Let’s get the gory details out of the way. My time was a 4:24:50. I was hoping for a sub-4.
The Chicago Marathon was on my list of marathons that I wanted to do. While New York has the five boroughs and the Boston Marathon has the prestige, Chicago is the flat, speedy marathon of high performance times.
Never mind the fact that, 3 years ago, the Chicago Marathon was also the site of a marathon cut short by near 90 degree temps.
Pre-race, the porta-potty line an hour prior to the event was as bad as the worst I’ve ever experienced, at the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon this year [although that was 30 minutes before the start]. Considering the crowd for the Chicago Marathon was about 3-4 times as large, I can understand the wait.
An even bigger problem occurred after I had gotten through the porta-potty line and started heading toward the start line area. There was a wall of people trying to get around the fencing set up for the start corrals. At some point, within a few feet of the nearest entrance point, a line of people formed going in the opposite direction. It turned out that they were streaming out of the exit and that the entrance was a few feet further. However, there was a mild sense of panic and for a few moments, I thought I was going to be in the middle of a soccer-fan-style stampede.
After about 15 minutes of pushing forward, I managed to get behind the 4:30 marathon pacers. I don’t know if they intended to be there, as I saw an assortment of other pacers for paces from 3:30 to 5:30 within sight range through the dense crowd. Bad move on my part for not investing time and effort in a seeded entry–I had a 3:32 and a 3:49 marathon time that I could have used.
When the race began, I found myself waiting for 20 minutes to cross the start line. Again, considering the size of the field, not a big surprise. What was a big surprise, however, was the race course having so many 90 degree turns in the first few miles of the race. In many crowds like this, I have to work to avoid walking. In this one, I had to work just to avoid coming to a dead stop at the turn.
Much of my first half of the race was spent jogging at a 10-12 minute pace and sprinting to get through openings as they came available. This resulted in a 9:30 average pace for the first 5k splits and about a 9:00 average pace towards the half.
Water stops were awful. Of course, they were two blocks long. The ground was tacky for the first half and slippery for the second half. Not a surprise, but 2 blocks of this every 1.5 miles is far more annoying that a half block every mile. With the size of the crowds and the number of inexperienced marathoners, there was a lot of taking fluid and walking down the middle of the course while drinking. I’m not the best at etiquette, but I try to avoid obstructing traffic as much as possible.
The first block was Gatorade, which meant that I always took it at a stop. The Gatorade was a very thick mix. Toward the halfway point, I started desperately looking for the water, and then later, started taking whatever cups of fluid I could get. The heavy mix of Gatorade turned my stomach by mile 20, and I started having stomach cramps. It seemed like I had a choice between dehydrating and stomach cramps from the Gatorade.
The heat was not much of an issue. At least, not on its own. Yes, it was roughly 83’F downtown when I finished, and downtown temps were on their way to tying the record temperatures by the end of the race day. The larger issue is that there is so much sun exposure on the course, and Chicago did not live up to its “Windy City” reputation that day. The air was stagnant and the sun was glaring. The stomach cramps, heat, and sun wore me down by mile 20, and by mile 23, I was timing run/walk intervals just to keep moving as fast as I could bear.
I fared better than most. The last two miles were littered with stretchers with exhausted runners who needed medical attention. I finished, trekked the 1/2 mile to the end of the finish area, and started in on the Gatorade Recovery drink. I tried to sit and recover some, but the sun was too hot to even sit down in. By the way, heat and a Gatorade drink with whey protein? That’s like getting saltwater in the middle of the desert.
The finisher’s medal seems to be way more of an ad for the sponsor than a medal for finishing. I respect that the sponsor deserves ample credit, but I’d also like ample credit for finishing. The whole medal seems to pay homage to the Bank of America logo:
Lessons and recommendations:
- Don’t ever run a big city marathon [20,000+ marathoners] again.
- If I do run a big city marathon again, get a seeded entry.
- If I do run a big city marathon again, but don’t get a seeded entry, jog it without regard for time.
- For this area, I would recommend the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon instead. The money you save can go toward a hotel next to Lucas Oil Stadium that’s within 1 mile of the start. Two nights in downtown Chicago + race registration would buy you 3 nights + race registration and maybe even tickets to a Colts home game.
My training has been higher mileage–up to 83 miles in a week the week before last–and geared toward the Chicago Marathon on 10-10-2010.
This past week, I ran 30 miles in three days and then took off for vacation in Kansas City. I had signed up as a timed runner for the Komen Race for the Cure in Kansas City. I was concerned with the number of participants being a problem for a good run–planned 28000–but I ended up not having to fight through a crowd or do much weaving the entire race–usually a problem for even the medium-sized 5Ks at the start.
My streak of 5k PRs is broken after 8 consecutive PRs.
21:02.42 [+:36 to my PR], 6:47/mile, 5/116 in my age group, 71/1869 out of timed participants.
- Ample parking was available within a block or so of the 5k start.
- After the finish line of the race were booths of large marathon expo quantity, except that the vendors at the booths were primarily interested in targeting “people” instead of just “runners”. It was nice to see a little variety in the products and giveaways being offered–I have enough marathon brochures.
- Starbucks had coffee, iced tea, and VIA instant coffee samples.
- If you were a timed runner, getting goodies and leaving the parking area traffic free was painless.
- The separation of “timed” runners, and untimed 5k participants and 1 mile participants prevented the 28000 participant from creating a crowd for any runner targeting a specific time. In fact, the pace areas from 5-9 all compressed due to the thinness of the crowd in that area.
One complaint: Nothing resembling a restroom was available within 2 blocks of the start line. There were ample porta-pottys at the finish, which was at least 3 blocks away. A handful of Assurant Health employees managed to use the restroom in their own building, along with many many non-employees slipping through the unlocked doors. I had mild cramping as a result, and was tempted to use an office building as a tree. [No, I didn’t.]
The course is your typical run-a-5k-downtown course. However, they somehow managed to add the extra component of hills (that’s about 3% average incline the whole time):
Compare this to my 20:52 5k time in similar weather last year, which about half the elevation change:
I had a clear view of the starting line when I lined up in between the 6 and 7 minute pace markers. Just before the gun went off, the first 4 minutes of pace areas compressed toward the start line and I crossed the line at about 2 seconds after the gun.
My first 1k was strong, despite running mostly uphill. By the 2nd kilometer, I really started feeling the burn of running uphill. The first long downhill was welcomed, but didn’t last through the 3rd kilometer prior to heading uphill again.
At this point, I was feeling wobbly legs and started overheating a little bit. In the 4th kilometer there was a false top with a quick descent prior to climbing one last hill. That all but broke me.
I received limited benefit from the long downhill in the 5th kilometer, and barely broke a 7-minute pace. Toward the finish line, there was small hill. I practically jogged it, as the 0.05 mile after the 5th km lap triggered on my Garmin indicates.
That was the hottest run that I’ve experienced in which I didn’t purposely seek out hot weather.
1 – km paces:
- leftover (about 0.05 mi)- 8:06
Something about this morning’s race just wasn’t right. There were just other priorities going on this week, starting with the night of Thunder Over Louisville and every night up until last night, I had been up late with kids who had stomach bugs, or just going to bed late and waking up late.
Packet pickup for this race was an afterthought, and with all the changes, a nuisance. I told my wife last night that I really wasn’t excited about this race. This morning, I told my team member that if I hadn’t put money toward registration, I probably would have bailed on the race.
I never got the same symptoms that everyone else in the family got this week, but I did feel pretty lethargic, and every meal I ate produced mild nausea. Because of all of this, I may have not eaten enough for the days leading up to the race.
My goal time: 3:25. Unfortunately, I had erratic training, despite averaging about 50 miles per week over the last 12 weeks. Business trips and the Louisville Triple Crown of running worked against me this time.
It was nice and rainy prior to the race. Normally, I’d at least have a 20 ounce coffee before any race [for various reasons], but my stomach issues prevented me from taking more than a couple of sips.
I lined up behind the 3:30 marathon pace group. My plan was to track 3:30 through the hills of Iroquois Park and then push toward 3:25 as I made my way out of the park.
I took my first gel at mile 1. I was already feeling hunger pains, and was worried about running low on energy. Unfortunately, I’ve had those pains all this past week, probably associated with the kids’ stomach bug. That first gel hit my stomach like a ton of bricks. These are gels that I always use…
With the course change, the hills for Iroquois Park started a little past mile 1, instead of being after mile 4. While I prefer early hills, having them hit after only a mile of running is brutal. I kept my eyes on the 3:30 pace group until the first hill, and never saw them again.
I lost 90 seconds off the 3:30 marathon pace by mile 4, exiting the park. The downhill made me think that I had more legs than I had, but I quickly slowed down beyond 8’30” pace. I took a gel at mile 6, which went ok.
The trek through Churchill Downs’ tunnels took quite a bit out of me as well. I took a gel at mile 11, but then proceeded to sit down to let my stomach settle.
At this point, I could have followed the half-marathoners in, but decided to follow the marathon course. Incidentally, the construction signage giving instructions alternated between “<— MINI MARATHON” and “MAXI MARATHON –>”. The only “Maxi Marathon” I know of is the Maxi Marathon Killarney, which is 15 miles.
I managed to plug along at a decent pace [sub-9s] through the first half to cross the halfway point at about 1:55. While a 3:50 was not my original plan, the 1:55 halfway point gave me a solid shot at staying under 4 hours.
Here’s where the major course change really hit me. I was having mild stomach issues again after the first big hill of the Scenic Loop in Cherokee Park at mile 15-16. On the old course, this would have been mile 17, and would have exited the park at that point. The new course completed the Scenic Loop with “Dog Hill”, which is a long, switchback hill which wears on you both physically and mentally. I walked it. As long as I walked, my stomach was ok. If I ran, I started getting intestinal and stomach discomfort, which limited my ability to push through any fatigue.
From that point on, I could no longer bargain with myself to finish. At mile 17, I was finished for the day, and was focusing on where to go to be picked up.
Life After DNF
I was upset with myself at the time, but there was nothing to be gained for me to stick it out for another 4:30+ marathon. If I stopped, I could continue training without an extended recovery period. Throughout the day, I still had thoughts of at least running the remaining distance on the treadmill tonight. However, I’ve noticed that my stomach is still not in the mood for any abuse, and my joints could use a day off.
What’s next? I think this week becomes a “cut-back” week for me, and I continue base-building beginning with 50-ish miles per week.
Some things I need to focus on from now until October 10 [my next marathon]:
- One hard workout per week [tempo or interval].
- Build my tempo runs to at least 7 miles.
- I need 60% of my mileage at 1:45 slower than my 5k time.
- Leftover mileage needs to be at 2:30-3:30 slower than my 5k time.
- Race shorter distances on more tired legs.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed in a race where I actually hit a personal record. This race was only 40 seconds than my 10 mile PR 2 years ago.
In the meantime, my 10 km race time has went from 46:26 to 43:01 [3:25], and my 5k time has went from 21:54 to 20:36 [1:28].
I completely expected more, based on a treadmill workout of 20 miles with 15 miles at 7’30” pace, but that was over three months ago at this point.
I think I’ve just not been willing or able to put in the miles or the speedwork necessary to push my pace any further than it has gone.
Another factor: No sleep. 2 out of 3 nights I didn’t get more than 2 hours of sleep in any one stretch. You know you’re not in good racing condition when you’re ready to throw up before the race even starts.
The wind was a little bit of a challenge in this race, especially coming out of Iroquois Park, where the trash boxes were getting blown onto the race course, making the race a virtual steeplechase for some runners. I recall yelling “look out!” to some runners who were about to get blindsided or tripped up by those boxes.
The rain managed to hold off for me until I was just about to turn into the stadium for the finish–then it unleashed.
However, my minimum goal was to break 75 minutes, and I managed to beat that–even the clock time showed 1:14:59 as I crossed.
I’ll have to take it.
3 weeks until the marathon.
Time 1:14:40 (7’28” pace)
Half split: 37:19
Overall Place: 347 / 6925
Gender Place: 298 / 3213
Division (30-34 male) Place: 45 / 482
- First of all, there is more than twice as much race course per participant, which allows for better spacing for most of the race.
- Secondly, the increased distance reduces the number of walkers that have just signed up for the event on a whim. Sure, there are walkers in this race, and they go at the same pace as the walkers in the 5k. However, it’s harder to participate in a 10k without at least taking the event seriously. 2 hours is a lot of time to spend on your feet if you’re not prepared for it.
- Lastly, the 10k course is a tour of a part of the city. A 5k does not lend itself to taking in much scenery. Most 5k races that I’ve been in run down a street a couple blocks, then turn or double-back on themselves. With the exception of park-based courses, there’s nothing to see. The Rodes course goes from Downtown Louisville to the Highlands to the Riverfront.
The course is just hilly enough to give you an honest run, but not enough to be overly challenging. There are a couple of very gradual climbs and descents, the entire course stays within a 120-foot elevation range, with most of the elevation change occurring in the first 2 miles.
I had planned to run a total of 50 miles this week, in 3 sets of double 6 milers on Monday-Wednesday, a 6 miler on Thursday, and then this 10k and warm-up/cool-down today. After my last 5k race and subsequent 20 mile long run two days later, my hip started acting up.
After running about 52 miles last week, my hip was really testy. The first two days of double runs this week added tendinitis in the ankle to the mix, and I ended up working in two days of hard exercise bike workouts instead of running.
Yesterday afternoon, the ankle had improved, but while jogging across the street to pick up my packet, I felt some major hip pain. To top it off, I started feeling achy and sore from a sinus infection. I managed to take NSAIDs and Sudafed and sweat it out overnight.
This morning, I felt pretty iffy about running 10k, much less racing it, but in running from the finish area to the start line, I tested my turnover and faster pace. I discovered that the faster turnover hurt less. This was a pretty good sign for the race.
At the race start [a nice 49 degrees], I took off near a 5:30 pace, but quickly settled back to my 5k pace of 6:30-ish. By the end of the first mile, I had settled down to a more natural 10k pace [+15 seconds to the 5k pace].
That first climb up Broadway is always surprising, despite it being a completely manageable hill, and mile 2 was my only mile that went over a 7-minute mile. The second slowest mile was mile 3, which has a smaller hill in it.
The remainder of my miles were just under my 6’51” predicted pace [5k + 15 seconds], and those miles are flat to downhill.
For the final stretch [past 6], I had virtually no kick. Neither my body nor my mind could will anymore speed than a 6’24” pace, which is fine, because I ran a pretty balanced race the rest of the way.
Overall Place: 254 / 7301
Gender Place: 224 / 3250
Division (30-34 male) Place: 44 / 474
I’m not particularly fond of the Anthem 5k. There were 8516 finishers this year. In years past, this race was entirely run along the downtown city blocks. While this made the course incredibly flat, every turn in the course was 90 degrees, and there were walkers interspersed with the front of the running pack. One year, a walker dropped a Sony Discman in front of me near the starting line. The result was similar to rush hour traffic dodging a stalled motorist on the freeway.
Of course, I’ve run Anthem 3 times now, out of 8 5k races that I’ve run overall. Why would I run such a race if I hated it so?
- It’s obscenely flat. [Not as much this year–more on that in a bit]
- It’s chip-timed.
- It’s raced by some area elites, which is pretty cool–it’s like being Iona in the NCAA Tournament.
- The timing, along with the rest of the Louisville Triple Crown of Running, is perfect for building up to a spring marathon: A 5k, 10k, and 10 miler every other weekend, and then one last mileage build-up week before tapering for the KDF Marathon.
- Panera goodies at the end. [I didn’t get any this year because my stomach really didn’t feel like it.]
This time, the race logistics were greatly improved. The walkers were separated into a group on a cross street so there wouldn’t be any ugly clashes [physical or emotional] between people moving at paces 5-8 minutes apart. In order to accomplish this, the race start moved down near the river, which meant that slope going to and coming away from the river would be added in for this year’s race. I completely did not expect this. Had I realized this, well–I probably wouldn’t have even shot for a PR. In hindsight, ignorance is bliss.
I started this morning at Heine Bros with coffee and a veggie, egg and cheese panini at 6:30 am. When I got to the ballpark, I had another “cup” of Heine Bros. It was at this point that I noticed how that runners and walkers would be separated.
“Good plan,” I thought.
It wasn’t until about 7:30 am [30 minutes before the race start] that I realized that the race course had entirely changed. I got out near the start about 7:40 am, but stayed in the sunlight until people started lining up at about 7:45 am. It was about 32 F at the start of the race. It was freezing in the shade of I-64, by the way. Every muscle in my body was shaking violently for 10 minutes straight.
I had set up my Garmin 305 for auto-lapping every 1k. I was hitting 4’09” and 4’10” kilometers for the first 4 km – about a 20’45” to 20’50” pace. That one hill coming away from the river seemed cruel at that pace and temperature. Fortunately, there was a slight downhill shortly after that gave me a little momentum pace.
The middle stretch was the typical bargaining with myself to hold pace and feeling a little burn in my lungs and legs.
Coming into the last 1/2 km, I saw a woman that I recognized from several 5k races–mainly because she has passed me mid-race before. I remember that she lined up about 4-5 seconds in front of me. This time, she was about 5 seconds in front of me with the finish line in the distance. I pushed the pace to see if I could pull up even with her, and managed to pull past her with about 1/10 of a mile to go. I got out-kicked by a couple of other racers, but their strong finish probably helped me motivate myself to knock a couple of extra seconds off my time.
Finish: 20:36 for 5k, 6:38/mile pace.
Overall Place: 242 / 8516
Gender Place: 211 / 3609
Division Place (30-34 male): 38 / 522
I’ve spent the past 6 months working up to this day. Twice in the past 16 months, I’ve been sidelined from running for more than 6 weeks. I began running everyday at the end of my last injury recovery, making it my goal to be able to run the next day, and trying to increase mileage by about 2.5 miles per week (0.1 mile per day, with two half mileage days). Once I was up to around 50 miles per week, I felt comfortable that my bad habits had subsided enough to introduce rest days.
I hit 70 miles in a week, felt some familiar pain, and decided to back off and build-up again. This time I cruised past 80 miles in a week with little difficulty.
As for the marathon race itself, this was my fastest marathon by 7 minutes and 25 seconds, but it was not my best performance. My Flying Pig Marathon last May (just before all the injuries) had even splits to negative splits. However, I did manage to run this race without my GPS watch on–just a simple stopwatch.
I started this race out at a pretty solid 7:30 to 7:40 pace. My stated goal time was 3:18, and I was right on target at the 10k split. That was probably a sign of trouble right there. I was running at the peak speed of my natural stride.
The 10k-halfway segment was only about 4 seconds slower pace. At the half, I was at 1:39:40, which would be a 6 minute and 28 second PR for a half (although, that half PR was set the Saturday before my old Marathon PR, so I probably held back.)
This is the point where my training has fallen short: My longest race this year was before my injury–a 10 miler. Since recovery, I haven’t run a race longer than 5k. I neither had the mental fortitude or mental training to adjust my pace.
I faltered around mile 16, and my splits started slipping past 7:40 to around 8:30. The 30k split actually benefited from a descent down an exit ramp.
Around mile 20, I was no longer shielded from the wind that was whipping all around. For the last 6 miles, I was perpetually running with my head down, arms flailing, running sideways… anything to push through the wind. For the final few miles approaching and in downtown Indianapolis, the wind blew even harder, whipping between the buildings.
Post race, I struggled to stabilize myself while retrieving food and powerade. The 1 mile walk back to the hotel was brutal, and slow–but I still managed to get back to the hotel sooner than I would have finished my first marathon time in… 4:34 vs. 3:32.
A comparison of hitting walls:
It’s amazing how differently hitting a wall looks today than in my first marathon (OBX in 2007). I hit those last miles at a 12 minute pace. There was a lot of walking.
|Average Pace at Split||09:12.4||09:53.2||10:27.2|
For my marathon today in Indianapolis, the wall constituted of a 8:56 average pace segment. More importantly, only two of those miles were slower than 9 minutes.
|Average Pace at Split||07:34.0||07:36.5||07:45.3||08:05.9|
I set a new 5k tonight at the Gaslight 5k in Jeffersontown, KY. Didn’t feel much up to finishing, even at the start, feeling winded from jog to the start.
It was roughly 79 degrees at the start, which is a little too warm for any distance race. I started off my first kilometer at a 5:55 per mile pace, so obviously, I went out too fast.
I really felt the will to finish about halfway through the race, but managed to find a little bit of kick left to manage a PR when I saw the clock still had about thirty seconds left before my 20:59 PR.
My new PR: 20:52.
Congratulations to @LouisvilleSoup who broke 24 minutes as well.
I arrived close to 7 am at the Falls of the Ohio State Park, and ran a mile warm-up. The air had felt chilly all morning until that point at around 60 degrees.
After finishing my warm-up, the air didn’t feel so crisp and cool anymore, but it was still comfortable–probably about as warm I could stand for a medium distance race. I lined up in the second row of people, maybe about 10-12 people wide, and took off like a bat out of hell for the first several hundred feet. The first km split was at a 6’41” pace. As far as I remember, from that point on, no one passed me. I spent the rest of the race trying to catch up with people out in front of me.
By the fourth kilometer, I started to feel some fatigue and lost a little motivation to finish the job. I tried focusing in on a guy who seemed to be pacing the perfect 5k race, and pushed myself to get past him.
With the finish clock in plain sight, I saw 20:45 heading into the corral. I sprinted in for the finish at 20:59 (6’46” pace).
2nd3rd (received 2nd place medal) in my age group (30-39) out of 13, and 12th out of 141 in the field (no walkers included). See Overall results & Men’s results.
Added: My previous PR was 21:41 (6’59” / mile). Interesting to see my 5k PRs over time.
For my recovery run: Let’s just say that Kao Pad Gra Prow (extra spicy) from Thai Siam is not a good idea the night before a race.