Thursday, May 3, 2012

Illinois Marathon 2012 - Race Recap

(WARNING: Long blog post to follow.  I didn't want to split it into two posts, but I wanted to put everything in here.  I use this to remember my marathon experience.  Read my 2011 Chicago Marathon experience here.)

I gave you a small update on my last blog post on the very basics of what happened during my 2nd marathon. I’ve also posted in a recent post about the numerous minor injuries I’ve had to deal with throughout my spring training for this marathon (minor calf strain, tendinitis in left ankle, Pain/IT band in my right knee, small ankle pain in right ankle).  

I’m not going to give you a woe-is-me post. It was what it was. I tried to deal with any injury immediately! I tried to take rest days or cut back runs. I tried to let injuries heal. I iced and even took my first ice baths!! Brrrrr!!!! I think these are the things I did right. Because even though it’s important to make as many runs as possible and try hard not to miss any long runs, it’s equally important to take the time needed to rest and recover from injuries because if you don’t, you might not even make it to the start line.

Some things during training that I did wrong:

1. Didn’t drink enough water. Sometimes I was only getting 4 glasses of water in a day, definitely not enough for marathon training (not even enough for a regular day). I tried to correct this about 3 weeks before the marathon, better late than never.

2. Didn’t do much stretching. I’m a bad stretcher to begin with. This did not help with preventing injuries.

3. Didn’t do much strength or core training. You use many muscles during running and you use a lot of your core. Not having a strong core = having a rougher time during marathon.

4. Didn’t eat as well as I should have. Sure you need to eat more food while training, but that food should not consist of crap!


I took Friday off of work and headed down with Don, my roommate for the marathon and fellow FNRC member (FNRC = Frankfort/New Lenox Running Club = F’N Runners). We met Julie, another FNRC member and headed to the expo. It was a small expo but we had fun nonetheless.

After picking up our packets and doing a little shopping, we headed to our dinner at the marathon pasta feed. Eh…I wasn’t too thrilled with the dinner but did go back for seconds (hey! I needed to carb load!). After dinner, my Yankee Runner group (the group I trained for both marathons with) was having a slide show presentation at the YMCA. Don and Julie weren’t going to go but Don said he would give me a ride and I said I would get a ride back to the hotel. Well, it was NOT EASY to get around at that time. There was a 5k run that night and it had started with meant tons of street closures. In fact, at one point, I noticed we were stopped by the 5k…(the 5k walkers!!). I was already late as probably was everyone else. I told Don that I would get out and walk the rest of the way since he could only turn around. It was about 0.25 miles away so no big deal. I made it there and the presentation by the Yankee Runners is always a fun and memorable time. We all sent in pictures and it’s so moving to see the happy faces of the fellow runners! My fellow Yankee Runner friends, Shelby and Curtis, gave me a ride back to the hotel (many of us were staying in the same hotel).

When Don got back to the hotel, we went over some plans for race morning…what time to get up, what time to leave, where to park, etc. We did a little foam rolling together, since it was Don that told me to use the foam roller to relieve my knee pain from the IT Band issue 3 weeks before. Don joked as we were foam rolling that he was going to cry because this was such a beautiful moment with both of us foam rolling together! Haha!! At about 10:00 pm, we decided it was lights out! That would have been great except no matter how tightly I closed my eyes, I couldn’t sleep! Before I knew it, it was 11:30 and I got up to use the bathroom. Then it was 12:30 and Don got up to use the bathroom. Yes, I was still mostly awake! Grrrr!!!! I wanted to sleep. I probably slept fitfully until about 2:30 when I got up yet again to use the bathroom!! And next thing I knew it was 5:00 am and time to get up! I said as Don turned off the alarm… “Are you f#@cking kidding me??


We got up, did all the good stuff such as dressing and doing all the necessary personal hygiene stuff. Before I knew it, it was time to leave! I couldn’t believe it! We didn’t have time to do any stretching or eating but I figured I would eat in the car and stretch when I got there. Before I left, I wrote necessary reminders on my arm. As with my first marathon, a goal for me it to smile at every mile marker. This way, no matter how bad I’m feeling or if I’m having a rough time, I will see the mile marker, smile and hopefully clear my head for the next mile. It was also supposed to rain and it was raining when we woke up. So also on my arm, I wrote a reminder that I love to run in the rain (not true). But I figure I can try to trick my mind into thinking it’s true. If it’s raining and I’m miserable, I would look at my arm and see that I LOVE to run in the rain! Haha!
Arm Graffiti

Parking was easy. Ate in the car. Said goodbye to Don (since we were going to start at different places in the race). I wanted to meet up with my Yankee Runner group for a pre-race photo. I’m still trying to hunt down this photo!


It was raining all night and until we parked the car but the minute we parked the car, it stopped raining and kind of cleared up! The marathon peeps (technical term) said the run should be rain-free!! Yay!! But it was windy and felt cold! I wasn’t going to run in my Hot Chocolate windbreaker but I figured I would tie it around my waist when I got too warm. I had a short sleeve shirt and sleeves on. Shelby and I met up and stuck together before the race since we both wanted to start out with the 4:30 pace group (10:18 min mile). Shelby had a rough first marathon in Chicago last year, which required a 15-20 min stay in the medical van but she did finish. She was hoping for a better second marathon. Our pace leader, Coy, was HILARIOUS!!! And this marathon marked number 50 for him (which also includes larger runs such as 50K’s). Crazy! The run started and after a few minutes, I said to Shelby, "I think I can do this!" Of course, I got a strange look from another runner. I didn’t mean I think I can do the marathon! I meant I think I can do this pace. Whatever. Let me break the race into mile groups.

MILES 1 TO 4 – I felt pretty good. Fun pace leader. I was running with Shelby. Things were on the up and up! I took my jacket off at mile 1 and rolled down my sleeves after mile 2. That’s when I saw the fact that I was supposed to smile at every mile. Oops…In fact, forgot about it again until later. Coy was great. He would do silly things like sing. At one point during mile 3, he ran off to the side with the crowd and clapped for us as we went by. Haha!! But what I noticed was a few of the miles were too fast. Coy was going to run to every water stop and take a cup and walk for 30 seconds and start running again. I can understand needing to speed up a little to keep on his pace goal but Miles 1 through 4 splits were: 10:20, 10:00, 10:17, 10:05. That second and fourth mile were too fast for me to run a marathon at. I decided after mile 4 that I couldn’t keep up that pace any longer and I decided to back off of the pace group. Sad times!!  But can I say, I'm impressed with the amount of college kids that were up at 7:00 am cheering us on!  Some may never have gone to bed the night before and were drinking beer but hey, I'm not picky!  They were there!

MILES 5 TO 8 – The marathoners were also running with half marathoner and 10k folks. The crowd was good and very motivational! There were a lot of people but usually not too many (except for a few narrow paths by forest preserves and parks). I’d have to say a good majority of this marathon was on residential streets. I was still feeling pretty ok. I did notice a little fatigue and decided to just slow it down a little more. My splits from Mile 5 through Mile 8 were: 10:23, 10:42; 10:49; 10:40. I think at this point I was close to running a 10:30 pace average and felt pretty ok with that. I was even ok with running 10:40’s. Also, around mile 6, I tried to turn on my bluetooth headphones. Um… I tried to turn them on again. Um…they weren’t going on! You have got to be kidding me! They were fully charged! I tried them again and mile 7 and they didn’t work then either. I was seriously going to have to run a full marathon without any music??

Then the dreaded quads started acting up around mile 8! For Chicago, the ONLY thing that I had trouble with were my quads but they didn’t start hurting until about mile 15-16. Mile 8 was kind of early and I didn’t like it. At this point I was trying my headphones again and looked at my phone (which is what I listen to my music on) and saw a bunch of text messages. I didn’t read them all at the time but liked the support and encouragement from friends. I saw Kelly texted me and since I knew she was going to meet up with me later in the marathon to help me out (more on that later), I read her text. It was a photo text of her waiting for me at Mile 15 with a banana (my one request for her to bring). I LOVED the picture and totally made me smile! Oh I forgot, up until this point, I only smiled at maybe mile 6. I was failing at this goal of mine miserably!
Kelly waiting for me at Mile 15

MILES 9 TO 14 – My quads just really started to kill me! I would also hear things like…at mile 10, “Only a 5k left!” Clearly that was meant for the half marathoners and at that point wanted to trip every single one of them! I had a half marathon PLUS a 5k! My mind started mentally becoming negative… “My quads hurt and I feel pretty tired and it’s only mile 10! I still have over 16 miles left to run! I don’t want to do this anymore!” I said to myself just keep running. Just get to Kelly! At mile 11, I thought mile 15 seemed so far away! Kelly was so far away! Kelly texted me and said she was waiting just past the mile marker at 15. I texted her and said ok. Then I texted her back and asked if she could walk up a bit. I was really starting to struggle and just wanted to get to her as fast as possible. She said it was no problem. At mile 11, I also decided to play the music on my phone out loud since my headphones decided to crap out on me.  A few people came by and said they loved the song that was playing, or started to sing along.  It wasn't very loud and I had to hold the phone in order to even hear it but it was better than nothing.  I kept that playing for about 2 miles.  A few times other runners would come past and ask where I was from as I had my Hot Chocolate jacket around my waist.  The one woman knew it was a Chicago race (it's also raced around the country), but one guy asked if I was from Hershey, Pennsylvania.  Good guess!  Haha!  

When we got to the "Half/Full Marathon" split at mile 12.5, I seriously contemplated cutting out at the half. My quads were hurting something fierce and I was becoming mentally exhausted from trying to stay focused on the run and remaining positive.  If our time would have been recorded, I might have quit at the half.  (I later found out someone from our training group did cut out at the half, so it definitely wasn't just me!)  But I didn't train for the half, I trained for the full.  I didn't want to quit.  And I knew Kelly would be less than 2 miles away.  My mantra at that point was "Just get to Kelly!"  True Story!  Lol.  I did see another Yankee Runner, Julie, during this time too and ran with her for a few minutes.  It was her second marathon and she was doing great!  After chatting a while, I told her to go on ahead.  I didn't want to slow up her pace.  Also, when the half marathoners split from us, that took at least 75% of the runners away and at least 90% of the crowd.  So the course got a little more lonely at this point.  But I will say, I still thought the crowd was great.  The spectators did an awesome job keeping us going!  Best spectators I've ever seen!
My splits for Miles 9 through 14 definitely got worse but by mile 14, my average pace was still a 10:45.  Splits were: 11:08, 11:25, 10:53, 11:57, 10:55, 11:37.  I was still trying to hang in there.  And then I met up with Kelly!!!  YAY!  I made it to Kelly!  Now only if she could have strapped me to her back!  I told Kelly I was behind my pace.  She said, "Don't worry about it, you just want to beat your old time, right?"  And I basically just said, "I don't even care anymore! I just want to be done!" 

MILES 15 TO 20 - Really what is there left to say?  Even though at this point I was completely ok with not beating my previous time and just wanted to get this marathon over, I still did have some hope I could do it.  I was still under the 11:11 average pace from my last marathon but my pace was definitely getting slower and my quads were still hurting.  Splits for these miles were: 11:04, 11:54, 11:44, 11:21, 11:24, 11:52.  Since my headphones weren't working, I know Kelly sang to me a little.  There may have been a rendition of "We are the Champions" somewhere in there.  Frankly, I know I was irritable and grumpy and Kelly was doing her best to keep me positive.  I felt a little bad as I know I snapped at her a few times!  I also contemplated walking from mile 16 on.  It's true.  I thought it sounded like a great idea, but I knew that I had more in me than just walking.  Even if I just ran 1/2 mile and walked, I had more than walking in me.

Since part of my goal is always to smile at every mile, and until I saw Kelly, I probably only smiled around mile 6, she told me she was going to take a picture of us smiling at every mile (and we mostly did!).  A few miles got away from us though.  And even though I definitely didn't want to smile, I knew it was a good way to stay positive and try to throw in a little fun.  Thanks Kelly!  Here are just a few pictures of our smiles from our miles between 15-20.

Mile 15

Mile 17 or 19 ??

Appropriate picture for mile 20
MILES 21-26.2 - Really, I just don't remember much.  I remember at mile 22 spotting Shelby (the Yankee Runner I started the race with).  She had been doing great and should have been way ahead of me at that point.  So the fact that I saw her, I was a little worried.  We ran up to Shelby who was walking.  She said she wasn't doing well and seemed frustrated.  She really just wanted us to go on ahead.  I later found out that she was with our pace group until about mile 17-18, stopped to use the bathroom, lost the pace group, and then just couldn't get her legs running again!  She was incredibly frustrated.  After Kelly and I ran on from Shelby, I was a little concerned.  It was strange because while running the marathon, I almost didn't care about me anymore.  I wanted to make sure all of my friends had good marathons!  I think I told Kelly about 5 times in the next 1.5 miles that maybe she should go back and try to help Shelby.  But we left it the way it was and later Shelby told me she wouldn't have wanted to run with anyone at that point anyway.  She did end up finishing though and did beat her previous marathon time! 

I also remember that at about mile 23, I ate the absolute best orange slice of my life.  It's true.  This is one of the things I remember.  It was about 30 seconds of pure bliss!  Haha!!  At that point, my quads didn't matter and the marathon didn't matter!  The only thing that mattered was that orange slice!  Mmmmmm......

I digress...  Anyway, when I got to mile 24, I had a small emotional breakdown.  I started to cry.  It went something like this, "Kelly?  I'm really sorry but I think, uh....I think I'm going to start crying now!"  And I babbled like an idiot for a few seconds in between a little laughing because I couldn't believe I started to cry!  I started to cry for a couple of reasons.  First, tears of joy.  I only had two miles left!  I could do two miles!  Then I was so mentally exhausted.  I had been running since mile 8 with sore quads.  That had been 16 miles of running with sore quads.  Trying to tell yourself to keep going, fighting through maybe 3 hours of running when all you want to do is quit can be so taxing emotionally.  When they say running is 90% mental, this is what they are referring to. 

But I did stop crying after maybe 30 seconds to a minute (I really don't know).  I just figured maybe I would feel better if I got that out.  And in true form, Kelly had to snap the mile 24 picture right when I stopped crying.  I told her I was going to take off my sunglasses so you could see my teary eyes. lol.

Mile 24 - Post Cry
Kelly decided to head off around 24.75.  She needed to go back to her car and meet us for post-race celebrations.  So she ran with me for almost 11 miles.  Totally appreciate the support and all the effort you put into helping me run Kelly!

And at this point (and since mile 16), I was only run/walking.  I might run about 1/2-1 mile and then walk (Usually only running about 1/2 mile at a time).  Every step hurt.  But did I tell you, my ankles and knees where I had all those injuries while training?  Completely fine!!  I was very happy about that! 

I saw the stadium and also knew I had only 1/2 mile left.  We finish on the 50 yard line in the U of I campus football field.  As I rounded the corner to go into the stadium, I felt the tears coming back!  OMG!  I was done!  Run to the finish!  I had a quivering lip and teary eyes but I finished with a smile!  It was over!! My splits were: 12:47, 12:49, 13:07, 13:19, 13:29, 12:45.  Here are a few finish pictures that the marathon people took:

Then I took my post-marathon finisher photo and posed with Shelby's husband Curtis. 

Ok, I made the pic of me and Curtis X-Large.  Why?  Do you see the bleachers in the background?  Do you see the sign that says "Food" with an arrow pointing up?  What sick bastards marathon organizers would make people that just ran a marathon climb stairs to get to their food???  I made it up the stairs ok but I did see other people helping their loved ones up the stairs!  Just cruel!  CRUEL AND WRONG!! 

It was also just wrong that they ran out of the heating wrap foil things (technical term) and they also ran out of pizza!  Pizza sounded really good at that point!  Damn you marathon people!! 

I found my other friends Julie and Don from the FNRC that I went to the expo with and posed with them.  I also met up with my Yankee Runner group for some post-race celebrating and food!  There was also a little kissing going on!!

Julie, Don and myself

Yankee Runners

Told you there was a little kissing going on!  I earned every minute of this medal!!
Marathon #2 is complete!  My total time recorded by the marathon was 5:02:46, which is about an 11:33 avg pace.  I actually only missed my previous marathon time by 9 minutes, which completely amazes me.  I "thought" I did so much worse, but maybe the key was that I never stopped trying to beat my time, or I kept trying to get the best possible time I could.  I was constantly setting new goals if one wasn't reached.  If I wasn't going to beat my old time, maybe I could come in under 5 hours?  Ok, it didn't happen but maybe I still had a relatively ok time because I kept trying and kept setting new goals and just never quit.

Also before this second marathon and with the hard training season, I was completely regretting signing up for Chicago again this year (which is in October).  But after this marathon, and after only missing my time by 9 minutes, and after knowing everything I did wrong, and after all the injuries (which I can probably prevent with proper hydration and stretching), I feel like I can do great in Chicago this year.  Before this 2nd marathon, I had doubts...everything seemed to be going wrong.  But maybe I needed this struggle in order to really know what I can get through.  Hopefully with some ideas I have in my head to better prepare, I will kill my best marathon time!  I will share all these ideas in a later post as this one is just about novel size!!  Thanks for reading and thanks for the feedback you all give me!


  1. Ahhh!!! So happy for you! I don't think anyone's marathon recap is short. I mean, you're out there for several hours, plus we're bloggers! We like to talk/type. Hehe!

    Congrats again on another marathon finish! I'm glad I got to go down there and help you reach your goal!! :)

  2. You did great! Was fun reading your recap.

  3. Anonymous5/03/2012

    Congratulations on marathon #2! Illinois 2011 was my 2nd marathon - and while it was hot (not rainy), I really enjoyed it! Marathoning in the rain is hard work emotionally, so good job on getting out there & getting the job done!

    PS - see you at Chicago! It sounds like we're both in the same target pace range!

    1. Really Lauren?? And I can't wait for Chicago!!

  4. Thanks everyone!!!