Friday, October 16, 2015

Marathon Weekend 2015 in Chicago

So, I did things a bit backwards here and wrote my race recap without writing about the days leading up to the race, but whatever. I wanted to record all the moments of the race I remembered and I also figured that it was one of the more interesting things to read about rather than what I did the rest of my time in Chicago and what I thought of the marathon expo..

That being said, I do want to record everything I did in the days leading up to Chicago.

Following the weekend, I went into race week with a lot of nerves.  I think I mentioned that I went to yoga class on Monday night, followed by a near panic attack with race anxiety.  My final week of training runs consisted of a 3-4-2 week of mileage that started with 3 miles running through Midtown on Tuesday AM with the crew.  Then 4 miles on Wednesday evening on the Silver Comet Trail.  Followed by a 2-mile run in the morning on Thursday on the Jackson Street Bridge.

The week before I also was extra careful to drink lots and lots of water to be sure I was hydrated going into race week.  One of the things that I've been told since when I did my first half marathon was to be sure to hydrate the week before, and not just the day before your race.  I've had it drilled into me a bit more this training cycle, and seen the impact of not being well hydrated on a run, so was sure to pay extra close attention to it the week before Chicago.

All of the runs, I tried to run easy and not push to hard, but just feel relaxed and comfortable on the runs.  The last thing I wanted to do was somehow hurt myself the week before, so just comfortable and loose was my main goal in these runs.  I read or heard someone say that during the taper, you can never do too little, but you can always do too much.  It was a good final week of runs with my regular morning crew, some solo miles, and with some of my friends to me inspired for the trip.  I also did a last minute trip to the chiropractor and for a sports massage, which seriously helped so much and had me feeling a bit sore, but confident that I had done everything I could to be race ready.

When I left work at the end of the day on Thursday, I checked out my race training calendar and got some tears in my eyes knowing that I had worked so hard since I had put that training plan together and I only had one box left to check.  This was a good indicator to me that I was also moving from the "race anxiety" phase to the "race emotional" phase where lots of things make me cry.

Thursday evening after work I head out from Atlanta to Chicago and the weekend definitely started out on the right side with an upgrade to first class!

It was an easy flight in, where I did some reading, drank some wine, and enjoyed the view of the city as I got ready to run those streets!

When I landed in Chicago, I ate a lovely meal consisting of some freaking delicious tapas and sangria, followed by bedtime.  I was staying with friends in Chicago, which was a great way to do it and I loved that my marathon weekend was also a weekend to see lots of people I care about in an awesome city as well.  My local Chicagoans (is that a word) took such amazing care of me while I was there and I'm incredibly grateful.

Friday morning I started the day by heading out in the AM to go to McCormick Place for the race expo.  The city did a really good job of making it accessible to people and actually offered free shuttles from one of the Nike stores right by my friends apartment to the race.  However, since I am extremely impatient, I ended up taking an Uber when I saw the only lines to get on the shuttles.  Plus, Friday started a bit gloomy and rainy and I didn't want to be outside in that.

Packing to go to Chicago was a bit harder than I thought it would be.  It's funny, when I went to both Thailand and Nigeria this year, I packed so amazingly light and had just a carry on for both of those trips.  However, for some of the domestic trips I've had this year I have had to end up checking a bag.  Chicago was one of those trips, as I wanted to be sure to be over prepared and had packed all my race day essentials as well as back ups in case it was cold, rainy, etc.  I wanted to have everything I need.  This worked out well because it gave me the freedom to make some purchases at the race expo too.  You guys know I loooove race expos!  So many opportunities for pictures.

They had a lot of cute things!  Including some insannnnely expensive things - no lie, there was a Nike running jacket for $500 -- isn't that crazy?  But I found a few cute things to take home at reasonable prices.  My motto is always to enjoy the race expo and indulge a little if it is a big race that you've been working hard for you.  You deserve it.  Treat yo self! :)

The expo, beyond the shopping, was really great and extremely well organized.

And although I feel like Paris should be one, I realized that Chicago is my first marathon of the World Marathon Majors - something I would love to be able to complete someday and do all of.

At the expo we met up with a friend of ours who was working at the Nike booth, as well as a few other runners who were in town from Atlanta for the race.  Atlanta was DEEP at the Chicago Marathon this year!  I felt happy to be repping my run crew from Atlanta, as I knew they were all cheering me on at home.  And I also took a picture with a sign that said "We are not just runners.  We are athletes." as homage to the act that both the words runner and athlete are ones that I am still trying to get used to.

From the expo, we went over to Giordano's, an infamous Chicago deep dish pizza place and I started some carb loading with a mini personal pizza and salad.  It may be touristy or stereotypical but when you're in Chicago, especially to run, you've got to have some Chicago style pizza!

It was a really good afternoon and fun to be on an adventure in Chicago with some Atlanta-based friends!  And the delicious food didn't hurt, nor did it stop at lunch.  In the evening, I went out to a really amazingly awesome fondue restaurant called Geja's and enjoyed every single bite of three courses of cheese fondue, meat and veggies, and of course some chocolate dessert.  I just recently had the conversation with a friend that we like eating cheese the nights before a race, which others can think is crazy.  The fondue was perfect and so yummy.  A couple glasses of wine to relax didn't hurt either with all the anxiety I had been feeling leading up to the race.

Starting Saturday though I started to really get myself race ready.  I started the day with a short 15-20 minute shake out run.  I went over to Lakeshore Drive and did 5 minutes easy, then a few minutes at a faster pace and a few sprints and then another few minutes of cooling down.  It actually felt really nice to shake out my legs the day before.  Following the run, I had lunch at my friend's favorite neighborhood taco place, called Velvet Taco, that had all sorts of funky taco varieties that all looked amazing but I stuck with some pretty basic ones due to pre-race-day-stomach.  You never want to do anything too crazy to your stomach close to a race!!

I did enjoy my annual pre-race beer while out watching the Notre Dame vs. Navy football game, which I do consider to be a bit of a tradition, even though most pros will tell you not to.  It hasn't served me wrong yet, so I still stick to that tradition!

The end of my evening you all know about -- pasta and bread and race prep and an early bedtime.  However, I was really happy with how things had gone the days, and week, before the race and well -- you know how the story goes, the race was a success!!

And the rest of my time in Chicago?  Well, it was amazing.  How could it not be?  I had run a marathon in 3:58:39!!!  Gahhh!!! Still feels surreal.

However, beyond that, I had an amazing day.  I went and did all my post-race things such as get my print out of my times, get a post race massage (REDEEMED from Kansas City that "ran out" of massages! Yippeeeee!), got myself a sugary drink from Starbucks (I'd been holding off on them until the race), and then made it back to Courtney's apartment to do my thing and lay with my legs up against the wall.

My friends are pretty much amazing so as I lay on the floor, I munched on a sandwich that Courtney got for me on her way home, ate some leftover delicious corn that I had been afraid to eat the day before, sipped water, and drank my coffee.  I stretched a bit but to be totally honest - I felt good!  I'm so amazed at how well I felt at the race and afterwards.  None of the pain I had been feeling was there.  My legs weren't horribly uncomfortable.  I didn't have much of a headache or any sort of post-long-run-aches I have felt in the past.  My feet were a bit sore with blisters but it wasn't a huge thing.  I stretched, relaxed, took a semi-painful shower where that chafed skin caused a couple yelps, and then got ready to meet friends for a celebration dinner.

We had the option to uber or walk and I chose to walk.  I was feeling good!  Stairs, especially going down, were a challenge, but I felt good walking and it was nice to stretch my legs out a bit.

We met for dinner at a place called Woodie Flats that had burgers and beer on the menu which was what I knew I would be craving post-marathon.  All my friends who had been out cheering were there such as Courtney and Ryan, ICT and Julia, Ayanna, Earon, and another one of our friends from Atlanta who ran the race met us out as well.

Woodie Flat's was a perfect place to go and we had a great seat.  Other marathoners were also there so it didn't seem like we were the only ones with that idea!  It had big open windows, lots of beer, good music, and a giant burger for me to eat away at.

I had such a good time recapping the race with friends, hearing about my other friend who ran's experience, and having so many different friends from different areas of life meet one another.  There were childhood friends, current and older work friends, Atlanta friends, running friends, etc. who all met each other for the first time and I think everyone had a good time! I certainly did!

As I mentioned, ICT used to cheer me on when I was working up to running 3 miles at a +12 minute/mile pace and now I just had done 26 miles at under a 9:10/minute mile!  Crazy how time flies.

I wore my "Boston Strong" shirt, a Run Chicago zip up I got at the expo, and OF COURSE, my medal.  In fact, I wore my medal the next day too :)  Sunday happened so fast and I crashed towards the end of the evening and headed back to go to bed.  I unfortunately didn't sleep too well which was a little bit of a surprise to me.  As soon as I lay down I could feel my heart beating, my legs were twitching, and I almost felt like I was still in race mode.  It took me a while to go to sleep, but that was okay because I also spent the afternoon tracking some friends who were doing the Louisville Ironman and it was exciting to watch them finish and cheer them on into the night.

Monday morning I woke up and started my day by making a trip to Walgreens to buy some blister bandaids to make the day manageable for myself.  And then we head over to do an architecture boat cruise in Chicago.  I have heard about these things for years and I have always wanted to do them!  I was so excited that my friends were game to join me and it was such a cool thing to do.  I loved learning about the city skyline, meeting other runners who were also on the boat, and celebrating with a drink all before noon!  Celebrations are celebrations.

We had so much fun on the boat tour and I really enjoyed the photo shoot, the nice but not blindlying sunny temperatures, and just enjoying our accomplishments from the day before!  The rest of the day in Chicago was fun, the weather stayed absolutely amazing, and I continued to enjoy the day with delicious food and basking in the glory of the race I'd been working all year for.  I also finally gave in and tried Shake Shack thanks to the rave reviews from Running off the Reese's.  I got the veggie burger at her suggestion!

I also took advantage of an amazing offer that some of the local running stores were offering that was to get my medal engraved for free.  I have never had a medal engraved after a race, so this was a pretty fun one to start at!  I had a hard time deciding what to write in the "Place" category as the guy said I could write whatever I wanted.  I am pretty happy with what I came up with, of "First Sub-4:00."  Which is strategically, "First" so hopefully not my last :)  I LOVE my medal and did not want to take it off all day, even when I had to take it off for them to engrave it, haha.

And finally.  You can't visit Chicago without visiting the Bean!  At first, I was totally not feeling like I needed to go to the Bean, especially as I had been there on other trips to Chicago in the past.  However, on Monday afternoon, I was in the Uber after getting my medal engraved, and realized that I was driving right past the Bean.  I told the Uber driving to just pull over and drop me off so that I could enjoy the gorgeous evening.  I hung around and people watched while making phone calls to friends and family and then walked around a bit on what was a glorious Chicago day.

As many people probably know, the Chicago Cubs have been playing in the playoffs and it was an exciting time to be in the city.  Especially with a game that Monday night.  What some of you may not know is that I now think that I am a good omen for cities in the playoffs.  Last year after doing my fall marathon in Kansas City, their baseball team won the World Series.  And now, well, let me say I have been telling my friends that the Cubs have a good chance at this thing :)

Tuesday, I took my medal off, but did wear some of my race gear yet again.  I spent the day in the neighborhood where I was staying and went back to that taco place to try even more deliciousness from Velvet Taco in Atlanta.  And also enjoy a midday margarita since I was still on vacation!

And from that, I was back to Atlanta.  I'm fighting the post race blues back in town and taking the week to rest easy and enjoy myself.  I will get back to the grind next week, but enjoying a week off.

I have some work cut out for me to put together a plan for what to do next but man, what an accomplishment this was!  When I got back to my desk, I checked off the final box on my training plan and next it will be retired along with my other training plans from the Nashville Half Marathon, Paris Marathon, and Kansas City Marathon.  Goodnight, Chicago!

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