Tag: Chicago

Fitness Swellness: Chicago Marathon 2018 race recap

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It all started with a sneeze. Then I was quickly completely congested. This all happened during the short flight to Chicago on Friday.

“It’s just the plane’s recycled air,” I told myself. I often get sniffly on planes or whenever there’s excessive air conditioning. I brushed it off, even though I continued to sniffle once I got of the plane and through the evening. I refused to acknowledge or even mention to anyone I was getting a cold. If I didn’t acknowledge it, it’d just not become a full-on cold, right? Is that not how it works?

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Saturday morning, bright and early, I met with the Nike team (Nike Canada hosted me to run the marathon), and I knew this was most certainly a cold, and I admitted to Melissa from Best Health  (for which I most recently wrote about healthy things to do in Portland) that I was coming down with something. I took it extra easy during the 5k shakeout run. And since this cold was now a real thing that I could no longer pretend was not happening, I posted it on my IG Stories, and I got a few recos (thank you!) and got some zinc lozenges and cough drops.

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I was so disappointed. Here I was on an incredible Chicago Marathon weekend with Nike and I felt like crap on the inside. I didn’t let it damper my spirits for the race and activities, though. I customized Nike slides to wear post-race, and decorated a Just Do It tote bag. I got a motto drawn onto my arm: I am stronger than I think. Even better were the panels I got to attend with Nike, including hearing Elyse Kopecki (co-author of Run Fast, Eat Slow and its sequel Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow, which I got signed — can’t wait to cook from it!), and Joan Benoit Samuelson, Amy Cragg and Jordan Hasey. So inspiring to hear these women at the top of their field share a bit about their journey and they were so encouraging, too. Plus, I got to ask Elyse about carb loading, more on that in another post.

Chicago is a city I love, and I’d planned on maybe going to one museum Saturday afternoon, but with how awful I felt I just went to my room at the Chicago Athletic Association after the brunch and panel with Nike and relaxed for several hours. Around 6 p.m. I knew I needed to fuel, so I grabbed some roasted eggplant rigatoni at the Little Beet Table. Which I hear was delicious, however I couldn’t taste a thing since I was completely congested.

RACE DAY

Sunday morning, I got up at 5 a.m. and forced myself to eat a bagel with peanut butter (I always have a hard time eating a breakfast before a morning run). And, as though my body knew it needed to perform for me that day, I was thankfully not congested. I did have a very disheartening thought, though, as I got dressed that morning. All along, I’ve been saying I don’t know if I’ll PB but I know I’ll finish the race. I’ve never suffered anything during a race that I’ve felt I couldn’t continue the race so I felt confident I’d cross that finish line. But at dawn on Sunday, I realized I’ve never run a marathon with a cold. And that it was possible I’d just be too exhausted or even just too lightheaded (I am prone to fainting) to finish, and that freaked me out. “Nope, you’ve got this. You may have to go slower, but you can finish this race,” I told myself.

With Nike, we walked across the street and made our way to the Balbo Hospitality Tent. Bag check, portapotty visit and then since I’d been assigned corral D (which sent me into a panicked tizzy on Saturday night, once I saw what the expected finish time was for corral D), headed out to get into the wave 1 start. I ended up deciding to start at the back of corral D since that’s a faster corral than what I can run.

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My goal for the race initially was to try to BQ. Then the BQ standards changed and got tougher. So I decided to try to PB. My marathon PB is 3:46, just under 3:47. So I had planned to run with the 3:45 Nike pacers. But those pacers were in a corral behind mine. So I decided I’ll just try to run even splits for a 3:45 finish; this is often my plan, however, I always go a little faster in the first half or so since I’m feeling good. But this time I told myself to rein it in.

So I did, I naturally ran a little too fast for maybe the first 8k or so but I kept telling myself to dial it back to the pace I needed to finish 3:45. And it worked, mostly. I felt like I was running pretty comfortably, and i was somewhat tired thanks to the cold but I was thanking my lucky stars that I was not completely congested.

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I was so focused on how I was feeling and my pace that I actually forgot about the weather conditions. It drizzled a bit and then became heavier on and off throughout the whole race. But I was just so happy that the actual temperature was relatively cool that I didn’t even notice when it’d stop or start raining. Keep in mind that I think my brain was a bit foggy thanks to battling a cold.

Chicago is a pretty phenomenal race thanks to how well it’s organized and the crowd support. While I love the flat route, I will admit I don’t find the views for most of the race that stunning (especially considering  how beautiful the city is!), but the so-so views are made up for with the incredible crowd support. This year, I don’t know if I’m imagining this, I think there were fewer people out cheering than in 2014 and 2017. I’m going to guess it was the wet weather. This just made me super appreciative of the people out there in the rain with their signs and claps and happy faces. I always try to smile and if I can muster out a thank you because having people there cheering provides such a huge boost. “Pain is temporary. Instagram is forever. Do it for the ‘gram!” read one sign that made me giggle.

Sometime into the second half of the race, a girl running the race tapped me on the shoulder when I slowed to grab a Gatorade and said “Good job!” And it lifted my spirits. I tried to return the cheer when I came across her at the next water station, but she was distracted getting her own water. But she ran up to me later and started chatting a bit. I think she said her name was Natalie (I think…I have the worst memory!), lives in L.A. but is from Chicago. Thank you, girl, our brief exchange lifted me out of the repetitiveness of the tough task at hand for just a moment! I had hoped we could run the rest of the race nearby one another but at this point (probably around the 25k to 30k mark) I was tiring and slowing down and I watched her disappear into the runners ahead of me.

At the halfway point, I was about 2 minutes behind a 3:45 finish, and I was fine with that. After 25k is when it all went downhill. I was feeling increasingly tired and then realized how far I’d fallen behind that target, at which point, I knew I couldn’t PB and so I just viewed the rest of the race as a long run in one of my favourite cities and did my best to enjoy everything going on around me.

When I was starting to feel down in the dumps, I thought how I’m running a goddamn marathon, and not everyone can do that. I looked at my great marathon manicure. I said aloud, “I am stronger than I think,” as I glanced at the motto on my arm. And I told myself that I may not be PBing but I’m doing this race with a cold and I’m in a freakin’ Nike Chicago Just Do It ad on Michigan Avenue and that this is my 12th marathon. 12! that’s more than I ever dreamed of ever doing when it comes to running. I never even thought I’d be a runner! And that’s a big accomplishment and just enjoy the damn thing, Karen!

And it worked. I’ve had races where I just think, “I really just need to stop running, like, now,” or thinking “why on earth do I run marathons?!” (like at Hamilton last year, my worst marathon ever) but I kept the dreary, negative thoughts out of mind. As I ran down Michigan Ave., I realized I’d be passing by my Nike billboard. It was at the corner before you turn off of Michigan and I looked for it, but it was too crowded with people cheering. but I knew it was there, and I felt proud of myself as I ran those last 500 metres across the finish line. Here I am clapping for myself as I approach the finish line, and you can see I’m weary but pretty happy and not all “Get me off my damn feet already!”

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I finished in 4:10:27. I don’t know all of my marathon times offhand but I’m going to guess that that is my second slowest marathon of the 12th I’ve now completed. That’s 17,233 out of 45,000 or so runners, 5, 514th of the women who raced, and 919th in my age group.

POST RACE

I was incredibly tight right after crossing the finish line and it took forever for me to get to the hospitality tent. I was walking so gingerly that twice volunteers went to help me as I struggled to lift my leg to get on a sidewalk (yes, a sidewalk, I struggled lifting my leg those mere six inches!). Changing out of my rain-soaked clothes was pretty funny (getting on a pair of leggings immediately after a marathon is quite a task!). I got a small bite to eat, drank my Goose Island Brewery beer and was delighted when Sir Mo came to share a few words at our tent. After he spoke, I gathered my things and made my way to my Nike billboard to get a post-race photo.

I asked a family cheering at the race if they’d take my pic with the ad. They did and offered to take more when they saw me studying the pic. I accepted since my eyes were closed in the first photo. “That’s me!” I shared. They were so surprised and happy for me, that they gave me extra congrats, and even took a pic of me with their own camera.

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From there, I slowly walked back to the Chicago Athletic Association to shower before going to Au Cheval for a burger, and in my room was an incredible gift from Nike: Nike React Element 87s, an Apple Watch and the best part, a personalized bottle of Veuve Cliquot, congratulating me on the marathon, with a spot to jot in my marathon time. I’m copying fellow marathoner that day Brooke from Shape magazine and only opening it when I BQ. Champagne only lasts about 3-5 years so I’ve got a deadline to qualify! Can’t let that champagne go to waste!

After Au Cheval, I met with the Nike crew for rooftop drinks and bites at Cindy’s at the hotel, and then we headed out to the 3RUN2 post-marathon dance party, where I found the energy to dance the night away. So what if I had a flight in the morning, it was time to celebrate!

Thank you to Nike for an unforgettable weekend. Thank you to Nike Run Coach Brittany Moran for the training program and for answering all my questions over these last three months. Thank you to everyone who’s shared congrats and cheers along the way. Running has long had its ups and downs for me, and this summer had me seriously questioning whether marathoning is something I should continue, particularly during those summer training days I was drenched in sweat. But this experience and the notion that I’ve maybe helped someone think that they should try running themselves or that they should try training for a marathon or to run Chicago (do it!), it’s renewed my passion for the sport.

It’ll probably always be a love/hate relationship with running for me, but right now. it’s all love.

 

 

1 Comment October 11, 2018

Beauty Swellness: 2018 Chicago Marathon manicure

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I’m running the Chicago Marathon again (I ran it in 2014 and 2017) and you know what that means? Time to get my marathon manicure! It’s been a ritual of mine for some years now to get some great nail art before a big race.

Although I usually go with something inspired by looks on the fashion runway (I got this manicure for the 2014 Chicago Marathon) or a nail look I’ve seen online, this time around I went with a look that’s more directly inspired by the race.

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Since I trained for this marathon with Nike Canada with Nike Run Coach Brittany Moran, I asked Tips Nail Bar to use the colours of the Nike Pegasus Zoom Turbo, and for a swoosh across the fingers of my left hand, such that with my fingers extended, the nail art looks abstract, but bring the fingers together and they create the Nike Swoosh. On the thumb, and on my entire right hand, an array of stars — the inspo for this is the four stars on the Chicago flag. (I’ll replace these detail pics with better photos once I have more time; busy packing and getting to bed early for Chicago right now!)

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(The colours Leeanne Colley and Naomi Misu used are CND Shellac Mint Convertible, and Accent Gel Play in Hot Pink layered with Artistic Color Gloss in Owned).

I love the look — the minty green with the vivid coral is bananas and it’ll be a nice reminder during the race that no matter what time I cross the finish line with that all I can ask for is that I reach for the stars. And believe me, I have plenty of time during a marathon and most definitely do notice my nails as I make my way through 42.2 kilometres! But I’ll also be thinking about the things I learned training this season and hopefully all of the brutally hard work this summer will pay off.

 

Leave a Comment October 4, 2018

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:

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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…

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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

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