightening up, but I just tried to keep my mind focused on one mile at a time. At this point in Chicago, you begin to go out of the city. I’d run it before so I knew mentally this can be a tough section and had prepared myself to have to dig in pretty deep.
At 20 miles, my legs started slowing down and no matter how hard I tried to push them they wouldn’t go any faster. I had to come to terms that things were about to get very tough. I started focusing on just trying to get sub-3:25.
I could see the 3:20 pace group getting far out of my view so I just dug deep to keep the 3:25 group from passing me.
I took 1 mile at a time, but my body was just not having it. I never felt aerobically bothered, it was the simple fact that my legs were tightening up and I couldn’t make them go any faster.
At mile 23 we made a turn and headed back towards the city, which meant we were getting close to the finish! At this point I was averaging between 8:15-8:45 pace. It took everything in me just to keep it around this.
At mile 24, the 3:25 pace group passed me. I won’t lie, this was a bit of a hit. I wanted so badly to just try to stay with them and get a 3:25 but again my legs just couldn’t go anymore and I was giving it all I had.
We made our way up the final climb, and I saw the finish line. At that point I was just focused on a 3:26. I could see the clock ticking now and I knew it was still in my reach. I finally crossed the finish line with a final time of 3:26:42.
I was relieved that the race was over. There were so many emotions swimming through my head but I couldn’t process them at first. I simply went and got my bag and made my way out to find my husband and in-laws.
Seeing their faces at the end of the long walk was better than anything!
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Now that I’ve had time to reflect a bit more, here’s how I’m feeling:
- I am very happy that I was able to get a 3 minute PR and qualify for Boston in 2017! This means that I can really focus on having fun and enjoying every moment of Boston 2016.
- I’m proud of myself for mentally digging deep those last 6-7 miles after a somewhat mentally weak training cycle. Even though I slowed down, I remained mentally strong and focused on getting to that finish line.
- I’m disappointed in my overall implementation of my race plan. Sure, my watch didn’t show pacing as accurately as I had wanted but I wish I had paid a little more attention to the time to know I was going too quick for the first 13.
- I believe that with 100% ideal conditions (how often do you really get that?) and a better focus on my race plan I should have been able to run around a 3:23. It’s amazing how much sticking to a race plan can do for you.
- I’ve got to strengthen my legs. I did body weight strengthening exercises through a majority of my training, which was a step above what I have been doing. However, I really need to take the off season and get in the gym and really work on my hamstrings and quads so that they have more strength to push me at the end.
- I’m 100% taking an off season this time. I’m giving myself a month to recover from this race. It may be a lot to some, but I only run 2-3 races a year because I know how hard they are on my body. I don’t plan on running at all until this weekend. I will probably do a 3-4 mile shakeout run on Saturday before doing some weights. Once I am back to running regularly, I want to keep my mileage lower and not get back to 50 miles quickly like I did after Kiawah. I won’t have a real workout for over a month.
I truly believe that each race teaches us important lessons. While this race didn’t have the ultimate outcome I would have wanted, it is a step in the right direction! This year’s Chicago Marathon taught me where some of my weakness are and how important your off season can be to your next training cycle.
It’s easy to say what you need to do, but when you can see your weaknesses coming out during a race it really hits home. I’m proud of myself and frustrated all in one. That’s to be expected, and I’m excited to see what lies ahead! I still have big goals and I plan to continue to reach for them each and every day and can’t wait to see where hard work will take me!
Enough about me though, I can’t finish this (now extremely long post) without a shout out to my husband.
As you may remember, he started working with his coach about 9 weeks ago after he realized it was time to invest if he really wanted to take things to the next level. He’s put in a ton of effort and sweat over the last 9 weeks (and 6-7 weeks before that).
He ended up taking 2 whole minutes off his PR and coming through the finish line in 2:27! Overall he came in 66th and 60th male. At his level, a 2 minute PR is huge. I’m really excited to see where the future takes him as well. He has BIG goals for Boston 2016 and so proud and excited for him! His dedication, hard work, and effort all while putting in many 80 hour work weeks is a big inspiration for me! I’m blessed and proud to be in this amazing journey with him!
Again, thank you for all your support! I love sharing this journey, both good and bad, which each and every one of you!
Did you race this weekend?
What is the most important lesson a race has taught you?