Close to a year ago, I registered for the Chicago Marathon on a whim. I swore I wouldn’t get in, so what’s the harm in entering, right? It was a month after my first Ironman, so if I did get in I’d just use it as a celebratory marathon after accomplishing a HUGE goal. That’s normal, right? I mean most people use a marathon to celebrate finishing an Ironman… no? Well, spoiler alert… I GOT IN!
So after Ironman (which was an amazing experience, by the way, and I pr’d my marathon time there by 3ish minutes… what?!) I took a full week off from doing pretty much any activity. Then I eased into running a bit that second week, but ran a Ragnar Trail race that weekend which totaled to about 16-17 trail miles. Then it was two weeks to go until Chicago and it was taper time! I didn’t even run a last mid length long run the week before the marathon… I was at a health and fitness expo to get some continuing ed credits for my job! I was feeling a little bit beat up, to be honest because of course I participated in as many classes as I could while there… probably not the best way to taper.
My hubby and I headed to Chicago via train from Milwaukee (about a 90 minute ride) on Saturday. Really our only plans were to hit the expo, relax, eat at my favorite Italian place in Chicago (it’s never let me down for a pre-race amazing pasta meal that's led to a PR in the race…) and watch some of the Ironman World Championships on tv at the hotel. Pretty relaxed!
The expo is HUGE. I could have spent so much more time here than we ended up spending. I wanted to get off my feet asap because you have to walk FOREVER to even get to the expo itself once inside the convention center!
While we were at the expo, all four of my speedy, sparkly friends texted me. I don’t know if they had it planned, But I remember Elise telling me there was magic in the air. Carrie sent me a picture of a Unicorn. Allison was sending my fast vibes and Carlee was wishing me the best of luck and reminding me to have fun and enjoy the race experience.
I cried. At the expo. Tears of joy.
My speedy friends on the West Coast were wishing me luck and sending me all the good vibes… everyone needs running friends like these ladies. They are the most amazing women.
After the expo, we found a candy store (HELLO CARBS) and my pasta place (yep.. more carbs!) then headed back to the hotel to relax, sleep, and hydrate. I also had to set up my race outfit! So many people suggested wearing something bright that has some type of saying/ name on it for the spectators to yell… so I figured this was as good an outfit as any!
Race morning… 42 degrees. Sunny. Slight wind. Finally… a perfect weather day for a marathon. We headed to the start line, which for us was a little over a half mile walk. Eventually we had to say goodbye so that I could go into the gated off/ athlete only section. I decided to not do gear check, so this also meant I was saying goodbye to all my layers except a light jacket I brought as a throw away! Ah! Once inside the fenced off area, I probably had close to another half mile to walk to get to the start line. Luckily we passed by TONS of port-o-potties and I didn’t have to wait too long in line.
I got to my corral and lined up. I brought my headphones, but decided last minute to not listen to music… to just enjoy hearing the heavy breathing and pounding feet of the runners, to listen for cheers. The man next to me asked what my goal was. I hadn’t said it out loud to anyone, not even my husband. I looked at him and confidently said “I’m going to qualify for Boston today.” He smiled and shared that a BQ was also in his plans for the day. We wished each other luck…. and then it was time to go run a marathon with 42,000 of my closest friends!
Chicago is deemed as a flat course, with a small incline in the first and last miles of the race. But there’s about a million (okay like 30) 90 degree turns. Between that, the tall buildings, the amount of people all using GPS, and the fact that you run through a tunnel in the first mile…. your watch will be off. From the beginning. I knew this and knew I needed to really focus on effort through the first 2-3 miles.
I crossed the start line right about 1 minute after the initial wave of athletes took off. This would make it easy to check the mile marker clocks every mile and compare to what my watch was actually telling me. I’m glad I noticed this because after the tunnel, my watch was already over a quarter mile long telling me I was running 6:30 pace. Clearly wrong! Mile one was 8:12. Right where I wanted. Miles 2 and 3 were about 8:10. I saw an old personal training client of mine at mile 4 and gave her a big high five! Thanks, Allison!
I lost count you guys… by mile 5 I lost count of how many times I heard “you ARE killing it girl!” “Go, Killin It!!!” “Yes girl! Killing it!” I was so right to NOT wear headphones and to wear a shirt like this.. SO. MANY. CHEERS! Ah!
Guys I was feeling so good. The weather was cooperating. I was able to grab Gatorade and water every mile. I looked down around mile 6 and creeped into the upper 7:50s. Okay… let’s roll with it.
I knew around mile 8 my friend Tara (pictured) was going to hop in and run 4 miles with me. YES, I know this is technically not right but she didn’t cross the start or finish line and didn’t take anything from the aid stations. Tara ran 4 miles with me, so from 8ish to 12ish. We were flying in the 7:40s and feeling sooooo good!
Once mile 12 hit, Tara said goodbye and was going to wait for her next friend to run with. Tara got about 16 miles in that day… good job girl! I kept feeling really well and was able to keep in the 7:40s-7:50s for the next few miles.
I know I saw my hubby a few times throughout the race, but I never knew when he’d pop up. He was at the liberty of the red line and would be running to and from the station to try to see me!
Around mile 16 I finally took some of my Gatorade chews I had been carrying with me. I still felt good and was able to take drinks from every aid station, but I figured a bit more electrolytes wouldn’t hurt…. but I also had to pee. SO bad. But I couldn’t stop… I was on BQ PACE!
Maybe this is where it becomes a little too much TMI, but I’m gonna let it all out there. Here it is: from miles 16-24 I peed myself. Little by little. I let some out. It felt so amazing. I knew if I’d stop and use a port-o-potty I’d lose precious time. I also knew I might not want to start running again, or my legs would cramp up from sitting down. So… step by step, I let it drip. I figured no one would notice… people were sweaty, dropping water cups full of water. SURELY I’m not the only one peeing right now?!
I kept cruising, smiling, thanking spectators, hearing “killing it!,” peeing, drinking and waving through mile 20. Brick wall at mile 20 you say? What brick wall? I was unstoppable! I was running a BQ! Oh, hey wall. There you are… luckily I only hit you with a 5k left. My pace SUDDENLY dropped from 7:45ish to 8:20ish. Then 8:30ish. We were just heading into China Town… probably the quietest portion of the course. Enter… Ruth. My co-worker, Ironman extraordinaire! “KRISTEN! YES! YES! KRISTEN!” “Oh hi Ruth!"“ is what I thought. Then… “YOU’RE GOING TO QUALIFY! IF YOU WANT THIS YOU HAVE TO MAKE IT F*CKING HURT! GO!” “Oh… uh… right. Okay Ruth! I’m going!!” She knows what to yell to get you going. Get yourself a Ruth to have at races guys.
I kept pushing as hard as my tired, achy body would allow. Two miles to go. Keep running. Now it’s just 2k! Okay, one mile. Half mile. There’s a sign every tenth of a mile now. Quarter mile to go… WHY DOES THIS HILL SEEM LIKE A MOUNTAIN? WHO PUTS A HILL AT THE END OF A MARATHON? Last turn… I can see the finish line. Oooo… a downhill? Yes. Tears. Ugly crying. Thank you, Lord. Thank you for allowing my body to run. Finish line. TEARS. Oh, I can’t even walk.
A marathon, completely ran. A 36 minute PR. A 4 minute BQ. So much ugly crying. I called Thayne to tell him, because he didn’t have a finish line ticket. I called my parents as I hobbled through the finish area. Eventually I found Thayne and we hobbled our way back to the hotel. He offered to carry me, but I him that he really probably didn’t want to do that… ahem, pee.
I officially finished with a time of 3:31:05 (8:03). I declared my intent with confidence to a stranger before the race. I hope he qualified too. There really was magic in the air! Now I understand why I didn’t qualify in Green Bay. If I had, I’d be going to Boston alone… now I get to go with the rest of my speedy, sparkly friends. Team Sparkle takes Boston 2018!
We celebrated with pizza, beer and friends before heading back to Milwaukee. I guess we need to make plans for April of 2018… Boston, here we come!
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