Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My First Marathon: Chicago Marathon 2012 - Race Recap

After 17 weeks of training, I did it!  I am officially a marathoner!  I completed my very first marathon this past Sunday at the 35th annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon and it was amazing!
My mom and stepdad, Andy, came to visit and cheer me on this weekend which I was really happy about.  I was feeling really anxious and nervous about the race all day Friday and most of Saturday.  I just kept worrying that something would go wrong, or I wouldn't be able to finish, or I wasn't really ready for this race.  My mind just kept racing!  For dinner we shared a delicious pizza from Piece Brewery and Pizzeria before heading home to rest up for the big day.  I laid out my outfit and gear and watched Spirit of the Marathon before falling asleep. The movie was really good and calmed my nerves a bit.  

I slept pretty well that night.  Mom and Andy left before me as they were going to volunteer at the Fleet Feet Aid Station.  Soon after they left I got up to get ready.  I had a glass of water and toasted pbj english muffin for my pre race meal.  My nerves about the race were not really at the front of my mind as I was checking and double checking to make sure I had everything and that I would find my way to the start corrals all right.  It always makes me smile when I get up early on race days to see all the other runners heading to the race too.  The train was full of runners drinking Gatorade and having their pre race meals.  It was chilly morning, about 38 degrees, but I brought throw away clothes to wear.  I made the short walk from the train to the corral area around 7am.  After waiting in line to use the bathroom I grabbed some Gatorade Chews to add to my iFitness belt and Gatorade Prime to have before the start.  I was in the second wave of runners in the back corral and had some time so I found a spot in the grass and wrapped my Georgia Half Mylar blanket around me to stay warm while sipping on my G2.  After about 20 minutes I decided to go stand in the corral.  
I was cold and ready to start running so I could warm up; the wait to start moving seemed so long.  Finally the corrals started to move forward.  Once we began to walk I got rid of my extra shirt and pants, but kept the mylar blanket until just before the start line.  I also drank the Gatorade Prime about 15 minutes before I started running.  My nerves seemed to have disappeared as inched closer to the line.  I was just excited and ready to run!  

Since this was my first marathon my main goal was to finish.  Ideally I wanted to finish under six hours and if things went really well under 5:45.  I trained by monitoring my heart rate and did the same for the race.  Before the race I decided to break it into sections to make the distance not feel as daunting.  I mainly thought about it as two 10 mile runs with a 10K finish.  As I went along I did break it up a bit smaller though marking the 10k distance and then the 15k, etc.  I wanted to start out easy and gradually speed up as I went along.  

I finally crossed the start line around 8:20am and started running!  My toes felt a bit numb from the cold so it was kind of awkward running the first half mile or so until they warmed up.  Despite the numb toes my first mile was bit faster than it should have been.  The energy of all of the other runners and spectators was awesome and made me go out a bit fast.  I slowed down my pace and just enjoyed running through the city.  

The spectators and support throughout the race was amazing and made parts of the race fly by.  I had my name written across my shirt so people could cheer me along which was great.  I waved or smiled at everyone who cheered for me.  I honestly had a smile on my face for most of the race.  Early on I saw a sign that read some like, "Take a deep breath and enjoy the moment."  That really resonated with me and I made it one of my mantras for the race.  I was going to enjoy every moment I was out there running and be thankful that I could.
Although I was cold at the start the weather was great for running the race.  Cooler weather is perfect for running!  The first few miles went by quite fast.  I must have had too much Gatorade before the start because I realized I needed to use the bathroom.  I so did not want to stop, but did not want to pee all over myself either.  The first few port-a-pottys along the course had long lines so I held off until about mile five before stopping.  It was a short stop, but I was bummed I had to make it.  I never had to stop to use the bathroom during my training, but of course when the actual race comes I had to pee within the first half of the race!  Even though it was a short stop I picked up my pace just a bit for the next mile to try and make up some time.

I fueled with the Gatorade Chews first and then switched to my Honey Stinger chews after, which was about every three miles.  I made sure not to have Gatorade drink and chews at the same time and switched back and forth.  During training I usually walked for a minute every two miles.  For the race I ended up walking a short time through most of the aid stations to simply drink water or Gatorade.  

Mom and Andy were volunteering around mile 10 with Fleet Feet and I couldn't wait to see them.  They were there smiling and holding signs!  
After I saw them I turned on my music for the first time and kept going along still enjoying the signs and cheers from random spectators.  Once we headed west on the course there weren't as many spectators and it got a bit boring.  I started to get a slight headache before the halfway mark and decided I needed some real food.  Thankfully I brought a fig bar and had that with some water which helped.  My hips and thighs started to feel a bit tight around mile 15 but I kept chugging along.  
I was so happy to get to the Clif Shot Zone at mile 17.5 for some different fuel.  I ate the chocolate one and it was exactly what I needed!  I love my chews, but I wanted the taste of something different.  The chocolate tasted so good and gave me a great little boost.  
I arrived at mile 20 aware that I could "hit the wall" soon.  I'm not sure I ever really did though.  I mean, my legs were sore, but I didn't feel horrible and never thought I couldn't finish.  I think I fueled pretty well throughout the race.
I wasn't sure when Mom and Andy would be finished at their aid station so I didn't know when I would see them again.  I kept scanning the sidelines hoping to spot them as I really needed to see their faces.  Just as I turned a corner I looked ahead and saw my mom's purple jacket and started waving.  It took a moment for them to see me.  
SO happy to see my cheering fans!
I smiled and told them I was so happy to see them.  Mom asked how I was and I told her I was OK, just that my legs felt sore.  They told me I looked great and they would see me again at the finish.  The timing for seeing them again was perfect!
I tried to pick up the pace for the last five miles of the race.  I kept running and actually passed quite a lot of people.  It hurt more to walk than to run so I ran much more for the last section, maybe not as fast as I was before, but I was running. 

Finally I arrived at the last mile and checked my Garmin to see that I could finish under 5:55.  I was keeping a consistent pace and knew I only had a mile left until the finish and pushed just a bit more.  I turned onto Roosevelt and went over the one small bridge in the race (I know, a hill right near the finish) and made the final turn and began to sprint.  I saw Mom and Andy cheering from the sidelines and other spectators were cheering my name as went by.  

I gave it everything I had and crossed the finish line with my hands up!  I did it!  My official time was 5:54:19, under my goal of six hours and less than 5:55!  

I had finished a marathon - 26.2 miles!  My legs ached so bad after slowing down to walk, but I was happy to have finished.  I walked over to receive my medal and the lady said congratulations and that I deserved it.  I cried a bit from the joy and the pain.  
My legs were aching but there was still a bit of a walk to get to the finishers meeting area.  I was glad to finally meet up with Mom and Andy and hug them both. 
Tired, but happy.
I walked a bit around the post race party.  My body was craving something to eat or drink.  I had a bottle of water, but they had run out of the Gatorade Recovery drink by the time I finished.  In the post race area I had two tiny cups of Sierra Mist and a mini bag of pretzels which helped.  We were going to take the train home, but decided a cab would be faster.  
Walking up the three flights of stairs to get to my apartment was not easy, but I made it.  I ate two cheese sticks as soon as I walked in the door and had some more water.  I had a headache and needed more real food.  Mom and Andy went out to get burgers while I took a shower.  They came back with burgers and fries from The Bad Apple.  
The food was so good and just what I needed!  I got the Bad Apple Burger and ranch seasoned fries.  It was a lot of food, but I ate everything and felt much better afterwards.  

It didn't really hit me that I had a run a marathon until later that day.  Before I started running, even after my first half marathon, I never imagined I would or could run a full marathon.  It is absolutely incredible what you can achieve if you put in the time and keep a positive attitude.  I am so thankful for all of the support from my family, friends, coworkers, and followers.  All the comments, tweets, posts, and texts from everyone was overwhelming and so appreciated!  
I really enjoyed the race!  Yes, it was long and I was sore after, but it was worth every moment.  I had a great time running through the city of Chicago.  I can call myself a marathoner now which is so crazy and so awesome.  I have a feeling I will be running another marathon in the future!