My time in Chicago was 3:03:27
That's a marathon PR for me of over 7 minutes from last year. It put me 82nd in my division (of about 2500 runners) and 1050th overall (out of 37,455 finishers). Not shabby for a guy about to turn 49 years old in a week!
I've kind of broken this race report up into some sections - because some people may or may not be interested in the gory details and just want to hear general experience stuff:
* Overall Experience (with pictures)
* Some Mechanical Details
* Nutrition Side-Bar
Prior to the race, everyone told me that it was such a great event - and they were all right. What's most amazing to me is how well organized the whole thing is. This is the 3rd biggest marathon in the world (NY, London and then Chicago) with about 46,000 entrants. Yet, the wait time for things like bathrooms and gear check was non-existent. The routing also splits everyone up into wave 1 and 2 and then into the corrals (like 5 per wave) - so it really spreads everyone out. I was 'seeded' (based on previous marathon times) Wave 1, Corral A (right behind the Elites). I love this type of approach because it means you are running with people that are about the same speed (give or take) as you. Meaning you don't have to worry about getting 'blocked'. In addition, the corral opens up past the start line and right from the get go, you can go as fast as you want (unlike Denver, which is narrow and twisty in the first 2 miles - so you feel a little blocked initially).
Got there Friday afternoon and rode the train downtown. After being misdirected by Google maps on my phone, I found the hotel (as well as the nearest Starbucks).
Slept as late as I could on Saturday. Then put on some running clothes and hit Whole Foods for a little breakfast. Took the train down to Grant Park to preview the start area and do an easy run along the waterfront with some strides. The resting and extra O2 was paying off. I was trying to run my strides at my target marathon pace by feel. When I checked my Garmin I was out-running them by 30s / mile - whoah there... by the 4th one I had calibrated my pace to where I needed to be. Then off to the Expo. Nothing fantastic there. It was a big-ass expo. Picked up my packet and headed back to the hotel.
On the walk to the Red Line I had seen a cool cathedral style church. I noticed they had mass that night at 5:15pm - and I thought it would be a nice way to spend my time before the marathon. That type of more traditional service in a cathedral style church, reminds me of my childhood - going to St. Hyacinth in Detroit. I also was feeling so fortunate in my life and health. I liked the idea of thanking God for the gifts in my life, not the least of which was having the opportunity to participate in such a great event.
The mass was really great. I'm sure the congregation was about 2x the usual for a vigil mass. The priest gave a great homily that was oriented to the runners he knew were there. He then invited up everyone running to come to the alter for a blessing from the congregation.
After church I went to Whole Foods and did a light dinner from the food bar. A little rice, bland mac 'N cheese and a piece of chicken with some broth based soup.
On the morning of, I woke up without the alarm clock right on schedule (5:10am). Got dressed and down to the start line via the trusty Red Line. There were a ton of people streaming into the park and a lot of energy in the air. I went through my routine including a warm-up that included some strides. After another bathroom break I headed right on schedule to my start corral.
I always love the energy and nervousness in the start corral. It calms my nerves because it's such a familiar place now to me. People are joking around, chatting. Warm-up clothing is being tossed in every direction. You stay warm because of all the body heat. The time went so quickly and I was just trying to savor the experience. At 7:20 the wheelchair group went off. Then 10 minutes later the horn blew and we were all off.
The course opens up right away down Michigan Avenue. I quickly found a pacing groove and settled in for the haul. The course is really amazing. You can go here on YouTube for a video tour through all 29 neighborhoods (detailed on the Chicago Marathon website). You wind through all of these different neighborhoods including Greek Town, Little Italy and China Town. At one point running through China Town I felt like I was running in China (where I go several times per year for work). It made me smile.
In short - I ran pretty much even splits the whole race and executed my race plan right to the letter. The only unexpected thing I had to deal with was that my shoe came untied at about mile 15. First time that's ever happened. The lace was tied properly and even double knotted. It's those darn Brooke's Racer ST 7 laces. It wasn't that big a deal though. I noticed it was untied, then calmly took off my glove while running, pulled over to a curb and tied it calmly and quickly. Maybe 10 seconds which I made back up again within about 1/2 mile.
Finished the race strong, tired but not trashed. No wheels falling off at mile 23, no nutritional bonk. It went by the book and I felt pretty happy that I had done so much practicing of my plan / nutrition and tactics leading up to the race. It really made a huge difference.
Coming into that home stretch is amazing. It's narrower than Boston so the crowd feels bigger and more intense. The roads in general feel narrower and the crowd in places on the course edge in making then narrower. In some sections I was reminded of the Tour de France where the riders are threading through the spectators. It's really pretty cool to be in close of contact with them.
After the race and some milling around and stretching, I headed back to the hotel for a 2 hour nap. Then wandered down to Lou Malnati's for my first solid food of the day. I ate at the bar so I didn't have to wait for a table. Felt a bit self-conscious about how much food I was eating. I felt like announcing, "No really - I don't eat like this all the time!" - Had a big house salad, 2 beers and a 9" deep dish pizza (that is listed as 'serves 2'). When the bartender saw all that was left was 1/8 the pie he commented, "Wow. That's impressive" - again, the guilt crept in.
Body-wise I felt and feel great. Nowhere near as sore as past marathons. Even went out for a 20mi road bike ride with some decent hills on Monday afternoon when I got back (Paige and Luke were driving back from the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque). Even reeled a few guys in on the climbs - what can I say? I'm like a dog chasing cars. I can't help myself. Here's some pics from the top of Red Rocks Overlook (my house is on the valley floor, past the hogback in the second shot).
I really need to go to church more often to give thanks for the life I have. I feel so very fortunate.
SOME MECHANICAL DETAILS:
What I was most happiest about was 'how' I ran the race. In previous marathons, the wheels kind of fell off around mile 22 or 23 and then it was pure survival to keep too much time from spilling off the clock. I've worked a TON on very specific marathon training. In particular - long pacing runs and progression runs. Also completely re-worked and experimented over the past 9 months with my nutrition (described in detail in the section after this for those that care).
That all paid off because this year, I pretty much even split the whole course. There were race clocks at every mile, so I just kept pacing by feel and checking my pace at each mile. Generally by feel I was within 2-3 seconds of my target pace (after pulling back a bit on the first couple faster miles).
Boring is the wrong word to describe most of my race, but certainly what I've learned is that a properly executed marathon should feel fairly mechanical for the first 20 miles or so. In other words, you're main job is to get your body to that 20 mile mark so you can effectively race the last 10K. And that's how I felt. Just ticking off the miles - taking in the scenery, trying to find things to occupy my thoughts until the next race clock. Checking in on how I was feeling, making sure I was running relaxed and keeping my head in dealing with the little variations: bridge overpasses (quicker feet, try to pick up a couple seconds on the little downhill), turns (gradual inside track to cut the corner the way the course is measured), wind (tuck in behind a taller runner / group until the wind subsides). The thing about a marathon is that the little things all add up over the distance.
The end result was that I finished feeling tired, but strong. The 'pain' came right on schedule at around mile 23, but it was very manageable. Kept my head in it, trying to find another gear to keep the pace up. Tried to pick up 5 seconds between 23 and 24 and then again to 25 - ended up even splitting them. Good to know I was leaving it all on the course.
Crossed the finish line pretty darn happy to see that 3:03 on the race clock. I felt spent, but not trashed.
My nutrition was based on the 'Nutritional Epiphany' I had back in February of this year after reading a bunch of materials on the Hammer Nutrition web-site.
Just eating light and bland food (nothing after 7pm).
(2 hrs before race time): 2 scoops of UCAN in about 8oz of water (240 calories). Nothing else.
(10min prior to the gun): 1 Honey Stinger Waffle (160 calories)
During the race:
Sips about every 2mi of multi-hour Hammer Nutrition Sustain Energy flask (4.75 scoops total in 8oz of water (~500 calories total)).
Course provided Water (4oz about every 3-4mi)
Course provided Gatorade (about 4oz at mile 18 and again at mile 23) (50 calories total)
TOTAL RACE DAY CALORIES CONSUMED (prior / during) = 950 (183 cal / hr during race)
TOTAL CALORIES BURNED (estimated) = 3,144