It's been awhile since I've ran a road marathon and I've never written a race report for one before. I usually just showed up, ran and called it good. My first marathon I didn't even own a watch...needless to say I did not negative split that race! I really didn't know what to expect going into Chicago. I had been running well and my legs felt good, but I hadn't run any sort of long run since Run Rabbit. How would my legs feel after 20 miles? All I could do was try to recover and hope for the best.
Dan, James and I arrived in Chicago on Friday afternoon just in time for the RDS pre-race party. I'm pretty sure it's safe to say James had the most fun of just about anyone there. He ran around in circles until he nearly passed out from exhaustion. Dan and I had a great time meeting so many people we only knew only from online and social media.
Saturday was quite the adventure as Dan and I were certain we could navigate our way through Chicago to packet pickup. After 4 miles of running, more bridge crossings than I can count we arrived safely at packet pickup in the back of a cab. Once inside I felt like country mouse in the big city. I wandered around head spinning and after getting our t-shirts I was desperate to get out of there. So we quickly grabbed a cab and retreated to the hotel for cheese burgers...because really what race would be complete without pre-race burgers?
Sunday morning Dan and I headed to the starting line determined not to get lost. After being so used to getting to races 10 minutes before the start it was a rough adjustment getting there an hour early only to barely have enough time to drop gear bags, use the porta-pottys, kiss good luck and rush into our corrals. I seriously made it as they were saying one minute left. It was perfect running temps so I was a bit chilly in shorts and a t-shirt, but I knew it would only take a couple minutes to warm up.
Get Lucky would turn out to be the theme of the day and it blasted through the speakers and I broke out in a smile picturing James dancing away! Before I knew it the gun went off and I was crossing the starting line. I had only managed to make it up to the 3:45 pace group so I spent a fair bit of the first mile navigating around runners before settling into what felt like an easy pace. Just before we hit the 1 mile mark I noticed a guy just ahead of me wearing an Ups for Downs shirt and I quickly caught up to him. Of all 26.2 miles this moment stood out the most to me. Here was some complete stranger who didn't even know it but he was running for James. Tears started to fill my eyes as I tapped his shoulder and told him that I have a son with Ds, pointed to my shirt and said I was running for him too. The man told me he was running for his brother who has Ds. A moment later I was off running again, smiling to myself at this little encounter.
The miles ticked by quickly and I was doing a good job maintaining a steady 7:25ish pace. I was feeling good, but definitely worried as to whether or not I could hang on. I never run this fast so I had no idea how long I could continue. As I approached the charity mile, mile 14, I couldn't help but get excited to see the RDS tent and my family. Apparently I got a little too excited as I clicked off a 6:44 mile. I didn't think I was capable of a sub-7 minute mile for one mile let alone over halfway through a marathon. I guess I'm a bit faster than I give myself credit for, of course I also probably should not have gotten swept up in the moment as about five miles later my pace started falling off.
At mile 19 I wouldn't say I hit a wall like I've experienced in past marathons, but I was struggling to maintain the same pace I had all morning. Whether it was from lack of calories, I could not begin to stomach any gel so my only calories were from Gatorade at aid stations, or because I had started out too fast I won't know. Looking back I think I could have maintained the pace but probably needed to have trained to run that pace a bit further. My marathon training had been essentially non-existent so I couldn't be too upset.
A few miles later I began to realize that while I hadn't set out for a BQ, I was pretty confident I would get one, I was really going to qualify by quite a bit. It was just a weird thought. Every other marathon had one goal, one time in mind and one thing I was racing for. This time none of that mattered. I was running for a whole different reason and actually running a heck of a lot better.
I passed a guy in a Western States shirt and finally started to feel like maybe I was back in my element. And then I got shouldered by another runner who seemed to care less about anyone else's journey. I congratulated the WS runner as I went by and remembered why I had transitioned to ultras a few years earlier. There is a different sense of community in ultras, not to say road races are bad, they're just different. Runners cheer each other on and not just back of the packers, but the elite, lead runners cheer on those behind them, runners of all abilities stop and help the runner sitting on the side of the trail. You certainly never run more than a mile without receiving or giving words of encouragement. Chicago was different. The first half the spectators lined the streets cheering non-stop and the excitement was electric. This was so much fun after running so many races lately where the majority of spectators are the aid station volunteers. There are some amazing aid stations that are totally rockin' it, but its hard to beat the hoards of crowds we ran through.
As I turned into the park I realized I had a shot at going sub 3:20 so I took off. I didn't have seconds set on my garmin so I had no idea how close I was or just how hard I had to push. As it turns out I finished in 3:20:13...should have pushed a little earlier. But still that was over a 15 minute PR, a BQ and overall a time I was pretty stoked about. It also meant the end of our 321 mile challenge, 321.9 miles to be exact. For a moment I kicked myself that I hadn't thought to actually slow down at the end and finish in 3:21...but well I'm just not that poetic. The whole weekend was fantastic, meeting the other RDS runners and their kiddos, seeing the family, eating pizza, and finishing it all with huge PRs for both Dan and I. Dan took 14 minutes off his PR and I couldn't think of a better way for us to end our season than with having great races.
Week October 6 - 12
Miles Running: 51.0
Hours Hiking and Running: 8.0