|Not quite as elaborate as last time, but served the purpose.|
Saturday morning, after a quick 2.5 miles around the neighborhood, I headed over to see Becky for some words of wisdom and to have my toe taped. The last time she taped my toe, back in April, I PR'd a 10 miler. Being somewhat superstitious, I wanted to leave nothing to chance. When I walked into the box, I was greeted by the owner, my friend Karen, with a "here comes the marathoner!" Becky taped my toe, and gave me a card, which she told me not to open until the following morning. She gave me hug and told me she knew I was going to do well. I left with all that positivity in my ears and headed downtown Chicago to the expo to pick up my race packet and shop.
I listened to my running playlist all the way down. There was minimal traffic, just a jam-up at the usual spot in the loop, and I parked the car and headed into the expo. The expo is really big. I stopped at the Nike booth, because 3 years ago they had some pretty
That night, I prepared my outfit and gear. I decided to open Becky's card in case it would make me emotional. The card was perfect. It was all about accomplishment. And inside the card was a small stone on which she had written "believe" on one side and on the other was written 26.2. I slipped it into my shorts pocket.
The next morning, I got up at 430a and got dressed. I had a cup of coffee, my usual breakfast of Cheerios and orange juice. My husband drove me to the El, which is about 20 minutes from my house. A good omen, Tom Petty's "Running Down a Dream" was on the radio on the way there. While I was waiting for the train, a woman approached me and we introduced ourselves. She was from Michigan, and it was her first marathon. It was really fun to be the one with experience and to share that with her. Another woman joined us, and it was like we were old friends on the ride down. Once we got off and got to Grant Park, we separated. I headed to the Advocate tent, where I could leave my gear. I met up with my coworker, Bonita.
|Bonita and me|
And then I got a text from Penny (aka 26.yikes) who was right outside my tent. I flew out of the tent for hugs and some final words of wisdom. More hugs and we laughed about all the goofy texting we had done with Karen, Michelle, and Sara all week. That sure helped to release some of the stress we were all feeling! Ascots and cognac, anyone?
|Penny and me|
I got in line for the portapotty--I had a little frustration with the guy in front of me who was letting everyone go ahead of us (WTH!!!)--
--and flew off to the corral. I sucked down the last of my 16 ounces of my pre-race Tailwind. About 5 minutes after I got in the corral, they closed it. I talked with an older gentleman next to me, who told me it was his 20th consecutive year running. The national anthem was sung, and the wheelchair athletes were off. About 15 minutes later, we crossed the start line.
I started my Garmin. I had planned to use my Garmin only for pacing, knowing that the tall buildings in the city would mess with my signal. My music was already going, quietly, and I made a snap decision at that moment to turn it up and shut out the spectators. I didn't want to get caught up in the spectacle of the race and I thought that I would need my music, which I had trained with, to keep me focused. Meanwhile, my Garmin was going crazy--we ran under bridges, on lower Wacker Drive, and finally headed up Columbus, where I finally got a good signal. Luckily, I fell into a groove right away, and the huge pack of runners that I remembered from 3 years ago never materialized. Actually, thinking about it now, I never had to weave through runners at all, which is something I've experienced at every race I've ever run. About mile 3, all that Tailwind I drank before the race made its presence known and I had to make an impromptu portapotty stop. Quick like a bunny! And back on the road.
We snaked through the downtown loop and headed back north on LaSalle. This is a really long stretch, and I tried not to let that knowledge get the best of me. Turns out knowledge was power for me. I kept my nice steady pace. We passed by Lincoln Park Zoo (I smelled cow manure!) and headed north to Addison, where we turned and ran a few blocks west before heading south onto Broadway into Boystown.
This is one of the most crowded spots of the race, spectator wise. The entertainment along this part of the route is legendary. The ROTC Chicago was on a stage, twirling their guns. Another stage had a few drag queens. They were actually beautiful and I waved as I ran by. One of the shouted to me, "heyyyy!" and blew me a kiss. LOL!
|R.O.T.C Chicago (from a previous year)|
Anyways, I took it as a "catch my breath" break and moved on down Sedgewick, which is a beautiful street of old vintage brownstones. We turned onto North Avenue, down Wells through Old Town. I was amazed at how great my legs felt and that the miles seemed to be flying by. So different from my last marathon!
We headed west onto Jackson, and got to the half marathon point. Ugh. My tummy was talking to me and I thought it was a good idea to stop. I ran to the porta-potty and back to the course. When we ran through the charity village, I looked for the UPs for Downs tent and my friend Sandy. I ran for this charity last time. Sandy was right along the course with her family. I stopped for a hug and she asked how I was doing. "A lot better than the last time I did this!" I told her as I ran away. About a half mile later, I saw someone frantically waving at me. It was my medical assistant Zuly! She was there with her kids. I ran over, hugged her and the kids, posed for a quick picture and ran away. She later told me that her kids had so much fun at the race, high fiving all the runners. It meant so much to me that she was there. Later, I saw on facebook that she was posting updates throughout the race. I love this girl!
|Zuly and me!|
|courtesy of doctordribble ( instagram )|
We ran south on Western avenue and headed into Pilsen. Pilsen is an old Bohemian neighborhood now settled by Mexican immigrants. From my last marathon, I remember this being my favorite part of the marathon. The people turn out in droves and the atmosphere was festive. People are handing out food and orange slices. The music is so loud, it drowned out my own music. Signs everywhere proclaiming "Si se puede", which means you can do it! Another mantra of mine. And then onto Chinatown.
Chinatown is another festive spot, with a ton of people lining the streets and Chinese dragons in different spots. People were starting to walk more here. Mile 22.
Wait, mile 22? I walked through here last time, thoroughly miserable. Mile 22? The wall? What wall? No wall yet. Fully aware of that at this point, I shut that thought down. Stopped thinking about the wall. There would be no wall for this runner. Nope. No how. No way. Sipped my Tailwind furiously. And headed forward down Wentworth towards 33rd street. We crossed over the Dan Ryan expressway and began to head north onto Michigan Avenue.
At this point last time, it seemed that I'd never get to the finish line. Yet this year, I kept on running. More and more people walking. My hamstrings were tired but yet I kept pushing. I heard some self doubt creep into my brain, and I pictured myself doing burpees in the middle of Michigan Avenue. At mile 23. Seriously? I chuckled to myself. At mile 23.
By mile 24, I could see the jumbotron at the turn to the finish on Roosevelt Rd. I knew it was 2 miles away, but still. I could see it. Unfortunately, my Garmin died at mile 24. I was told that this model had 4 hours of battery and that was not an exaggeration! Oh well...That made me laugh too. On a more serious note, I tried not to let the sight of more and more runners walking, and some lying on the ground affect me.
Instead, I let my music carry me home. Eminem came on, rapping Till I Collapse: "but you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength, and pull that shit out of you and get that motivation not to give up, and not be a quitter no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse..."--seriously, that should have been blasting from loudspeakers this at this point for all those runners walking and laying on the ground. I don't know, but it worked for me. This song was followed by Rage at the Machine singing "Killing in the Name of" ("f-no I won't do what you told me"). Talk about powerful. And motivational. There was no way I was stopping. Hamstrings, shut up!
As I hit mile 26, my favorite running song, by Noel Gallagher (formerly of Oasis) singing "A Simple Game of Genius" came on. The coincidence of my favorite running song, singing me to the finish line, was not lost on me. I plodded up that hill on Roosevelt Rd, towards the curve that I knew would take me into the finish chutes. The final approach was lined with medical personnel. Guess that's what you see when you finish faster than 5:26...
I crossed the finish line in 4:17:55. Mylar blanket around my back, medal over my head, I headed towards the food, called my husband, and then Zuly. While I was talking with Zuly, I stood up on my tippy toes to get some food, and my legs froze up. I couldn't stand on my feet, they were completely rigid. What a weird feeling!!!! I started to fall backwards, and someone thankfully caught me. The police came over and another person came with a wheelchair. I kept telling them I was fine, it was just leg cramps, but they wheeled me to the medical tent. Poor Zuly, on the phone still, asking me if I was ok! I told her I was fine, and I'd call her back.
I am the worst patient, and proud of it. People were in the tent, moaning, vomiting, and I just wanted to leave. While I was waiting to be seen by a medical professional, I chugged a Gatorade and stretched my legs. They were so busy that they finally let me sign myself out. "I'm a nurse practitioner!" I kept telling them. I'm sure they were rolling their eyes. I would have been. Once I walked out, I grabbed some food and a Goose Island 312.
|That's more like it!! I couldn't stop smiling!!|
Remember my goals for this race? To finish faster than last time and to feel strong enough to drink a beer? Mission accomplished. I sipped on that beer as I headed to my meeting place, where I planned to meet my friends.
|Penny, me, Sara, and Karen|
|Nicole, Jackie, and me|
This was a great race for me. I couldn't sleep that night, I had so much adrenaline and endorphins running through me. When I got to work the next morning, I found out the entire office had been tracking Bonita and me. It was amazing. But even better is that feeling I have of crushing a goal. Of getting that bad race from 3 years ago off my back. I did what I set out to do, what I knew I had in me. I don't know if I can put into words what it feels like to run a race like this. Sure, a few less potty stops and technological glitches would have been nice. But would I have run any faster without that? I don't know. Those mini-breaks gave me a chance to catch my breath. I didn't let it throw me, either. I set a time goal of 4:30 for this race and while I knew I could do better than that, I let myself have that cushion, just in case. I loved everything about this marathon...my training...the support from all my friends...the race. The weather was perfect. Even if there are subsequent marathons, there will never be another one quite like this. Because this was the one that showed me..I CAN and I WILL!