Monday, October 15, 2012


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.
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 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!

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! :)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Chicago Bound

It's time!  Chicago's calling my name so it's time to pack, re-pack and then pack some more.  The weather couldn't be more ideal for race day....for all those who have shied away from running Chicago because of it's notoriously HOT conditions, check this out....

SunOct 7

Partly Cloudy
Partly Cloudy
W at 9 mph

I know - I am crying....CRYING!  Figures the ONE time Chicago has perfect running conditions is the year I haven't trained and not able to actually race this damn thing.  Royally bummed out about this, but at least I won't be walking in sweltering conditions and instead get to walk in nice, cool, sunny conditions.

This is life.  It's not always fair - I know this well.

I have to laugh though, This perfect weather for Sunday's race can only mean one thing ..... next year the temps are going to be blazing hot!!!  Seriously, this is Newton's law.  Or Murphy's.  Or someone's.  So I apologize in advance to those of you who have Chicago on your wishlist for next year.  This girl is doing Chicago this year, craptastically and all, then I am done with it; it's the 3rd time I've tried to run Chicago, the only time I actually am, and I think it's just jinxed for me.  Yes, I am extremely superstitious!

My foot hasn't been the happiest since my last post.  I can't figure out what shoe it likes best, so I may be carrying a backpack full of various shoes along the Chicago course.  I won't look like some crazed serial killer dressed entirely in black (Marcia said black attire will make me faster...I will take anything - and ALL - I can get!), will I?

So it's time to go.  No, this isn't the race I dreamed up months ago when I signed up.  Truth be told, no race has this year and that's something I vow to fix.  Thankfully there's a 2013 and I plan to rectify this running gig, but until then... Chicago awaits.  I will go...I will savor every second out there by soaking up the experience.  Experiencing all the diversity of neighborhoods; listening to the sounds each mile brings me; watch the Sear's Tower disappear as I travel away, then reappear as I get close to the finish (thanks, Marcia :)).  No matter how painful my foot - or the long ticking clock is, I GET to run the Chicago Marathon - and I will be grateful every step of the way (and I will try not to cry when I see my all-time personal worst marathon finish time :)).

Until next time....

Run strong, my friends!

- Jill

P.S. I apologize for being blog absent the past couple weeks....I got a new job and add that to the band board prez thingie in prime marching band season.  Holy crap!