Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Chicago Marathon 2012 - Full Recap

It's been well over a week since the marathon and I have yet to give my full recap.  I know, I know...


The week before the marathon, I started off really nervous.  I seem to do that every time.  I start second guessing myself.  I knew I could DO the marathon, but what about beating my old time?  Even though I was convinced before that I could do it, all of a sudden I started having doubts.  Well, after a few days of that, I put it behind me.  I got really excited.  Many of my friends were doing the marathon as their first one!  I felt the nerves and excited in the air.  On the Thursday before the marathon, as tradition with my 10:00 pace Yankee Runner group, we went to Bourbon Street for a few drinks and some food.  It was cute because some people were taking notes and we were all sharing tips and ideas.  I was unsure all week how to dress for the marathon.  It had appeared that, although ideal marathon running temps were forcasted, it was just a tad colder than I thought I would have wanted.  It was kind of hard to tell exactly what the temps were going to be and I was trying not to stress too much over it.  As long as it wasn't going to be 80+, I was fine with it.  Up until the night before though, I had no idea what I was going to wear and figured I would bring several different options, in case I wanted to change when I got to the hotel that morning.  In fact, the Saturday before the marathon, it was FREEZING!  I was so cold and that made me slightly nervous for race day.

I went to the expo this time on Saturday instead of rushing through it on Friday like last year.  I went with two training friends and we took our time walking around and taking photos.  I missed taking photos last year because I was by myself and in a hurry.  This year I was making the most of it...taking all the stupid photos I saw everyone else taking!

Betcha didn't know!

Me, Shelby & Curtis

I really wanted this picture!  Haha!

I was getting tired and cranky.  I hadn't eaten much that day and was panicky because I had the marathon the next day!  So we left and ate lunch before I headed home and Shelby and Curtis went to the hotel they were staying at downtown.

The morning of the race, I stepped outside preparing for a blast of cold air and was pleasantly surprised!  It wasn't as cold as the morning before.  I drove downtown and parked in my cheapy $2 parking lot that is a secret (ssshhhh)...I know about it because I used to go to a gym across the street.  I have since let a few people in on my secret.  I've been parking there for many years for Chicago races.  It's about a 15-20 minute walk and I just use it as my warm-up.

I met my charity group UPS for DownS at 6:30 for a photo.  

UPS for DownS Charity Runner Group

This is the same place we took a photo last year.  I'm on this ledge and as I was going to jump down, I got a little nervous and hesitated.  I finally went to make the jump and my right leg got caught and I twisted my knee (seriously, I felt if I had twisted it a little more, I might have broken my leg!!).  Several people asked if I was ok, and I said I was fine.  Then I started limping back to my bag and my knee hurt so bad.  I wanted to cry, not from the pain, but because I possibly just hurt my knee right before the marathon I just trained so hard far.  I tried to put it out of my mind and started walking to the Congress Hotel that I was meeting my training group at.  Luckily my knee seemed to loosen up and started feeling fine.

My training group hung out at the hotel for a while chatting and taking some pictures.  I wanted to use the bathroom there but the line was wrapped around the entire floor.  Because I'm a part of CARA, we get our own private port-o-potties and so I decided to just go there.  As I was rushing out of the hotel with my training group, I ran into some FN Runners (I wasn't going to be able to meet them that morning as it's usually too crazy to try to rush around the morning of the marathon).

Just a few of the FN Runners: Me, Susan M., Don, Meg, and Jeni (up front)
I was glad to have run into them and give some hugs all around.

In the corral, I decided to start with my training friend Shelby.  I wasn't sure how long we would stick together but figured something is better than nothing.  I wasn't going to see any of my friends until about mile 16.  While in the corral waiting to start, we came across Julie who also trains with us.  Shelby, Julie and I decided to start together.  Of course, while in the corral, we took a pre-race photo with our throw-aways on!  There was also some corral peeing (not by me)...gross.  I've never witnessed this before but luckily (??) finally got to see it!  lol.

Yankee Runners in Corral K waiting to start
The marathon was set into 2 waves this year (new from the previous years).  Wave 1 had Corrals A-D, which you had to qualify for, and Corral E, which was a charity corral of all paces.  I was not in the charity corral because my charity was not in charity village.  This wave started at 7:30.  I was in Wave 2, which consisted of the rest of the corrals through M.  I was in corral J and officials were pretty strict about jumping up or back.  However, my pace leader knows the art of distraction and we mosied on into corral K.  Wave 2 was scheduled to start at 8:00 am.  I ended up starting around 8:13 with Shelby and Julie and we just took it easy.  We just wanted to start out at 10:30's and see how we felt later.

Like I said before, my main goal was to have fun, because what's a race if it's not fun??  And mission accomplished on that.  I think I had a smile on my face for the first 7 miles!  At about mile 5, I mentioned to my friends that my cheeks were hurting from smiling so much!  But the 3 of us were having some fun, reading signs, hearing people call out my name.  Oh yeah, I put my name on my shirt.  But I've never done that before and so in the beginning people would cheer for me and I'd be like, "Huh?  Do I know them?"  Then realizing...DUH AMANDA!  Your name is on your shirt! 

Pretty early on, all 3 of us had to go pee.  We decided to wait until after mile 7 because we didn't want to go to early and have to go again.  But all the bathrooms we saw had HUGE lines! I'll be damned if I was going to blow 10+ minutes waiting in line for the bathroom.  I told my friends I would go in bushes or an alley but one of my friends said that that would not be possible for her (if you know what I mean).  So I think the next 5 miles, I spent all my time scoping out port-o-potties!  And every time, the lines were huge!  Getting close to the half way point, I think we all started getting a little tired.  It was hard for me to tell exactly what our pace was (since the garmins get all screwed up and running around the buildings, at times, it didn't seem accurate), but my guess was that we were fairly consistent.  Sometimes I saw 10:30, 10:15, 10:45. I figured it was balancing out at 10:30.  Right were we wanted to be.  In fact, when I saw my friends at mile 16, they told me our 5k splits were right on 10:32 pace every time!  (And it's true, it was weird! 10:32, 10:32, 10:32).

Right after the halfway checkpoint, I spotted port-o-potties to the right side behind the gate barriers with...wait for it...NO LINE!!  I immediately told my friends and we veered around the gates and used the bathroom!!  Now, after I stopped, I noticed my legs were tightening up and knew I just needed to keep running!  I saw my charity group at the mile 14 charity block and was super excited!!  I was to the point in the race where I was just looking forward to the next person or group to keep me going.  

After mile 14 at charity block
My friends Becky and Kathy were going to be around 16.5 and that was the next time we would see someone.  They actually texted me and told me they were at a sign that said 27k.  I saw the 25k but it seemed like FOREVER to finally get to the 27k marker!  Becky and Kathy joined in with Shelby, Julie and I for a couple miles!  About mile 18.5, they jumped out.  It was great to have them there and the 3 of us were starting to feel a little slow and cranky.

L-R: Julie, Me, Shelby - I like that we are all in sync on the same foot. Mile 16.5
Actually Shelby, Julie and I were still running together which I was pretty amazed by.  I think it really started helping all of us out and we weren't walking AT ALL except at some of the water stations, were we might have walked for 10 seconds while getting our water/gatorade.  Now around mile 18-19, I get pretty grumpy.  It seems that happens during every marathon.  I do NOT like the 18 mile mark.  BUT, I knew that my old boss was going to be around mile 20.5 and Julie's mom was going to be near the same area.  So in my mind, just keep going until then.  I knew our pace had slowed a little but we were still moving so that was all I cared about.

We saw Julie's mom at mile 20-ish.  She jumped in and was going to run with Julie the rest of the way.  I also saw my old boss Chris and his fiancee at around mile 20.5 and they jumped in.  Right around this time, Julie and I lost Shelby!  Damn!  After running for 20 miles together, it would have been great to finish together!  We tried to keep looking for a little while but it was no luck.  Shelby would have yelled to us if she was nearby.  Julie and I just made an unspoken decision to also part ways.  While I was running with my boss, I could tell his fiancee wasn't too happy.  She was overdressed to be running and even though the temps were slightly cool, it got really sunny around the half way point (and therefore, hot).  She stopped after close to 2 miles and Chris told her he would see her at home (they live in the city).  He said he wanted to keep running with me (THANK GOD!). 

Chris was totally enjoying himself at the run.  During Chinatown (around mile 21), he was throwing his arms up posing for photos, slapping hands when people were congratulating him and telling him "good job on the run!", to which he thanked them.  I could only chuckle.  He was pretending he was running this marathon!  lol.  But I was glad he was having fun because it was keeping me entertained.  And I got a second wind around mile 21 and felt pretty ok.  He also said around mile 22, "This is so much fun!  I think I could do this!"  To this I said to myself, yeah, you only jumped in at mile 20!!  lol.  I've never run with Chris before and he is just a very occasional runner.  He used to do it but stopped.  However, hearing about me and my running adventures this past year, he started running again.  He was actually a very good runner!  He ran a total of 5 miles with me (between mile 20.5-25.5).

Mile 21-ish (Chinatown)...Whoa???  I did the Kelly pose without thinking!!
Mile 23-ish.  Chris and I running together

Also, Kelly had an opportunity to help me during the run and jumped in somewhere around mile 23.  I get REALLY grumpy around mile 22-23 so having both Kelly and Chris there was really helping keeping me going.  Since Kelly probably knew I was getting grumpy...she said, "You know we are taking a picture, right?"

lol, God bless Kelly sometimes!  Haha!
I did stop to walk once that was a non-water stop walk.  I had passed a water stop thinking I didn't need any (I had water with me)...but then was tired and stopped.  But not bad considering this was the first one and it was around mile 24.  I didn't stop too long and started running again.  Kelly and Chris told me I wasn't walking anymore...and even though I was not planning on it...I wanted to say "Screw you!  I've been running for over 24 miles!"  lol.  But I knew they were trying to be helping, motivating and encouraging and knowing that I was just feeling really grumpy at this point...haha.  Sorry Kelly!

This stretch down Michigan Avenue for the last 3 miles is probably the worst part of the marathon for me.  I ran it alone last year.  I was really glad to have help this time around.  But like all good had to come to an end.  They kick "helpers" or "bandit runners" or "ghost runners" off the course right around mile 26, when you make the turn to Roosevelt Hill.  So when I saw the 800 meter sign, I said goodbye and thanks to Kelly and Chris and headed over to the opposite side of the street to make the turn onto Roosevelt Hill.  I told myself that I only had 1/2 mile left.  This was also the first time in this entire marathon that I was running by myself (how did that happen?). 

Last year during the Chicago Marathon (my first one)...I walked a lot the last 8 miles.  This time, I only walked once!  My last goal was to run all the way up Roosevelt Hill.  I know you have heard me talk about Roosevelt Hill before (and other Chicago runners)...but it's not really a large hill.  But after running a half or full becomes exponentially larger!  And it's pretty long, which is probably why it's so rough sometimes!  And during last year's marathon, I ran up part of it and had to stop and walk up the second half (which is not what you want to do in the last 600 meters of the marathon!!).  This year I made a goal to run up the whole thing.  I would not stop and walk.  I knew I could do that anyway.  So this year...I ran up the whole thing!  Some might think that's such a weak goal but to me at mile 26, that was a good goal to have.  In fact, I had to dodge around other people walking in my way!  "Move people!!  I'm trying to finish a marathon!"  This is really what was going through my mind!  lol

The turn after running up Roosevelt Hill and the beginning of the home stretch.
And I actually sprinted to the finish!  If you know me...I do not sprint to the finish of long runs.  I feel like, "What's the point??  What will a few seconds make in the end of 2 hours, or 4+ hours?"  But this year at a few races, I have started saying, "Screw it!  I'll just sprint to the finish."  Which is what I decided to do for the marathon.  Also because during the last several miles, I knew I was nearing one of my time goals.  My time goals were to beat my PR of 4:53...with a final goal of 4:35 (10:30 pace).  However, I also said I would be pretty happy with anything under 4:45.  I knew the last several miles that 4:35 was out.  But I was well within my goal of sub 4:45.  That's one of the reasons I sprinted to the finish. I didn't really have any idea how close or far (within 5 minutes), I was to 4:45.

Sprinting "Amanda Style" to the finish line!
 And I crossed the finish line.  As I stopped running, I immediately felt my legs tightening up (as they were anytime I walked briefly though a water station the last half).  And because running a marathon for me is not an easy task (and because I knew without a doubt I PR'd), I started crying.  Um...this is starting to become a trend with me (crying at the finish, or the last mile or two of a marathon...yes, I almost started crying at mile which Kelly snapped another photo).  So I started crying but it was behind my sunglasses.  They were happy tears and tears of "This shit sucks, why do I do it?"  But immediately after crossing the finish line, I saw several of my training friends standing to the side waiting for people.  I didn't want anyone to see me crying so I hid the tears and went up and gave them a group hug.  After talking for a few minutes and finding out how everyone did, we made our way to the food area and to take the traditional "finisher photo".

I love this photo!
As we were walking through the finisher area, I looked around and we were all walking so slowly.  But it wasn't just me and my friends, it was every runner!  It was really funny looking.  Then I heard someone off to the side say, "Look at all the misery on their faces!"  Haha!

Bob and I made our way slowly back to the Congress Hotel to meet the rest of the group.  We took some more photos.  I also met up with some of my "helpers" back at the hotel.  I seriously don't know if they all know how helpful they were.  Even just seeing them would have been great!  But to run any amount with me (and to come down for me), meant a lot. 

Yankee Runners 10:00 pace group - marathon finishers!

Some of my helpers L-R: Kelly, Kathy, Me, Becky

How do I feel about this marathon. Overall, really good.  I do wish I could have gotten closer to my 4:35 goal but I PR'd and got sub 4:45 (4:44:54...guess that sprint really helped!  haha!!).  I know what I need to do to get a better time and some things I need change ... I will write more about this in another post.  My 3 main goals were accomplished: 
- I PR'd
- I had fun
- I ran up Roosevelt Hill

Even though I had not planned on "bothering" anyone to help me this time...and I had only planned on possibly running for a short time with Shelby in the beginning...I ended up running the whole thing with someone!  I ran with Shelby and Julie for the first 20.5 miles.  My helpers jumped in at 16.5 until 18.5 (Kathy & Becky), Chris jumped in from 20.5 to 25.5, and Kelly jumped in from 23-25.5.  So much for my big girl panties and running it alone!!  I wouldn't have done this any other way!  Loved not being "alone"!

I think this is by far ....enough for today's post. 

Next up...things I want to change and what's on my agenda post-marathon!


  1. Great recap and congrats on the p.r. My legs were cramping up quickly just before the Mt. Roosevelt stretch, but for some reason, I was able to make it up the entire way running as well. I guess the thought that the finish line is just around the corner was motivation!

    1. Nice job on yours too Pete!! I hate that Roosevelt Hill!! Haha!

  2. Congrats on the marathon. Great goals and great time!

  3. Congrats on hitting your goal! I think EVERYONE had to pee throughout this whole race. That is one consistent thing I am seeing in everyone's race reports. Wonder if it was the sudden cold temps ... or if we all over-hydrated.

    1. Hm...I'm not sure Maggie. I had to pee on the first one but went around mile 19. Second one I had to go a little but didn't ever go.

  4. What a great recap! Congrats on your PR! And don't feel bad-I cry a lot during races!!! :)

    1. Thanks Katie! I didn't cry during my first marathon AT ALL. But second and 3rd ones, yes! I'm getting more emotional! Haha! I did almost cry at my first 2 halves though (back in 2006/2008).

  5. Congrats on your marathon PR! I am so happy to have gotten a chance to share in the experience. You know you love my motivation and quick comments at the later miles of the marathon. They don't have the same oomph as they would early on. Also, I help you out like you've helped me out. That is what friends who are marathoners do for each other. Congrats again! And you know you LOVE my photos, tears or not :)

    1. Woot Woot!! Marathon buddies until the end! Now I owe you the favor again! Spring time!!

    2. Shhh... We don't need to talk about Spring Time yet... :P