Tuesday, September 24, 2013

20-Miler In the Books!

Here's the bib of the day...the Magellan Ready to Run 20-Miler!

Looks good, doesn't it! I'm looking forward to cashing it in for a better one in three weeks time though.

Once again, CARA outdid itself with a very well-organized event. And another thing I learned on this run...Chicago is really effing big! Imagine, we did a 20-mile (about 17 of it point-to-point) along the lakefront, and we didn't even come close to touching the dimensions of the city. If you look at the marathon course map, it never gets more than five or six miles away from the center of downtown. This run covered a lot more than that.

The run was set to go off at 6:30 a.m. Sunday near Wilson Ave. and Lakeshore Drive. Darcy and I ended up staying downtown at the Renaissance Marriott (Thanks, Adam!), which was a very cool place. We also met up with Noah, a friend of mine from way back in the day. We had been co-workers when he was not long out of college in 2000 and started running together when he found out I was training for the marathon.

He ended up running the Chicago Marathon in 2000 with me and later -- when he decided to get his PhD from USC in Los Angeles -- we ran the 2003 Los Angeles Marathon together. We also ran a lot of local road races together and had a lot of fun, even though eventually he became way faster than me.

He was hobbling at dinner a bit because he has been having trouble with his IT band as of late. In fact, he had tried running his 20-miler on Saturday and ended up pulling up lame about 11 miles in. The IT band is a weird injury...I had trouble with it leading up to the marathon in 2000, took two weeks off and bought a new pair of shoes, and haven't had any trouble with it since.

Noah acknowledged that his shoes were probably a bit worn, so hopefully a new pair of kicks will be all he needs. Hoping to see him on the finish line on Oct. 13! If not, he said the course runs right by his place, so he'd better be out there supporting the runners!

I ran into a bit of a snag when I got back to the hotel and realized that I had forgotten a pair of shorts! You might ask...how can someone of my experience in racing marathons and other races in and out of down do something like that? It's a mystery to me.

Fortunately the Target in the South Loop was open until 11 and we rode a cab over there and picked up a couple of pairs. Disaster averted.

I have to admit I slept pretty well but 5 a.m. came early. I got up and showered and started with my usual pre-race meal of bagels and bananas. The great thing about a marathon (or long run) is that you can pretty much graze all the way until the start of the race because you will burn it all off anyway.

Once I was ready we headed out around 5:50 to find a cab to get us up there. I have to admit, I love Chicago on Sundays. In the morning it's so quiet and peaceful, and even during the day it's busy but people go at a much slower pace, like it's the one day a week that they actually stop and enjoy the city that they live in.

We got to the start and wow, there was a lot of people there! According to an announcement I had heard, close to 3,800 people had signed up for the run. Given that somewhere between 38,000 and 40,000 show up to run the marathon, it meant that close to 10 percent of the field was there.

I had signed up to run in the 12-minute mile group, so I was in wave No. 9, going off at 6:34. Once again, organization...each wave went off in 30-second intervals, and we were right on time when we got started. Once thing I would like to ask them is how they set it up, because it was a mix of slower groups, then faster groups, then more slower groups. I'm guessing it was to try and get everyone finished in a small of a window as possible, but it was weird getting freight trained by so many groups during the course of the run.

The course started as a 4-mile loop in the park, and then headed south. At about the 1 1/2-mile mark we were out next to the lake. It was so beautiful, the sun was just coming up and it was so nice and cool. I had worn a throwaway shirt (my 2006 Indy Mini Marathon shirt -- hope it found a good home) and took that off and made a quick bathroom stop at about 2 miles. That was around the first water stop, and I believe there were about 10 of those, which was a good thing.

Once we completed the loop we went to the east side of Lakeshore Drive and ran through Lincoln Park. That's a pretty good stretch, and the soft surface was nice on my feet. Ahhhhh!

I was in a small pace group, and it turns out Mark, our leader, was pacing for the very first time. I thought all in all he did a pretty good job -- we were a tad behind but he kept everyone going. I would fall behind at each water stop as I took my time to make sure I was getting enough to drink, but a Kenyan-esque surge would quickly put me back with the group.

We crossed back over Lakeshore and that's about the time the skyline really comes into focus. I think the stretch between North Avenue Beach and Navy Pier is one of the coolest urban views you could ever imagine. If I had brought a camera along I would've taken a picture. Someday.

Navy Pier was about where we hit the halfway point, and Darcy was waiting for me about a 1/2-mile later. I can't even describe how much of a boost this process has been thanks to her support. She's kind of a big deal to me.

A little further down the road we came across something you don't see every day -- a light airplane parked in the grass! They had announced something about it prior to us starting our run, but apparently a pilot had been having difficulty and he put the plane down on Lakeshore right next to Grant Park. He must have been doing some stunt flying or something.

 To the plane's left is the path we ran by on, so we got a pretty good look.

We then took a lap around Grant Park, and I was so locked in I didn't realize that we ran down Columbus Drive, which is where the marathon starts and finishes. Tourist tip: the finish line is marked in paint at the curbs.

Through the museum campus (Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Soldier Field) and the mile were starting to add up. And I was beginning to really feel it. As much as I love running along the lakefront, the one down side is that there is very little shade and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. So we were pretty exposed and by the finishing stretch it was pretty warm.

By about Mile 17 I was walking a bit beyond the water stops, and mile 19 was a bit rough as I had to walk for about a minute or so. I wasn't the only one, as I would pass runners walking and when I took a break they would move right past me again.

I took a brief walk break with about a mile to go, and just put my head down. Amazingly enough, even with a walk break I still ran the last mile in 11:55. Not too bad!

Back under Lakeshore we went, and a short hill to the finish. But just like the Roosevelt Rd. hill at the end of the marathon, it looked a little bigger than it might if you haven't just run 20 miles. I made it across the finish line in 4:06:25. Overall that's a 12:19 pace, which is pretty close to what I have been doing in all my runs with the CARA crew. So I'll take it. After all, it's just about getting to the finish line, right?

Darcy was waiting for me at the end, which I was really glad for. Again, the support I have received while training for this race has been overwhelming, and she has been amazing in keeping me going and staying positive.

So that's it...now it's time to taper! That and start looking at the 10-day forecasts soon!

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