Tag: chicago marathon

Fitness Swellness: Chicago Marathon 2017 race report

 

Chicago Marathon 2017 post race party

“Do you really want to run another marathon in a month? NO. So keep up this damn pace, Karen.”

 On Sunday, I ran the Chicago Marathon. It was my tenth marathon and this was what I asked myself a few times around the middle of the race. I’d been toying with idea running another marathon in early November if Chicago didn’t go well.

The last time I ran a marathon was two years ago in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2015. It is the longest break I’ve taken between marathons. Prior to that, since starting racing that distance, I’d done two a year (and one year I ran three).

Because of this longer than usual break between fulls, I wasn’t quite sure how my race would go. This time I changed my training a bit. I ran more frequently: typically five times a week versus my usual three times a week (mostly it was the addition of two runs either at a recovery pace or easy pace). I also did a few random workouts other than running, such as hip hop dance class, yoga and Spinning.

I was pretty diligent with my five runs a week, and got all my hill training done but faltered a bit once it came time to focus on speed training. Speed training is my least favourite, plus I had a few road trips that distracted me. And then about three weeks before race day, I caught a cold, which put me out of commission for more than a week. So I missed my 23k long run, and all of the other training that would’ve happened in that 10 days. All of which made me fret about not being prepared for the race.

 Chicago Marathon 2017 starting chute

I’ve run Chicago once before and it remains my marathon PB. And even though I’d run it before, I recall very little of the race, other than there being so many great spectators, and that the route is flat.

I ate more carbs than usual for the week prior to the race. And worried about the weather forecast, checking it once a day starting two weeks prior and working up to checking it multiple times a day.

Having registered so many months before, I don’t recall entering an estimated finish time or a past marathon time, but somehow I ended up in corral D (aka a 3:40 marathon), so either I was ambitious or they based it on my 2014 Chicago Marathon time.

And so Sunday race day finally arrives:

IMG_0596

Race day morning, we didn’t budget enough time to get into the race area, check a bag, and use the portapotty so ended up having to race to our corral, which we got into right before they closed it off at 7:20 a.m. There was time for a quick photo, though, and that beautiful glow to the buildings behind us is due to the beautiful sunrise glow.

I had printed a pace band for 3:45 in kilometres, and also put on the Nike pace band in miles for the same time. I would have many technical difficulties that day, though. My Apple Watch did not have the NRC app because I’d had to reset it a couple of weeks prior and I had issues redownloading the app, so I had prepared to use the app on my phone; however,  I did use the stopwatch on it so that I could check my time at each mile marker and compare to my pace tattoo. Also, I usually listen to Google Play Music when I run, and I had issues getting a phone signal for the first few k.

My music app did work when I tried it again a few kilometres into the race but it just stopped playing music around the halfway point. The NRC app on my phone also stopped alerting me of my distance and pace. Also, I must accidentally hit something on my stopwatch on my Apple Watch as it started timing laps and I didn’t know how to get out of that mode. So from about the halfway point to the finish, I had no clue what pace I was doing. So many technical difficulties! On top of that, I could feel a blister starting on my left big and second toe (and I rarely get blisters) and on my right foot, I felt like I could feel the plate inside the sole (that makes the shoe similar to a track spike — I blogged about the shoes on iRun). It made me wonder if I hadn’t tried out the Zoom Fly shoes enough before doing this race. I’d only had them a few weeks and missed some runs due to that cold…

 Chicago Marathon 2017 selfie

The first 27k or so went really well, though! My pace was quick and I was anywhere from two to three minutes ahead of the 3:45 goal time. I wasn’t sure if I could maintain that pace but I figured I had to try.

“This is your race to lose, so just don’t, you got this,” I told myself, when I could tell my strength (both physically and mentally) started to falter.

After about 27k, as it got later into the morning, it got very hot and sunny. My legs were feeling tired and I grabbed Gatorade at each station (I had been relying on the Gatorade I had with me — I used a fuel belt), while also splashing myself with water to cool down. I watched those few minutes I’d banked slip away from me. And then I could tell I wasn’t even going to PB, but I had no idea by how much time I was losing given my technical difficulties with my phone and my watch.

On the bright side, I never experienced that feeling of not wanting to go on (in past races, I’ve often felt like it was just crawling by). I focused on just trucking on through and watched as each mile marker announced I was closer and closer to the finish. In that way, the race went by nice and quickly for me.

The race attracts runners from more than 100 countries. And the sidelines are packed full pretty much the entire race. I watched runners stop to hug members of their family. And was boosted by the exuberant spectators with the cheers: the group of women cheering, “You got it, you got it, you got it, let’s go!” The signs with creative messages like “Run like millennials do from commitment!” and “Run like you forgot to turn off the frijoles!” and more than a few making fun of Trump.

Chicago Marathon 2017 medal

 

As for the route, I’m not super familiar with Chicago and I know the race goes through more than two dozen neighbourhoods, but I don’t feel the route is that scenic. To me, it all melds together as non-descript streets, other than one leafy residential area (I believe it was Lincoln Park) and of course, the skyscrapers of the downtown portions. It’s the spectators and that made certain parts of the route stand out. The huge Mexican contingent cheering and running was amazing, and there were people handing out paletas to runners. There were also at least two spots where people handed out beer, and one station with Jello shots. The cheerers, they make this one great race. And the post-race party afterwards was just fun, with live music and there was a free beer you picked up in the finish chute area, plus another free Goose Island beer (there was a ticket attached to the bib) at the post-race party. Everyone hung around in the sunshine and celebrated their accomplishment. I loved watching runners and family find each other and there were big hugs and joy all around.

Chicago Marathon Goose Island beer

So how’d I do???

I finished at 3:55:07, and given the hot conditions, I’m happy enough with that. I know a few runners who had bad races, and a few with great races. It’s my second fastest marathon, and I placed 9,407 out of 44,472 runners, and 2,637 out of 21.476 women, and 414 out of 3,543 in my category.

Chicago Marathon 2017 at Cloud Gate

After the race, and on Monday, there were loads of runners wearing their medals and/or race t-shirt, and we would congratulate each other, there was a beautiful friendly vibe that I somehow forgot about from the race in 2014.

And now what? Well, I have to decide if I will run another marathon this fall… (gulp).

 

Leave a Comment October 13, 2017

Fitness Swellness: Chicago Marathon 2014 race report

at the race expo

“I got this.”

This is what I told myself as I started the Chicago Marathon on Sunday and throughout the race.

And whaddyaknow? I killed it.

I don’t mean to sound too boastful…although I am proud. To be honest, even three days after running the race, I’m still rather stunned over how this race played out.

As I mentioned earlier, training was going quite well up until about a month and a half ago. I was often doing an additional fourth short training run, I’d incorporated a tiny bit more crosstraining (by regularly attending NTC classes once a week). Then a few curveballs threw me for a loop, and while I continued with three runs per week, my heart wasn’t into the race anymore and my focus was off and I even found myself regretting having registered for this destination race…

I became more and more anxious. And even in good times, my sleeping habits are poor; now, being stressed out, I lost a ton of zzz’s. I got a prescription for sleeping pills, but was wary of trying them and then didn’t want to be experimenting with them so close to the race.

With my growing anxiety came a growing need to do really, really well in the Chicago Marathon. With a lot going on in my life that I felt I had little control over, I needed something to feel strong and good about, so I became fixated on running a personal best. I felt it was something I could control and be in charge of.

Could I have chosen something I could have even less control of?? So many minute factors have to be aligned to have a great race. From the weather, to my stomach/appetite, the other runners, etc. etc. So even though my rational self knew I’d chosen a silly thing to feel in control of, I couldn’t help it. Friends I spoke to and interviews with running coaches kept stressing that all you can do is your best at that given time in a race. And yet, still, all I could think was “PB or die.”

I tried to remind myself of that but still remained a big ball of stress leading up to race day. Given that I’d also traveled to Chicago four days before the race, I was eating foods I was unfamiliar with, and drinking a decent amount, and walking probably more than I should’ve. All things not conducive to running a great race.

my pace band

I’d printed a pace band for what I thought was the best I could run: 3:57. That is two minutes faster than my personal best of 3:59 in Philadelphia last fall. This works out to a 5:37 min/km pace.

The morning of the race, I could tell conditions were going to be ideal in terms of the weather. Blue skies, and 9C at the race start, warming to about 15C by midday. I was buoyed by the happy and excited runners at the race start and just tried to focus on running my best race.

I have a habit of starting out too fast, so I’d  promised myself to try my best to stick to my 5:37 pace dictated by my pace band. So I took it easy for the first few kilometres…and then I realized I was actually slower than my pace band. Doh! So I focused on speeding up a bit. I also decided (a bit on a whim) to run steady (without a one-minute walk break) for at least the first 15k or so.

And, then, as I often do in races, I broke the rules I’d set for myself. I was feeling good, and didn’t feel I needed the walk breaks just yet, and had settled into a 5:21 pace, which was very comfortable, so I just decided to keep going as is.

As it got further into the race, I realized taking a walk break at that point might be tough–stopping to walk would allow me to realize how my legs were feeling tight, so I made the decision to keep going as long as I could into the race without a walk break.

I remember being about three minutes ahead in terms of total time. Then it grew to seven minutes, then nine minutes. But even up until about 25k, I fully expected to crash and burn for the last part of the race. Like when I ran the Goodlife Toronto Marathon in the spring–I was strong and too fast for the first half, and then slowed down a lot for the second half of the race.

But in Chicago, I forget what point of the race I was in but I saw that I was a solid 10 minutes ahead of my pace band. I remember triple checking the numbers as I was so stunned. This was also when I realized that my finish time would be verrrrry close to what I need to qualify for Boston, and I was shocked. I already knew that no matter what I would have a personal best, but a time close to my BQ qualifying time was blowing my mind.

The crowd support and entertainment along the Chicago route is phenomenal. There were very few spots without a steady stream of people cheering. A sign with Grumpy Cat saying “I tried running once. It was horrible,” made me laugh, as did the one of Justin Timberlake.

In a less charming, more desolate part of the route, I followed a tip I’d read in Runner’s World about dedicating each mile to someone. So I thought of everyone who’d ever wished me good luck in a race, or liked my Instagrams of running; of my good friend who’d traveled with me to Chicago, who’d helped distract me from driving myself crazy about the race, made sure we weren’t doing too many tiring activities, hunted down some carbs for me to eat for breakfast; of friends at home who I knew were cheering me on and who’d dealt with my stress-y texts in the weeks before the race; of my running partner who did nearly all of my training with me, and who I knew wished she could’ve been in Chicago to run me in, so I envisioned her beside me; and I thought about how lucky I was to be able to run and take part in this race.

As I crossed the finish line, I was beyond thrilled as I knew I’d likely run sub 3:47. And sure enough, my running buddy had already texted me congrats and told me how proud she was of me. I couldn’t log onto get my finish time, so she texted me:

3:46:51

Which places me 384 out of 2,953 women in my division; and 2,082 out of the 18,389 women who ran that day.

post Chicago Marathon

Everything, from the mostly flat route and fun spectators, to the weather and my mindset must’ve all aligned Sunday. And I ran my best marathon so far.

Now, onto a bit more recovery, before tackling the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon in San Francisco this Sunday. FOUR days from now! Let’s do this.

 

1 Comment October 15, 2014

Fitness Swellness: Countdown to the Chicago Marathon and Nike Women’s San Fran Half-marathon

long training run by Sugar Beach, Sept 2014

Wake up on my own, well rested and then I enjoy a satisfied yawn as I stretch. Ahh…Then spring out of bed and go out into the glorious weather and enjoy the fresh air as I run, run, run carefree and like it’s the easiest thing in the world for me. Get home and shower, and eat something yummy. Eventually sit down at the computer and write…

This is how a friend of mine told me she envisions my days. It made me giggle, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s usually more like: Get jarred out of sleep by my alarm and resist crawling out of bed until I feel too guilty to still be in bed. Then fret and put off my run most of the day. And why’s that?

Because I don’t love running. And it doesn’t come easy to me. I know. Most everyone assumes I love it. I don’t. What I do I get from running is a sense of accomplishment and I am motivated to continue running as my main fitness regimen as I’m driven by competing against myself, but it does not bring me the immense joy I know it brings some runners. It never has.

And now, with less than three weeks until my fall races–I run the Chicago Marathon on October 12th and the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon in San Francisco on October 19th, it’s go-time, and I’m struggling more than I have in ages.

A little update on my training: Ever since I ran my first marathon in 2012, I’ve been running one each fall and spring season (with the exception of last fall when I ran two marathons one month apart). Every year, I run the race, take a few weeks off and then start the four-month program from the beginning again to run the following season’s marathon.

It can be a grind, but for the most part, it’s so much a part of my routine now; it’s like I’m on auto-pilot. I practically know the four-month training program off my heart.

This year, I decided to enter the lottery to run the Chicago Marathon as the Windy City is one of my favourite cities and I was in need of a fall goal race. I got a spot through the lottery, yay! And one of my good friends is now joining me so we can take in the art, eat amazing food and frolick together, double yay! This will make the Chicago Marathon my seventh marathon. And then the opportunity came up through Nike Canada to run the Nike Women’s Half in San Fran and I couldn’t turn that down (triple yay!), even though the race is one week after the Chicago Marathon. I’m trying to consider the Nike San Fran half as one I’ll do for fun (although when it comes down to it, I know my competitive side will want to PB).

I’ve been lucky enough to train with my running buddy for most of these 3.5 months; she is a similar pace, and somehow she doesn’t mind doing nearly all of the training, even though she is not registered for a race. Her motivations are different than mine when it comes to running. I need to have that goal race.

I’ve been very consistent with my training. I’ve even added the occasional 4th run a week here and there (I usually can manage only three runs a week — remember? I don’t love it!), and I’ve been attending Nike Training Club classes on a weekly basis, and have noticed a difference in my strength. My pace and endurance seems similar to me, but my running partner says I’m faster.

The last few weeks, though, have been difficult. Life has thrown a few curve balls, and I’ve been distracted and stressed, my focus is not on that finish line in Chicago. Getting proper sleep, hydration and fuel has gone out the window. The one thing I have been able to maintain is fitting in my training runs consistently, and that’s even with the travel that has kept me busy. And this I consider nothing short of a miracle since all I feel like doing is curling up in bed. I guess if there’s one thing I am it’s diligent when it comes to sticking to the actual runs that my training calls for. Some days, the running helps to clear my mind and relieve some anxiety, and some days it doesn’t help at all.

With 17 days to go until the Chicago Marathon, I’m uncertain if a personal best is within reach. As I spend the next couple of weeks tapering, I know I will be agonizing over what my body can achieve, but more so what my mind is capable of on October 12th.

On the bright side, this weekend, I travel with my #werunSF Nike run crew to New York City for a training run in Central Park, so maybe this can help me feel more motivated, race-ready and focused. Follow me on Instagram (I’m @healthandswellness) for updates from the Big Apple.

17 days until the Chicago Marathon…

24 days until the Nike Women’s San Francisco Half-Marathon…

 

Leave a Comment September 25, 2014


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