Saturday, October 18, 2008

Friday Evening: I leave work feeling tired and stuffy. Proceed to come home, take a short nap. I took a quick trip over to the gym to complete 30 minutes of light cardio. Arrive home, shower, plant myself on the couch. The sneezing and nose blowing begins. Jon was kind enough to make dinner, pasta of course! We watched half of a movie and went to bed early (this is a major indication of when I am not feeling well, I don't go to bed early!) At this point, I had begun to dread what the 26.2 miles might be like.

Saturday: Although I had every intention of rising early and taking a quick jog to remind my body it would be running very early the next day, that didn't happen. After a relaxing late morning and afternoon at home, Jon and I took Peter out for a run/walk. Only 20 minutes or so- this is what all the training plans recommend- we aren't crazy. After that, I felt depleted. Not a good sign. I start to worry.

We head to the marathon expo at McCormick Place. I sleep the whole way there, I feel sick. The parking for the west entrance was full, so we had to pay full price to park on the opposite side and walk all the way through McCormick Place. Side note: we only went through about a quarter of it, but that place is HUGE! I guess I had never wandered around much in there before. Anyway, now is when I really start feeling bad. I felt dizzy and nauseous. I didn't want to stop moving though- I just wanted to get in, get my packet, and go. As we approached the expo my stomach began to turn. Laughter. I began laughing as I usually do when feelings just don't make sense. Jon asked, "Ok, what is so funny?" I reply, "I feel awful! I shouldn't be feeling this way before a marathon, this is not good."

We make our way through the expo with me holding onto Jon's arm. It was very crowded and there was a lot of activity going on! Conveniently, you have to walk through all the vendors booths before you can claim your packet. We made it. Got the big red shoulder bag/back pack made of plastic. After a few Gatorade samples, we made it out. I began to feel a little better on the way out.

By the time we made it to the car, I was still feeling spacey and loopy, but a little better. I call my Mom back, she had called at least 3 times to see how I was feeling. I got the speech again from Mom and Dad, "This isn't something you have to do. Don't push yourself. If you can't finish it is OK. If you can even accomplish 1/2 again that will be awesome. Most people can't do that, and most people aren't even able to train for a marathon." I tell them I know, but that it would be very frustrating not to finish. I then proceed to talk to my Mom and tell her, I am just really nervous because I know I didn't train like I should have and I feel like I set myself up for failure (light bulb goes on....hmm, is this "sickness" maybe psychological??) After finally dealing with the reality that I was extremely nervous to run this race, I began to feel better. Not totally better, I was still afraid of failure and not accomplishing my goal.

By this time, it is about 6:00 p.m. That is when the real defense mechanisms started to set in. I knew I was going to get up and run this race, and try my best, but I couldn't think about it. I began to feel better. Yup, the butterflies and dizziness were definitely psychologically induced. After a quick search through the pantry in attempt to scrounge up our pre-marathon dinner, I decided a trip to Trader Joes was in order. Now, I am really feeling much more like myself.

8:45 p.m. dinner is ready. This is actually normal dinner time for us, I know- we belong in Europe! Pasta again. We eat while enjoying the last half of our movie, which runs longer than we thought it would. 9:30 rolls around, we pause the movie to put away our dishes and Jon proceeds to go into pre-race mode. For him this meant laying out his clothes, gathering his other gear, making sure the coffee brewer was set, lining up some vitamins and Advil on the counter, and going to bed. Very cute, very logical, this man knows how to prepare for events! What did I do? I had a glass of wine and watched the rest of the movie :) I knew I wouldn't be able to go to bed.

11:00 p.m. I went to bed. I had to take 1/2 a Tylenol p.m. at 1:00 a.m., but I slept!

5:45 a.m. Jon arises and is ready to go! He walks Peter, he eats, he is chipper.

6:15 a.m. Jon attempts to wake me up. Not happening yet.

6:30 a.m. I know that the "5 more minutes" window has passed, so I get up. I throw on my running clothes, some sweat pants, toast a bagel, and I am ready to go. That is how I work :) I did gather a few things such as band aids, Advil, and power bars the night before to have with me when I run, so I wasn't totally in denial.

I was very quiet on the entire car ride down, and I my stomach did not feel well. Panic had made its way back into my system.

7:00 a.m. We arrive downtown to find the streets are already starting to close and we missed the chance to park in the designated marathon garages. Opps. We find a garage several blocks up from Millennium park and quickly trot towards the race entrance. It was our warm up. Which was actually perfect. I had tried telling Jon before that you don't really "warm up" for marathons. You can just consider the first 3 miles your warm up, and then you can stop to stretch and keep running the rest of the 23 miles. So I was glad we avoided that argument- one way to put a positive spin on running late.

Wow, it was crowded. After pushing our way through to the gear check and using the port a pottties (material for a whole other post....eww, they were somethin else!), it was time to jump into the start corral.

Pace groups were spread out in 15 minute increments from a 5 hour 45 minute finish up to around a 3 hour finish. We were able to weave our way through the crowd up to the 5 hour pace group. At this point, it was about 7:55 a.m. The crowd was solid and we weren't getting any further.

8:00 a.m. I guess the start gun went off. We were too far back. We heard nothing.

8:10 a.m We take a few steps.

8:20 a.m. Finally begin walking.

8:30 a.m. We are able to pick up a slow jog and finally cross the start line!

I was running a marathon. Crazy. Don't worry, I am not going to describe every ten minutes, nor every mile, in detail. However, one of my hallmark memories occurred before mile 1. As we crossed under the major bridge/overpass by Columbus and Wacker the wall was lined with men who had decided to uhh... how do I put it, take a leak :) I am not sure if this is some sort of marathon ritual, or if that many men really had to pee before even reaching mile 1. The wall was already covered and the wall continued to be consistently lined by men who hopped up to take care of business. There were some police nearby who just laughed.

Miles 1,2,3 I was still pretty subdued. I was not so excited. Not feeling great. Jon, on the other hand, was in great spirits. I pretended not to appreciate his loud enthusiasm, but inside I was grateful for the distraction and optimism.

It is true, the crowds for the Chicago Marathon are amazing. Indescribable. Signs, music, costumes, performances, the whole way through.

Mile 3: I think we were in Lincoln Park..... there was a women standing on the median with a large cow bell and had the whole crowd going along with the cheer "Let's Go!"after each round of clangs on her bell. It was around that point, I turned to Jon and said, "I'm OK now. I can do this! We are running this marathon. I feel fine!"

Mile 5: Jon's foot starts to hurt and the sun is beginning to get quite bright! We walked for about 1 minute and he stretched a little bit. We kept going.

Mile 6: I see a girl on the sidelines cheering who I ran cross country with in high school. Haven't seen her since high school. I yelled out her name as we were running, and she actually heard me and saw me! She was quite surprised and very excited, so that was a fun little pick me up.

Mile 7: Jon's enthusiasm is now gone, but my spirits are up. I turn into the encouraging one.

Mile 8: The group of men in very short shorts who are performing a baton twirling routine alerts us that we are entering boystown.

This neighborhood was so fun to run through! The energy was high and the music was blaring. I believe the band members were all drag queens. I try and tell Jon to keep looking up to see the sights and focus on his surroundings-it will keep him entertained through the next mile.

Around Mile 9: Jon said he needed to walk. I asked if I could keep going. He told me to go, but try to stay to the left as we had discussed. I said ,"I love you hunny, you're doing great!" and I kept going. I stayed to the left and tried to slow my pace a bit.

Mile 10: I stopped for a minute at the aid station, hoping I would find Jon. I searched the crowds, no luck. I kept going.

Mile 11: I almost ran past our friends Nate and Richelle who were standing up on a bench with signs for us. Thankfully, Nate yelled as I was passing them, and I turned around and went to say hi. I stopped for a quick chat and to look for Jon again. After snapping a photo and thanking them, I continued forward.

Mile 12: I am now sure I am going to finish this race. I was getting more competitive with myself and wanted to try and beat my last 1/2 marathon time, so I sped up. It only took me a few minutes to remember that was probably a bad idea. It wasn't worth looking like a rock start at the half way point if it was going to hurt me later on.

Mile 13: Half way. I think I am running too slow because it has been 2 hours and 10 minutes. (I ran my last half in 2 hours) Again, I remind myself that this is not a 1/2 marathon and seeing as I hadn't trained properly for a full one, my goal was just to run the whole thing.

After this point, honestly it gets kind of blurry. I was in go mode. I don't remember a lot about the course. A few things that do stick out between mile 13 and mile 19:

It was getting hot.
My legs hurt.
Several runners stopped at a Subway along the route and bought sandwiches, I found this to be very funny.
There was a women who had three large dogs dressed up in too toos.
They had raised the warning level to RED (Level 3 out of 4) due to the heat.

Mile 20: Pilsen Neighborhood- Awesome! This neighborhood was oozing with community. Everyone was out there cheering. There were Salsa dancers, mariachi bands, and more. Many families were handing out snacks and water to runners.

Mile 21: China Town. I am beginning to feel tired and hurting pretty bad, but I know my family might be cheering for me in Chinatown. They can't see me walking!! I have to keep running since I haven't stopped so far!! The crowds were massive in Chinatown. As I turned the corner, there was a Chinese Dragon and live music. I searched the crowds for my family, looking for my Grandma's trademark grey afro which is easy to spot. No luck. As I got towards the end of Chinatown, but good friend Kristel spotted me. She was right on the sideline and she jumped into the crowd and began running with me... in her jeans and flip flops! She had forgotten I was running and was actually looking for someone else. This provided a great boost of energy and inspiration. I was struck by how encouraging it was to see a familiar face at that point. I never did see my parents, so I figured they must've already headed to the finish line.

Mile 23: I am hot, in pain, and tired. I am now making a conscious effort to stop at every aid station and drink Gatorade and water. Even though my appetite wasn't there, I ate a banana. I also look for every chance I can to run by the spectators spraying people with hoses or handing out snacks.

Mile 24: Only 2 miles left. I am soaked. I have been pouring water on myself every chance I get in effort to keep cool. I was almost too wet! My legs and feet HURT. I keep going and I am looking forward to finishing.

Mile 25: Please stop spraying me!! By this point, they had opened up hydrants and were making sure everyone on the course was cool. There were a few points where there was no option not to get wet. I walk for about 30 seconds in order to make sure I can run through the last mile.

The last mile felt very long. I couldn't wait to see that finish sign. I tried to keep an eye out for my family, and maybe for Jon. I wasn't sure if he had to stop due and thought maybe he would've taken a bus back to the finish.

The adrenaline kicks in and realize I am running the last 1/2 mile of a marathon. I am filled with emotion and disbelief. I look for my family. I pick up my pace and have a strong stride. I see the finish and I run as fast as my sore little body can go. Passing people is the goal at this point. I do. And then- I finish! I wasn't thinking about posing for the finish camera like everyone else, I was serious......

The clock said 4:57. My watch said 4 hours and 25 minutes, which would be about right if you calculate in the 30 minutes it took us to cross the finish line.

Immediately after, I felt weak and it felt hard to walk. I kept moving forward through the masses to get my shoe chip clipped. A finisher medal was placed around my neck by a man who said, "Great Job!" I want food and water....

I make it out of the finish section and head to gear check where Jon and I are supposed to meet. He wasn't there. At this point, I start thinking- this is no fun, I just finished and I ran the whole thing and I am all by myself!! I finally get my phone to work and call my parents. They were still in China town!! They couldn't believe I had finished and apparently the runner notification messages weren't working so well. My Dad was shocked and I heard my Mom saying, "How does she sound, is she OK?" My Dad was laughing and said, "She sounds fine! She is fine, she's done!"

To sum up afterwards, it was crazy and crowded! I didn't know what to do about Jon as he still wasn't at our meeting place and no one had notification of where he was at. Almost an hour had past since I finished. I tried not to worry and figured that he must of made it close to the end and then needed to take a bus back which was why it was taking so long. I just stayed put and waited for whoever would make it to meet me first- him or my family.

Finally, I spotted him at the Gear Check on the opposite side of the tent. He had just finished! I couldn't get to him so I yelled and we each made our way to the end of the tent. I was so happy to see him and so proud of him! I couldn't believe he had it in him to finish. Jon is athletic, but not really a runner, and had been having trouble training due to various ways his body wasn't responding well to running over 10 miles. He was pretty exhausted and in pain and extremely relieved to have it all over with! I am not sure I would've kept going if I were in his shoes, it must've been horrible! But he did it!

The timing of these races is always sort of weird, but my official time according to results was 4:34. I was 13,509 out of 31,401 finishers. I am happy with that, considering I was freaking out the day before and hadn't run more that 16 miles before this! However, I already have this crazy idea in my head that maybe if I actually trained, I could do a lot better and maybe I need to do another one.........

Maybe not. How bout 1/2 marathons?

SO that is my long recount of the marathon. If you read the whole thing, you must really love me or just be a running dork like me! I will write more about what all this meant to me, but for now- I will leave it at this- One week ago we both finished a marathon- woo hoo!


Melissa said...

I guess I really love you because I read the whole thing. :) And the whole time I was thinking, BOO!!! I can't believe I couldn't be there to cheer you on. :( Congratulations, friends, I'm so proud of you both!!!

Pam said...

I must really love you too, because I read the entire thing. I actually loved your "play by play"account of what happened!

Mama Blogger said...

WOW--I can't believe you remembered the whole thing, mile by mile. You are amazing. Thanks for taking us with you on your journey!

andrea said...

Loved reading about your mile by mile are awesome!! We are so proud of you both and wish we could have been there to cheer you on!

Love you!

Audrey said...

I loved reading your marathon experience! The Chicago crowd is so exhilarating, isn't it? I'm amazed that even though you were sick, you pushed yourself to run the entire race. I think that's my goal for next time - not to wear myself out in the first 18 miles, so I can run the whole course.

And yes, I would definitely recommend the Nike Women's Marathon! Although, I'd like to give Chicago a shot again....