Monday, October 8, 2012

Race Recap: 2012 Chicago Marathon

What: 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon
Where: Downtown Chicago, IL
When: October 7th, 2012
Weather: Low-to-mid 40s, mostly cloudy
Finish Time: 3:20:25

I can't believe it's over. After waiting for yesterday to come, it was over and done with in a flash. I have so many good memories in my head, I'm doing this now before I forget anything.

It was quite the early morning on Sunday - I woke up at 4:00am and we (my brother Tony and sister-in-law MJ were also running) were out of the door by 4:50am. We went to the Lombard train station by my house and waited a good 40 minutes for the train. There were several people there waiting to go downtown for the race and we ended up talking to a guy who was going down to watch, he was a runner too and we had a good conversation...especially considering the hour. I'd only managed about 4 hours of sleep the night before but I had a lot of nervous energy. The train arrived downtown at about 6:20am and from there we took a taxi which got us as close to Millennium Park as possible. We stood in line for the bathroom for about 30 minutes and then had to rush to the gear check and get to the start corrals. As my brother and I were walking to the corrals I tried to turn on my Garmin and it wouldn't come on...I tried everything but it wasn't working -- my brother was super nice and loaned me his watch which was a complete life-saver for me (thank you again Tony!). We got into the corrals with just a couple of minutes to spare and within 5 minutes, we were off and running.

My plan was to start off nice and easy and treat the first 5 miles as a 'warm-up'. I took time to enjoy my surroundings, all of the people spectating, reading their signs, it was such a high...but I managed to keep my pace easy. Through 3 miles I was at 24:00 which was exactly where I wanted to be at. As the race progressed past 5 miles I inched the pace up little by little and I started to get really excited around mile 7 because I knew I would be seeing my family around mile 8. I saw them right at mile 8 and high-fived all of them, it was the best I felt during the entire race.

Shortly after I saw my family at mile 8, I started noticing a niggling pain my left achilles that was getting increasingly annoying (and painful) as I went through mile 9, 10 and 11. This pain wasn't new to me - ever since a treadmill run I'd done several days before it had been bothering me, but I was hoping it had gone away. I don't remember where it was, but I stopped by one of the medical tents at one point and asked them if they had a topical pain reliever and they handed me a couple of packets of BioFreeze. I slapped that on there and kept going and the pain subsided a bit. It never really went away the rest of the race, but I was determined to run through it and so I did.

I crossed the halfway point at 1:41:50 and was feeling good. I gotta take a moment and say how awesome the crowds were yesterday. I had my name on my singlet and all along the route people were shouting "Go Adam!" or offering some other encouraging word. At the water stops the volunteers handing out water were also really encouraging - it was just plain awesome to have that kind of support the whole way. I have no doubts that the constant encouragement contributed to countless PRs that were set yesterday. If you came out and supported us runners yesterday, thank you, thank you, 1000x thank you! On a side note, I don't think I've had my named yelled that many times in one day ever before in my life.

After the halfway point I started pressing the pace a bit more. I was happy with where I was at, but I also felt like I had quite a bit of energy left. Miles 14-20 were pretty uneventful, I was just enjoying the scenery, the energy from the crowds and the views of Chicago. When I passed mile 18 I thought to myself, "ok, I'm entering new territory, this is where the experiment begins." I was still feeling pretty good at that point.

I kept expecting to hit some kind of wall at Mile 20...but it didn't happen. I still felt lucid, I seemed to have an uncanny ability for math (was figuring splits in my head) and my body felt good. At Mile 21 I saw my family again which had me on the verge of tears. I was so happy not just to see them, but I also realized at that point that I was going to at least finish the race. Even if I had to walk, finishing was assured. At mile 24 is when I thought, "ok, I'm REALLY ready to be done running now". The mile markers seemed to be going by more slowly and my lower legs were really aching. Fortunately for me, I was almost done and the best was yet to come.

Through the entire last mile and a half, the streets were packed with people. I clearly remember seeing the "800m" sign and thinking to myself, "ok, about 4 more minutes and you're done". The last 400m were absolutely awesome, I don't have any specific memories except passing some medical people and some guy saying, "ok, this is where people normally go down". I thought, "I'm still good right? I'm not going down, right?" As soon as I could see the finish line it was all I could think about and when I got there, I pushed stop on my watch, then turned around and congratulated the guy behind me. The next few minutes were pretty much a haze of grabbing Gatorade and water, getting one of those plastic "blankets" and getting my finishers medal. About halfway down the chute, I heard someone yell "Adam" and I turned and saw my wife and my boss running alongside the fence. Leslie was so happy for me and I was sooo happy to see her. After a couple minutes of chitchat I finished meandering my way through the chute and went to meet up with everyone. I learned a lesson in that chute -- there were people handing out beer which sounded great at the time so I grabbed one. After two sips my stomach started hurting so I tossed it. Moral of the story: beer right after a marathon isn't the greatest.

Let's see...things I'm proud of: I didn't walk once. I stopped two times, once to rub my achilles a little bit (maybe 10 seconds max) and the second time to put that BioFreeze stuff on my leg...other than that I did not stop and I'm way proud of that. Another thing is that I negative split the marathon. My brother tells me that's a big deal, first half was 1:41:50, second half was 1:38:35. I'm also proud to now say that I'm a marathoner...yeah that sounds pretty cool.

Today I'm hurting pretty good. My achilles is SUPER sore, it will probably take at least a week for that pain to go away. Besides that I'm hobbling around like an old man - everything that's to be expected after a marathon. If I'm in a chair or laying down I'm content. I've already been asked, "so, are you gonna do another one?" The answer to that is: probably. It's such a feeling of accomplishment when you complete a marathon. There's really nothing I've experienced that's quite like it. I'm still basking in the glow.

I have one more note to make - I mentioned that my brother and sister-in-law also ran the race. My brother had his best time ever finishing in 2:57 - I'm so happy for him, he's been chasing the 3-hour mark for awhile now and finally broke through yesterday. My sister-in-law MJ also set a personal over 25 MINUTES, finishing in 3:36...this marathon was made more memorable for me because they ran it, I'm so happy for both of them.

The other huge announcement of the weekend was that my wife and I are expecting our first child in April 2013. We were waiting to tell everyone until we'd told all of our family and close friends but now the news is out there for everyone to know. We both feel incredibly blessed - yesterday was such a perfect day in 100 different ways. I've really enjoyed reading other people's marathon stories, it sounds like it was one heck of a day for marathon running, a lot of PRs set and a lot of goods times had. Here's to many more!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Pre-Marathon Thoughts

It's almost here - only two sleeps away and the day I've been training all this time for will finally be here. I added up all of the mileage I've put in to training for this marathon...over 800 miles...117+ hours of running and 2 pairs of shoes (halfway through a 3rd pair). Every workout I've had during this time has had a specific purpose it's here.

I've been asked by several people what my goal time is. Honestly - I don't know what to expect. I feel unbelievably blessed that my first marathon is going to be run in almost ideal conditions (mid-40s, cloudy, very little wind). I'm going to do my best to run the first 5 miles or so at a very easy pace (7:45-8:00/mile) and then see what happens after that. In an ideal world, I would finish somewhere in the 3:10 to 3:20 range, but I haven't the foggiest clue if that's realistic. My longest training run was 18 miles which I did twice, so I don't know how my body and mind will respond once I get past the 20 mile mark. I would love to say that I'll be able to gut it out and finish strong, but I have no idea until I get there.

The best part of the race isn't even the race itself - it's the fact that my brother and sister-in-law are running in it and that I will have my wife (Leslie), my parents and my sister all cheering us on along the race. In addition to that, Leslie's parents, my boss and one of my friends from church will also be along the course - plus Andrea with her "Do Epic Shit" sign - it's going to be a madhouse downtown.

I'm really excited at this point, I'm excited to experience the marathon for the first time, I'm excited for my brother who is going to give a sub-3:00 marathon another try (I think he's gonna do it this time), I'm excited to run another race through the streets of a big city (there's nothing quite like it), I'm excited to see how everyone else does in their respective marathons, I'm excited to take a short break from running after it's all over, and I'm excited to see what I'm capable of.

This has been kind of a crazy year - it started off with a way-too-aggressive training plan that resulted in a 2-month bout of ITBS, then my first half-marathon in NYC, a hot summer of training and my 2nd half marathon in Chicago and now this. It's been a (mostly) fun journey. I'll provide a full race-recap here once it's all over. Thank you to everyone on DailyMile and otherwise who has encouraged me along the way - I really couldn't have done it without your support -- especially my wife Leslie who rode alongside me on her bike during countless long runs, suffering from a sore crotch because of all the long and slow biking. Thank you!! I hope to do you proud.