Because I didn’t want to leave the kiddos for too long (or bring them with us), Michael and I arrived in Chicago the day before the race and went directly to the Expo. We finished there by 10am and took a shuttle to our hotel, the Congress Plaza Hotel, which is located on Michigan Avenue adjacent to Grant Park, where the marathon starts and finishes. If you’re on a budget and looking for a convenient option, this hotel is great. Our room rate was $220 per night, which was by far, the lowest option available when I booked it in August. I don’t like to book too early for fear of jinxing myself. It’s incredibly silly. I know.
After check-in, we were off to Lyfe Kitchen (a vegan fast food place that I’ve been eager to try) for an early lunch. It lived up to the hype and I can’t wait for Lyfe to come to NYC!
We decided to catch a movie after that, Everest. I just finished reading Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer and was about to embark on my own adventure, be it far less daunting, so this choice seemed fitting. The really awesome part of the movie was getting to sit in recliners with our feet elevated.
After the movies, we spun through Eataly to see if they had vegan pasta option. No luck so we headed back to our hotel, where I found a care package from my twin mom friends waiting for me (those ladies are seriously are the best). I resisted the urge to eat its contents all at once, and instead, hit up the hotel restaurant at 5pm for a pasta buffet. It was basic, but it did the trick. I laid out all of my gear, re-checked the start time, set 3 alarms, gulped some water and was in bed by 7:30. I just kept thinking about how I really didn’t want to run a marathon in the morning. What a pain in the butt!
I woke up several times overnight and remembered to sip water, which was good, since I managed to sleep for 10 hours. Up, dressed and fed with 2 hours to spare before start time, Michael recommended that I go for a run. “It’s too early for a warm-up”, I whined, but he has more experience with marathons than I do and he knows this stuff so I made my way outside. Sure enough, after about 3 minutes of jogging, I was ready for the bathroom. My first marathon ever, Philly in 2012, is also nicknamed the “porta-pot hop”. I have a history of GI issues. So the sudden urge to use the toilet got me worried. I dashed back to the hotel and sat on the toilet crying. I panicked and thought the worst. My race was in jeopardy.
Lucky for me, the urge to use the toilet subsided and I was back to focusing on the race.
I usually set 3 goals for a race, a stretch goal, a moderate goal & one that I feel is absolutely attainable. Interestingly, in this race, I attained my “absolutely attainable” goal and my “moderate” goal, but not my stretch goal (sub-4:00). I felt most frustrated with myself because… I faded. This is my third marathon. In marathon #1 I walked a lot because, well, I had diarrhea and sometimes you just can’t clench your bum that hard for that long. In marathon #2 I went out WAY too fast, bonked and ended up walking starting as early as mile 18. I actually walked all of mile 23, which in the NYC Marathon, is slightly uphill and very painful. This year for the Chicago Marathon, a 4th goal slipped in. Above all else, I really wanted to run a smart race and manage the fade.
It took about 13 miles for me to stop feeling annoyed about running. I was just not that into it on Sunday. In hindsight, this may have worked in my favor. I think my lack of enthusiasm in the early miles helped me maintain a conservative pace for the first half of the race. My pace was between 9:20 and 9:30 for most miles. I saw Michael a few miles in and again at mile 13, which gave me a huge boost. Half way through, I started to get in my groove. I thought I might be able to pick up the pace, which is what it would take to go sub 4. After a few fast miles, I realized that my stretch goal might be a little aggressive. I tried to maintain a pace that felt good. Through mile 22, I felt pretty good, but the fade came on strong in mile 23.
I was expecting to see Michael in Chinatown, just after mile 20, but he wasn’t there. He turned up again around mile 24, thank goodness. I didn’t want him to see me walking. I tried my best to run, except I walked through the aid stations and at a few other points when I was really struggling. My slowest mile was 10:25. At mile 25.5, a kind runner told me that there were just three more blocks until I made a right turn towards the finish. I mustered up a slow jog. You make a right, go up a hill, turn left and finish.
I finished in 4:09:33. THANK GOODNESS it was over. I can say with certainty that I was in the most pain I’ve every been in post-race in the 10-15 minutes after the Chicago Marathon. I hobbled to the family reunion area, which was about a bazillion miles from the finish line (actually probably 0.5 miles, but it seemed like FOREVER), and sat in the dirt until Michael found me about 20 minutes later. Poor guy, he ran more than 13 miles as a spectator, trying to see me 4x in the race. That’s love. <3
And then we celebrated!