The week leading up to the marathon was the longest week ever! Time seemed to go by in slow motion and sometimes even felt like it had stopped completely. I was unable to focus at work and as the days passed my anxiety increased and the hours of sleep I got decreased. I was worried about my foot even though it had been ok for the past few weeks and I was concerned that the lack of training in the 6 weeks before the marathon would make this race particularly challenging. I went to one last acupuncture appointment on Tuesday to make sure I was in the best shape I could be in when I got to the start. Wednesday night I did a short easy run with Kim and Erin, just 4 miles. Felt pretty good and got a few of the nerves out.
Thursday at work I was freaking out. I tried to check into my flight online and got an error message that my confirmation code was invalid. I had to try 3 different websites and then called travelocity and got transferred to the airline and had to check in over the phone. Extra stress I did not need before leaving. I hadn't packed yet and I still had the plumber coming at some point before I left to fix a busted radiator pipe in my house. I got a text message from the plumber saying he was free all day so I took a half day to get the pipe fixed and to pack and try to relax a little. I got home around noon and the plumber showed up shortly after. I started packing and laid out everything on my couch checking and double checking that I had two of everything I needed just in case. I don't know why I might need two pairs of arm warmers and two pairs of throw away gloves and two pairs of running capris, but I might change my mind the morning of the race and decide I want a different color of something. It's crazy I know. This is why it was good I took a half day to pack.
The plumber was able to fix the pipe and it cost me less than his original estimate so I was pleasantly surprised. I managed to jam everything into a carry-on bag and a 'personal item' bag so I didn't have to check anything. I finished packing in the early afternoon and could finally relax and breath a little easier knowing I was as ready as I could be for my trip. I even had time to bake some cookies for Kim's father in-law to thank him for the ride to the airport.
Friday morning, bright and early, I got up and drove to Kim and Bill's house to hitch a ride to the airport. We made it to the airport with a littel time to spare, made it through security and got some coffee before boarding the flight. I got a window seat, which is my favorite because I can squish and contort myself into a little ball in the corner and fall asleep. As I got comfy in my seat I looked down and remembered the days that my hips didn't even fit comfortably between the two arm rests. A guy sat down next to me that looked like a runner, in running shoes and a nice new balance jacket. I remembered hating fully booked flights because I was so big it was always awkward being that fat person no one wants seated next to them. I'm not that person anymore and now I really only fly to run marathons, crazy how things change.
Anyway, I asked the guy if he was going to Chicago for the marathon and he said he worked for New Balance and was the race director for the Rotterdam marathon. He wasn't running, just going for 'business'. That's a business I'd like to be in. Maybe someday. We chatted about Rotterdam and he convinced me to add it to my 'to-do' list. It sounds like a really great race that is growing in popularity. And why not? I've never been to Rotterdam, I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't even know where it was. I had to google it after the plane landed. I told him I was on the race committee for a stair climb event and gave him some info and my email. He said he actually has a cousin that is a fire fighter in Connecticut and he would pass the info along. I hope they both climb, that would be so cool.
Before I knew it, after a little snooze, we landed in the windy city and met everyone at the baggage claim area and headed to the hotel. Almost all of our flights arrived at the same time so it was incredible. There was at least 10 of us out of a total of over 20 people running together. Pretty good planning and scheduling on everyone's part. We got to the hotel and only about half of the rooms were ready. People that didn't have rooms yet store their stuff in other people's rooms. My room, which I shared with my friend Patty from NYC, was ready so we went to the room and dumped our stuff before going to the expo. The rooms were really nice. I highly recommend the La Quinta downtown Chicago. It was actually really really nice.
Everyone met back up in the lobby after a few minutes to store bags and whatnot. And we headed to the famous "L" train to go to the expo. We got a little lost and ended up on the wrong train platform and then almost went on the right train headed in the wrong direction. We eventually got on the right train and got to the stop in Chinatown closest to the expo, but still several blocks away. We walked a few blocks, checked the map, recalculated our route like a GPS and walked a little more. We found the building that the expo was in, but approached it from the wrong side so we had to go through the garage in the basement of the building and then to a random set of double doors and finally we found it!
Patty and I got our bib numbers and we lost track of the rest of the group. We walked around and checked out the expo. Took a bunch of photos. Photos of the entrance, then Patty getting her number, and then re-took the one of Patty getting her number because it didn't come out great, then a photo with the official course map and almost everything that said Bank of America Chicago Marathon on it. It was pretty funny. Thankfully I was in no hurry and kind of enjoyed the excitement and enthusiasm Patty had for the marathon. I think somewhere along the way to number eleven I lost that. For me it's just another long long run and it's lost some of that magic. Patty helped me find it again.
As we were walking around we noticed a line around one of the vendor areas and I looked and it was DEAN KARNAZES signing autographs!!!! Holy crap, I am so glad we took our time and didn't rush through the expo. We got in line and I MET HIM! He was so cool. I showed him a picture of a sign I made for Boston this year using one of his quotes and told him I got a lot of thumbs up from people running. He was so nice and wished me luck in the race. I still can't believe I met him.
We checked out all the running gear for sale and all the cool freebies. The official Nike gear was kind of lame, the graphics sucked and the colors were weird so we skipped buying any of it and found a much cooler shirt totally by accident. Walking past the 312 beer tent towards the wall of names, they were selling t-shirts for $10 and it was the coolest design in the whole place! Best shirt ever! Then I found my name:
We went back to the hotel and tried to see what everyone was planning for dinner, but it seemed like everyone sort of decided to do their own thing so Patty had a friend that lived in Chicago and he happened to live only a few blocks from our hotel so we met him for dinner and went to the famous "Gino's East" for deep dish pizza. I'm more of a thin crust person, but I figured "when in Rome...." It was pretty good, but really too much food and too much cheese and crust, just heavy and overloaded with stuff, so much that you couldn't really enjoy the flavors of the individual ingredients. Not my style, but I tried it.
Saturday, again, it seemed like everyone just wanted to do their own things. Patty and I got up and got dressed, got the amazing free breakfast at La Quinta and went to the Willis (aka SEARS) Tower skydeck. It was the one thing I didn't get to do last year and I really wanted to check it out. We got there early enough that there was no line and we went right to the top. Man, they're not kidding when they say it's really really tall. I was a little dizzy at the top. The views were amazing and then we stood out on one of the glass ledges. My legs were shaking and I had to back out onto the ledge because I'm terrified of heights and I didn't want to look down. I get queazy just thinking about it now. So glad I did it though, it was really cool. Here's the view (I pointed my camera down, but didn't actually look, came out really good considering):
After the tower, we got lunch and walked to the river boat tours. Met up with my friend Steve from DFMC and took the river and lake tour. I had done the river tour last year so it was cool to see the lake part this time. Unfortunately, it was a little chilly and when the wind picked up it got really cold. When it wasn't windy it was a perfect sunny fall day, but dang, that wind really goes right through you. After the boat tour ended we headed back to the hotel then realized it would be better if we just went straight to the restaurant that we were all eating dinner at. Maggiano's. Perfect pre-race carbo loading.
As we got closer to the start our group split up because we were all in different corrals. Patty and I were in the same one and we started walking towards the gate to get into the runner only area and just by chance we walked right past Steve! So, we all went to bag check together. As the clock ticked and start time got closer I was excited and overwhelmed. Exactly 5 years ago to the day I ran the BAA Half Marathon (my first half marathon). Now I was getting ready to run my 11th full marathon in less than 4 years. It is so hard to believe I have come so far and accomplished so much. It blows my mind every time I think about it. Getting choked up at the start:
Ok, so enough of the build up. The gun went off and I was running my eleventh marathon. I ran my own race. Focused on how far I had come and celebrated with every step. I reminded myself that I needed to start slow and see how I felt and I could always pick up the pace later on if I felt good. I felt really good from the start. I smiled ear to ear and took in all the sights and tried really hard to look around and appreciate every mile. The miles early on in a marathon seem to go by really fast. Marker after marker you can't believe you're really doing it and you mentally check off each one as you get closer and closer to your goal. My pace was ok, comfortable, not fast, but not slow either. I was consistant as usual. Then around mile 9 my tummy rumbled. It was MCM 2009 all over again. Stomach issues. I had to stop. I found a port-o-potty and waited in line watching the time tick on my Garmin and doing the math, I could still hit my goal time.
I started running again and felt pretty good. My foot was fine and I was making progress, not as fast as I wanted to, but I felt good and I was running strong. I wasn't stopping and it was an ideal day for a marathon. Cool at the start, then about 50 degrees as we ran. Partly sunny with little to no wind. I was so happy. I thought about all the people that helped me get to this point and all the people that had told me at some point that I couldn't do something or that I wasn't strong enough or I wasn't good enough. With every stride I was proving them wrong and I was making my supporters proud. My mantra for the day was - "I am strong, I am powerful, I am beautiful, and I can do this!"
Somewhere around mile 22 I felt a stabbing pain I was hoping to avoid. MY FOOT!!!! I'm pretty sure I might have said a not so nice word out loud. I was so close and NOW it was starting to hurt. WHY NOW??? I pushed through and tried to adjust my stride and my foot fall to avoid overpronating and heel striking. It didn't matter much. It hurt, A LOT. I kept going. Nothing was going to stop me. I looked at my Garmin and tried to do the math, could I still get under 5 hours. Yes, maybe, I don't know, I don't think so. Readjusted goal to "just finish". You can see the pain in my face in one of the best pro photos ever captured of me running:
I made it through the finish area and got my checked bag and put on dry clothes and layed on the ground drinking my free beer waiting for Patty to find me. My foot throbbed with pain and my heart ached from the perceived failure. I wanted to crawl under a rock and never come out. Patty found me and tried to cheer me up. She had run a new PR by A LOT. The favorable conditions definitely worked well for her. She helped me up and we went to the post-race party area for more free beer. I could barely walk. Putting any weight on my foot hurt and the emotional pain of not performing as well as expected didn't help either.
The beer tent closed so we started the long walk back to the hotel. I got to see another Chicago landmark I missed the year before - The Bean!:
We left the bar and people went back to the hotel or off in various directions to find food. Patty and I went to one more bar to get another post-race drink. Patty was determined to make me realize that despite all the things that went wrong I still made it and I did something incredible. I appreciated the effort, but walking around in search of a drink, hobbling on my foot that throbbed with every step was only a painful reminder with every step that things didn't go as planned and I didn't do as well as I had hoped. We got one more drink and went back to the hotel.
I didn't sleep at all. I cried from the pain in my foot and the pain in my heart feeling like such a failure and not part of the group that had all run so strong and so successfully. I got up part way through the night took a handful of advil and filled a bag of ice to put on my foot. Eventually, I got a little sleep but not restful and definitely not on cloud nine like the rest of the group.
In the morning we woke up early and packed our bags. We went to the Nike store to get Patty's medal engraved. I refused to get mine done because I was so disappointed with my time I was not going to get that put on a medal. Kim and Bill came shortly after us. We got there first and started a line outside the store before it opened. It was a bit of a cluster-f*%& because after waiting outside in the cold for an hour a few people showed up right before the doors opened and walked right in a separate set of doors that the idiot security guards opened before the door we stood in front of for an hour. We talked to the manager and sorted it out, but seriously, NIKE, get that crap organized next time. Patty talked me into getting my medal engraved. I refused to put my time and decided to put a different milestone on it instead:
So, the journey continues. My foot is feeling better. I've run twice since the marathon without issues. And there are 89 days until I get to do it all over again in Disney! I will approach the training for Goofy with caution and watch to see how my foot feels. I am icing and taping and stretching and sleeping with a brace on to keep my foot flexed. I am determined to keep going and I will not let a little disappointment stop me from dusting myself off, getting up, and trying again. Not every race and not every run is a good one, but the same can be said for life - not every day is awesome and filled with sunshine and rainbows. I'm stealing this from a great motivational movie character that knows better than anyone how to get beaten down and keep getting up and fighting.