Well, I'm done. I'm back at my hotel, sitting in the lobby, watching football, and updating the blog. I finished the Bank of America Chicago Marathon about 3 hours ago. So here's the full report and I stress the word "full". Read at your own risk:
I got here yesterday morning and got the shuttle to my hotel. My hotel is the Fairfield Inn - Midway so it's very close to the airport and ended up being nice. I arrived at around 10AM so I didn't expect my room would be ready but they had one ready. It was nice to go ahead and get in a room. I got settled and spent about 15 min. in the room and then headed back to the airport to catch the subway into the city. Took the subway to a bus stop which was a free shuttle to the expo. The expo was amazing. I have never seen such a big expo. I should've brought my camera. Sorry I didn't. I didn't spend a whole lot of time at the expo because I knew I wasn't going to buy anything, but I did look at all the booths and got some free samples. I did buy a hot dog since I hadn't eaten anything all day and it was past noon. Coming out of the expo I got extremely lost. I went a different way out to find a bathroom and got all turned around. It literally took me 15 extra min. to find the free shuttles again. I did A LOT of walking yesterday. I got back on the subway and headed back to the hotel.
I spent the afternoon (2-5) just resting and reading in my room. I thought I might fall asleep but I had dozed a little on the subway so I wasn't tired enough for a nap I guess. Around 5:15, I walked three blocks to Giordano's Restaurant at the recommendation of the hotel receptionist. It ended up being a GREAT Italian restaurant. I got spaghetti and meat sauce which came with a salad and a ton of bread. It was wonderful. What was even more wonderful was that right above my head there was a TV and I watched Alabama get beat by South Carolina. The guy sitting at the table next to me was also rooting for SC so we enjoyed the end of that game. I walked back to my hotel and got everything ready for the race. I turned on the Auburn game and fell asleep to it. I woke up in time to see Auburn win with a last second field goal. What a sweet football day it was!!!
I woke up at 4:55AM and took a shower, got ready, and packed up. There was no way I'd be back in time for checkout so I turned my bags into the front desk and checked out. I just missed the shuttle to the airport getting down to the lobby at 5:25 but another came at 5:40ish. I took the subway into the city once again and was joined by lots and lots of other runners. I wasn't sure the best place to get off the subway so I just followed the crowd. It worked. We walked just a few blocks to the pre-race area. This is my only complaint - the pre-race area was very confusing. I couldn't find anything and there weren't enough people to direct you in the right place. I desperately needed some water. The hotel was gracious enough to give me a bagel and banana even though breakfast wasn't supposed to start until 7, but they had no bottled water. I wasn't worried b/c I was sure the race would have some but I could not find it anywhere and when I asked, they kept directing me to the wrong place. I got to the pre-race around 6:30 which I thought would be fine b/c the race was starting at 7:30 but from 6:30-7:00, I was running around like crazy. I definitely got a good warm-up in but not on purpose. Not only could I not find water, I could not find the bag check-in for the seeded starters. It was hidden in some trees and not well marked at all. I finally found a water fountain and took what I could get. Nashville's marathon has the food and bag check-in area very well marked. Chicago needs to improve on that. But that is my ONLY complaint. Everything else was great! I finally found the bag check-in and later found water bottles but there was only one tent and it wasn't well marked either. I would suggest having water bottles all over the place. In 10 locations at least.
Getting to the start corral wasn't easy either. It was jam-packed with people and very hard to get through. I finally got in my corral at 7:05. Still plenty of time to stretch but I was a little panicky, I have to admit. By the way, I have to tell this. Sorry if it's inappropriate. I read the marathon booklet last night while watching Auburn. It clearly says and I quote "all bathroom activities should take place in the port-a-potties provided." That rule was completely and blatantly ignored. Men were peeing all over the place. At one point, I watched literally 20 men go into this very narrow area between a row of bushes and a fence and line up like they were at a horse-trough type urinal. I wished I had my camera b/c it was made me laugh out loud. But there were no reservations at all. I guess that's just part of the marathon so I joined in. I tried to be discreet but when you gotta go, well you know. You can't start a race having to go and there are just never enough port-a-potties. Ok, enough of that.
My goal was to try and stay with the 3:30 pacers who were in my corral. My previous PR was 3:38:55. I didn't know if I could improve nearly 9 minutes, but I thought it was worth a shot. I would have to run 26.2 - 8 min. miles. It's doable I thought, but would today be the day? The race began and we started. I had my ipod on and charged up. But I couldn't hear it for the first mile or so. The crowd support on this race is SIMPLY AMAZING!! There were huge crowds the entire 26 miles. Granted it was bigger in some areas than others but there were no big spaces with no people. I have never seen so many supporters. Ever. I stayed with the 3:30 guys for the first 2-3 miles. I was feeling great so I decided to go ahead of them a little and build up some cushion in case I had to use the bathroom again (which I knew I would eventually) or had to stop or slow down for some reason. My 5K was 24 min. My 10K was 47 so I was running well. The first half marathon was great. At one point, around mile 8 or 9, I was averaging 7:30 per mile. I even thought I might could hit 3:20 at this point if I kept pace. My music was inspiring me and I felt truly awesome. I was hoping it would last. It didn't of course.
I started feeling it around mile 14. I was getting tired and thirsty. I'll just go ahead and say it. I didn't hydrate enough for this race. I have problems with that and I'm kindof mad at myself. I should've learned from my April half-marathon. It wasn't super hot, but it was around 80 and it felt hot when the sun was on you. I always felt good in my upper body. Breathing. Arms. Etc. But my lower body wasn't so good. My legs started feeling really tired, even my feet. Miles 15-19 were the toughest. I stopped to use the bathroom around mile 15 and began running again but I knew I wasn't going to be able to run the 11 miles left. Around mile 20, or maybe earlier, I can't remember, I started walking some of the water stops. I was drinking a lot of gatorade and water b/c I was so thirsty. I took my 2 Gu packs as well. One around mile 11 and the other around mile 20 or so.
Oh yeah, another funny story to embarrass myself. As a few of you know and now the world, I have issues sometimes with rubbing in certain areas that start with an "N" and end with an "ipple". In my 2nd half marathon, I had severe bleeding and didn't even realize it until way after the race when I looked down and saw 2 huge red spots on my shirt. It was not fun, although some of my former friends thought it was hilarious, especially when the race pics came out. I put bandaids on this morning but those stayed on for about 2 miles so I knew it might be an issue. With the heat, I was severely sweating which meant my shirt was wet which meant it became an issue. I started feeling it around the halfway point and knew that the red spots would return if I didn't do something. I had a white shirt on as well of course. Soooo, I decided to lose the shirt. Problem - my bib is on shirt and I didn't want to stop. So I took all 4 pins off, pinned it on my shorts, held my earphones, took off my shirt, and replaced the earphones all while running. I kindof proud of myself. Most rookies would've stopped to do all this. But I'm a pro at embarrassing red spot prevention. Ok, end of that story. Back to the race.
Around mile 20-21, my legs started cramping. I started feeling it in my calves and thighs right above my knees in the front. I walked a water stop around mile 22 and rubbed my legs for a second. When I hit mile 23, I decided I would try to run w/o stopping to the finish. It was around mile 23 that the 3:30 guys passed me and I couldn't keep up. I knew I wasn't going to beat 3:30. I was a little disappointed I'll admit. If the weather had been a little cooler and I had hydrated like I should've, I really think I could've beat 3:30. When I got to mile 24, I looked at my watch. It said 3:17. So I quickly figured that if I could run 2 10 min. miles (not counting the extra .2 miles) then I could beat my PR of 3:38:55. I definitely thought that was doable. I hit the first of the two miles in 8:30 and felt good about my chances to PR. It was shortly after I passed the 25 mile mark that I made new goal in my head - beat 3:35. The last 2 miles were good. When you know the finish is that close, it gives you new motivation, at least it did me. The crowds during the last 2 miles were huge. I got to mile 26 at close to 3:34 and started sprinting - at least as fast as I could go at that point. We rounded a corner and saw the finish line. I say again that a finish line is the most beautiful sight in the world with a few exceptions (like my kids and stuff). I crossed the line running fast and stopped my watch. 3:34:55. EXACTLY 4 minutes faster than my PR. And I beat 3:35. I was happy. It wasn't 3:30 but it was a PR and I finished strong.
The post-race was great. Lots of good food, water, gatorade and a free massage which felt amazing. These 2 very nice ladies worked my sore muscles very well. I told them they were troopers for massaging all these sweaty, smelly runners. They said "hand-sanitizer". It was a good 15 min. massage for free which I thought was nice. I also got a free cold leg wrap at another booth on both my calves. It was nice too. I hobbled back to the subway, treated myself to my new favorite Starbucks drink on the way (Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate), and got back to my hotel. The hotel does have a nice, large, public bathroom so I went in there, washed up with my handi-wipes, and changed clothes. It's not a shower but I'm not too bad. I don't think I smell. Much.
So there's my story. I'm about to go eat and watch my Titans play Dallas. My flight is later tonight. Can't wait to see my wife at the airport. I did call them right after the race and talked to her and my two boys. It was nice to hear their voices. She's a real trooper also taking care of them this weekend and letting me go on this trip. Thanks, babe. Well, that's probably more than you wanted to know. Now it's on to DISNEY!!! I'm supposed to start my training...well....next week! So not much recovery time here. But I can't wait for Disney so I can be a little Goofy and run a marathon and a half in 2 days.
Thanks for reading.
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