Chicago Marathon 2014- The Race

Originally, I had intended on writing about my experience as an elite first; the VIP treatment, the wonderful weekend, the after race excitement, but I just feel like I should cover the race itself first, as after all, that was what this was all about. While it is fresh in my mind, and I am brave enough to let my emotions out, I am going to share. Apologies for the long post, I need to get this out.

Official Time: 2:45:51 (6:20 pace) PR

Garmin Time: 2:45:46 (6:15 pace for 26.58 miles)- Elites are timed only using gun time, it took a few seconds to cross the start line!

It has been over 24 hours since the race, and I am still not sure how I feel. Other than to Steve, I have only spoken about the race once, to my parents, about an hour before writing this recap. I burst into tears.

I have been through so much this training segment; moving to two different states, visa issues, trying to discover where I want my career to take me, going from working full time AND a masters degree full time to nothing but running, and not going home this summer. None of which my control-freak, over analyzing, self took very well. I am not sure if my opinion will change, but at 3pm on Monday, this is how I feel.

Looking back, all the evidence was there.

I was not ready for my breakthrough race.

I think even the tone of my posts during my training cycle have hinted at this, but I refused to believe it. Over and over I visualized crossing the line, tears of joy from seeing that 2:3? on that clock. Over and over Steve told me to drop the time expectations, especially one that aggressive, but I couldn’t quite do it. I wrote the post about how I was not setting a time goal, and as much as I wanted to believe it, I couldn’t surpress that hope that I would blow everything out of the water, and come round the corner in the 2:3?s.

I ran a very respectable 2:45:51, and I know most people reading this would absolutely kill to run that kind of time, but a 16 minute 5k, 33 minute 10k and a 1:14 half marathon does not match up with a 2:45 marathon. I know I am capable of more, but it is just not my time…..yet. I am only 26 years old, and this was only my second marathon…..but really only my first fully “raced” marathon, due to the muscle strain I suffered in Philadelphia. Furthermore, though I run a decent weekly mileage, I am far behind the 110+ of the girls I am comparing myself to. In short, I am inexperienced, both physically and mentally in the marathon.

It was amazing getting to start right near the front, but we were packed like sardines, and I felt relieved once the gun went that we could finally spread out a little.

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Start line photo, from the Chicago Marathon Facebook page

Chicago, being a flat and fast course, is actually a very dangerous course for runners as the crowds and lack of hills mean that people tend to get carried away those first few miles, and pay for it later. I was determined NOT to be one of those people, wanting to finish faster than I started, so I held back, but I really did not feel good from the start. The first 10 miles it felt like the entire field was passing me. Usually I enjoy this part, laughing to myself as I know I will get them back when it matters, but for some reason, this time it really bothered me. I felt flustered, and started to psyche myself out. Rather than focusing on my race, my mind wandered; becoming very irritated by a man holding an iPod, by commentary of a pack who came by and told me to run with them. Immediately after I did, I felt like I was working much harder than I should have been to maintain the pace. Turns out I was right. Looking back at my splits, the three miles I was with them I went from a consistent 6:11 rhythm, down to a 5:55, and then back up it a 6:15. No wonder I felt bad, those moves are WAY too aggressive for a marathon, especially at that point in the race.

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At the 15 mile mark, I I could not help but notice my discomfort; you are told to consider the 20 mile mark as the halfway point. At 18 miles I could not believe I still had 8 miles left. I was okay, but I could feel that my body was starting to strain itself to maintain pace. By 20 miles I was hurting, and severely panicking.

My dreams of spending the last 6 miles under 6 minute pace were quickly being replaced by a thought of needing to just finish, or if I am being honest, to not embarrass myself. Over the next 6 miles I kept fighting it, kept pushing, even though everything in me was screaming to stop. I felt like I was barely moving. As we moved into the final 2 miles, men started to fly by me, many of them yelling at me (in a nice way) to run with them, they would help me along, but by that point all I could think was “don’t walk, don’t you DARE walk”. I actually was running around 6:30 pace, so it was not as bad as I thought in my mind, but each minute felt like an hour. It is true when they say that nothing can describe the pain of the last few miles of a marathon after the wheels fall off. It is the true test of the strength of the mind, body and spirit.

As we turned to go up the hill with around 600 to go, my pace slowed even further. Now I know I was barely moving, and my hands were completely numb, and it was traveling up my arms, fast. I could tell I was very close to passing out. As we turned the final corner, I tried to focus my eyes on the clock, see just how bad it was, but it was even worse than I expected. As I crossed the line, disappointed and embarrassed. I could barely speak, and two volunteers tried to walk me up to the medical tent, asking me questions (which I kept responding “I don’t know”). I just wanted to lie down.

I could not believe after all I have put into this training segment, that 2:45 was what I had to show for it. Mostly, I felt ashamed. Chicago Marathon had given me the opportunity to race as an elite based on my other PRs, ignoring Philadelphia Marathon, and giving me a chance, one that very few were lucky enough to have. I felt I had wasted it, and they would never give me the chance again. What angered me the most was that I did not go off too fast.  Yet I still couldn’t even hold my pace, let alone run negative.  Worse is that I really did not enjoy the race. The one thing I said I wanted more than anything was to cross the finish line smiling, knowing that I enjoyed it, and I did not even do that.

I know I am hard on myself, and I know I should be very proud, but my capabilities, and all that I put into this, is not shown in my results. A 1:14 half marathon is definitely more than a 2:45, especially as I was conservative that first half, and I fueled correctly.

However, it is time to stop the pity party, take my two weeks off (read why you Should Take a Break After Racing), take my Enduropacks to speed my physical recovery (want to give it a try? Use discount code “tinamuir” to get 15% off), and emotionally move on. I know I will get the result I deserve in the marathon, and it will feel that much better when I do because of all this. I still ran a 3 minute and 40 second PR! Here are some quotes I have found to be particularly relevant to me right now:

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley

“It’s failure that gives you the proper perspective on success.” – Ellen DeGeneres

“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.” – Eloise Ristad

I was in fear of failure, and I felt as though I did not deserve my spot on the elite list. That is a big part of why I could not relax into my own race, this quote displays it well

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” – Paulo Coelho

I earned my place as an elite, and only when I can start believing that, will I be able to find out what I am really capable of. Only then will my visualization of crossing that line smiling come true. All those visualizations were not for nothing, they will be even more powerful when they do come true, that moment will happen. As soon as I truly, wholeheartedly believe I am good enough to achieve it.

Thank you to everyone who wished me luck or congratulated me, and thank you to everyone who has supported me during my running journey so far. I will rebuild, and I will come back stronger. Steve and I talked a lot about the race on our drive home, and here are the conclusions

What went well/what we know worked

  • Fueling
    • Consumed enough carbs in the days leading up to the race, and the morning of

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      Diagram they had out for us explaining where our bottles would be located- mine was 124

    • Gen UCAN was a great fuel source, and I successfully picked up, and took in enough of it at each of the 7 elite aid stations
    • No stomach upsets
    • Hydrated well in the days leading up
  • Never gave up
    • Even when my body was shutting down, my arms were tingling, and my mind was blurry, I did not stop fighting. Steve says this is what he is most proud of me for
  • Remained conservative
    • In a race where it is almost impossible not to get caught up in the energy of the crowds, I was able to stay within my pace, and run smart
  • Other than the few miles I ran with the group of men, I was pretty consistent with my pacing; 15 of my miles were between 6:08 and 6:15.
  • I ran a marathon!
    • No matter what way you look at this, it is an achievement, and one that should be celebrated. Almost nothing in training can come close to the feeling of those last few miles, and each time, your body gets a little more used to it.
  • Saucony
    • Nothing chafed
    • My Kinvaras did not rub AT ALL, and they were light enough to race in

What we need to work on/change for the future

  • Efficiency
    • I am wasting a lot of energy with some inefficiencies in my form. We are looking into a performance center where someone can really analyze my running form to become more efficient; the marathon magnifies your weaknesses
  • In the words of Elsa from Frozen, “Let it go”
    • I need to stop worrying about when others are making stupid mistakes, in my life in general, but especially in running.
  • Long runs need to get longer?
    • I did 22 mile runs, but maybe this was not long enough (time on my feet)
  • Slight mileage increase, with a decrease in single run volume
    • If I am to increase my mileage slightly, most recovery runs will need to move back to a 9 (rather than 10), and instead double a few times per week
    • Easy runs must be run slower, considering removing my garmin from all recovery runs, instead running for time
  • Accepting that I have hit a plateau in my training, and with all that happened over the last few months, that is expected. This was a bad segment, and both Steve and I knew this deep down before the race even started.
  • There is nothing wrong with relaxing!
    • If I am going to take my running to where I want to go, I need to let go of my obsession with being productive. I need to learn how to relax, and sleep more without seeing it as time wasted
  • Race more
    • In college I used to race about 25 times per year. This past year I think I have raced under 10 total. Even if it is part of a workout, I need to jump in more road races to get used to it. Part of the restriction this time round was the moving from Philly to Michigan, and Michigan to Kentucky, but I need to stop with the excuses for this

Thanks again to everyone who has supported me. Your faith and belief in me makes me know I need to persevere at this. One day I will get the result I deserve, and it will be worth it. But for now, I am going to rest, bake some more of my delicious whole wheat bread (have you seen my recipe?), fully enjoy my two weeks of doing nothing, and pig out on whatever the heck I want…..probably lots of sugar 🙂

Joining Amanda for Thinking Out Loud Thursday

How did you bounce back from a goal you fell short of? What do you like to do in your time off?