Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chuck Norris never ran the Chicago Marathon

I did not make 5 hours. It wasn’t for lack of trying, it just wasn’t in the cards. Which is kind of a bummer. But then I realize that I DID PR by 8 minutes, which is certainly nothing to be bummed about. Actually, it’s really kind of hard to be bummed about much of anything when you think “hey, I just finished a marathon!” I really hate people that get so competitive with themselves or other people that if they don’t meet a goal, they act like the whole experience was a waste of time. Because it’s never a waste of time.

So anyway, we rolled in to Chi-town Friday evening. We were staying with some friends up in Glencoe, which was really convenient and nice not having to pay for a hotel downtown. Friday night was pretty low key for me, Dan and his friend Heath on the other hand were up until 3 playing Golden Tee and doing shots of Patron. I was woken up around 5:30 by Dan sleepwalking, throwing a pillow at me and trying to find the bathroom, and he was still drunk when I got up at 8:30. I’ll cut him some slack though since Friday WAS his birthday. I’d need to drown my sorrows in Patron too if I were turning 39. Haha! Almost 40 :)

Saturday we watched the KU game and then drove downtown to packet pickup. I have never seen such a huge setup for a race expo before, it was crazy! We caught the tail end of it though, so I didn’t have to stand in line or fight any crowds, which was nice. Saturday night was another low key night, just dinner in and then early bed time for me.

The thing I had the most trouble with in getting ready for this race was deciding what to wear. It was COLD. Not chilly, as in its 50 degrees out, cold as in its 30 degrees and people are wearing winter coats. Luckily I brought a pretty wide assortment of clothing options. What I ended up going with was a short sleeve shirt, and 3 long sleeved layers on top of it. Then I wore some old pants over my running shorts, along with a head band and gloves. I had planned to wear my pants right up until I crossed the start line, but ended up taking them off before I even got into the starting corral because my top layers were keeping me warm enough.

Once I made my way into the starting corral, I positioned myself behind the 11:00 min/mile sign. I talked to a guy from Lawrence who was wearing a Turkey Trot shirt from a few years ago, as well as a whole bunch of other people standing around. We were so far back, we couldn’t even see the starting line. When the gun went off, it was like a clothes hamper had exploded. People started throwing shirts and jackets and pants everywhere! Dan was standing along the side somewhere, and a pair of pants in my size actually landed on him, so he stuffed them in his backpack for me. Ha! It took a while for us to start moving, and once we did it was lots of “walk a few steps, stop, walk a few steps, stop”. I had expected that with a race this big, so it was fine. There was so much clothing on the ground though, and NICE stuff. Adidas and Nike technical jackets, pants, etc. Looking at my results, it took me about 17 minutes to reach the start line, which really isn’t bad at all.

After I got going, it was just one huge mass of humanity. I normally really hate crowds, and it was definitely crowded, but not so bad that you had no room to move or people were constantly bumping into you. So it was actually really enjoyable. Almost right away we went through an underpass that was over a block long, so my Garmin lost reception for a couple minutes and threw off my readings for the rest of the race. Oh well.

The first several miles were all through the streets of downtown, and they were just PACKED with spectators. It was so cool, I’ve never experienced anything like it. This whole way, people were still shedding clothes left and right. After about the first mile or two, I started getting warm and decided to take off my top 2 layers. Let me tell you, the homeless people in Chicago cleaned up on Sunday. There were so many clothes being tossed aside, I guarantee they all are being put to good use.
The first few miles ticked by so fast, but I was making sure to stay on my target pace and not speed up with all of the adrenaline. It was hard to do, because it was all so exciting! Another funny thing while we were in the middle of downtown, I have never seen so many guys pulling off and taking a piss on the side of the course! Every alley we passed was lined with guys peeing on the side of buildings. Oh, to have it so easy.

I hit the 5K point in 36 minutes, which was just about right for my target pace. I was feeling great, the weather was perfect for running, there were tons of spectators, and I was trying to just soak it all in. I hit the 10K point at 1:12, which again was just about right for me. We headed north through Lincoln Park, then turned west for a couple of blocks before heading back south. Now, I love Chicago, but I don’t know too much about the specific neighborhoods though. But this was most definitely the gay neighborhood because there were tons of tranny and cross-dressing cheering sections. Ha! I loved it! You don’t get that everywhere!

I was still chugging along, feeling great. Hit 15K at 1:47 and 20K at 2:22. Right around that 20K mark Dan spotted me and yelled my name, and I managed to see him for a second as I ran by. I think I was in the middle of eating a pouch of sport beans at the moment. We turned west right before we hit the halfway point, and I about died when I heard what song was playing as I came up on it. They had some huge speakers set up right by the 13.1 mile clock, and they were playing….the Nebraska tunnel walk song! I know Nebraska isn’t the only team that uses it, but talk about motivational!

The part of the course where we headed west was probably the most boring and had the fewest spectators, but the streets were still lined with people. They just weren’t necessarily 10 deep like they were when we were downtown. Whenever we made a turn and headed back towards downtown, I kept my eye on the Sears Tower (I know it’s not technically called that anymore) to try and judge how far out we were. Right about here is when it started feeling like I had a LONG way left to go. Up until this point I had been doing really well with only walking through the aid stations long enough to drink, but I was starting to take longer walk breaks. I was still feeling OK, but my knees and hips were getting really tight.

I hit 30K at 3:40, and according to the text update that Courtney got, I was still on pace to finish in 5:10. That’s when things went downhill. And looking at the course map now, I can almost pinpoint exactly where things started getting really painful.

A few weeks ago, I had been talking with some people during a Saturday run about how marathons are so hard because they are mentally tough, and they don’t really HURT, they are just uncomfortable, but that you start thinking that it WILL hurt and that’s when things get bad. I had been telling myself the whole race that that was the case, it wasn’t going to hurt, it might be uncomfortable, but it was nothing that was going to kill me. Well let me tell you right now, that is just a lie that runners tell themselves in order to get to the starting line of another marathon. Because that shit HURTS! I have a pretty high pain tolerance, and I was hurting. Bad.

My knee was getting really painful, but almost the worst part was my groin muscles were getting really tight, which was making my whole torso hurt. My abs still hurt today. I was trying to stay positive, but I was definitely at that “IhaterunningandIamneverdoingthisfuckingshiteveragain!” point. So, the last 8 miles or so I spent a lot of time walking and being pissed at myself for thinking a marathon was a good idea. But everyone else around me was obviously in the same boat, so that did help some. I wanted to stop and lay down more than I’ve ever wanted anything, but every aid station had a “runner drop out” tent and I’ll be damned if I was going to use one of them. So, slowly and painfully I just kept going. I obviously wasn’t going to make 5 hours, but I really didn’t care.
FINALLY we turned back north and we had less than 3 miles left at that point. 3 miles really isn’t a lot, but it sure feels like it when you are at mile 23. Around mile 25 I saw something that actually did make me laugh out loud. A guy was standing on the side of the road, cigarette in one hand, the other hand holding out 2 cans of Miller High Life. Ha! I doubt that anybody took him up on it, but it was pretty funny at the time. If I hadn’t been hating life so much right about then, I might have grabbed one just for the comic factor of crossing the finish line with a can of High Life.

When I finally made it to the “1 mile left” sign, I was determined to run the rest of the way in. It was more of a limp/shuffle, but I like to tell myself that it looked better than walking. Finish lines are always sort of anti-climactic for me, but it sure did feel good to cross it! The finish chute was so long, I didn’t think I’d ever make it out of there. First they had people there to give you a foil blanket, which was good because as soon as I stopped moving I was cold. It was still about 40 degrees, afterall. Then they had people handing out medals. Then were the people to cut your chip off. Then were the tables with Gatorade, then water, then bananas. All they had were bananas! Not that I felt like eating anyway, but come on, give me something besides a freaking banana. Then they had free beer, which I DID take. Yum! Too bad that holding my beer meant I couldn’t keep my blanket around me, and it was too cold for that, so I just had to drink as much as I could and then ditch it. I wanted to sit down so bad, but they made everyone keep moving through the finish area. I swear, finally about a mile later I was out of it and was able to get to the runner reunite area to find Dan.

After I found him, one of the first things I said was “I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking, but I am not doing KC!” Ha! Um, yeah, so about that. I would still like to run KC this weekend. But my body is laughing at me saying “you dumbass, that is the stupidest idea you have ever had, there is no way you are running 2 marathons in 7 days”. I know enough to listen to my body or else I’ll just tear myself up, so I will be sitting it out. I know a lot of people running it though, so I’ll just go cheer.

So once I got some warm clothes on and sat down for a bit, we went and met up with our friends Tyler and Amy who had moved up to Chicago last year. Tyler ran it too, and finished in 4:10. We walked around a bit looking for a place to eat, and we were GOING to go to Chipotle, but for some reason that my brain cannot comprehend, the Chipotles in downtown Chicago are closed on Sundays! WTF?! Come on now, it’s not like downtown KC that it completely deserted on the weekends. But I guess they lose enough business to not make it worth it. But they could have cleaned up this weekend with all of the marathoners! What goes better after a marathon than an 1100 calorie burrito!? NOTHING! So anyway, we found some food, and then Dan and I headed up back to our friends’ house in Glencoe.

My finish time ended up being 5:36, which yes, is a little disappointing, especially considering I was pretty close to my goal pace up through the 30K point. But like I said, it’s hard to be disappointed at all when you finished the damn thing, regardless of the time. I absolutely LOVED this race, and will most definitely be running it again. I could even make this a yearly thing. So maybe I’ll be back for 2010!


Danica said...

That is pretty hardcore that you finished with all those struggles. I know the pain of finishing and missing a goal and I know you'll run another one and get back out there and smash it out of the park! :) Good luck with recovery and you'll be running again in no time!

Anonymous said...

I am terribly disappointed in you Julie.


Kim said...

CONGRATS on your 8 min PR AND finishing another marathon! Be proud.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Julie! Next up..........?

I would have grabbed both of those High Lifes. And not for comedic effect.

Anonymous said...

oh by the way, that last comment was from me.

Tim G

Daniel said...

I found your page searching for Chuck Norris & Marathon on Google :) I've finished my first marathon yesterday so I started reading your story and couldn't stop. I salute you and thanks for sharing your story, enjoyed reading it a lot. Keep running, girl!