This weekend was long, but SO much fun! I hope I remember everything I have to say about it. Here goes.
Friday: I took the 7 am bus from Portsmouth to Logan Airport and breezed through security for my 10:40 am flight. I wanted to take the later bus but it would have been too tight for my flight. Everything seemed to be going well but I was worried about leaving my pup for so long. Boarded the plane on time, everyone was seated and ready to go and the captain said we were delayed an hour. UGH, trapped on the plane not moving for an hour. I was already bored with myself, now I really didn’t know what to do. I started downloading a bunch of podcasts for the flight and listened to one and fell asleep. Before long we were taking off. Luckily the flight was only 2 hours and 15 minutes there.
Once we landed I set out to find my friend Suzanne who got to Chicago hours before me. After finally figuring out we were in different terminals we found each other and grabbed the L into downtown Chicago. It was overcast but not raining yet, which was good. We found the correct stop and were off to find our hotel, JW Marriott Chicago. Around 3 pm we got to our hotel, it was in the perfect location and really nice! We dropped our stuff in our room, changed and headed to the expo.
The Chicago Marathon Expo was kind of far away, we couldn’t walk there and didn’t really want to take public transportation, but luckily a hotel near us had a shuttle. We walked to the Hilton and grabbed the shuttle over to the expo. It was HUGE but very well organized. I didn’t know how to take it all in. First we picked up our numbers, one person asked for our info and ID and then we were directed to another counter to grab our numbers. It was a very organized process. Next were our shirts! We found those and walked through Nike, Saucony, Asics and so many other places. I wanted everything but I also wanted to hold myself back unless I found the perfect thing.
We took a lot of pictures and went through the Goose Company beer van for free beer sample. We also grabbed some popcorn, SO good! Then we took some more pictures. I decided I didn’t really need a shirt or anything at the expo so we made our way back. We had to wait in line for a bit for a shuttle, so we weren’t really making good time. I planned to meet my Saucony/MileStone Pod group at 6 but also didn’t want to rush the expo.
We got back to the Hilton at 6:15 so we decided to try to make the Saucony/MileStone Pod drinks a little late. They were at Harry Carey’s. It started raining so we power walked there. SO much walking today! We eventually found it and went in to meet some new people and have some drinks and food. It was a lot of fun. I had another local beer and some toasted tortellini. David also brought us all the Chicago edition of Saucony Kinvara’s, SO AWESOME. I knew I would wear those all day Saturday!
After meeting everyone we walked back to the hotel. We decided that it wouldn’t hurt to get another drink at the bar, so I had some wine and Suzanne had a cider. We hadn’t seen each other in a while so we just caught up on a bunch of stuff in each other’s lives and then headed to our room for some much needed sleep. We decided to not set an alarm and just sleep in, we both needed it.
Saturday: I woke up early, of course, I always do. The sun was shining so I was ready to go. Suzanne woke up and we headed to the bean for a shakeout run. It was about 1/2 a mile from our hotel. We ran there and took a bunch of pictures. I also met a few other people coached by Run4PR’s and we all got together for a picture. There is a 5k that goes along with the marathon so there were so many runners there since it had also just ended! It was SO cool. After a while we continued our run down to the lake and down the river walk. Let me tell you, I can’t wait to come back when it’s summer and go to the bars on the river walk, they look SO fun! I could already tell Chicago was a place I would want to return to.
We headed back to our hotel to shower and get ready for whatever else we would do. We needed some more food (I had been snacking on things I brought but we wanted something more). We stopped by a few places but a bunch were closed, then someone told us a lot of the loop is closed or closes early. We were getting hangry, but eventually we found a place. Then we headed to the SkyDeck to see if we could make it to the top. The line outside was moving quickly but they told us once we go inside it would be 3 hours to the top. It was already 1 pm. I was not about that. We went back to our hotel and asked the front desk if they had recommendations. They told us that if we didn’t want a long wait we should go to the bar at the John Hancock building and get a drink. This is also where 360 Chicago is. We called an Uber and headed that way.
We got there and the line for 360 Chicago didn’t look long so we asked them how long it would take us to get to the top, he said we would wait in line for an hour. We said no thanks and then headed to the bar which was on the 96th floor. The line was short and we waited probably 10 minutes to get in the elevator. The elevator is so fast and they cram you in there, it probably only took 30 seconds to go 96 floors. We got a seat by the window and it was amazing. You can go up there and take a picture and go back down and pay nothing, but we wanted to enjoy the view with a drink. I got more wine and Suzanne got a chocolate martini. It was SO much fun. I am so glad we found a view but also didn’t have a long wait. If you don’t get a seat right by the window, the bathrooms also have great views!
Afterwards I facetimed my sister to show her a little of the windy city while Suzanne visited her cousin nearby. Speaking of the windy city it got super windy while we were talking and started raining, she witnessed Chicago at its finest. Suzanne and I called an uber and headed back to the hotel. We watched No Strings Attached and then headed to the lobby for some dinner. I got pasta and she got chicken, before we headed back to our room for sleep and race preparations. Now we started watching Taken. I laid out all my clothes and set my alarm for 4:30 in the morning. Before I knew it I was asleep and I slept well!
Sunday: I ended up waking up around 4 am really hungry, so I had my english muffin and almond butter. I usually eat pretty early before a race so I figured this would work well for me. Then I drank some gatorade and fell back asleep for a bit. Then I was up and getting ready to go and so was Suzanne. We headed downstairs around 5:15 so Suzanne could get a bagel and peanut butter. We asked the front desk for a sharpie and wrote our names on our arms so that people could cheer for us. I was excited but nervous. My stomach had been flip flopping all morning and I couldn’t get it to stop. I was literally making myself sick with nerves.
Around 5:40 am we left the hotel and headed for Millenium Park for our gates. Some buildings nearby had windows on to spell our messages it was really cool. We didn’t exactly know where we were going but the good thing with big races is you can just follow the crowds. it was still dark but the city felt alive. Eventually we found our gates, they were right next to each other but we would still be separated since we were in different waves. We had someone take a picture of us and then we parted ways. There was a lot of walking until I found corral B, but it was very well put together. There were not many people at my corral so I sat near the corral and just tried to relax. I had about an hour until I needed to go into the corral. I started stretching and talked to a few people from home to try to calm the nerves. It wasn’t working, my stomach was all over the place. I told myself to just run and have fun. Enjoy the city and the crowds.
Eventually I got in line for the bathroom so I would make it to the corral in time, then I headed in. It was still pretty empty so I warmed up a bit in there. Then we waited. I could see the start which was cool and the clock counting down to the start. We had some nike pacers in the group and the 3:15 one was really funny. For a while I contemplated trying to run with them, but then I told myself to run my own race. They were doing even splits and I like to aim for negative splits. Close to the start guys started peeing out of the corral. I thought this was very unfair haha if I had to go to the bathroom, I couldn’t do that! Anyway, I eventually let it go.
Before I knew it we were off. The beginning I was overcome with emotion watching all the runners ahead of me take off. It was SO cool. There were so many cheering fans and I thought okay this might turn out okay. The beginning of the race went alright it felt like a good pace. I kept the 3:15 group a little ways ahead of me and just ran by feel. About 3 miles in, my stomach started hurting. What the heck was going on? I told myself it was nerves and to just keep going. It was also humid, I was getting warm. I was currently still on pace even though I missed a few mile markers so I wasn’t really paying attention to my watch or pace band. I grabbed some water at the next stop and my stomach cramped and I thought I was going to throw up. This had never happened to me. I was nervous to take water let alone anything else. I kept running and hoping the pain would subside, it didn’t. The miles were ticking by so slowly. The pace started to hurt.
I told myself if I can get to the halfway point I can make it. Just keep it easy until then. Each mile was around 7:40’s not where I wanted to be at all but I told myself after the halfway point I would pick it up. I hit the halfway point and I still felt awful. I had tried to take a untapped maple syrup gu and seriously thought I was going to have to stop at a porto potty to throw up. I was basically choking things down. I knew my legs would not last the whole marathon with no fuel. I decided to keep the pace where it was until mile 16-18. I told myself that is where the race begins.
Mile 16 came and went and I did not feel better. Mile 18 came and went. Now I was just falling apart. I was SO behind on my goal, it was slipping away. What was I going to do? Was I going to quit all together? Would I change my goals? I tried to just focus on the crowd but since I was hurting so badly I wanted to just see a familiar face. I needed that pick me up, but I knew that wouldn’t happen at this point. I didn’t know anyone spectating for me. This was probably good since I think I would have walked off the course if I saw someone, especially a family member.
At mile 20 the water stopped hurting my stomach. YES. I wasn’t looking for any speed miracles but this was good. I immediately took my other gu and my stomach accepted it. I started drinking more water too. I knew it was too late to make up time and get to my goal. I also knew my legs were already pretty far gone and I was struggling. My only hope was that this would help me make it across the finish line. My goal since the halfway point of the race changed from 3:15 to maybe a PR to just survive and see what happens.
I stopped looking at my watch and I took off my pace band and just ran. I felt like I was crawling, not going to lie. I just had nothing left. The last 6 miles seemed to last forever. I didn’t hit the pace I wanted for one mile. I kept telling myself just don’t stop running. You can run as slow as you want just don’t stop. Everyone else around me seemed to be struggling too. There were a few people that breezed by and I thought, yes go with it this is your day. This is clearly not my day, but that is okay. I passed a woman who was having a breakdown. She told the person she was running with that she doesn’t know why she does this she sucks at it. After hearing this I thought, okay you are going to make the best of this race, it is not always about time. You will find something to be proud of, now just don’t give up. If you walk or walk off you will be disappointed, but if you don’t stop fighting you will have no regrets. That is exactly what I did.
At mile 24 , with 2 miles to go I told myself to pick it up. There was nothing there, I continued what felt like a shuffle. People yelled that there was only a mile left and I had no kick, nothing. My knee and hip had started to hurt and at this point I just wanted to finish without being injured. That being said I don’t think I would have had a kick even if my hip and knee felt fine. It was just one of those days. Eventually I could see the finish line and I was SO happy. So happy to be done, SO happy to walk. Although all I wanted to do was sit and I couldn’t because you have to keep walking to get to the end point where you meet people or go to the race party.
I shuffled along and got my medal and beer. The beer was amazing. It was exactly what I needed. I had sweat crusted on my face and was limping along. I swear it was a mile to the post race. I kept stopping to sort of stretch. My legs were in SO much pain. Eventually I made it to the post race party and immediately sat on the grass.
For a few minutes I just sat there. Then I started to tear up. I didn’t know why I was crying, so many thoughts went through my head. Why do I do this? I wish my family had been here. I just want to see someone I know. This race is so big but I feel so small. I took a deep breath and told myself to get it together. I finally looked at my watch and saw 3:23, well damn that is a time worth being proud of. Despite everything I fought and as I saw my goals slip away I continued fighting and came out with my second best marathon time. I know it is not what I trained for, but not one part of me was disappointed. I didn’t stop fighting. Nothing was going my way and I kept moving forward. If I could apply this type of fight to different aspects of my life, how could I not be successful? Life is about not giving up.
Finally I turned my phone back on to let my family know that yes I was in fact alive. I also wanted to see where Suzanne was. The messages that popped up on my phone, made me feel so much better. Yes I was proud of myself for not giving up, but so was everyone else. I knew I didn’t disappoint myself but for a while I thought maybe I disappointed others. Then I thought, who am I kidding, at the end of the day it’s not about the times at all. It’s about loving running and chasing something you love. My family and friends will always support that, they won’t care about my times as long as I am happy.
This race wasn’t my race, but hopefully it was someone else’s. I drank my beer and took in the sunshine and the city while waiting for my friend. This was a pretty amazing weekend and I did fall in love with a city that I didn’t expect to. I decided then and there I would be back, but not for a race, for fun.
I had a long trek home after the race, so I took the day today to recuperate. Not going to lie, that marathon made me sick. I couldn’t keep much down last night or this morning, but it seems like it is now better.
What’s next: I have already told my coach that I need a break from marathons. I know I am running Boston but I told her, I want to go in with no goals. No time goals whatsoever. I want to train for half marathons but keep my fitness up so that I can finish a marathon. I need a mental and physical break. I also told my sister that my goal when I start training again is to really figure out what I can and can’t eat before and during a race. I think that will be what brings me to the next level in my running. Not going to lie most of my current race results are from running on empty because I don’t trust my stomach. For now, I am looking forward to taking a solid 2 weeks off from running completely. If the urge to run comes up maybe I will run 2-3 miles, but I know my body needs a serious break. When I start back up I plan to have maybe a month of just easy running, no speed whatsoever. I still love running and I look forward to when I do reach my goals in the marathon, but for now I think I need some time off from marathon time goals and the distance in general.