Thursday, October 17, 2013

Run like the wind!

Wow. I made it through. I made it through Chicago.

If you've been following along with this blog, you might know that I was talked into running the Chicago marathon by my friends Anne and Kelli. They had decided to run it, and somehow I didn't want to be left out of the fun, so I said I would do it, too. We worked like mad to get through the crazy computer system on the day entry opened, and finally got the notifications that we were in. (The number of people trying to sign up at the exact same time crashed the computer system this year and created whole debacle. I think the whole thing is going to be a lottery next year.)

Then, it was time to wait. Well, wait and train.  It seems like this all happened so long ago, yet, the time also crept up on me.

The girls and I spent all summer slogging out long runs in the heat and humidity and torrential downpours. We followed the training plan from "Train like a Mother," and I got in all my miles. I'd experimented with different fuels and tried different clothes. I knew what worked. I was ready.

But, I was nervous. Very nervous. Like, stomach tied up in knots, dream-interrupting nervous. You'd think, with this being my third full marathon, that I'd be done with nerves. Or, at least, they wouldn't be that bad. I actually think, though, it was because of my previous marathons that I was so nervous.

My first, in 2006, was in Dallas in April. It got up to 92 degrees that day. I think it was about 87 degrees with 80 percent humidity when I finished. Um, yeah, miserable. I immediately said I would never do another marathon.

My second was in Tulsa, OK, in 2010. It was also warm that day, even though it was November, with temps reaching 79 degrees. And, high humidity. I hit the wall around mile 22 and hated the last 4 miles with every ounce of my being. I said I'd never run another marathon.

While I was glad I had run both of these, neither of them were exactly "fun." Nor was I ever eager to do it again. I was so afraid of that happening to me again. So, this trip, I was nervous. So nervous. And, I definitely seemed to be the only one of us nervous for the entire trip. What in the world had I talked myself into?

But, let's step back a day or two to the beginning of the trip ...

Kelli, Anne, Marsha and I took off from KC on a plane bound for Chicago early on Friday morning. We wanted to get to Chicago early enough to enjoy time while we were there and not have to feel rushed.

At the KC airport. Apparently our barista thought we looked like an Emi and Kian instead of Amy and Anne.

Anne and Marsha on the L to get to our hotel.

And, Kelli and me.

We dropped our bags off at the hotel, grabbed some lunch then took off down Michigan Avenue.
We checked out Niketown, which was amazing. They were having a dance party, complete with DJ gearing up for the marathon. After that, we headed to the expo. Oh.My. Gosh. This expo was amazing. Everything you could possibly want was there. Shoes, clothes, fuel, accessories, jewelry. Everything. We were in awe.

We took a picture with Dean Karnazes.

We posed with cool signs.

We signed under a magnet, then got to take the magnet home as a souvenir.

We posed with our spot on the wall.
We got free tasters of wine!
I mean, you couldn't get a better expo than all that, right?

Saturday, we were determined not to walk as much, in hopes of giving our feet a rest. We took a morning boat tour around Chicago. It was beautiful.

Gorgeous day for a boat ride!

Then, we went to Lincoln Park and checked out the shops down there. What should we happen to run across? A KU bar. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

We had dinner with lots of friends, then went to bed early to get ready for the marathon the next day.

Up before the sun. Ready to check our gear and find our corrals.

The security wouldn't let us go down a corral, so we said goodbye to Marsha, and Kelli, Anne and I made our way to the D corral. And, waited.

Inside our corral.

Time to pose for some pictures.

Lining up to start. 

Anne, Kelli and I made plans to stay together for the whole marathon. So, we started the race, and tried to make sure we were going slow enough. That is the key, I've decided. There is so much excitement and adrenaline pumping through you at the beginning, it's easy to go out faster than you'd planned. Unfortunately, I think that's what we did. Chicago did an AMAZING job putting on this marathon. The crowd support is unbelievable. There are people lining the streets. Everywhere. And, not just people with friends or family running the marathon, but just people in the city. Out there to cheer runners on. It was awesome and amazing. I kind of teared up a couple times thinking about it while I was running. 

The signs were also great. A lot of people had government-related signs, ie. "You run better than the government" or "The government may quit, but you can't" or "The government can't shut you down!" One of my personal faves was a sign that said, "Nerdy accountant sign: Chicago Marathon Entry = $175. You are $56.23 of the way done!" 

I spent the whole time people-watching, sign-watching and building-watching. There was never not something to look at. The first 8 miles flew by before I even knew it. My hardest miles were probably between 11 and 15. They weren't bad, but just a little more draining in the head. Anne kind of hit a wall around mile 19. She'd had a dreaded side stitch, then couldn't get back in the groove. I decided to try to encourage her by saying, "Just think, in less than an hour, you'll be a marathoner!" Yeah, that was not the right thing to say. I got a hand to the face and she physically moved far away from me. She doesn't actually remember this now, so I chalk it up to crazy marathon brain. :)

Around mile 20ish, the back of my left knee started hurting. But, only when I was running slow. When I sped up and stretched it out, it felt great. So, I started doing the super annoying run-fast-stop-wait-run-fast thing. I know it's obnoxious, but it's the only thing that helped my knee and allowed me to still stay with Anne and Kelli.

About .5 miles from the finish line, Kelli spotted, in the mother of all coincidences, Marsha. She had started in the corral behind us, but we were going to be able to cross the finish line together. How amazing is that?!?

We all four crossed the line with our arms raised high in the sky. (I may have to break down and actually purchase a copy of that official picture). We were all marathoners.

After the finish line!
Kelli and I drinking our free beer at the end. I drained the whole thing. I don't know how it really tasted, but at that moment in time, it was amazing.

Kelli and Ashlee in our "spot" in the plaza area after the finish. Another coincidence, Bill and Ashlee walked right by us after they finished. Seriously, in a race with 45, 000 runners, we could never have planned to meet everyone like we did.

I was feeling pretty good, albeit tired, after the race, but we'd heard there was finisher gear somewhere in the after-party area. So, while Anne, Bill and Ashlee headed back to the hotel, Kelli and I searched for finisher gear with Marsha and Sheila. After a while of searching and having no luck, Kelli and I decided to just head back for some hot showers. Unfortunately, we realized that we'd sent our map, aka Anne, back to the hotel already. We asked a security guard if he knew the way back to our hotel and he pointed in a direction and said, "yeah, it's just 7 blocks up that street."

Um, 7 blocks seemed like nothing when we'd walked down to the race that morning. But after running 26.2 miles all over Chicago, 7 blocks might as well have been another marathon.

Kelli and I made a pit stop at the Bean on the long, long walk back to the hotel.
 After finally arriving back to the wonderful Hyatt, we showered, got ready and headed back out. Kelli swore that we would be less sore if we walked around a lot after the marathon. I wasn't convinced, but decided to give it a try. We headed back to Niketown to find that elusive finishers' gear and got to have another dance party with the employees there. Then, met up with a bunch of people from our Sunday running group, Sunday Runday, at a bar and had a delicious beer.

After finding our Finisher's Gear at Niketown!

The Sunday Runday Chicago Marathon crew.
 We met up with Sheila, Marsha and Carla for dinner that night back out in Lincoln Park. Only, by the time we got there, sat down in the quiet, dark restaurant and ordered dinner, I was drained of any and all energy. I seriously thought I was going to fall asleep face first into my plate of ravioli. We didn't even have the energy to walk back to the L stop, so we took a cab back to the hotel and collapsed into bed.

The next day, we slept in, then meandered through Chicago before we had to head to the airport.

We found this bar, which unfortunately we didn't actually get to go in to. But, I had to take a picture.

I forgot to take my traditional finish line pose, so I took a picture on Michigan Avenue instead.

This time, we took a picture at the Bean with Anne!
And my most delicious pizza and cider right before we headed to the airport.
All-in-all, the trip was amazing. The marathon was fabulous. I finished it not thinking "I'll never do one again," but instead thinking, "I want to do that again!" I finally got through my mental nerves and had a great race. I mean, sure, I think I'll lose a couple toenails, and I've been icing my knees for a couple days, but, wow, it was totally worth it. 

Thanks, Chicago, I gave you my nerves and you gave me back my love of the race!

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