So I've been procrastinating on writing up my race recap for the 2015 Chicago Marathon because I've been in a bit of a funk with the post-marathon blues. Many runners get a little antsy in the taper phase, but I find recovery is even worse. Taking time off from running gives me more time to over-analyze my race performance and find ways to criticize myself despite having achieved my goal of sub 3;50. Ugh!
I pretty much lost all confidence in my ability to ever BQ again after running my slowest of 3 Boston Marathons in April (4:08, previously ran 3:53 in 2013 and 3:53 in 2014), And when the news came out that entry into the 2016 Boston Marathon required a -2:28 BQ, I really started to panic. I had been hoping that a 3:53 would be good enough to get into 2017. Since I've run that time or better three times since 2013, I thought I could probably do it again, but trying to run in the 3:40s seemed daunting. However, once I accepted that the only way to BQ without extreme squeaker anxiety for the next year was to get a -5 minute time, I decided it was sub 3:50 or BUST!
I met with my coach twice in the the two weeks before the race because I needed a serious pep talk and reality check. My last twenty miler three weeks before the marathon totally sucked and I barely finished. It probably wasn't a wise idea to do that crucial long run the day after a 10K race, whoops! But I thought since my 10K wasn't as fast as I wanted, that meant I could still do the 20 miler. Yeah, I could do it, as my coach said, but I shouldn't have expected it to go well! #truth
He told me that my last long run should be 12 miles at marathon pace and if I couldn't do that then I needed to come back and talk to him and re-evaluate my goal. The next day I ran 12 miles at 8:15 pace and felt more capable of achieving the 3:50 time.
Since September I had been obsessively putting my race times into race prediction calculators to see if I could still run a decent marathon and also comparing my performances in the same races the other years I ran Chicago (2011, 2012, and 2013). My Women's Four Miler time 5 weeks before the marathon predicted a 3:33 in the Runner's Ally app (yeah right!), but my Pepsi 10K time 3 weeks beforehand predicted a range of 3:42 - 3:51 based on my coach's chart. When I met with my coach the second time I questioned whether I wasn't being aggressive enough with my goal, but he pointed out that even though I did have a couple decent races this summer, I also had some bad ones so it seemed right to go out with a conservative goal and if the weather was ok, maybe I'd surprise myself and run faster in the second half.
I've only run a negative split once in my life - my 2nd marathon when I finished in 3:54 and ran the first half in about 2 hours. I really wanted to get as close to a negative split as possible in Chicago. I knew the only way to do this was to go out with the 3:50 pace group.
I've had problems with my Garmin in Chicago before, and this year it was no different.
I knew the displayed pace would be almost useless when it beeped before 1st mile marker and progressively got worse as I made it through the race. I stayed with the 3:50 group for about 10K and then I turned around to look for them and couldn't find them. Another woman asked which group I was looking for and said they were definitely behind me. She said she was hoping to get a couple minutes ahead of her pace group.... as if that was a good plan of action. There's no such thing time in the bank in the marathon people! For ever minute you go too fast in the the first half it'll come back to slow you 2x or 3x as much in the 2nd half. #beentheredonethat
"I’m not sure where the “time in the bank” theory came from, but the strategy has lead to the demise of more marathon runners than any other source."
Since I definitely didn't go out too fast for the first 6 miles, I decided to listen to all those friends who told me "run by feel" and I hoped for the best as I ran without the aid of the pace group. I looked down at my watch a few times over the next couple miles and saw my overall pace go down by about 5 seconds per mile and thought, uh oh. I tried to keep it more consistent and knew that once I saw my half split I'd be able to better gauge how things were going. I hit the 1/2 way point just under 1:54 which is the slowest I have run the first half of my 3 Chicago Marathons and 3 Boston Marathons since 2011. However, I also knew this was a minute too fast for my 3:50 goal and worried that I would be slowing down in the second half, but hoped I wouldn't hit the wall.
I still felt pretty good through mile 18, but soon after that the sun and heat started getting to me. I couldn't bear another cup of Gatorade so I switched to water. I kept checking my fingers to see if they were puffing up, but I seemed to be handling the switch ok. I struggled with opening and eating the Clif Blocks and Gels, but I knew I had to consume some calories along the course.
Once I hit mile 20 I noticed my overall pace was slowing down and I tried my best to keep it from creeping up more than 1 second every mile. I knew the 3:50 pace group would be coming for me and I was trying my best to not let them pass me until there were less than 2 miles to go. And that's about when I saw the 3:50 flag that I started the marathon with. It looked like there was only once other woman with him. I talked with the pacer at the expo a couple days before so I knew he planned on finishing the race around 3:49;47. I figured that even if he was ahead of me, as long as I could see him I would still be able to achieve my goal.
At mile 25 started thinking about how I was going to explain on social media and to my friends how I let everything slip away in the final mile of this race. I already started to accept that I wasn't going to get get sub 3:50, and rationalized that maybe 3:51 or 3:52 wouldn't be so bad. I still had a shot of getting into 2017 with a -3 minute time.
I was thrilled to see the 1 mile to go sign and 800M to go signs, but somewhere before the 400M sign I had an intense wave of nausea which has never happened to me before. I started to panic, thinking OMG it' s ALL OVER with the equivalent of a lap to go! NOOOO!!!!! I was seriously worried that I might not even finish. I think I briefly stopped and dry-heaved a couple times and then realized I just had to push through it and puke once I got to the finish line. I remember wanting something to hurt so I could push through the pain and just get this damn thing over with. I'm not sure how, but somehow I made it... I crossed the finish line! And then I went to the side and threw up. Well,, I tried, but not much came out. And almost immediately a volunteer came to help me and make sure I was ok. I kept apologizing to her and she said it was ok, I just ran a marathon and I could lean on her. I walked with her a bit and stopped a couple more times to try throwing up. Then we saw some guy about to fall over and I told her go take care of him, because I was fine.
I was so focused on trying to stop feeling sick that I never even looked at the time on my Garmin. I took out my iPhone and saw I had a bunch of texts congratulating me which made me feel good. I still didn't know my official time, but I had to text my coach first, before anyone else. And at 12;32 I wrote "Holy f--k." And then typed a riddle: "What takes less time... Me finishing marathon or de licing Annaliviai's hair. I win". Yeah, i forgot to mention that during the marathon I was expecting a text from my husband to tell me if the Lice Doctors came and found anything on my daughter's head. And when he texted me "Oh yeah, she's got a full-blown case" all I could think of was the show "Life's Too Short" when Liam Neeson was trying to do improv and said he had full-blown AIDS. I laughed to myself and tried to text my husband back but the damn autocorrect was screwing everything up. At 10am my husband wrote back "How was yr race?" And my reply was "Dull inning" which I think was supposed to be "Still running" - HA! and "Only 1/2 way." At 11:11am he replied she was "only halfway through alps hair." That's when I realized that I was probably going to beat the lice lady and be done first. I was right. by A LOT. :(
So what cost more? Two nights in a Chicago hotel during marathon weekend or the Lice Doctors? Yeah, that was a tie. YIKES!
A few random thoughts: