Chicago Marathon 2012

One of the 5 top marathons in the entire World!  One of the Marathon Majors!  As a runner, it’s a must!  It’s on every runners bucket list of “go-to” races.  At least for this runner.

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon

I had the honor and the privilege to run this marathon this year!  It was everything I ever expected and more.  First, the city of Chicago!  Wow!  Such a fun city to visit!  This was not my first time in Chicago, but it offers something new with every visit.

I decided to wrap the marathon in with a little family time, and at the last-minute decided to take our youngest daughter and my hubs.  Our daughter was excited to see all of the sights, eat the great food (Chicago is a great foodie city) do a lot of shopping, sightseeing,, and of course, ride The ‘L’

Our first day there was committed to sight-seeing.  Yes….I had a marathon to run on Sunday, but could not help but indulge our daughter in an entire day (or three) of walking around Chicago.  First stop; Cloud Gate aka: The Bean in Millenium Park  It is always amazing to me, when something so simple can attract so much attention.  The Bean, the huge silver sculpture, is quite a place of entertainment.  We stood close to it, watched people, took pictures, stood underneath, laid underneath, stood far away, stood close up, did back bends onto it, made faces into it, leaned against it, stared at ourselves in it, pretended to kiss ourselves in it, and looked at the skyline through it at various angles, for WELL over an hour!  Our daughter loved it, and we loved it again!

Next stop was the Willis Tower, formerly The Sears Tower.  We were excited to again be in one of the tallest buildings in the World, and in fact, the 3rd tallest in the World and tallest in the Northern Hemisphere!  Since our last visit, they had added the “Ledges.”  These were boxes, that had been built off of the side of the building at the Skydeck level, that were made of glass.  Including glass bottoms.  It took a real step of faith to stand on these glass-bottomed boxes at 103 stories, 1353 feet above the city.  The boxes extend 4.3 feet away from the side of the building.  It was exhilarating and exciting!!  Of course we had to go up twice, once during the day, and once at night!  What gorgeous views of the city!

The next few days, were filled with a trip to the Navy Pier, shopping, eating, shopping and eating…OH MAN, is there a lot of shopping in this city.  Our daughter, literally, wore us out!!

I had the great pleasure of meeting up with some friends from my long-time running group for dinner.  It was fun to sit, talk, laugh, and of course eat Chicago Deep Dish pizza with these amazing and inspirational women.  Even this vegan had to take a cheat day, to eat up the fabulous tastes of this windy city!  “When in Rome” applies when I travel, and feel the need to taste what each new place is all about!  And how can you not try deep dish while in Chi-town? (Thanks for the fun night, Michelle, Sheila and Jenni)

The marathon expo was on Friday, so we took the train in and caught a shuttle to the expo.  I suppose with over 45,000 runners, you would have to have a shuttle system.  This expo!  Words cannot describe, how much fun this was.  We wandered around for well over 3 hours, and still didn’t have the chance to go through the entire thing.  It got me so excited to be running this marathon!  The butterflies were starting to swirl in my stomach!

Race day was upon me, and I was ecstatic!  We got into the downtown area early, so we could make it through the usual, bathroom stops, undressing and dressing, trying to figure out what I should wear.  Weather that day was just about ideal, high 30’s for the morning start, heading into the 50’s during the day.  I didn’t want to freeze all day, but knew that as I run, I would warm up.  I chose an under armor, with my Lake City Tri club singlet.  I had to represent the 83815, right?  I also had on my fave green running skirt.  At the last-minute I decided to pull on a pair of running tights and my gloves.  I thought I would ditch them in gear check, but decided to leave them on and I am happy that I did.

My hubs and daughter walked around with me, as I was navigating my way around into the very, VERY organized area in Grant Park around the start.  There were separate gear checks depending on bib color, and then of course different starting corrals.  I finally had to kiss them goodbye and head off, with the herd, to find my spots.  This was getting real!!  I dropped my bag, stopped and filled my Hydrapack Soft Flasks with water to mix my Napalm, and headed to the corral.  It wasn’t long before we were moving, and after about 20 minutes (I’m guessing) we made our way to the start.  I had heard that it can take up to 45 minutes to reach the start line.  I was happy it seemed to go by so fast!  It was fun walking to the start in this huge group, cheering, waving and meeting all sorts of fun people.  Multiple marathoners, first timers, young, old…everyone had a story to tell me.  And I loved hearing them!

The start!  Oh man….the uproar that ensued was incredible!  It took my breath away and got my eyes sparkly with tears!  We took off!!  I was feeling amazing.  Really taking in the whole experience.  This was not only a marathon I wanted to run well, but also a marathon that I wanted to breath in along the way.  I didn’t want to miss anything about the entire day!  I wanted to capture everything.  The sights, the sounds, the smells, the spectators…the essence of this city.  There were 29 different, distinct neighborhoods of the city that we ran through, and each had their own feel, culture, and people out there to cheer us on.  Thank you for being out there in support of this race, and for making this experience for me, so incredibly remarkable!

New East Side
Streeterville
Magnificent Mile
The Loop
River North
Near North
Old Town
Old Town Triangle
Lakeview East
Park West
Lincoln Park
West Loop Gate
West Loop
Greektown
Near West SideLittle Italy
University Village
Illinois Medical District
Pilsen
East Pilsen
Chinatown
Bridgeport
Park Boulevard
Bronzeville
The Gap
South Commons
South Loop
Prairie District
Central Station

With over 1.5 million spectators, how can you NOT feel like a freakin’ ROCK STAR!!  It was truly unbelievable!  The ENTIRE 26.2 miles were lined with droves of people.  People as far back as I could see, piled up along side the road, onto buildings, restaurants, up on top of steps, out on balconies, windows, several stories above us, on roof tops…everywhere!

I kept up a great pace, and was feeling really good.  At about the 1/2- (more like the 8-mile)  way point, my body started to hurt a little.   Running a marathon 5 weeks after an Ironman…maybe not the best thing.  HOWEVER, I was determined that I would finish, and enjoy every second!  Right after coming out of China Town, I finally had to stop in at medical and grab some Ibu!  Oh, how I could not wait to get this on board!  Every inch of my lower body was getting REALLY sore.  Hips, knees, IT bands, ankles, and the arches in my feet.  I stopped to stretch, took the vitamin I, and pulled my running tights down, (yes, right in front of everyone)  I was so damn sore, I didn’t care who was looking…and I did have a skirt on that covered my heiny.  I slathered my legs in BioFreeze (this stuff is the bomb dot com) in the hopes that it would take the edge off.  It never did.  I was trying my hardest to ignore the pain, and be in the moment, but every passing mile, was hurting so bad.  I was trying to NOT allow my heart to sink, knowing that little by little, I was slowing down.  I had told friends before we left that I would CRAWL to the finish if I had to, and it was starting to look like a possibility (HAHAHA)  I continued on as the miles passed, in pain, but still looking around at this gorgeous city!  My eyes kept popping tears for various reasons; the pain, the sights, the sunshine, the cool breeze, and overwhelming delight in being ABLE to run this Marathon Major, and one thing in particular kept popping to mind….early in the race, we passed by a big, historic looking, vintage building (ok yes, there are TONS of these in Chicago)…I kept seeing runners ahead of me waving towards the building. When I got to it, I soon realized what/who they were waving to.  The building was a nursing home, and high up, on a second story, filled with windows, were the residents, lined up along the WHOLE entire building.  Some standing, some you could tell were in chairs, and some wheelchair bound.  They waved, and blew kisses to us runners as we ran by.  They looked frail and feeble, some of them nearing the end of their life.  I choked back a sob, and tears fell from my eyes seeing them.  Those running around me had the same feeling, and one woman said with tears in her eyes, that she had goose bumps over her entire body.  I held that memory in my mind.  And as the pain worsened that day, THAT is what stuck in my mind.  I was ABLE to be out here running.  I am still young, and strong, and capable.  I ran my last miles thinking about making my family proud of me, and I ran for those that could not be running.  Because like I have said a million times over, when I get to that point of my life when I can no longer run, and I am the one sitting, looking out from my window, I want to be happy that I LIVEDthat I gave it everything, that I have no regrets, or missed adventures.  That I went, saw, and conquered.  That I looked fear in the face, and jumped anyway.  That I lived my life to complete exhaustion, and used it up GREATLY!!  God gave me only one, and this life of mine is getting thoroughly used!

And so…even though the last 3 miles of this marathon hurt like nothing else has (even Ironman) and I literally cried the whole last 3 (no kidding), I was happy that I pushed through  And when I saw that finish line, it was again…worth it.  Isn’t every finish line worth it?  Doesn’t matter what is happening, it is always worth it.  This relates to racing and in life…always worth pushing through to your finish line.  I crossed the timing mat, held up my hands, and smiled.  Two- seconds later, I was crying again.  I made my way through the finish, getting my space blanket (which I actually really needed) getting my medal (well earned bling) getting my ready-made snack pack of food, and getting a beer (yes…this tasted like gold)  and continued on to the 27th Mile (this is the party area) and searched for my family.  I saw Greg in this sea of racers, party-goers and spectators, (of course I saw Greg…for some reason we have always had the ability to seek one another out, even in a crowd of thousands)  We locked eyes, and that pushed my “sob” button.  I fell into his arms sobbing!  I tried to enjoy the party, the amazing band.  I tried to sit and eat, and watch as people danced at the bandshell, but my body was ready to rest.  I think my body was ready to rest in Sept after Ironman.  =)

I got a marathon PR this day!  And checked off one the Major 5’s.  Yes, I plan to do all 5, and plenty more!  Not that I really have a “bucket list” of races, because I don’t run and race to “check things off of a list” I run and race because its in my blood, its my passion.  It always has been and I LOVE it!!.  And mostly, I run because can!

 

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Straight Through to the Finish Line (Ironman Canada)

The moment that something hits you like a ton of bricks can be overwhelming, overpowering, a brutal reality, and like a ray of sunshine all at the same moment.  How you deal with the ton of bricks, makes all the difference in the World!  Do you allow it to consume you?  Do you sit an dwell on it?  Or do you stare it in the face, and head straight into the pile of bricks? Maybe for some its a process.  Me?  I am an “all steam forward” kind of girl.  The ton of bricks in this case, was the fact that I was half way through the marathon of Ironman Canada, upset, dealing with relentless pain, and BAM…. realized…no water.  Pains of dehydration?

Anyone who has done an IM gets to the point, at some time during the day, that they figure, can it get any worse?  So…”what the heck, I’ll try it” takes over.

With my hubby leap frogging me on his scooter, and pushing me, mile after mile….to just go ONE more mile, I thought, at the next aid station, I am taking in a FULL cup of water.  I knew I would finish the race, even walking, but I wanted AT LEAST a PR from 2010, if possible.  (Doesn’t everyone)  I came up to the next aid station, and proceeded to take a big cup of water.  I didn’t just take a tiny sip, I drank the entire thing as I walked from one end of the station to the next.  It was forced.  Drinking it was awful!  The taste was putrid to me.  I continued on my way.

At the next aid station, I realized that I was starting to come to life a bit, I drank.  Another big cup of water.  This one tasted a bit better than the last, and I could tell, my mood was improving a bit.  I saw the Hubs just past the aid station, and he told me to grab some Coke at the next stop.  I have learned from not only myself, but from friends, that flat Coke, can sometimes be like drinking liquid gold in times like this.  I could feel my stomach becoming less crampy…(no that isn’t a word, but sometimes I have to use my “me-ness” and create a word) so I started to run a bit.  Not bad.  It was a slow pace, but at least I wasn’t feeling that stomach pain of the fist 14 miles.  I trudged forward.  I saw my Scooter Boy again, and he told me our friend was right ahead of me, and he still wasn’t feeling good.

I kept up with my drinking plan at the next aid station, and added in a cup of Coke and 2 pretzels.  A new woman started to emerge. The girl, that came into this race, feeling so good and confident, was coming out of her fog.  I was starting to feel really great!!  My pace picked up little by little.  Luckily for me, the physical part of this wasn’t muscular.  It was all digestive/dehydration.  My body was not tired, my legs felt fresh, and I was feeling really positive that I could finish this IM strong.

I caught up with my friend, and walked a bit with him.  He wasn’t feeling good, and I told him to drink if he could.

The more and more I drank, the better and better I felt.  By the time I was around the 16-17-mile point, I was feeling great!!  I continued my cup of water and cup of Coke at every station.  I was becoming more and more social again with people along the course, aid station volunteers, and medical teams.  Talking, waving, and thanking them for being out there to support us.  Not that I was necessarily being anti-social, but when you are in such a dark place inside yourself, most people retreat.  For me, this means I get quiet, and not my bubbly self.  Mostly because the way I process things of agitation, pain, sadness, upheaval, annoyance, sorrow, and uncertainty  is to recognize it, strategize how to get through it, and walk right straight through the damn mess.  That’s my Fierceness.  That’s my Fearlessness (Abhaya)  That’s my Me-Ness.  And that’s exactly what happened on this day.

Pain/misery/sucky race + realization/determination/ambitiousness = PLAN OF ATTACK

And my plan was hydration!

By miles, 17,18, 19, I was cruisin’!  I was smiling.  I saw my hubs, and he said, I looked refreshed, and new.  I had that normal spring in my stride.  I was loving this race again.  Loving this run.  Loving Ironman.  I had to get over the one small fact, that my time was not going to be as I planned, but that it would indeed be a huge PR, if I could maintain my current pace.  I passed people one by one, cheering them on as I passed.  A lot of them were not looking well.  Getting tired.  Blistered, beaten by the day, the clock, the sun, the course.  A few of them asked, how I was looking so fresh?  I just kept encouraging them to keep moving!

NOW was when I wished I hadn’t given the Napalm flask to my hubs.  NOW I wish I had just kept it!  Because even though, the abdominal pains were gone and I was feeling on top of the world, I was running a little low on energy.  Energy that would’ve easily come from a few ounces of gel.  Again, knowing this was now out of my control, and that I ALONE made the decision to NOT hold onto the gel flask, I owned it, and kept moving forward.

Coming into town was surreal.  I was starting to hear the announcer, his sweet French accent waiting to call me across the finish line.  The music, the crowds.  I kept up with my pace with a huge smile on my face.  I waved, and thanked every single person I saw sitting out by the side of the road, cheering me on.  As I came into the last aid station, I saw my long-time-forever-friend (our gracious host while in Penticton)  She screamed and grabbed me after both of us realized who we were, with her offering me a Coke.  We laughed so hard!!  She hugged my sweat drenched & salt covered body without even giving it a second thought.  And when I said, “I am all sweaty and gross” her sweet daughter ran to me, arms open wide, and said “I DON’T EVEN CARE! I want a hug!”  It was a rock-star moment for me!  And was EXACTLY the last push I needed to get to the finish line.  Right around that time, a guy that had been running on and off with me, caught back up to me.  We ran our entire way through the last winding streets.  Talking about the day.  He was exhausted and hurting.  He told me, that no matter what, he was going to keep up with me until the end.  We came into the last mile.  That bittersweet start/finish area I talked about.  This time, feeling completely used up, as we passed by the finishers chute and back out to the turn around on the Lake Drive.  He noted that this part felt like torture.  And that he was having a hard time keeping up.  I…like I do with my friends when we run and I push them to a faster pace, did what I always do…started talking to him.  Asking him where he was from, who was he here with, how many IM’s had he done?  I kept him talking, so he wouldn’t think about how he felt.  We ran by the restaurants filled with spectators, and from out of nowhere I hear a loud, rowdy, raucous coming from one of the restaurants.  Friends!!  Cheering for me!!  My “friend” running with me, says, “Wow!!  You’ve got some great fans!”  We round the last part of the course, and head towards the finish…again, more friends, yelling my name, cheering loudly, carrying me right down the road.  I had learned that this was my new friends first Ironman, so as we neared the chute, I tell him to go.  GO!  Go run through, and breathe in every single second of this part, because one; your pain goes away immediately as you start down that chute.  Your entire day of suffering, distress, worry, anxiety, aching muscles, fatigue, tiredness, all disappears.  And you are left with the most euphoric feeling.  And two; you only get your first finish of an Ironman, one time.  I wanted him to have his moment.  He of course, being a total gentleman, pushed me forward, and said, “NO, go for it!!”  And I did!  I ran down the row of madness.  Deafening sounds of the bells, horns, clapping, screaming, music and the pounding that is an Ironman finishers chute.  I soared, with my arms out by my side, floating, high-fiving and with an enormous smile on my face, right through the banner, and through the finish!  Remarkable!  That is a feeling that I could relive over and over.  It’s those certain days that play over and over in your mind.  Distinct, finite, precise memories that never fade from your mind.  Days like, graduating college, getting married, getting your first pay check, having your children, buying your first home and finishing an Ironman.  I don’t care if it’s your first or fiftieth, what time you finish, if you PR, having the best day ever or the worst, that is a day you won’t easily forget.  After all of the hard work, sacrifice, resolve, steadfastness and loyalty to your sport, your training plan, your family, your coach, your training partners and to yourself, to cross that finish line is like sweet rain.

Of course crossing the finish line to see your friends and family there is incredible!  The laughing, tears, hugs and party that ensues afterwards is priceless and unforgettable!!

I did PR this Ironman by 1 hour and 16 minutes!  I immediately told my friends and family that I was done with these RIDICULOUS distances, and that I would NEVER do another Ironman.  They laughed.  My husband laughed the hardest because he knows me too well!  Of course two days later, I was singing a different tune, and considering which IM will be my next.  That’s just how I roll!!

*Special thank you, first and foremost to God for giving me the physical ability to be able to race, swim, bike and run.  For continually whispering in my ear that day, that He had me.  Phil 4:13  For keeping me able-bodied, strong, and giving me the courage to start the race! “and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Heb 12:1

To my Scooter Boy. He has stood by my side in good and bad, and REALLY bad.  He has held my hand, my heart, my body, my laughter and my tears.  He encourages me every single day to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be.  He is my biggest supporter and biggest fan.  I wake, daily, thankful for this man in my life!

My family.  They are there cheering me on no matter how crazy the race day may be.  They encourage me, hold me up, and call me out.  Their calls, texts, emails, signs they made, cards, fist pumps, high-fives and praise are so amazing.  I am proud to be a Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister and Aunt that they can look up to.

My coach.  When I thought all was lost, he was a voice of reason.  He pushed my ass hard.  Made me work for this, and was great at promoting and encouraging me at every workout, every day.  He told me from day one, I had to be “game on” in order to finish this Ironman on such a tight training time frame.  His plan was straight forward.  He listened to me about workouts, injuries, and some days…just lamenting about having a bad day or bad attitude.

And my friends.  Every single one of you are amazing.  Thank you for being there for me.  For training with me.  For allowing me to vent, cry on your shoulder and laugh with me, for supporting me no matter what!  And for those who train with me, for keeping me motivated and driven to reach that finish.  It’s nice to have people who can hold you up, and vice-versa.   Each of you, is a huge piece of the puzzle of my life.  A thread in the fabric of my existence, and I adore every single one of you.

***And special congratulations to ALL of my friends/training partners that finished that day!  Well done, my friends! Well done!! (And the friend leap frogging me all day, yes, he had an incredible finish….not too far behind me) 

Coming out of the fog, and LOVING the run!!

Feeling Great!!

Signs from my Family….Take THAT Chuck Norris!!

That’s Right!!

Family and Friends

My Finisher’s Victory Leap!!

All Worth the Bling