Race Report: 2011 Chicago Marathon, Part 1

It’s about damn time I update this thing and provide my race report for the Chicago Marathon.

However, this is only pre-race crap. The trip was great.

Not much has changed since I last posted in April or whenever the hell it was. For a brief update, I was injured with ITBS in my right leg in early May, was accordingly cranky and did not feel like writing. When I’m injured, I find it’s best not to say anything at all because I’ll just be mean.

After taking 10 weeks off, I was able to start running again in mid-July only in my Vibrams. I kept my sights set on CM11, but I had to adjust my goals a little bit… er… a lot.

Let’s start with the race weekend. More on my training later. Please bear with me through the long race report. I’m writing this much partly for posterity and partly because this weekend was way too awesome not to share with anyone who wants to put up with my writing.

10.07.11.
In the early morning hours of Oct. 7, my good friend Sarah Schuch and I took off on a train bound for Chicago. We planned a four day weekend, leaving Friday and coming home on Monday. Let me tell you, it was a great weekend. What an adventure.

The view looking north from Oak Street Beach.

Chicago is one of my favorite cities. Of course, I haven’t been to very many big cities, but when concrete, steel and glass makes for an amazing sight to an outdoors girl like me, it’s got to be a beautiful place. Once we arrived at my dad’s apartment near Millennium Park (Thanks, Dad, for letting us stay there!), we oohed and ahhed over the view. We could not have been in a better location. The start and finish lines in Grant Park was only a few minute’s walk away, and everything else we needed was in easy walking distance. Being able to stay in a comfortable apartment was fantastic. I slept a lot better than I would have in a hotel, and we saved a lot of money and calories by eating most of our meals at the apartment.

Sarah and I set out Friday afternoon to explore and enjoy the city. We walked to Oak Street beach and had fun taking photos with Sarah’s digital SLR, and strolled along the River Walk. The weather was in the mid-70s and the sky was a gorgeous blue. For tourism, the temperatures were wonderful. That night we visited an Irish pub along the river walk, and had a drink each and enjoyed the night.

Toes in the sand at the beach, still lovely in October.

10.08.11.
Oh shit. One day away from XXVI.II.

Early in the morning, we got outside for a short shakeout jog. There were runners everywhere — it was paradise. It’s really exciting to see so many people enjoying the same thing I do, and in unhealthy America, it’s great to see so many fit people. We were all there for the same purpose, too, which made it even more special.

Later that morning it was off to the expo at the McCormack Center. That marathon is down to a machine. Collecting my packet and T-shirt was easy, leaving plenty of time to walk around, sample all the protein and electrolite drinks, and oogle at Dathan Ritzenhein and Scott Jurek. Sarah was laughing at me because I was acting like a 12-year-old girl seeing the Biebs. Well, to my credit I wasn’t screeching. While I didn’t wait in line to talk to either of them, it was cool to see them. In Chicago, I was at a place where big things happen, where elites come just for the expo. It’s not something I’m used to. I see these professionals in videos, pictures, news articles and blog posts, but usually not in real life. I also signed up for the Nike pace group. They give you an arm tattoo for pacing, which is completely badass. I can’t remember a damn thing while I’m running, so looking down at my arm to see if I’m on target is wonderful.

After the expo, I napped on the grass in Grant Park. We headed back to the apartment to make pasta and watch Avatar. The movie didn’t distract me from my nerves (What the bloody HELL was I thinking trying to run a marathon on two months of low mileage training?!), so I puttered around and got my gear ready for the morning and kept an eye on the Tigers game and the Ironman World Championships in Kona.

That’s another thing. I was cheering for Chrissie Wellington to take another title. She’s an incredible athlete. Watching through twitter her incredible push to the front on the bike and the run was so inspiring. She was clearly hurting when I turned on the stream, but nothing was going to stop that athlete from taking her fourth title in four tries. That was the perfect last minute inspiration and motivation for my race.

We were in bed before 9 for that 4:30 a.m. wake up, and surprisingly I slept well.

I puttered around and got all my gear into order on Saturday night. In bed before 9 p.m.

I felt good, although I was a little too tired for my liking from all the walking.

Throughout the trip, I updated my Facebook feed and Twitter status with comments and photos just out of pure excitement for the adventure. The feedback I got from family, friends, coworkers and my Twitter running community was overwhelming (in a good way). I never expected the outpouring of support, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Every “like,” comment and tweet boosted my nervous spirits and reminded me of how lucky I am. To each and every one of you: Thank you, thank you, thank you. And best to luck to you in your adventures, I’ll be cheering!

And that folks, is where I’ll leave it for now… More to come.

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