Race Report - Chicago Marathon

Yesterday, I posted about my awesome teammates at Team Type 1 and the great time we all had together in Chicago. But at the end of the day, we were all there to do some "road work" in Chicago, specifically 26.2 miles of it.

As a precursor: I was coming off a 3:17:30 marathon in May. My training all summer and into the early fall had gone well, and I was hopeful that a 3:15 was well within my range and toyed with the idea of hooking up with the 3:10 pace group.

As last week progressed, however, each day seemed to bring a higher predicted temperature. And while the conditions couldn't be called horrible, the temperature at the start was 64 - about 14 degrees higher than ideal.

The night before the race, Brian Foster (another TT1 athlete) and I decided that given the temps, we'd aim for a 3:15. Both of us, I think, were too nervous about the weather to go for the 3:10.

The 48 hours prior to the race were absolutely ideal for me - plenty of rest, plenty of food, plenty of hydration. When my blood sugar was 110 upon waking up, I still felt confident that I was off to a great day. And when Brian and I found a line of unoccupied porta-potties hiding in the predawn darkness, well I thought the running gods had truly smiled down upon us.

We made our way to corral B and shuffled close to front of it. Corral B was set up for runners in the 3:10-3:35 range. I ate my Clif Bar (with no insulin) 30 minutes prior to the race, set my basal rates for 50% for the duration of the race and was 153 and trending higher when the gun went off. Perfect!

Considering I was starting with more than 37,000 other runners, the start was calm and Brian and I were across the line and running within one and a half minutes, heading north through Chicago. Within one mile, however, we passed through a tunnel, which I absolutely hated. Though the outside air wasn't warm, yet, the tunnel was hot and stuffy. For the first time, I wondered if the heat would be an issue.

After 2 very calm miles around 7:35 pace, Brian and I dropped down a few 7:10-7:15 miles and were happy to be on our way. Except, we really weren't, because I began to notice that each time we'd get near a mile marker, we'd say, "We're going to be fast," but would end up spot on. In other words, it didn't feel as easy as it should've.

I had started the race with a 24 ounce water bottle, which I drank from for the first 7 miles. Per my routine, I took a sip of HammerGel every 3.5 miles and had Endurolytes and Anti-Fatigue Caps every 7. Despite all this, however, within 10 miles I realized this wasn't going to be my day. I willed myself to stay with Brian until the mid-way point, when I told him my legs were heavy and he should just go, which he did.

The 14th mile was a slow one for me, as I took extra time at the water stop and finished it around 7:45. That slow mile put a bit of a spring in my step, and I did the next few around 7:30, barely off 3:15 pace. I kind of kept a casual eye on Brian, about 50 meters up and was pleased he wasn't adding ground on me.

The next thing I knew, however, was Brian was right reside me, and not because of anything I'd done. Rather, he'd miscalculated his electrolytes and had slammed into the wall at the 18 mile mark (I learned this afterward, of course). I told him to stick with me, but he was as powerless as I'd been 5 miles ago. I shuffled on alone.

When I passed Brian at the 18 mile mark, I was also finishing off my last goodish mile, and started my own slide shortly thereafter. A few 7:45s gave way to a few 8:00 miles and before I knew it, I was hanging on for dear life. I prayed for a 3:20 finish but when the 3:20 pace group passed me with 3 miles left, I prayed to the god of the 3:30 pace group to not catch me. And though my pace continued to falter, I finally finished to a roaring overly appreciative crowd at 3:23:45. My blood sugar was 120.

At first glance, I was pretty upset. While not my worst marathon by a long shot (this was pretty much a median effort, all things considered), I really felt as if I was ready for a 3:15 run. That said, one thing I know about myself is that - more than anything - I am a top 10% runner. It takes an amazing race for me to do better than that, and it takes a crappy race for me to do worse. And when you look at the results of the 2011 Chicago Marathon, I came in 337 out of 3320 runners in my age group: the 10.2% percentile.

So when I look at all of that, I really feel the weather was a big factor in my lackluster time, and I really feel on a good day there's definitely a 3:15, or faster, ready to come out. That said, with fall here, I'm going to concentrate more on speed work and tempo runs to complement the parking lot sized endurance I have. That 3:15s in there, but it probably won't come out without a little pain. Then again, that's pretty much the point.


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