Surviving Chicago 2010 – Becoming a Runnner – A RR

This won’t be my normal blow by blow, mile by mile account of a race because I really don’t remember much but thinking, “Damn, I am SO hot!  Are we sure it isn’t August?”  This report will be a little bit more reflective of the weekend, the race itself, and the biggest thing that I learned about myself out there over 26.2 miles.   I’ve had several days to mull over my feelings about 10-10-10 and I couldn’t be happier with how it all played out.  No, there wasn’t a BQ.  Yes, it was so incredibly hot.  But, I had fun!  I enjoyed EVERY second, though for the life of me,  I can’t seem to remember each one.  So. . . here goes!

I made the trip with 3 of my girlfriends from college.  It was a nice little getaway for them and it helped me to have their support in the days leading up to the race.  They wanted to be there to share in the triumph that was to be my BQ.  I believed in me and so did they.  I really felt this would be it.  Chicago on 10-10-10, there’s something magical about that, right?  We saw some city sights, met some OSOM Loopsters, watched the UM/MSU game at Duffy’s (Chicago’s Big House), and had some Chicago Deep Dish Pizza.  They took off to enjoy the Magnificent Mile on Saturday evening and I prepared for the big day, the race I had been looking forward to since my 22.2 mile PR in Nashville.  Redemption would be mine.

I was calm and confident, laying out my race clothes, pinning on my bib.  Everything accounted for and laid out to make my 4 AM wake up flawless.  The quiet of the hotel room started to get to me.  I called a fellow Loopster and we chatted.  He helped me get my fantasy football lineups set and my picks made.  Yeah, not where my mind should’ve been, but even those things are important.  I got a good pep talk and an order to get my butt in bed.  I felt on top of the world.  I was ready.  I was going to do this.  I gazed out the window at the city below and tears welled up in my eyes.  It was to be on those very streets that I would be avenging my Nashville experience and running my victory lap of 26.2 miles.

4AM – Its race morning!!!  I woke up without the alarm.  I was ready.  I felt great.  I felt oddly calm.  All dressed, Nutella and a wheat bagel, a bottle of water and a good luck hug from M and mumbles of good lucks from A & J.  I was off to the start.   Walking down the quiet street, with giant buildings looming, I got chills.  Not from the cold, sadly as it was 60-65 degrees, but just from the emotions of what I was about to do.  I met up with a couple from California and we walked to the seeded corral area together.  They were super nice AND super fast – both starting in A.

The seeded corral area was phenomenal.  I felt like I was really a runner.  A table full of Gatorade, a long line of port-o-potties, and some nice little tree boxes to sit on made it quite the experience.  So, this is what it is like to have the red carpet rolled out for you?  Slowly, runners started to trickle in.  Then there were more and more. Runners just kept coming.  It all seemed surreal.  I had stretched, took care of business, and took my place near the middle of the C corral.  I looked around for my fellow C Loopsters, but couldn’t find them.

The national anthem played, tears welled up again, and a bit of nervous energy started coursing through my veins.  I can do this!   I’m going to do this!  And we were off. . .

To say the start of the race was amazing would not even begin to explain how I felt.  I was in awe of the crowds of spectators.  They were EVERYWHERE, they were loud, and it was just. . . well, amazingly overwhelming.  I was so much in awe that I only noticed erhead1973 because he grabbed my arm.  We ran together for a bit, but I was going too fast and backed off a bit.  I watched him go and wished him the best.  I was feeling amazing and settling in to what I had thought at the time was a pace I could build upon as the miles wore on.  Much the same as in training, the pace at which I start begins to feel easy and I naturally speed up.  I can do this!  Heck, I just passed the Eiffel Tower guy. . .

Then the 10K marker brought with it the biggest challenge of my running thus far.  The EAS (event status alert) had changed from green to yellow.  Being in the sunshine, I felt my body begging me to slow the pace.  I fought it for a little bit, thinking if I can just push it a little. . . Then the inevitable, Common Sense, paid me a visit.  The alert is yellow, this is mile 6.2, you have 20 more to go and the temps are going to keep rising, perhaps even into red before you even cross the finish.  Hmmm. . . damn you, Common Sense!  So, you mean to tell me that I’m not going to BQ?

For me a BQ means EVERYTHING, but at that moment I thought back to Nashville and how it felt to not be allowed to finish.  I wanted to FINISH!  I was going to FINISH!  I decided to play it smart and ensure a finish by slowing the pace and walking through the water stops.  Funny, I didn’t feel crushed like I thought I’d feel.  I didn’t have a complete meltdown.  There were no tears.  There was no disappointment.  I was running in the Chicago Marathon and gosh darn it I was having a blast.  The spectators were amazing!  Those green sponges were wonderful!  The volunteers with their Gatorade and water were the greatest!  Ah, the little boy as we ran through Mexican Town enjoying squirting runners with a hose was having just as much fun as I was.  Even Brutus the Buckeye, wearing his crimson and silver, was on the sidelines cheering for me.  I couldn’t help but think of sfschas at that moment and his silly Buckeyes.  Pure torture for a Wolverine fan to see Brutus, but I felt like he was put there to remind me of one of my running buddies cheering me on.  Then there were all the barking dogs.  I swear one sounded just like my Kylee.  I ran with Batman for a while.  And saw lots of superheroes in the crowd, not to mention all the superheroes that were running with me; quite the feat to take on Mother Nature on this day.

Bank clock at mile 14 (?) reads 94 degrees!!!  What?  I must be seeing things.  Nope, clock cycles through and still reads 94 degrees.  I realize that it probably wasn’t really accurate, but at this point I knew it was just HOT!  My clothes were soaked with the water I had been pouring over my head, not with sweat like one of the silly spectators had said.  Every mile from here on out I decided it would be survival from one aid station to the next.  I ran at about a 8:50-9:20 pace between stations and walked/shuffled through as I drank both a cup of G and water;  dumping one cup of water over my head at the end before taking off running to the next one.

As I looked around, it was becoming a war zone.  There were runners going down left and right with cramping. Most everyone had adopted my walk through version of the aid stations.  Each of us with the look of determination and grit, knowing how many long hard hours we had invested and trying desperately to hold it together to reach the finish.  It is amazing how much strength one can gain from all the others battling just the same all around you. Add in the spectators and one runs with every ounce of effort they can muster, so as not to let anyone down, least of all themselves.

At no point did I ever think I wasn’t going to finish, as I had backed off considerably.  This race was to be a hard long run.  A training run if you will.  A VERY well supported training run.  I was going to take it all in (too bad I can’t really remember much) and enjoy it in hopes of a speedy recovery and the possibility of going to Huntington for Loopfest and running the marathon.  This thought propelled me the last few miles and kept me from the thoughts of sadness and disappointment as I watched the 4:00 hour pace team drop me at mile 24.

Finally, only two more turns to go!  As I turned the last corner, there was the FINISH!  I’ve never seen a sweeter sight.  I took off with every ounce of energy I had left as I watched several runners go down just yards from the finish.  I had done it.  I completed my 2nd marathon!  This time there were no tears.  No thoughts at all really.  It’s difficult to explain, but I just felt content.  I have yet another marathon story to tell.

As I walked to meet up with my friends, I chatted with another girl, who much like me was gunning for her BQ. Neither of us got it.  Not this time, but she said something that will stick with me forever.  “I’ve ran 7 marathons and EACH one was different and special in its own way.”  Truer words have never been spoken.

I think out there on the streets of Chicago on 10-10-10 I became a marathon runner.  Not that I wasn’t before, but I really “get” it.  It’s the experience, the camaraderie, the fight, and all the miles behind you that define who you are as a runner.  Not one race, not the time on the clock, not even a BQ.  I am no longer a former basketball player who runs; I am a RUNNER who used to play basketball.  I will get my BQ when it is my time.

I have no doubt that I had trained well enough to do it.  I toed the start line as ready as I could be and just as confident as I could be.  I got dealt some cards by Mother Nature that were much beyond my control.  But, I learned SO much more about myself as a runner and I made smart choices (not easy to do) out on the course and for that I couldn’t be more proud of myself.

Congratulations to all of my fellow 2010 Chicago Marathoners and Spectators!!!  You all are the greatest!!!   Thank you for making 10-10-10 a date to remember.

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