Sunday, October 7, 2012

Chicago Marathon 2012

The alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m.  I'm in the Allerton Hotel right in the middle of Chicago's Magnificent Mile.  It's still dark, and I'm not ready to get up yet, but the day is not going to wait for me.  Who am I kidding? I wasn't really sleeping that well in the first place between race nerves and sirens on the streets below.  I reach over, grab my phone off the nightstand and check the weather.  Forecasts have been predicting around 38 degrees at race start time.  A little cool, but it will be great for what we have to do today.  Hmmm...the current weather says 44 degrees.  Is that right?  Warmer than expected, but it sounds PERFECT to me!

What doesn't seem perfect is my readiness for this day.  Three weeks ago, following my 18 mile run, I would have said I was ready.  Even though we had a shortened training schedule due to Shane's injuries (plantar fasciitis), several summer trips, lots of weddings and other events that kept us behind schedule, I felt wonderful after the 18.  I felt like I could have done another eight that day--easy.  One week later, during the 20 mile run, it was a whole different story. 

Shane and I at the Chicago Marathon Expo
On the 20 mile run, an ache started at the back of my knee around mile five.  I thought I could run through it, but by mile seven, I had to stop running.  In my two years of running, I have never had to stop.  The pain had spread from my knee up to my glutes and hip flexors and down to my shins.  I think I adjusted my running form to compensate for the knee pain and maybe caused some damage.  Not good.  I turned around at 7.3, and walked a defeated 7.3 back to the car as Shane and Rick (also training for Chicago) ran on.  A few times I tried running on my way back, but the pain stopped me immediately.  This was a huge set back for me physically and mentally.  With only two weeks left until Chicago, I would not have a chance to make up this run.  My confidence took a huge blow.

Fearing that I did some real damage, I iced/ibuprofened daily and laid off the running for four days.  I had three more runs planned before Chicago.  During those runs, I felt my knee pain.  It wasn't bad enough to stop running, and it came and went away during the runs.  So, I determined I would be able to run Chicago.  How well and for how long, I'm not sure.  Originally, I had hoped to follow a 4:10 pace group, but that was no longer possible in my mind.  My worst case scenario is if I have to walk it in, I would do so, and hold my head high for finishing.  I hated that I was thinking worse case scenario, but I had to be realistic.  I got KT Tape two days before the race with hopes it would help stabilize my knee.

Back to marathon morning.  We decided we would ride the bus the 1.5 miles down Michigan Avenue to the race location.  We get outside, and there are so many people walking to the starting line.  Starting to walk toward the race location seems to make more sense than sitting at a bus stop waiting.  So we walk.  Thankfully, it isn't freezing cold.  I am wearing extra layers that I will pitch off along the race course.  We chat with a girl from our hotel all the way to the race location.  This is her third marathon.  She has also ran in San Franscisco and the Disney Marathon. 

We find Rick and Jordan almost right away at the designated meeting place.  We head to the porta-potties one last time, and then find our way to Corral J.  Shane was supposed to be in Corral G--he had a higher finishing time predicted back when we registered.  The first lady doesn't allow him in even though he is going BACK two corrals.  So, he walks to the other side of the corral and they let him right by.  He was worried for a minute. 

This is it, we're here--the Chicago Marathon--in our starting corral, packed in like sardines.  We wait through some announcements and then they move the 2nd wave corrals up to the starting line.  We walk forward toward the starting line for what seems like several minutes.  With the race moments from starting, it's time to lose the sweatpants.  It's weird to just drop them on the ground.  There's so many piles of pitched clothing on the ground though, so I add to the top of one pile.  I am keeping the fleece jacket for a while.  It's still pretty chilly out.  I down my 5-Hour Energy drink and some sport beans.  Breakfast of champions, right? This will get me through for a while today.  Then it's time....after a walk up to the starting line, we start running.

The sheer number of people running, packed in around us, is crazy!  Ahead of us and behind, there are people as far as I can see.  Forty-five thousand registered.  We are going slower than planned.  None of us are feeling at the top of our running game though.  We've all had aches and pains and missed training runs recently.  In the first five miles, we walk through a couple of the water stops as planned.  I'm getting warmed up, so I take off my fleece.  I'm not ready to ditch it just yet.  It seems to get cold when we are between the buildings, so I tie it around my waist. 

We pass a little girl at the side of the road, maybe 7 or 8 years old, who sees her daddy run by. She starts jumping, clapping and screaming, "Go Daddy!". I think of Jocelyn and nearly start crying. It seriously takes me a couple minutes to get it under control.  Damn race day emotions!

We lose Jordan and Rick at one of the water stations.  I think they are behind us, but a few miles later we see them up ahead of us.  They skipped over one of the stops, but we catch them at the next one.  Generally, I feel pretty decent for the first six miles.  We are running slow though.  We still have 20 miles left to go.  That's some real perspective for you.

Chicago Marathon post at 10K:  At 9:14:15 am, Tammy Bumgarner (39577), 10K, Elapsed Time: 01:04:48, Pace: 10:26.

It's a perfect temperature outside for running. I can't believe how wonderful the day turned out to be. The last couple of years it has been hot on race day for Chicago.  People have died of heat strokes and heat related issues.  I guess I'm ready to lose the fleece for good.  I feel so weird about pitching it to the side of the road, but I do it anyways.  Bye fleece!

Around mile nine, a couple of guys in the group need to stop for the bathroom, so we stop as a group.  I don't have to go yet, but I don't want to run on by myself, nor to I want to be the only person who needs to stop and pee later.  I force myself.  We stop on one side of the street and the line is pretty long.  A volunteer points out that there are more on the other side of the street with a shorter line.  Crossing the street during the Chicago Marathon is quite an accomplishment in itself.  I kind of jumped in and joined the flow as I "froggered" to the other side.  The porta-potty is absolutely disgusting.  I can't imagine how many people have used it, and I don't want to know.  I get in and out as fast as possible.  Off we go again.

Somewhere around mile 10, my left hip starts aching.  At first, it's a slight and dull ache, but it works itself up to a decent sharp pain with each foot fall.  The pain lets up and comes back again.  Then various different pains are popping up in places including in my arches of my feet and a slight one in my knee.  I push on, hoping and praying the pain eases up and moves on.

Chicago Marathon post at 13.1:  At 10:30:24 am, Tammy Bumgarner (39577), HALF, Elapsed Time: 02:20:57, Pace: 11:03.

At this point, I find it ridiculous just how bad I feel physically.  Mentally, I'm not doing that well either considering there's still half a race to go.  I take a self-assessment, and I feel worse right now than at the end of any of the four half marathons I've completed at a much faster pace.  Well, maybe not Moab--that one was rough!  It's easy to forget how hard something was when you are not in the moment.  My legs feel like heavy stumps, and I'm worried about my aches and pains.  Our pace per mile has slowed even more.  I'm sure the bathroom break played a role in that, but generally, I think we are moving slower.

As we approach a block in a tree-lined residential area, I see the runners ahead of us waving to the side of the road.  It strikes me as very strange because there's no one standing there. When we get to the block, I see it's a nursing home and the 2nd floor windows are lined with elderly people all smiling and waving at us. I wave back. It reminds me of the book Water for Elephants. It makes me happy and I smile.  I almost tear up again....damn race emotions!

My memories of the rest of the race comes in chunks, so I'll have to recall it in the same way.  I'm amazed at how much my brain is already shutting out.  I was trying to remember funny signs along the road.  I can recall about three now.  I'm sure these memories are not in the order they occurred, but really, does it matter?  I don't think so.
  • Someone is passing out Twizzlers on the side of the side of the road!  Oh, that is so awesome!  My favorite candy EVER!!  I wish I took more than one though.
  • I'm worried about my hip pain coming and going, but I'm glad my knee is holding up fairly well.  I think the KT Tape makes a big difference.
  • I'm getting SO sick of Gatorade.  I don't think I will drink yellow Gatorade ever again.  After the halfway point, I only take water.  The thought of Gatorade makes me want to hurl.
  • Around mile 18, I'm struggling terribly with heavy legs so I put on music.  It totally revives me!
  • We finally see Rick and Jordan's family in the crowd.  I have no idea where this was, but I think it was right before Chinatown.
  • We are all struggling in one way or another.  However, when someone tells the rest of us we can go on ahead, with unspoken words, we decide that we are going to finish together.  No matter what.  Even if three of us have to carry the other across the finish line.  I volunteer to be carried, but no one takes me up on it.  Jerks.
  • We are being passed by the 4:40 pace group. We need to keep moving!
  • We are breaking the race down into two mile chunks.  We'll take a one minute walk break for each two miles we do.
  • That idea was short-lived.  Two miles is too long.  We feel like crap, and we're falling apart.  Breaking the race down to one mile chunks with walk breaks now.
  • A sign at 24 miles says, "Feel free to PUNCH anyone who yells 'You're almost there!'"  There are several times I think about punching people.
  • I really appreciate this crowd in Chicago.  They are so supportive of the runners.  Amazing.
  • At mile 25, we hope to run the race out to the finish line.  Each time we walk, it's harder to get started again.  I just want to run this out.
As we near mile 26, Shane's legs cramp up.  You can see the pain in his face.  I try to distract him from it, but it doesn't work.  He has to stop.  We walk.  We're so close to the finish!  Moments later, Shane is able to get going again. We turn the final corner and run four-wide across the finish line with our hands in the air. 

We are done!!  I'm not sure I've ever felt so much relief at a finish line. 

Chicago Marathon Post:  At 1:09:43 pm, Tammy Bumgarner (39577), FINISHED, Elapsed Time: 05:00:16, Pace: 12:54.

Really?!  We missed under five hours by 16 seconds?!  Ugh.

We celebrate with hugs all around.  We are happy to be done, and glad to finish side-by-side.  I wouldn't have had it any other way today.  I wish we all could have felt better, but that wasn't in the cards for this one.  We walk through the finisher's area wrapped in mylar, collect our medals, post-race snacks and slowly walk toward the exit area.  I feel like we are walking in a post-apocalyptic world.  It's all very surreal.  None of us feels like stopping for the free beer. 

While I'm glad that I was able to finish a marathon, and I always said I was training to finish, I thought "finishing" meant under 4:30.  I know it sounds petty, especially to someone who has never completed a marathon, but I can't help it!  I had expectations (originally 4:10 finish time), and those expectations were not met.  Not even close, really.  I hate that I feel this way.  I should be happy, but I'm left feeling unsatisfied.

We don't hang out long.  Rick and Jordan find their family, and Rick's wife, Becky, snaps a picture for us as we sit near the curb at Michigan Avenue.  We need to get back to our hotel.  The public transportation is running behind or non-existant.  After 15+ minutes of being passed by full taxis and watching the estimated arrival time of the bus keep growing, we decide to start walking. 

Eventually, we would walk the whole 1.5 miles back to our hotel.  It ended up being an interesting experience though.  We talk with other runners walking in the crowds.  We have several people pass us on the street offering their congratulations and smiles.  This is seriously the friendliest environment that I've ever experienced in Chicago.  Everywhere you look, there are people in mylar wraps with medals around their necks surrounded by people supporting them.  It's kind of an amazing thing to be a part of.

I do not regret the Chicago Marathon.  While it has left me feeling a bit unsatisfied, that just means I need to eventually do another one of these.  I know that I will pick something a little smaller.  While the support from the crowds won't be as big, I think that will be okay with me.  Sometimes just getting lost in my thoughts in a run is a good thing.  The next one, I will train for a long time and train properly.  I will also do a marathon in the spring so I don't have to give up summer races for training runs and kill myself on 90+ degree days requiring a long run.  I just don't have the flexibility in my life to always get up and run before the sun comes up. 

I am reminded again that the experiences I have with friends and loved ones last a lifetime and are much more important than great race times and PRs.  I need to keep my focus here.  I just completed 26.2 freaking miles through the streets of Chicago powered by my own strength and endurance (more like 30 miles if you count the walks to and from the hotel).  I am proud of that. 

I don't know how long this link will last, but here are my marathon photos: