Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bank of America Chicago Marathon Race Recap: Part 2

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The day we had been waiting and training for had finally arrived!  We awoke at 6:00 a.m.-- much later than we normally do for running!  I had tossed and turned almost all night (nothing new for me the night before the race), so I was ready to go way before the alarm clock went off.  We were able to walk over to the start line from our hotel, meeting our friend, Teddy, along the way.  Since the race started at 7:30 a.m., we had less than a hour to check our gear bags, use the bathrooms, and get into our start corral (we were all in B).  It should've been plenty of time, but it wasn't for a race this size, as we soon learned.  Below are some pictures we took before checking our camera at the gear check.

Amongst the other runners race morning
At gear check

With buildings in background

Rick and Katie pre-Chicago
Getting into the corrals proved to be the hardest part of the morning.  There was a bottleneck at Corral C, causing those heading to Corral B to be stuck in the flow.  Rick and I (Teddy had left us since he didn't need gear check) couldn't move towards our corral, except at a turtle's pace.  People were jumping the fences to get over to our corral faster.  We stayed in the slow moving traffic and eventually got into our corral but in the back.  I looked to my right and saw a guy crouched next to me peeing into a Gatorade bottle and a girl with her shorts down going in the nearby park.  These were some desperate measures but very common sights at the beginning of a marathon.  It's odd the things that we remember sometimes!  We took about two minutes to cross the start line.  I pushed "start" on my watch, and my race had begun.

The Race

There were four things that kept me going during this race (in no particular order--They kind of floated in and out of my mind throughout the race):

1. The plan
Rick, Teddy, and I had a plan.  They were going to run together at a 3:10, and I was going to run a 3:15.  We would all meet up at the end.  I went into the race thinking that they both had their times in the bag.  Everything would work out as planned if we all stuck to the plan.  I am so glad I thought they were ahead of me getting their times.  That thought pushed me to keep my pace.    

2. The poster
"There will come a day when you will not be able to do this.  Today is not that day."  I already mentioned this poster here.  How can you seriously attribute your time to a simple poster?  I don't know how, but the message on that poster pushed me through.

3. God, through the song "You Make Everything Glorious" by the David Crowder band
You know from this post that I had chosen not to wear headphones.  The song above just got stuck in my head from all of the times I listened to it during training.  During the race, I thought over and over about the lines "My eyes are small but they have seen/ the beauty of enormous things."  I kept looking out over all of the buildings and thinking about all of the enormous, beautiful things I had seen in my life.  And I thought about God creating me and how He made these tiny eyes to see the things and this brain to actually comprehend everything I'm seeing and this heart to appreciate it all...

I know it seems silly that I spent so long thinking about these things, but it didn't feel silly at all.  I sang a little of the song out loud as I ran.  I'm sure no one noticed, and who cares if they did?  God did make all of us glorious, and if I can't praise Him in the middle of the marathon that He enabled me to run, then when can I?  When would be a more appropriate time?

My eyes are small but they have seen
the beauty of enormous things
Which leads me to believe
there's light enough to see that

You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
And I am Yours

What does that make me?

4. My friends and family who were tracking me
I liked knowing that others knew of my time goal for this race.  It kept me accountable for getting that time.  I knew they would hear of my time, and I wanted to be proud of doing my best out there. 

Starting Too Fast
My first mile was a 7:14--faster than my goal pace of 7:27.  Starting fast is normal for me.  Rick was right by me at the start, but I didn't see him after that.  I later figured that he had somehow passed me and I missed it.  In actuality, he had never passed me and was right behind me for much of the race.  The runners were pretty close together during the first couple of miles, but after that they spread out a bit.  They did always look shoulder-to-shoulder when I saw a group in front of me, though.  Miles 1-17 were all under pace, with the fastest being a 6:54 at Mile 7 and the slowest being a 7:25 at Mile 17.  The miles felt easy and relaxed.  I would shake out my arms a little every couple of miles to stay loose.  I enjoyed seeing the crowds and trying to take each mile as it came.  My half was a 1:34:10, which is actually a half marathon PR for me (it will be interesting to see what I can do with "only" a half marathon when I race in one next month).  This put me on pace for a 3:08:20 with even splits.  I know I don't run even splits, though, so I wasn't thinking sub 3:10 at all.

Fueling and the Heat
I had eaten a Honey Stinger Waffle and a thing of Clif Bloks for fuel before the race.  I normally take something about halfway, but today I did not feel like taking anything (other than the Gatorade that I drank along the course).  My first food was the vanilla Gu at Mile 18 offered on the course.  I had to choke down my Clif Bloks I carried with me at about Mile 20.  I put them in my mouth and almost could not get them down.  The "heat" picked up as we ran.  I know 70s isn't really hot, but it is hot when you are running a marathon.  I felt sweat on my forehead in the first mile, and that is not a good sign.  They had cold sponges for us along the course, and those felt great.  The drinks were nice and cold too.  Still, the heat and starting too fast were taking a toll on me.

Finishing It Up
Mile 18 was my first mile over pace, and it was only over by 1 second.  Mile 19 was over by 2 seconds.  Then--BAM--Mile 20 was 13 seconds over pace.  I would be lying if I said that it didn't bother me that I'd started too fast.  I am a perfectionist and it is natural for me to analyze every part of my race.  I had a 3:08 pace at the halfway point, and I was watched it slip between my fingers over the last 6 miles.  I know that makes no sense since I was supposed to be aiming for a 3:15, but it is still how I felt.  I kept figuring my finish time by multiplying the number of miles remaining by 9 minute or 8 minute miles.  The slow down at the end of 1 minute per mile cost me a finish that would have been somewhere between 3:10 and 3:15.  Of course, I know myself, and I know that starting under my pace helped give me confidence.  I know also that my goal was a 3:15 and a new PR, and I met those goals.  But I can't help but wonder: If I'd started slower, could I have made a faster time?  I guess that is what all determined athletes do.  We question our decisions, we adjust, and we try to be better next time.  I have thought about the 3:10 in ways that I never would have before this race.  I see it as a possibility now.

I honestly don't remember a whole lot about the end of the race.  I remember that is seemed like a looonnnggg time between 21 and 22.  I remember a cool Nike cheering section at Mile 24, where they were announcing, "Only two miles left in your Chicago marathon dream" or something like that.  It really helped me!  And there was a nice guy (though a bandit!) who ran alongside me in the last mile, telling me to count the number of people I was passing to encourage me.  You know, that was the weird part.  Though my pace has fallen by a minute, so many other people must've had their paces fall even more because I was passing people right and left.  I couldn't muster up the energy to count them, though, but it was a nice encouragement and I was thankful for the distraction.  We crested a little hill at Mile 26 and then rounded the corner to the finish.  I saw 3:17 on the clock (3:15 chip time).  But unlike all of my practice runs, I did not have to get-up-and-go to sprint to the finish.  My official time was 3:15:33.  Though I met my goal, the victory of conquering the marathon with grace was missed for me today.

After the Race 
I know I gave it my all, because when I crossed the finish line, I again felt like I could not stand up on my own.  Someone was right there helping to support me.  I became a little nauseous and had trouble catching my breath.  I was taken to the medical tent, but I only needed to sit for a couple of minutes before I felt good enough to walk again.  At least my visits to the medical tent are getting shorter!  I was anxious to get over to our meeting point to find Rick and Teddy, so I got up and quickly shuffled over to our spot (but not before grabbing a free 312 beer!). 

When I didn't find them, I went over and asked for a print out of their finish times.  I figured they'd been done for awhile and were tired of waiting for me!  Sadly, I learned that Rick had gotten a 3:37 and Teddy a 3:19.  My excitement about meeting my goal and earning a PR was immediately tempered by my disappointment that Rick and our friend had not met their times.  I was actually stunned that Rick, who had trained so long and hard, had not met his time.  And I was worried when the guy printing the results for me told me that his times had dropped sharply at the end.  Was he sick or hurt?  I grabbed the printouts and went to sit back at our meeting spot.  I was in the middle of a phone call with my sister (the kids did great!) when I saw Rick!  Needless to say, he was disappointed and not too happy with himself or even with marathoning in general.  He fought hard out there in the heat, but it just wasn't his day.  He still finished the race, and I am proud of him for that.  There wasn't time to dwell on it, though, since we had a mile or so to walk--err, shuffle--back to our hotel.

Back at the hotel, I was able to see my sister's text updates that she received throughout the race, and we had her take a picture of us with our medals.  After cleaning up, it was time to eat pizza and ice cream, drop Laurie off at the bus station, and do our final sightseeing at the Cloud Gate. 

Phone texts of our updates
Marathon finishers!
Deep dish pizza at Giordano's

Deep dish cheese with spinach--Yum!

Ghiradelli's Ice Cream Shop

Mint ice cream--Yum!

Cloud Gate

Kind of how the last few miles felt to me!

We headed home on Monday, October 12.  The walking on Sunday after the race really helped the soreness to go away, but it was hard sitting for the ten hour car ride.  I am now three days post-race.  I ran today and had one of my best post-marathon runs yet!  I am hoping that means a fast recovery from this one.

Below are some of the race details provided by the marathon.  How thorough!  I can't say I've ever been in a marathon that lists my country by my name!  Go USA!

This is neat because it shows your overall pace for each segment of the race.  You can see my slow down here. 
1 7:14
2 7:17
3 7:16
4 7:14
5 7:06
6 7:10
7 6:54
8 7:12
9 7:09
10 7:11
11 7:19
12 7:06
13 7:10
14 7:04
15 7:10
16 7:15
17 7:25
18 7:28
19 7:29
20 7:40
21 7:52
22 7:54
23 8:25
24 8:23
25 8:17
26+.2 9:39
overall place 1598 out of 35,628
overall woman 212
age group 48

Overall pace 7:28
Race number and medal

Print out of my finishing time
Ending Thoughts
I've gone back and forth about whether to "reveal" all of these thoughts about my somewhat disappointing PR marathon to you.  It should feel like a victory---I got my PR, met my goal of a 3:15 (well, a 3:15:something), and conquered the warm race conditions.  I finished in 1,598 place out of 35,628 people!  I think, though, back to Myrtle Beach and how I told myself that I just wanted to finish the marathon strong or even without needing medical assistance at the end.  A fast, strong marathon hasn't happened yet for me, even in spite of all of the training I did for this race.  I think my foolish race strategy may be the last major hurdle to overcome, if only I can make myself do it.

My friend and big supporter, Jane, wrote the nicest blog entry about me the day after Chicago.  From her blog:

Katie is one of our fastest runners and she is so inspiring for all of us. She's super talented, but I'm not sure she really sees it and that is probably one of the many reasons we like her so much. Anyway, Katie has been training HARD for the Chicago marathon. In fact, this was the first time she'd done a lot of what she did in training. It wasn't always fun. It was super challenging. And because she'd never done much of it, she was not quite sure if she was doing it right, if she was doing all she could, or if it would result in a PR marathon. Her goal was a 3:15. Her best was a 3:18.

Now, I felt the whole time that she had it in the bag. Not only is she already a strong and amazing runner, her training was hard core and she stuck with it the entire time. Still, there is always room for something beyond one's control to happen in a marathon. I have experienced it and seen it happen in others. And it is heartbreaking. Katie knows this too, and so as the marathon approached and she began to question and doubt and wonder and talk herself out of being disappointed if it didn't happen, the girls and I were right there with her.

On race day the e-mails were flying. We were on our computers before and after church services, and I wondered how she was doing the whole morning. And then I saw it. The e-mail titled, "KATIE ROCKS!" I almost stood up and cheered. I said, "SHE DID IT! SHE DID IT!" as Jason asked who did what. The e-mails continued to fly as each of us discovered the news. I'm sure Katie's phone and facebook page began to light up with congratulations and comments as her friends and family realized she had achieved her PR.

But I like to think her morning running crew were the ones who really knew, who really understood.

Jane, my other running friends, and the readers of this blog know and appreciate what shaving 2.5 minutes off of a marathon PR involves.  I know there is a victory there.  But as a determined athlete who wants to push myself, I cannot help but think about the next opportunity I get to run a smarter (and faster) race.  I will make the most of it.


  1. Wow you are amazing and fast!! I just found your blog from your comments on Mile Posts by Dorothy Beal. I have only ran 1 half marathon in 2010 and then got pregnant and now have a beautiful baby girl. I'm planning my 2nd half in May of 2012 now and hope to do a full marathon in 2013. You are very inspiring and try not to let the negatives of your race bring you down. Try to focus on all the good you did! A 3:15 marathon is awesome and what percent of us runners could actually say we have done that? I know I'm no where close to that!! It's awesome to know that you could do more and next time around go for the 3:10!! I also focus on worship songs and scriptures while I run because God gave us life and we should live it to the fullest and live it for Him!! Be Blessed today and keep your focus on the Lord and He will renew your strength!! :)

  2. You are amazing!!! Way too go! I got all choked up reading your race recap. I seriously think I could read race recaps all day. You are truly inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story. My husband and I do our long runs together and of course for those hours we talk about race day. He is always reminding me for every second you go to fast in the first part you will lose two on the second half. I think it will be the hardest thing to hold myself back but having him there to pace me should help.

  3. AWESOME race re-cap, my friend!!! I am so proud and excited for you! Great pictures and thanks for posting your splits. I am just so amazed by those splits!

  4. Amazing splits! Katie, you are such an inspiration to so many! Congratulations again!

  5. Katie...thank you for being so transparent. I'm not running as fast as you (yet...!) but I understand EXACTLY what you are talking about. Today I completely blew my previous half marathon out of the water, and yet, because I clearly see mistakes I'm not overjoyed by the results. Some people can misconstrue my over-analysis but I believe the truth is that's what will help me continue to grow as an athlete. I LOVE your race recaps and continue to be amazed and inspired by you. :D