Wow! what a weekend it was in Chicago. Before I go too far, thank you to all those who left messages for me to see at miles 13 and 26 on large video boards. I originally posted on Facebook for friends to write messages to Tina for her first marathon, which plenty of you did, but some left messages for me. so thank you very much for those messages. Honestly didn’t see any directed towards me at mile 13 (doesn’t mean there were not there) but I did see a couple at mile 26. Also, thanks to those who left me luck on Facebook, InstaGram, and Twitter. Sorry that I did not get back to everyone prior to the race, it was just a fast weekend.
Anyways, back to the weekend. Tina and I left for Chicago shortly after our kids got on the bus for school. Our plans were to be at the expo right after it opened to meet up with a couple of BibRave Pro’s and to hit up the expo early before it became too busy. Luckily traffic wasn’t too bad and we arrived as planned. First things first, pick up our race bibs and our shirts. At least early on in the day, this is quick and easy. They scan your QR code that they sent you, and check your ID, then tell you what table to go to. By the time that you get to your table, they have been notified that you are coming and they have your bib ready to go. After you get your bib, you head to the complete opposite side of the expo to pick up your shirt. If you shirt size has changed since you register, you still can exchange it at the expo as well.
Then the fun begins, checking out all of the vendors and what they have to offer. Our friend Frank was already at the expo, so we met up with him while we waited for Heather to show up. Tina and I checked out the official (non-clothing) merchandise. Thank goodness we did check it out at that time because as the day went on, it was just crazy in that area. We purchased a pint glass, travel coffee mug, and a couple Chicago Marathon 26.2 magnets. As we were checking out, we heard from Heather that she was getting her shirt and met up with her by the shirts.
A piece of advice, arrive at the expo early on Friday if at all possible. You will have the best opportunity to check out the official merchandise, as well as official race clothing (Nike) with minimum crowd. After a couple of hours, both of these lines get very long. Hit up these two locations first thing. With all that being said, I was disappointed in the official race clothing that Nike put out this year. Both Tina and I got a quarter zip jacket and a beanie. We were both ready to buy more than that but we were not impressed by much else. We did find some nicer clothing options from Sketchers and The North Face.
We walked around the expo just to check out all the other vendors and Tina wanted to stop by and talk with the People at Bright Pink, who she raised money for as her charity for this race. There were quiet a few races and other companies present and great to see what is out there. I also really wanted to check out the AfterShokz booth since I am an ambassador (ShokzStar). Was great to finally put a face with a name to those who I communicate with through emails and social media.
After a little while, hunger had started to set in and it was time to get some lunch. If there was going to be a day on this trip to get deep dish pizza, it was for lunch on Friday. Before leaving the expo, we made another purchase, a $25 unlimited use CTA pass to use the busses and trains for the next 3 days. Money well spent. So instead of moving our car from the parking garage to go to lunch, we took the bus.
After lunch, we headed back to the expo because we had heard that Bart Yasso would be at the Runner’s World booth and I would like to get ahold of his new book, and why not get it signed at the same time. We got there right on time because he was about to leave. While waiting to meet her, we got to hear and see Bart talking with a woman Leesa who was running her 99th marathon and was in between chemo treatments. Unbelievable. Stronger than I will probably ever be. Anyways, got to meet up with Bart again and its amazing that he remembers who I am from Twitter. I just find that funny. I had to share a story that I wasn’t sure if he remembered about the last time that I met him. It was at the Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis in 2015. I went back to the expo to buy his book but he was all out of new copies, so he gave me the copy that he traveled with. It was a little beaten up, but I didn’t care. If you have never read his book, “My Life on the Run,” get your hands on a copy of it. Its a very interesting read and you will find out how he became the “Mayor of Running.” Bart, enjoy your retirement my friend but don’t be a stranger to these races.
After that, we got into our car and drove to the hotel to check in. Luckily our room was ready and we were able to check in. I got to say thank you to my father-in-law and mother-in-law for letting us use his timeshare for our hotel room. You saved us a lot of money and the view from our room was awesome. We couldn’t have found a nicer hotel room in Chicago.
With the Cubs having their opening game of the 2017 playoffs this night, I thought it was fun to check out the Wrigley Field area. Unfortunately due to rain, there really wasn’t much going on but we were able to see some of the 2016 World Series Rings and the World Series Trophy. Something that we were not expecting to see at all. After that, we headed back into the city and got dinner, watched the Cubs game, and headed to bed to get ready for the next mornings 5K.
Once Tina and I found out 3 weeks prior to the weekend that we had a hotel in Chicago to stay at, we decided to sign up for the Chicago International 5k. This would just be a shake out run, just to relax and enjoy. If you signed up ahead of time, you got the flag of your country on your bib and your bib was mailed out to you. Since we registered late, we didn’t get either of these.
We took the train towards the start line. We could have easily walked, but we had the unlimited pass, so we might as well take the train, right? Anyways, we met up with Frank, and Nick prior to the race in the plaza. Great to see familiar faces in such a large crowd. The 5k race is not bad at all and is a nice way to get a shake out run on the streets of Chicago without having to worry about traffic. Other Major marathon offer a 5k race the weekend of the marathon as well. For instance, Boston has one, with registration costing $50. Chicago’s race was only $35. This race also gave me an idea of how jacked up the GPS would be for the marathon the next day. My GPS read 3.9 miles after I finished.
Anyways, the course was nice, starting in down town and running then along the lake shore to the finish. There were mile markers at each mile and 1 aid station on the course. I will say this, while I enjoy running along the lake, the path was not wide enough for all the runners. This was a large 5k. I went back to run with Tina after I had finished and there were so many people running off the path and into the grass. After you crossed the finish line, they handed you some fruit, and a bag of food. Instead of a t-shirt, you were given a scarf and a finishers medal. It was great to see Tim, Jessica, Jula, and Andy from BibRave handing out the medals at the finish.
Following the 5k, Tina and I took the train back to the hotel, showered, got some breakfast, and took the bus to walk around Navy Pier for a little bit. There really wasn’t much to see or do at Navy Pier, which is probably for the best since I needed to rest, so we went back to the hotel room to nap before going to the Bright Pink pasta dinner.
The Bright Pink pasta dinner was an opportunity for us to meet runners from over the country, get some advice on the Marathon, and to hear more about what Bright Pink does. We were seated with a girl running her first marathon from New York City, 2 guys who were from LA. One was running his 10th marathon, the other his first. And they there is Tina and I who live in a town with a population of less than 2000. Fun to try to explain where Wakarusa, IN is at. It was a great evening. Team Bright Pink
After dinner, it was off to bed to get some rest before an early wake up call (4:30 am).
While we tried to get a good night sleep, you know that really didn’t happen. I usually sleep well before a marathon, but with this being the Chicago Marathon, I didn’t get as much as I usually do. I basically was waking up on the hour. Either way, my 4:30 wake up call ended up being me just waking up at 3:30, which really isn’t all that bad considering that’s 4:30 back at home and is an hour later than I usually sleep till.
Tina and I had to get ready and load up our car and get to her charity area. We were not staying at the Hotel Sunday night and we had to be checked out by 10:00 so coming back after the race would not be an option. But really we did not have a problem with parking right by where Bright Pink was meeting up at all. We arrived there at around 5:30 where I stayed with Tina until it was time for me to go and meet up with Chad Ganger. On the way into the race area, I ran into a couple of friends of mine:Luciano Angie.
Chad and I had planned to meet at Buckingham Fountain at 6:30, giving us enough time to meet up and get into the starting corrals before the 7:30 race start time. Of course, as it seems every time that Chad and I try to meet up before a race, it doesn’t go as planned. One of us is late, or we just cant find each other, or one (or both) is stuck in line for the bathrooms. Either way, I finally heard from Chad’s wife where to meet up with him.bathroom line
Chad and I finally met up and made our way to our starting corral, corral B. Holy cow was it jammed packed. He had to kind of push our way through to get lined up between the 3:05 and the 3:10 pacers. Not that we were going to use the pacers, but its a good reference to where you should line up. Our plans were to take it out easy and build up from there. Both of us had elected to turn our Garmins off of automatic splits and go with the manual setting. With the buildings of Chicago messing with your GOS watches, especially in the early miles, its the way to go.
After the National Anthem, elite runner introductions, the horn sounded and the race began. It took us about 2 minutes from the start to make it to the starting line. We were off to a good start, relaxed and not pushing it at all. It was an awesome sight to see after we started a little bit of a down hill to see all the runners ahead of us. We started off with a 7:15 mile. A little faster than we wanted but still, nothing blazing. That’s about a 3:10 pace. Mile 2, I think we started to get a little carried away with all the cheering from the spectators because we picked it up. 6:57. We started to relax the pace some but then I really noticed that I was not going to make it to the finish without a bathroom stop. And if I am going to make a bathroom stop, it was going to be early in the race when I knew I could get back into the groove of this race. Of course that also means, I could lose my running partner for the race.
Mile 3 I saw my first opportunity to get off the side and hit the port a potty. Luckily, no lines, just in and out. I probably lost 30 seconds. Now it was time to catch back up to Chad at a reasonable rate. Mile 3 was a 7:02, Mile 4 (including the bathroom stop was a 7:25, mile 5 was 6:55, Mile 5 was 6:52, and mile 7 was a 6:55. At this time, I am on target for a 3:05 finishing time, but yet I have not caught up to Chad, and I knew I had not passed him. At this point I knew that if I was going to pass him, it was probably because he died, he had to have been feeling well. So now, I was running my own race to try to run a sub 3:05 on my own. On a better day, I would have tried to run faster, but it was about 60 degrees at the start and it was getting warmer.
My pace was starting to become consistent. Mile 8 was a 6:59, Mile 9 was a 6:59. At mile 9 was the first time I saw the BibRave crew out on the course supporting all the other pro’s and their friends. Kind of a nice pick me up since I really didn’t have any other support on the course until at least the finish line. The disadvantage of not having the Garmin automatically do your mile splits is that you stand a chance at missing a mile mark and I missed the 10th mile mark somehow. My 2 mile split (Mile 10 and 11) was 14:06, so we will just call miles 10 and 11 7:03 each. Mile 12 was another consistent mile of 7:03. I am now running the exact goal pace.
I slowed down on mile 13, I really don’t have much of a reason why, but I ran a 7:08. I crossed the half way point in 1:32:26, right on pace for a 3:05 and still feeling well. I wanted to be between 1:32-1:35 and aim for a negative split. I bounced back from a slow 13th mile and ran the next in 6:57 thinking maybe now I am banking time. Miles 15 and 16 I started slowing a little and it was actually on a boring part of the course with very little support so I was not too surprised by my pace. I ran those miles in 7:04 and 7:05. Nothing to panic about, but I was starting to feel the heat. Mile 17 was the first big sign that things are starting to turn in the wrong direction when I ran a 7:15, followed by a 7:12 and 7:17 for miles 18 and 19. Then it came apart when I crossed mile 20 in 7:26. After mile 17 I saw Julia (BibRave Crew) and she shouted some words of encouragement to me. I don’t think she knew how I was feeling at that time but it helped out some.
Now the mental math is starting in my head on what it would take to finish in under 3:10. I knew by my pacing bands that I has still about 2:00 minutes ahead of the 3:10 pace, so I could run 7:35 pace for the last 10k and still get under my B goal. Typically when I start doing mental math in a race, things are not going to end well for me. Thank goodness I grabbed a 3:05 and 3:10 pacing tattoo. Mile 21 ended up being my slowest mile of the race when I turned in a 7:43 mile. At this time, I was worried. We are in very boring part of the course with very little support and the fact that we are running away from down town at this point is just making it feel worse.
Mile 22 and 23 I picked it up a little getting under my new pace goal of 7:35 with a couple 7:32 miles. So now I am maintaining. At mile 24, I saw Tim (Co-founder of BibRave). He yelled at me that I was looking strong, funny, I wasn’t feeling that way at all but with only a 5K to go I just needed to push through it. Funny, we were still running away from downtown. Are we ever going back??? Mile 24, I am still slowing with a 7:37. Come on! just 2 miles to go. I knew I had just under 17 minutes to run the last 2.2 but according to my pace band, my cushion was shrinking fast. We were finally heading back into the city.
Now it is time to grind it out! Mile 25 I ran in 7:41. Now it gets tough, I new mile 26 was flat but knew that right after that, the last .2 consists of a turn, probably the biggest uphill on the course, followed by another turn into the finish. I ran the last 1.2 in a 7:35 per mile pace. As I rounded the second to last turn, I could hear a fellow BibRave Pro, Angie cheering for me, and further up, some friends, Including Luciano who I met up earlier while he was volunteering, were cheering as I approached the last turn going up the hill. Huge motivational boost. As I made the last turn, I took a glimps at my watch and knew that I had that time that I had kind of wanted, not my main goal but good enough. I crossed the line in 3:09:37. 23 seconds to spare.
As soon as I crossed, my mind went to wondering how Tina was running. My plan all along for after I finished would be to get my bag from gear check and get back out on the course along the half marathon mark to cheer her on the rest of the way. After I finished, I got a text from her saying that she was not doing well. The thing you have to know about Tina is that she has had a lot on her plate, more than the average person who was running the marathon that day. She is getting her masters right now, we had just moved into our new house (unexpectedly earlier than we had planned), and she was very sick a couple days before the race. There had been a lot going on, so I was not very surprised she was not doing well. I was prepared, if I had to, to go the rest of the race with her. That idea was going through my mind as I was walking to the half marathon mark.
I arrived at the half marathon mark and met up with Angie’s husband Josh, and Heather’s (Bibrave pro, and who Tina was running with) mother, Marge. Heather and Tina had not been by yet so I changed out of my shoes and put on my Oofos sandals to let my feet recover some. I was told by Josh and Marge that Heather and Tina were still together, so I was happy to hear that. When Tina and Heather arrived, you could tell Tina was tired but she still looked good for her first marathon and stated that she was going to keep going. We met them up then at the 17 mile mark. Basically they looked the same. I offered both food that I had from the finish line, but both passed. Marge, Josh and I were going to head to the finish area after mile 17. I looked at the course map some and saw that the 20 mile mark was not that far away and I felt the need to meet them there incase the needed food or something else. It was really starting to get warm and I felt better checking on them one last time before they near the finish. Marge and Josh came along as we trekked on to mile 20.
At this point, when we saw Heather and Tina together at mile 20, it was starting to show how much Tina was starting to hurt. But once again, she did not want any food and wanted to keep going. Josh Marge and I started to make our way to the finish stretch, once we arrived there, Josh checked out the marathon app and saw that Heather and Tina were no longer together. I told Josh and Marge that I was going to go find Tina and make sure she was alright. I found Tina with a little over 2 miles to go. She was doing everything she could do to make it to the finish, even if that meant just walking. We walked for the next 2 miles and she officially crossed the finish line and is an official marathoner.
I cant say how proud of Tina that I am after all that she went through to push her self to her limits and finish the race. She has now done something that less than 1% of the worlds population has completed. That is something to be very proud of.
After the party, it was time for a 2 hour drive home. It was a great weekend and loved the race. It was a great atmosphere. I came into this race saying I would run it once and then never again, but that’s probably a lie. I will probably be back next year but as a volunteer back at the mile 5 aid station, or who knows, maybe a pacer??? Either way, can’t wait till the 2018 Chicago Marathon!