Endurance and Encouragement







Chicago Marathon October 2006 

The short version-8th marathon, my PR (personal record) is 4:11 Carlsbad 2006. PW (personal worst) Gulf Beaches 2003 4:37, to qualify for Boston  I need a 4:00:59 or less. Time for this race was 4:29:5  

The long version-I finished the half ironman about five weeks ago, and that should have been the end of my season. Unfortunately last spring when I signed up for the Chicago marathon I didnít possess that insight.  Chicago has a 40,000 cap and I believe they hit it sometime around May.  I signed up filled with the optimism that each new year brings. Iíd do the half ironman and in training lose those annoying 7 pounds that keep hanging on.  Iíd just up the running mileage to train for a marathon too. Iíd be fit, the course would be fast and flat and Iíd qualify for Boston. Hellloooo reality.  Nope, I didnít lose the weight.  I got in a couple 18.5 mile runs in July and then turned around and took the 4 trips in 4 weeks. The training became incredibly focused and forced around travel. The 70.3 (half ironman triathlon) was the ďAĒ race that I really wanted to accomplish. The marathon got pushed aside. That foolish optimist in my head kept thinking, youíll finish the tri and then hammer out some good long runs and the endurance from triathlons will pull you through. Hey, dreams do come true. Ok, I finished the 70.3 and had some leg soreness. Same old weak link problems were flaring up. I got in two long runs and both of those involved some walking. Highly unlikely that this dream was going to come true. So Tuesday before the race I see the forecast 30-45 degrees rain/snow. Ugh. I love to run. I hate to be cold. I like to be wet swimming. I donít like to be wet when I run.  

What to do? To my friends I issued the disclaimer ďIf itís raining or snowing, Iím not going. Iím not a pro I donít get paid for this.Ē My training buddies knew that I didnít expect a big performance from this one. I had not even tapered. I did however cut back my run to 13 last Saturday.  

I watched the weather forecast, compared forecasts, and rechecked them several times a day. Saturday I had a decision to make. Hereís the forecast:  

The LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon runners face much more than a 26 mile challenge today. Starting this morning, strong winds will steer cold northern Canadian-source air into Chicago. As the morning progresses, diminishing rains will gradually change over to wet snow flurries.

Start time temperatures will be in the lower 40s and fall into the upper 30s by noon with associated wind chills dropping out of the 30s into the upper 20s. Winds may be the biggest aide and at the same time the largest obstacle. Flowing out of the northwest, 30 to 40 m.p.h. winds above the surface will slam into buildings along the route, sliding down the face of tall structures funneling even stronger flow down some streets. Stretches of other avenues may experience periods of almost eerie calm. Winds will be at the backs of runners on east and south legs and present a very intimidating headwind for those headed west and north.

Gee I couldnít wait.  

I get up at 5:15 am. Well, I have to be honest I got up several times that night. I had some heart to heart talks with God around 3am.  By 5:15 I figured Iíd get up since I already was awake. This is way easier than a triathlon, but hey youíre going to be out there a long time and you know the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared. So I fire up my laptop, looking for the weather forecast that says sunny high 60 and nope that wasnít happening. Iím struggling to decide, shorts or tights. I put on my favorite sugoi running shirt-white long sleeves with a zipper. Gotta have zippers so you have temperature control. Then Iíve got on my race ready shorts. These have a pocket on each hip that is the size of a credit card. Across the back are mesh pockets about 5 of those. So you can haul stuff with you for hours. Iíve got my mini body glide in one of the back pockets. My room key in another with 2 advils wrapped in foil. In another pocket 2 more advils and a carboom. One more carboom and then two baggies of bloxís with 6 each. Iíve got my timing chip on my shoe, 2 pairs of gloves, a knit cap, and knit ear warmers. I also have a running wind breaker, an old hoodie, a blanket and 2 trash bags. I get ready to go and wake Maurice and ask if he thinks I should wear the tights. He asks what the forecast is and says heíd rather be warm. So I get all that stuff out of the pockets and put on the tights. I get down to the lobby and see that it is evenly divided and half the people have on shorts, but a lot of the pants look like they are going to be taken off, not racing pants. I go outside and it isnít THAT cold.  I go back upstairs and take all the stuff out of those pockets and put the shorts back on-fill up the pockets again. I leave the hoodie and blanket. Iím sure that if I wanted to pay for it I could get therapy for this.  

Itís about 7am now and the race starts at 8. I walk across the street to the park, stop at the porta potties J and try to find the starting line. It wasnít where I thought it would be and found myself roaming around the runner reunite area. 40,000 people lining up somewhere and I donít see them. I ask a worker and she points me to the start and I get there only to find that there is just one way in. It is all fenced (scary thought) and you enter and work your way towards the starting line. One of the memories that the Chicago  marathon brings to mind is the helicopters hovering over the starting line. It is pretty cool. 

Weíre all waiting in line and as more and more people come it gets kind of warm so I take the trash bag that I had been wearing, wad it up and step on it. Pretty soon people start unloading their disposable clothes. Someone to the left of me tries to throw a shirt to the curb and it lands on a guyís head. Lots of people just put stuff on the ground so you have to watch your step as you head to the starting line.

You know that unrealistic optimist that lives within my head? Well she decided to place herself with the 3:45 pace group.  Actually when I did Chicago  last time someone had told me to position myself at a pace that was one minute per mile faster that I expected to go because of the crowd. So I moved up again to compensate. Someone sang the national anthem and the race started. Then we waited, but not too long I crossed the starting line a little past 6 minutes from the clock time. The course starts you running through some sort of tunnel and people are exuberant. They yell, shout and blow whistles. First mile and Iím running pretty hard, umm yeah, all those 3:45 people. I get to the first mile marker and clock. Do the math and Iím like at a 10 minute pace. What? So I get to mile two and itís in the 18ís but I didnít feel like I could hold it. My left quad was locking up and it hurt. I was still ahead of the 4 hour pace group (BQ for me) and I thought maybe it will work itself out. Usually it takes me 40 minutes to get warmed up and hit that sweet spot, so I reminded myself of that and hang on. Note: do not assume that all ear warmers are the same. I had bought cheap ear warmers from Walmart for $1.50 so it was disposable, but it kept sliding up my head. I chucked it to the curb around mile 3 along with my 1st pair of gloves.  Then I stuffed the knit cap and 2nd pair of gloves into the pocket of my jacket. We run through Lincoln Park  and before the 10k mark I decide to unload the second pair of gloves. Mile 7, the 4 hour pace group passed me. That was really a bummer. I stayed with the 4 hour pace group at Carlsbad  in January until mile 18 and that was a hilly and challenging course. So I had to make a decision. Qualifying for Boston  just wasnít going to happen. So how much did I want to suffer to produce a mediocre time? I conceded and decided to stretch and walk as necessary.  In the meantime I would look for things that I found amusing on the course.  

So here are my memories. Remember that weather forecast? The spectators were fabulous they all looked cold and yet they lined the streets sometimes several people deep and cheered for us. They like cow bells in Chicago. One guy was shirtless and had written on his chest with black marker ďGo DanĒ I saw a lady with one of those decorative Halloween black arched cats on a stick, someone else had a cabbage patch dressed as a cheerleader on a stick. We ran though this lovely neighborhood with beautiful homes and one house had this huge-like as big as me stereo speaker blasting ďYou shook me all night longĒ by ACDC. I got to see Elvis and he was singing in the middle of the street.

They had bananas at the end of a water station and I took one. As I went to peel it I almost slipped on a wet peel in the street. Peels and water do not mix!  Around mile 20 there was a lady who had set up a table and she had a big bottle of Jose Cuervo and was giving out shots.  

Lots of little kids hold their hands out to high five and that was fun to do. Rain sort of sputtered and misted on us. The wind wouldnít be too bad between buildings so I would take my jacket off and wrap it around my waist. Then when you moved to the open, you would put the jacket back on. Zip the jacket up, unzip the jacket. Unzip the jacket and shirt, zip both up, on and on. Around the halfway point I think the temperature dropped because I put my knit cap back on and kept it on the rest of the race. I started wishing I had kept one pair of gloves.  

Ever since the 70.3 I have struggled with my training plan for next year. What to do. Triathlons, long, short, ironman? Running fast 5kís, marathons, BQ? Rowing, belly dancing? I just didnít know. Around mile 16 it became amazingly clear that this was no fun and I was not doing anymore long stuff. Next year I would focus on getting faster at the 5K.  

medal chicago 06.jpg (1137754 bytes)So Iím running, walking, and stretching; sometime during the last few miles I realize that at this pace I am going to beat my PW (personal worst.)  I have some pride and I decided I better pick it up so Iím not too embarrassed. Actually I had been running as hard as I could, I just took a few more breaks and stretched and walked. I sort of straddled the fence of having totally fried legs and sore legs. Finished 4:29. Finisherís medal was beautiful green and yellow on silver. I work my way through the line, turn in my chip, get a bottle of water. Pass on the apples and bananas. People have beers and I eyed those, but figured I would have to touch a cold beer with my frozen hands-no thanks. Right as we exit the finish chute they have people handing out bags of ice-yeah right.  

One of the benefits of not completely obliterating my legs was that I could walk pretty fast back to the hotel. That was good because I was sooo cold! Got back, tried my key and the room was locked from inside. I say ďitís meĒ and wait. And wait. I try my key again and then Maurice opens it. He said he looked out the peep hole and didnít know it was me-I had on a black knit cap and sunglasses-ha, ha, I think he feared I was a bad guy!