“When the wall hits, you climb over that wall.”
..and climb we did!
Chicago Marathon – you were amazing. The crowds, the runners, the volunteers, the view, the flatness…everything was perfect. A great races will always feel good, but they feel even better when you go into them with fears and can use the achievement as a reminder to yourself that bumps in the road are just bumps – they are not dead-ends – keep fighting to get over them and use the setbacks to propel you forward.
“The course is is flat and fast! It’s a PR for sure!”
I heard this sentence numerous times, and although intentions were good and meant to be inspirational, I could not help but feel more and more overwhelemed and worried every time I heard it.
What if I don’t PR? Is it embarrassing to not PR in Chicago? Oh, the pressure.
I ran a 5k two years ago that was hyped up as the ‘fastest 5k course’ and was basically a PR ready to happen. Naturally, I thought that meant you can just start off in a sprint. Funny thing about that is, a 5k is still THREE MILES, not a nice little lap around the track. I may be able to run 26.2 miles but that does not mean three miles feels like an 800. If my sarcasm hasn’t sold you on what happened, let me help you out by saying…I DIED….like at mile 1. So I had 2 lovely miles of hating myself for that decision and basically feeling humiliated by my initial thought process and now the fact that I was getting passed left and right. So yes, the phrase “It is so fast!!”…does not bring back the best of memories. I also like to think that my muscular body and strong legs give me advantage on hillier courses.
Fears aside, I arrived in Chicago ready to race, embrace the challenges, and fight to stay with the lovely Bethany (@babfitrun). We discussed our race plan on Saturday and I was ready and willing to take on the challenging pace because I wanted, more than anything, to replicate Philly where we pushed each other and did not stop fighting for the sake of the other person. Running for yourself is one thing, running for someone else is something far greater and is an indescribable experience. And that 3:15 is something I was not letting go of and was going to continue to fight for regardless of how San Francisco went.
I gave myself plenty of time the morning of the race to get ready, eat and stretch. In my last post, I touched on the importance of keeping everything as rush-free as possible so that you are not stressing and wearing down your mental game before the race. Going along with my plan to keep everything stress-free, the first thing on my morning to-do list was to treat myself to some high-class dining for breakfast…
…so I took my oatmeal in the hotel hallway and sat down on the floor 🙂 My fancy breakfast came to an end along with my kindness of being quiet so my boyfriend could continue sleeping. It was time for the most important part of the race…THE OUTFIT.
After I put on my super cute outfit that was planned to match Bethany, played a fun game of ‘Twister’ in an attempt to apply my KT tape to my backside, and made sure to snap pictures for my parents, Snapchat story and Instagram story, I was ready to catch an Uber and make my way to Bethany’s hotel.
In the midst of stretching and taking more pictures, we talked about how amazing Philly was and how ready we were to do it all again. We are never sure how it is going to unfold once our legs get moving but we never speak those thoughts. What makes our friendship so special is our ability to push each other and keep each other confident. We do not train the same but we trust that our training is what works for us and trust that no matter what the other person is doing, we will show up on equal terms – two strong, motivated and determined girls ready to fight for ourselves and for other person.We made our way to the start line and had plenty of time to hit the bathrooms and chat with other runners. You know it is going to be a great race when you talk to multiple people who casually say, “this is my 10th Chicago!”..making even more excited to run the streets.
The gun went off and we were on our way to embark on the 26.2 journey. There is so much uncertainty of how the remaining 3 + hours are going to play out and this uncertainty is what makes the marathon so intriguing – it’s scary, concerning, exciting, beautiful, fun, awful all at the same time. It is 26.2 miles of staying in constant check of your body and mind and consistently self-regulating.
A few days prior to the race, I listened to my favorite Running to the Top podcast with Tina Muir while doing some yin-yoga and the speaker said that the best advice she had ever received was, “You just take negative thoughts throw them in the fire. You just gotta keep throwing these negative thoughts out of your head and into that fire for it to burn.“ I know there is nothing poetic and fancy about that statement when you read the words but when you think deeply about the meaning and the action, it truly is so powerful. Negative thoughts can make or break a race. In order to excel in the marathon and life in general, you need to have strategy for how you will bounce back when you feel yourself getting knocked down. This was my strategy on Sunday. I was not going to succumb to any of those thoughts. Every time I heard myself saying something doubtful or negative, I literally was like “NOPE. Crumple up…into the fire….GOODBYE”.
When I did the Boston and San Francisco Recap, I grouped the miles in the sections based on feelings and how/when things unraveled because in both races, I did find myself unraveling. In Boston, I was able to hold it together a bit more than San Francisco. Chicago was different. I felt like it was a consistent 26.2 miles. We stayed relatively composed and consistent just about the entire time. Our GPS watches were not very accurate with our pace so there were times where we weren’t completely sure if we were too fast or too slow, but we did out best to go by feel in those moments.
I will do my best to group the miles, but these are loose grouping because there really were no points that stood out. Miles passed, doubt came and went, and we just kept pounding the pavement. We both admitted to feeling moments where we weren’t sure we could hang with the other person but what it came down do was sacrifice. I was willing to risk hitting the wall to stay with Bethany. Attempting to PR involves risk-taking. I took that risk in San Francisco and was smacked in the face by the hills. In Chicago, I took that risk and it paid off. Miles passed by and I never really felt myself letting go. In fact, there were moments I had to tell myself to GO. You’re not hurting, you feel better than at any other marathon, you’re prepared for this..why are you holding back? If you want it, you NEED to get out of this comfort zone and step it up.
Miles 1 – 13: Things felt good. I had minor little aches that ignited some fear but I brushed them off and kept going. The City was beautiful, I was doing what I love, I was keeping my mental game on point, and was doing consistent ‘body scans’ to make sure nothing was tensing up. (A tactic I read from the book ChiRunning) I would consider these miles, the ‘vigilant‘ miles. You just got to hit your splits and can’t really think/plan too much because it is still too early to make moves.
Miles 13 – 18: My stomach was beginning to act up and I was getting nervous about potentially having to stop. I was bummed that I was running into this issue again but I just told myself to ignore it and keep pushing. Bethany and I caught up to the 3:15 pacers which was exciting because we started behind them meaning we were running a sub 3:15 gun time. At mile 17/18, I told Bethany that I did not want to pass the pacers until mile 20. As soon as that statement came out, I felt a bit ashamed. I knew it wasn’t because I wasn’t feeling ready to pass them, it was because I feared that San Francisco would repeat itself. This wasn’t San Francisco and I needed to run without being tainted by that experience.
Mile 19 – Well that didn’t last long. I was so sick of being elbowed by the people in the pace group so I sprinted out of that pack and in front. Bethany – despite being confused and probably despising this abrupt change in speed – followed!
Mile 20 – 23: These miles were spent talking myself up. You need to start to go. 6 miles, 5 miles, 4 miles…this is nothing.
Mile 23 – 26: I went. Feeling pretty good at mile 23 with no cramps is something a marathoner does not experience very often. I knew that this was a rare occasion and if I didn’t capitalize on it now, I would 100% regret it.
26 – 26.2 – A HILL. REALLY!? I surged, grunted, surged, yelled and did just about every other embarrassing thing I could do approaching that finish line….Needless to say, I will not be buying the race photos.
The finish line was incredible. I DID A 3:13.52!!! I was shooting for a 3:15 so this was just unbelievable. Making this even more unbelievable was seeing Bethany cruise in seconds later for a 4 minute PR. Everyone is deserving of a PR but she deserved this more than anyone I know. She spent winter, embracing the snow and embarking on long, cold runs..only to be confronted with heat at Boston causing her to run conservatively. Admirably, she took that day with pride and fought on. She spent the summer, fall and the 26.2 miles through Chicago fighting for something she earned on April 18th and she got it!
I feel blessed more than I do proud. I could not have achieved this time without having Bethany by my side pushing me to keep and hold the pace. Celebrating the final product and the entire experience was so fun and I can’t wait to do it again soon!
Chicago Marathon 2016 – you were unforgettable! 🙂