Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Chicago Marathon recap-Redemption!!!!

So those of you who have been following me for a while know that I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well at this race. I jumped into race prep 13 weeks before the marathon when I won a free entry through my work. Fortunately, I have been working with a CrossFit coach, who was more than willing to train me. And I had a strong running base prior to starting to train. My biggest hurdle would be my brain, on which I worked as hard, building mental strength, as I did building physical strength. And it paid off. The good news is that since I jumped into the game relatively late, I didn't have a whole lot of time to psych myself out about it. My trainer not only prepared me physically but mentally as well, but giving me some killer workouts and a lot to think about. But about 3 weeks before the race, I had a kick ass speed work session which convinced me that I was ready. The rest of my runs, through my taper, went off without a hitch. I had to keep pinching myself that it was really going to happen.

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 overpriced awesome shirts. This time around they were still overpriced, but not very exciting! I found a few t-shirts that I liked and bought those. As I walked through the expo, I saw people getting their picture taken at the NewBalance exhibit and I stopped in. The guy told me I had to jump up for the picture and I complied. While I was waiting for him to print it out, he asked me if I was alone. I told him yes, and he replied "too bad". Um, ok, not quite sure how to take that...anyways, I picked up my packet and bib, and headed to my son's football game.


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)
I stopped at a water station to refill my Tailwind, and the volunteer happily refilled my water bottle. This was repeated x4 during this race! I saw Amanda "Too Tall Fritz" and ran alongside her for a few minutes. She told me she was struggling and told me to run ahead. I wished her luck and moved forward. As I ran along, my phone started to make weird noises and my music stopped. I pulled over to the side, and found that my flashlight was stuck on. I couldn't turn it off. I started to panic a little. A spectator came over to me and helped me troubleshoot it. I probably wasted 5 minutes on this. Crap! See what happens when you run with music?

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!
After the charity village, we headed back on Jackson and then south to Taylor Street. This is an Italian neighborhood.  I knew one of my neighbors was going to be there watching their twins run, so I kept on the lookout for them. I spotted them and ran over for hugs! As I moved away from them, I saw a guy dribbling 2 basketballs. Dr Dribble! He said he was going to dribble the entire 26.2. And he did.

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
The park was ridiculously crowded but I found Sara! and Penny found us. Finally Karen met up with us and we all talked about our races. Karen and I PR'd! Sara BQ'd! Penny didn't meet her time goal but pushed through a nagging ITB and finished respectably. We all had good races.

Nicole, Jackie, and me
While we were talking, I heard my name and saw my neighbor and her family, including her 2 cute twins (who are part of the Blackhawks Ice Crew). I had to take a picture with them, even though I look so old with them...



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!



52 comments :

  1. Congratulations! It sounds like you had a really great race! So inspiring.

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    1. Thank you! It was an amazing experience!

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  2. I loved your recap!! What an awesome feeling to know you accomplished your goal! Congrats! I can't wait to have a similar experience...hope your mojo is contagious! :)

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    1. I sure hope so! I can't wait to see how it goes for you!

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  3. Loved every minute of this! Loved that you proved a great race can be run on low mileage and that there is more than one route to marathon success. Most of all I love that you slayed those demons in your head. Well done my friend. Elated for you!

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    1. Thank you so much Marcia! I have to credit you for planting those seeds in my head, that I had another one in me. I am so glad I did this. For so many reasons!!! <3

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  4. Awesome!!!! Congratulations - all your hard work paid off and you ran a fantastic race. Strong at the end. Amazing!

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    1. Thanks steph and thanks for following my journey!! Your support was a big factor for me!

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  5. Love your re-cap. Felt I was there with you all the way. As a 2-time marathoner at 5:19 (I was thrilled!!) and then 5:55 (running injured and feeling just about everything you wished to avoid in your re-cap that actually happened to me!!)... I understand your elation, joy, happiness and accomplishment. Wow. Just WOW!

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    1. Thank you Sharon!!! It felt so great to get that bad marathon (for me) off my back! No matter what happens in the future, I proved to myself that I had a strong marathon in me!! Thanks for all your support.

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  6. Woohoo! I love reading the words "this was a great race for me." It's so infrequent that we are truly satisfied with a race day and its refreshing to read a report that IS satisfactory to the writer! Congrats to you!

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    1. Thank you! This truly was the race of this runner's lifetime!

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  7. Congratulations on an excellent race! You inspire me to want to take that next step to a full marathon! Great post...I felt I was running too! I love the toe tape.

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    1. You need to do it! I still love my halfs, but it always feels good to push it a little harder.

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  8. You look so happy! I know you've had a rough few months mentally so this should feel extra amazing for you. Enjoy the feeling you get from hard work and determination. Congrats friend!

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    1. Thanks Deb, it really does!!! I look at the pictures and ask myself if it really happened!

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  9. Your recap makes me smile from ear to ear. I am so, so glad you finally had the race you deserved. I remember a time (not too long ago) when you said you would never do a marathon again. Sweet redemption! Seeing you smile and so happy is just the best feeling. Wendy, you did INCREDIBLE!!!! Can't wait to hear what marathon is next!

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    1. Thank you so much Karen! You had a great race too! You have been there for me since we met a year ago (only a year--seems like we've been friends forever!). My running has improved so much since I've met you. Love you, sole sister!

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  10. You are so awesome! & it just blows my mind how you remember all that detail . . . I can't even remember that much from a half! Now I wanna run Chicago . . .

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    1. Well, you do have a lot of time to take it all in! And yes, you should run Chicago!

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  11. Wendy, Awesome recap! Thank you for helping me remember the course! I didn't know where I was half the time and it was the most I've seen of Chicago since moving here. You are amazing, Wendy!!! Congratulations! I think you are right about having fun and am convinced it helped lead you to a great race and PR... it's supposed to be like this :)

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    1. Thanks Teri! I read your recap, and you posted stuff that I forgot--like the presence of all the police, Homeland Security, and SWAT team officers--which kind of threw me when I'd see them! You're right about one thing, my goal for this race to have fun. My training was fun, and I think that put me in the right mindset for this marathon.

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  12. Congrats! You kicked some major butt and with only 13 weeks of advanced notice! Too bad about the technical glitches, but like you said, maybe those gave you a needed break. Check out this clever mash-up of RATM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqV5YFrfgvw . Congrats again!

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    1. Thanks Pete! I'm just so happy with how this all turned out! For me, this condensed training was absolutely perfect!

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    2. BTW, that video made me LOL. But with that background music, the messsage seems so....tame....!

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    3. Yeah, I only had 9 weeks to prepare for last year's marathon and I was only 9.5 minutes slower than the 14+ weeks training I did this year. Go figure, maybe I was "fresher"? Anyway, that is a funny video, but probably too tame for motivational music while running a marathon! :)

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  13. This is an AMAZING recap, Wendy! You did such a great job, and I'm so excited for you! I LOVE the picture of the dogs waiting on the tree; this is classic! That porta-potty situation you described was ridiculous; there's just got to be a better way. Thank you such much for sharing your amazing experience; I can't wait to see what's up next for you!!

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    1. Thanks Tara! It was such an amazing experience. I don't know how I can top it. For now, I'm just going to savor it.

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  14. I have a huge goofy grin on my face!!! I'm so proud of you! You did awesome - I can and I will!!!

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    1. Thank you so much Angela! When you announced you were mentoring a first time marathoner, I wished that it were my first so I could throw my name in the hat. Turns out I had a pretty good mentor all along! Thanks for all your support. I hope your achilles calms down so you can Run Strong!

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  15. Congratulations! You were indeed ready, and tougher than everything that got thrown at you those last few weeks! So glad you rocked your race!

    I must ask - what's the toe taping for? (I have a bunion, so I'm wondering...)

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    1. Thank you! I had my toe taped because I have hallux limitus, which is a fancy name for arthritis in that big toe. I've had some fractures there too. Occasionally, it causes me some pain. Like last week. So Becky KT taped it--she says it helps with lymphatic drainage. I don't know but it made me PR at a race in April..and now...

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  16. Congratulations! What a FABULOUS race! I am so happy for you! You worked hard for this and kicked butt!

    I loved reading about all the family and friends you saw. That is such a boost! And the new friends you made on the train - isn't that fun about taking mass transit to a big race?

    LOL about the alone comment. Whatever, dude ;)

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    1. Yeah, clearly he's not a runner or he'd know that runners are all friends!! :)

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  17. Oh Wendy. You are a true champion. An inspiration. And I am so so SO proud to call you My Hero :) What an amazing race. And quite the redemption, indeed! Loved the recap. As with your racing, your blogging is simply Champion-Worthy as well. Congratulations, my friend. Something truly truly to be proud of. Love you!

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    1. Thanks Tahira! XOXOXOXO You're pretty inspiring to me, my adventurous friend!!!!

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  18. Good for you! Sounds like you had an amazing experience. That's how it shoudl be!

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    1. I did! It was fun, just how I wanted it to be! Who knew?

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  19. AHHHHHHHH!!! Wendy!!! SOOOOOO proud of you!! I knew you were going to rock this. I was on the edge of my seat reading this even though I even knew the outcome. And so impressive with all of your stops too, you were cruising! I hope I can have the same redemption next weekend at MCM.. I've set the same goal 4:30 with hopes that is a BIG cushion. Only time will tell!! Hugs!

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    1. I keep asking myself, if I didn't have all those stops, would I have been faster? I don't know...and I don't think so! I got a chance to regroup and catch my breath each time. Except for the stupid technology glitch! I couldn't be happier with the outcome and I got to have my post race beer. I'd love to do MCM with you in the future. This race made me sooooooo happy! I can't wait for you to crush yours.

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  20. What an awesome race! Congrats! I love your positive attitude and focus! So glad to have discovered your blog, too! Look forward to reading more!

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  21. Wow, what a fantastic race, I'm really happy for you!

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    1. Thanks Mary!!! It was an amazing experience!!

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  22. Congratulations on an excellent race! I love reading all the Chicago recaps because it takes me right back. That 312 at the finish line was amazing! You had an amazing race...great job!!

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    1. I'm still basking in the glow of my success! It was such a happy day for me!

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  23. Congrats - what a great race. I need someone to tape my toe!!

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    1. Still my favorite of all time. There will never be another like it!

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  24. Loved this recap! I've connected with you on Twitter recently, and so glad to find you again as part of the linkup. You are awesome, and an inspiration. I turned 40 this year, had a mini heart attack over it, but people like you are helping me to see that the best part of my life is just starting. Thank you! - Hillari

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    1. I'm running my best in my 50s--and who saw that coming? Not me. Turning 50 was so traumatic for me. Turns out it's been a fun ride so far!

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  25. Love this recap! I can see why you loved this race so much. Your joy shines in all your photos! I'd love to run Chicago one day!

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    1. It's a great race in my hometown. I'm looking forward to doing it again!

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