Monday, October 15, 2012

Chicago

Desire is a frightful master—like fire it sweeps away the supports of the soul, leaving nothing but smoldering ashes. But, also like Fire, Desire is a splendid servant and by its harnessed power we are able to generate the steam of the Will and Activity, and to accomplish much in the world. Without proper Desire the world would be without activity.  
William Walker Atkinson


In my corral ready to roll.  I think that's a look of: This is a 5k, right?  Perhaps I was just
wondering when I'd fall asleep like the guy behind me.
I've been home a few days now from Chicago and have spent that time trying to condense my thoughts into a series of coherent words which paint a picture of a race which far exceeded my wildest expectations (with as few words as possible :)).   But I'm having a very difficult time trying to gather my thoughts to share ....because honestly, I absolutely cannot believe how well the whole race panned out.  I am still pinching myself.

This morning, while I was out on a very slow 4-mile run, I thought of some great things to say but now as I sit here and type, I can't think at all.  Nothing is flowing.  It doesn't help that I have the Kona Ironman on live feed to distract my Chicago thoughts either.  So beware, here comes the mumbo-jumbo rambling long version!

I love to race!!  This shouldn't be any big revelation to most of you.  Racing is in my blood ... I think this stems from the years I ran and swam competitively in high school and college.  Back then, it was all about winning, scoring points for your team, improving, and beating your previous time.  Races were weekly and the journey to each race, though definitely important, wasn't the thrill - the thrill came when I stood on the starting line or starting block and the gun went off and I gave that race my all and hoped everything came together.  Repeat week after week after week.

These days, races for me - especially the marathon and the half - are performed best at the end of a training cycle - the journey - to that particular race.  Marathon race day comes after months of hard work where I've pushed my body to it's ultimate fitness so come race day, I can go out there and test if that hard work paid off.  I know many people don't like to race (and that's perfectly okay...that's what I love about how unique we all are) but for ME, I love them because the journey to the start line pushes myself beyond the physical demands and crazy mental demons - and I CRAVE this!  I LOVE the journey, but I am not sure I'd push myself as hard if I didn't have a lofty goal sitting out there dangling.  I don't particularly enjoy the race itself, I enjoy the work getting to that race and using the race as a final exam.  The final exam is my test to see how well I prepared.  I absolutely love it.

So of course I was disappointed the journey to Chicago produced nothing but frustration and a few painful miles.  I missed the training so, so, sooo much and didn't really want to go to Chicago; I had nothing to test and figured the race would probably cause deeper wounds in my already thrashed and fragile running brain....the absolute last thing I needed.  But when I found a stellar $125 round-trip ticket, I figured this was a sign and someone was trying to tell me something (yes, very superstitious as you all know!).  If I tried to have a good time and enjoy the 26.2 miles (as much as one can enjoy 26.2 miles ill-trained), then maybe this race could be a much-needed turning point for me.

The sad cool thing about racing a marathon vs. not, is that I have no pre-race nerves or anxiety.  When my plane was slightly delayed, I didn't care.  When my girlfriend from Iowa came to pick me up and was late, I didn't care.  When we got stuck in downtown traffic for about 2 hours trying to get to the expo, I was a-okay.  Well, I did care about the traffic cluster f*#k because we were suppose to meet some blog friends and were now running late, but I wasn't crawling out of my skin, like real racing anxiety would have produced.  My Iowa friends finally had to drop Marcia and I off at the expo while they drove countless miles to park (and never made the expo), but thankfully we were all able to find the other bloggers at the expo.
Michel, Me, Marcia and Marlene.
Your name had to start with an M for this blogger meet-up.
Opps.
If there was one complaint about race weekend, it had to be the expo (and I'm not an expo girl so really, it wasn't a big deal).  I was thankful I brought a pb sandwich and apple on the plane with me otherwise I'd have passed out from starvation: there were no food samples whatsoever at the expo.  Seriously, lunch was compromised here people!  I don't really care about all the crap that you can buy at these things...who needs another shirt when raceaholics like me can't cram the ones I have in my closet!!  Oh, okay....
Shirt Front.  I thought this would
help me find my inner
awesomeness.  Plus it was pink!


Maybe just one more...

Shirt Back
But there was no food to be found anywhere - unless you wanted to pay for it (never!)- and after eating every sample under the sun at Denver RnR a couple weeks earlier, well, all I can say is LAME expo, Chicago!!  I was hungry and wanted food!  Ha.

I didn't even stress when we ate dinner that night around the time I usually go to bed, but I was careful not to eat much....so it was an utter fail on the day before pre-race fueling, but no worries cuz...I wasn't racing!  We meet-up with Bobbi for dinner that night and in my carb-depleted state of weakness, forgot to get a picture.  But Bobbi is awesome and it was so worth the late-ish night.

Marcia was my rock throughout the whole weekend.  Seriously!!!  She let me crash at her place for a couple days and drug my sorry butt downtown at super dark o'clock race morning, paid more than I make in a day for parking, and found me throughout the entire race, waving Mr. Pumpkin so I could easily find her.  Her experience with this race (and the city) was priceless; I absorbed everything she told me.
      
Marcia got me to the race with plenty of time to chill and relax (in the car, because it was a balmy 45 degrees) and schlepped me to the shortest porta-potties and got me to my seeded corral easily (I'm sure on my own, I would have been wandering around aimlessly and a nervous wreck).


As you can see in the clock above, I got into my corral close to 7am.  The race started at 7:30 so I had pleeeennnntttty of time to do a little dynamic stretching and ended up chatting with a woman for awhile, who hoped to run about a 3:35, and was nice as could be!  A guy next to me wanted to run about 3:15 (and was pissed the marathon wouldn't accept a 10k time of his to get seeded higher.  I hate it when people think they are entitled to make changes to rules to suit them and their stupid ideas (you had to submit a previous half or marathon time !)....I bet the guy crashed and burned later after weaving through the masses early on).  As you can see, I was grossly misplaced in my corral for my current abilities....but hey, I earned this spot and I was grateful I wasn't back in the 2nd wave, which started a half hour later than those seeded.  But I won't lie if I said I wasn't worried 40,000 runners behind me were going to trample me to death - I was definitely not standing in the "right" place.

So, death by being trampled on or death by running a marathon which my longest training run prior was 8 miles. This wasn't looking good.  When my nice 3:35 friend asked me what time I hoped to cross, I told her, "5:30...but if it's 6:00, then that'd be fine."  Seriously, I had absolutely no idea where my physical limits were going to stop me, it was anyone's guess - including mine.  But more than my physical limits, I was severely worried where my pea-sized brain would start screaming at me, "This sucks - stop now!"  This is a serious weakness when I'm well-prepared for a marathon....God only knows where my feeble mind of mine was going to crap out for this race.

My plan, or lack thereof, was just to run at whatever pace felt good and walk when my physical or mental limits made me.  My angry foot was also a huge concern; walking around the expo the day before it was in a pissy mood and had anything sharp been in my presence, I may have tried to cut the damn thing off.  I really had serious doubts it was going to cooperate past a few miles.  I wore my Kinvaras because they made my ankle feel the best, but I had Marcia on standby at mile 14 with a more solid shoe - just in case - because I had never worn the Kins on a run over a half marathon before.

The first 8 miles felt amazing  and I loved it all!!!!!!!!  I loved running through downtown and into Lincoln Park with it's gorgeous autumn colored leaves.  The massiveness of this race wasn't a problem at all - I easily felt I could run whatever pace I wanted and not feel like I was getting run over.  I was pretty stoked to see my miles hitting the low to mid 8's.  I saw Marcia at mile 2 and gave her and Mr. P. a high-five and was literally in awe at the constant crowds cheering.  No, SCREAMING - these spectators were amazing....and I'm not normally one who really gives a crap about cheering fans, but this was beyond incredible and far exceeded the massive crowds in Boston (there was not one spot along the entire course where there were gaps in spectators - not one single spot!).  The miles were clicking by and I was loving every single second.

With each mile, though, my Garmin was beeping well before the mile marker so the course was either long or my Garmin was being wigged out by the tall buildings and first mile tunnel.  It didn't matter....I'm certain Chicago didn't mis-mark their course :), but as each mile got shorter and shorter, this actually became a great mental game because I started playing, "Let's see how far off my Garmin's mile will beep before the real mile"  A great distraction and I couldn't believe it when I got to mile 12 and hadn't stopped to walk yet.

But my pace was slowing, and I was tiring fast .... but I was still running.   I told myself to make it to the half point and I could take a walk break...but at 13.1, I crossed at 2:05 (according to THEIR mile marker ;)) and was so beyond thrilled that I celebrated by running to mile 14, where I saw Marcia and Mr. P. and was so overcome with emotion that I started crying (yep, I'm a dork!).  I stopped a bit here to give Marcia a hug and  told her my Kinvaras were working so no need to shoe switch.  And could you believe this: I had NO, NONE, ZERO foot problems!!  No aching ankle, no screaming heel or arch.  I was in shock and to reward my foot, I told it we must run to mile 16.  That "run" turned into a shuffle and my pace was now entering the pathetic zone, but I didn't care.  My head felt fantastic and knew then this race was going far better than I ever envisioned.

At mile 18 I had to pee.  Bad.  I have never ever ever ever been in a race where every detail was dialed in to accommodate 45,000 runners and whenever porta-potties were coming up, I'd see signs saying "Toilets" with a big arrow pointing to them.  It was great not to have to hunt one down!  Immediately after, I darted directly in front of massive people to get to the other side of the road where a medical tent flag was flying high and grabbed some Vaseline for my arms, which were starting to chaff due to a shirt I've never worn in a race this long before.  I was definitely tired, but couldn't believe how fast the miles seemed to tick by as we  wove through all the diverse neighborhoods and I was soaking IT. ALL. IN!

Chinatown
I succumbed to my extreme fatigue and increasingly sore quads a bit after 18 and thought this is where the race "ends" and I'll have to walk the rest of the way.  But shockingly, I found myself walking a couple minutes then get enough strength to shuffle to the next mile.  Over and over, I keep doing this....and I was Ecstatic!!   I had no foot pain whatsoever and I was running far more than I thought (albeit at an extremely slow pace...but I was running!) At mile 24, I took out my phone to text Marcia where I was and was beyond happy to see a text from Jen telling me she had just BQ'd at Steamtown that morning.  Dorky me started crying again, I was so happy for her, and when she text me back and told me to get my butt moving, I kicked it into "high gear for dead legs" and cranked out a 9:05 mile to 25.

I walked a teeny bit down the long stretch of downtown before I turned the corner, up the hill, and crossed the finish line.  With a half smile :).



I loved absolutely everything about this race.  I loved the beautiful and diverse course.  The cheering fans.  The perfect fall race weather.  The incredibly frequent and well-stocked aid stations.  The massive amounts of runners who always were cheerful and never complained (seriously, never heard a sole say one bad thing).  The bands, which were more frequent - and louder - than any lame Rock and Roll I've ever done.  And so, so many other things...

I love Marcia and all she did for me the past few days...taking time away from her husband and her wonderful girls to schlep me all over Chicago, then buying me some amazing Chicago deep dish pizza and cupcakes post-race to boot!
I swear I only ate one (in about 3 bites) but I easily could
have eaten them all - even the gummy bears!
But what I'm most happy about is how I performed on race day given all the drama I faced leading up to it. Every single thing I love about running was made manifest on Sunday.   Maybe it was the additional 60% oxygen my lungs were breathing.  Or maybe it was that I have a little experience on my side so I was prepared for how tough this would be.

Or maybe somewhere along that course I made up my mind that this race was a starting point and my crappy 4:41 finish time meant nothing compared to how I was able to dig past my physical weakness and shut out all those mental demons which plague me when I race a marathon.  Oh the irony, huh?  My 4:41 is my worst time ever in a marathon (well, this isn't true, but the worst was eons ago and I won't go there right now) but yet I walked away with my cup so incredibly full.

Thank you, Chicago!  In more ways than one, I think your race was EXACTLY what I needed.  Satisfied, happy, pleased.  Maybe I should not train for any more races and just go and enjoy???  Ha.

I'm ready to make some (big) changes with my running (more on that next time)...but for a couple weeks, I'm going to linger, just for a bit, and relish all the goodness Chicago was.

Oh look, another shirt! :)

70 comments:

brg said...

awesome, awesome story telling. And I read every word. It always makes me happy when you sound so happy. Glad you had a great race experience and you had such a good friend there to support you. :)

bobbi said...

I have been WAITING for this!! Thank you so much for including me in your weekend goodness - it was awesome hanging out with you...I loved it!

It's impossible to read this and not smile - what an incredible day you had!! I'm so HAPPY you were able to run this so HAPPY! I can't wait to see what's next on your horizon :)

Robin said...

Well I think you did fantastic, congratulations! You had very low expectations for this race and weren't feeling your best, so to run a 4:41 to me is incredible. It's so great that you had such a good time and it sounds like a race everyone should experience! Way to go.

ShutUpandRun said...

I love this. I think this post totally embraces your love for running beyond PRs, paces, etc. Amazing how when we surrender to the experience how it can hold so many gifts and surprises. Just awesome. And I want to talk to you about your thoughts moving foward...

Johann said...

Awesome Jill! Well done! I feel I relate to this in many ways. Not the injuries and problems but the running with your heart, no matter at what pace, and finishing, no matter in what time. I just love it! That is my current road marathon time as well. And I have a few that is a lot slower even. I'm just lucky that mine is because of zillion trail ultras and not injury. But your heart was in the run just like mine always is. I will run a race with you one day Jill. After reading this I know I will. Rest well!

Matthew Smith said...

4:41 is AMAZING for not really training! It sounds like your race was so much better than you thought. That half smile at the end looked pretty happy to me! :) Great job! You did terrific! And, that $125 plane ticket was a steal!!!

misszippy said...

Aw, Jill, your spirit rocks! I love that you can recognize the gift of a marathon run, regardless of how it compares to your norm. Sounds like a fantastic weekend and day, one that you can be proud of and revel in for a while. Well done!

BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

I'm so glad Chicago was a great experience for you!

Molly said...

Jill!! I literally feel your enthusiasm about the race leaping off my laptop screen! I'm SO happy that you had such a wonderful race, enjoy your post race high!!!!

The Green Girl said...

Yeay! I'm thrilled you had such a great Chicago experience, girl.

That's awesome that Marcia was able to offer tips and advice.

::huge hugs::

Amanda@runninghood said...

This makes me so happy to read. What a positive experience. I love how you described getting to the 13.1 mark and feeling so good....what a great feeling to have your feet feeling good, your shoes feeling good and just such an incredible support from friends. Sounds like Marcia was a gem of a friend. Congrats Jill. I see only good things ahead. :)

tahoegirl said...

Sweet. Job well done. I actually trained for Chicago 2010 and you kicked my booty! (I still loved it though)

HappyTrails said...

So, so, so HAPPY for you! :-)

Leah said...

I am so glad your foot cooperated and you had such a wonderful experience! I loved reading your description and you put in to words so beautifully that amazing grateful feeling running can give us.

hiker mom said...

Congrats JIll! I loved reading this:) So glad you had such a great experience and so nice that Marcia had your back the whole way:)

abbi said...

Sounds like Chicago was an amazing experience for you! Yay!

SupermomE12 said...

You are a ROCKSTAR!! I am so glad you had such a wonderful day and wonderful experience. You did great! Big hugs!!

Terzah said...

You SO make me want to do that race! They should hire you for marketing and give you lots of cool free stuff including an entry to next year's race. :^)

I'm so happy for you--I don't think I've ever heard you so happy in a blog post before. Congratulations!

Bluegrass Tri Chick said...

Great race report! I am glad you had such a great experience.

My goal is to run Chicago as my first full someday provided my body ever lets me run a 10K again without pain.

Congrats!

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

What a great race recap! I love when we can appreciate where we are right now, in the moment and just love distance running for the sheer gift of doing it. Great job!

And those goodies looked amazing! Sugar and the medal kind. ;-)

Tara said...

Oh, I love, love, LOVE your report! I can just hear the smile in your voice. I am so glad that you had such a great experience and that you have such clarity on where you want your running to go and how you are going to achieve it.

Thank goodness your stupid feet/ankle held up and you were able to make it to 16 miles without walking, I'm sure that had to help with that mental game that you are struggling with.

Marcia is such a sweetheart, I love her and her pumpkin stick, I wish I could have been there with you guys. I would have loved to have cheered you on (or ran the damn thing)!

You should have had a second cupcake and claimed it was for me!!!! Ok, gotta go, but I look forward to hearing and watching you and your running and your mental toughness come back.

love ya girl. xoxo

GZ said...

"I walked away with my cup so incredibly full."

Ride that for as long as you can.

Jen Small said...

congrats on a great race and one that made you smile and overcome!

:)

CautiouslyAudacious said...

Awesome!!! I love the bling and that you had such a great time! Your calmness is amazing, I hope I can channel some of that for my upcoming race!

Coy Martinez said...

What a great race re cap!! You sounded so happy the entire way!! It's funny how races pan out in different ways for us and how we get just what we need (as the Rolling Stones would sing) :) I'm so happy for you!

Kandi said...

Sounds like Chicago was just what you needed! I think Baltimore was what I needed. I felt under-trained as well going in but I think not having pressure on myself helped immensely. Low humidity and cool temps helped as well. :)
I can't wait to hear what's next with your running.

Jeff Gallup said...

So awesome! Way to go...:-) I would love to get a 4:41! :-)

Colorado Gal said...

Yay yay YAY! I am so glad that it left you all smiles because, at the end of the day, that's really what matters the most. I'm gonna keep reading this post once I get closer to my run in January :) Congrats again!

Karen said...

Looks to me like you had a pretty great time! Love your new pink shirt even if you didn't need it - ha ha... I love the feeling of just running and not racing. It makes it so much more chill and fun.

Runnerman Dan said...

Great job!

Erin {Confessions of a Running Addict} said...

Congratulations!!!! What an awesome race report! Loved it!

Teamarcia said...

I'm thrilled that Chicago was everything it can be for you and things came together in a way that you could relax and enjoy it the most. The whole weekend was super fun for me. It was nice to play Sherpa/chief spectator for a change. Here's to many more great running adventures! Xo

funderson said...

You are AMAZING and you look great and I'm so so glad you had FUN. FUN is good...

Danni said...

I love that race. A marathon finish is always something to be super proud of!

Kate said...

Oh, I'm so proud of you and happy for you! See...this is your reward for running the race the Kate way (only faster, but whatever)...not putting a lot of pressure on yourself, just going out and accepting whatever your level of training has earned you.

Bobbi IS awesome, and sounds like Marcia was the best-est host ever! And you...you simply ROCK. :)

ajh said...

Sounds wonderful. I have no desire to do a marathon now or Chicago yet you make me want to.

Raina said...

I had NO doubt you could do it!
And you totally sandbagged yourself with that girl at the start. haha.
Yep, this was just the race you needed. I see another good season coming up for you- and you have earned it!

Love the pics of the course. I have never been to chicago, so I am living vicariously through your blog here :)

Again, GREAT job Jill! Looking forward to the next adventure :)

Suz and Allan said...

I loved this recap so much! It made me feel like I was there for the race with you. Congratulations on pushing yourself and finishing strong!

Michelle said...

Awesome Jill! Loved reading this post - just have the biggest smile on my face! I am so so happy for you - that you had this wonderful experience!! Congrats!!

XLMIC said...

So much greatness in this recap :) I am so very happy you had such a wonderful Chicago!

Mike said...

I am so happy for you that you had an awesome race! Way to go out and enjoy life. Awesome blogger meet up too. Now I know if I ever do Chicago, I'll need to meet up with Marcia. She definitely was a great Sherpa/hostess.

Linda W. said...

Finishing a marathon is an accomplishment in itself. Great job! I ran the Portland Marathon this same day so I know how you feel.

Tasha @Healthy Diva said...

You are such an inspiration Jill. Loved reading about your Chicago experience. Glad that even despite some circumstances you still left happy and with a sweet medal and cute pink shirt. Chicago is on my bucket list for someday.

bangle44 said...

Wow! I'm so happy Chicago surprised you and it was such a fun race! Yay! Great post!

mighty termitey said...

this was your best post ever. i loved it so much i read it twice. :-) congrats seesta, you earned it. xo

2 Slow 4 Boston said...

Do you have any idea how long it takes to scroll through 45 comments, just so I can be the 46th? I need to start reading your blog quicker after a post.

What can I say that everyone else hasn't already said? Experiences like the one you had in Chicago is why we are willing to suffer for our craft at other times and keep coming back for more.

This post was a fun read for me. Nice to read about good times and not necessarily the ones on the timer.

Jenny @ The Little J-Bird said...

I am so proud of you but you already know that! I was SO happy that Chi was such a great race for you. I was happy to be racing "with" you that day but next time let's make it the same race! ;) xoxo

Julie said...

LOVE IT! I am soooo very happy for you! I love to hear the positive attitude that you left that race with. You are finding your way back Jill, not as fast as you want but you are, and I'm glad that you got to see that during this race!

Liz said...

AWESOME! I'm still impressed by your time! What a great experience, and great post!

Stacey Pomerleau said...

Good on you! Funny how relaxed we are when it's 'Not A Race'.

Jamoosh said...

Well, so much for all the doom and gloom. Good race and next time, eat all the dang cupcakes - you earned them!

Ah Ah Alaska said...

Yes! This is what racing is all about, recconnecting and reaffirming your love for running. Great post--kept me laughing, and I don't know why but I also got a bit teary-eyed toward the end.
Congrats--you earned it!

Glenn Jones said...

Outstanding Jill!

lindsay said...

i LOLd at the first shirt, and then find out you got 2 ;) it is a lot funner to do races for 'fun'. (hmm not sure that the pain of 26.2 is technically fun) but at least less stressful!

a 10k time as a submission? oh ok. lets start qualifying for boston with 5k times... idiot.

crying mid-race, aww. jill. precious. (and sure, dork) :) i mean i get teary in marathons too sometimes - but not til later on when i am more confident i will finish haha.

4:41! with an 8-mile long run!! that's deserving of an award. and hooray for no foot pain!

Brian said...

Great race, Jill! I'm so happy to hear how well it went and how much fun you had given all the challenges leading up to it. Congrats!

It's also neat to read how well-organized it was for such a huge race.

Tim said...

That time beats my last TWO marathons. Keep it up, you'll get your speed back!

Amanda - RunToTheFinish said...

ok that was one of the funnier race reports I have read in awhile!! You are a hoot. Glad you enjoyed the heck out of not racing and I'll remember to pack my own snacks for their expo

TX Runner Mom said...

Great recap! I loved the Chicago Marathon as well - fun city, fun race! And 4:41? I am happy to hit sub-5 and aspire to run a 4:41! :-) And hey, that is a freaking awesome medal!

Paul said...

Hi Jill,
Really happy to see you enjoyed Chicago. I'm going to run it for sure, perhaps next year. (Toni has been pressing me to do it and after your RR I have relented)

I'm glad your feet were good for the race and you had a great time!


Thomas Bussiere said...

It's not the fastest race that are the most memorable. Huge congrats on the marathon. Loved the race report.

Caratunk Girl said...

Hey stranger! Congrats (late is better than never, right?)

I have a hard time with big races like that. The corrals get me all confused. But I am from a town that has less people than are in the 9 min mile corral...

Hope you are well!

Irene said...

I'm late to the Jill post marathon party, but better late than never...

I think, after a certain point, all runs/races should be fun runs. I guess we all go through the "being the fastest we can be" stage, and that's great, but there's something to be said about chillin.' Besides, your chillin' time is way faster than my fast time. LOL.

You look really happy in the pics. :)

XO

On the Right Track said...

UGh...i"ve lost my commen 3 ti mes...hey...3 times a charm right?

you have a hell of comments here my friend btw...

so freakin awesome you got to meet up with Marcia for this race! she seems amamzing and the pics look like you both had a great time! Wishing i could watch you run some day! you are a true inspiration to me ...and to us all!

Tim said...

All your fans are waiting for a new post. Let's go.

Bookmaker Bonuses said...

I think that it is amazing that you can paint something to represent a race. i would love to see the paint.

Anne said...

OMG! I enjoyed this post so completely...I'm so glad I didn't miss it! I am so so happy and excited for you Jill. When I left blogging over a year ago, you were still just barely getting out there. Now, although I know things aren't how you'd like them to be, you ran a marathon and you were able to really enjoy it!! Fantastic! :)

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