Monday, May 16, 2011

Chicagoland Spring Marathon Race Recap

Chicagoland Spring Marathon Race Report

So.. wow! First things first;

I am a Marathon Finisher!!!

Second, here’s a bulleted summary for those that don’t want all the details
• Weather sucked (strong winds, rain, chilly temps that got chillier as we ran)
• Finished in 4:54:49
• Got 3rd in my age group
• Course was georgous, well run marathon, I’d recommend it
• Very small marathon (235 full finishers)
• I cried at mile 19, and at the end
• I want to do another one :D

Mile 1: 10:51
Mile 2: 11:04
Mile 3: 11:13
Mile 4: 11:12
Mile 5: 11:07
Mile 6: 11:03
Mile 7: 10:54
Mile 8: 11:10
Mile 9: 10:39
Mile 10: 11:46
Mile 11: 10:29
Mile 12: 11:22
Mile 13: 10:44
Mile 14: 11:18
Mile 15: 11:01
Mile 16: 12:00
Mile 17: 11:01
Mile 18: 10:58
Mile 19: 11:09
Mile 20: 11:53
Mile 21: 12:23
Mile 22: 10:42
Mile 23: 11:24
Mile 24: 11:26
Mile 25: 11:09
Mile 26: 11:25
Mile 26.2: 3:16

Now that that’s out of the way, time for the full race recap! The alarm went off at 4:45am this morning and I spent a full 15 minutes contemplating whether or not I REALLY wanted to do this, hearing the howling winds outside and checking my phone for a last time, seeing that winds were up to 17mph and only forecasted to get stronger as the morning went on. Winds chills were 38* F and forecasted to drop until 2pm this afternoon. I was freaked… and not looking forward to the race. But, I got up, stretched/foam rolled/dressed and made a PB&J. My bowels decided they didn’t feel like moving this morning but I figured that’s fine since they rarely did before my long runs in training.

I ate the PB&J on the way to the race, washed down by a diet coke (hey… they say don’t change ANYTHING from training right?) and then my stomach started gurgling. Uh oh… then mom and I ran into traffic but due to her amazing mob-boss-car-driving-skills we were able to hustle our way around slow traffic and side roads to get to the race 30 minutes before start time. I decided to get my chip (a little Velcro thing that goes around your ankle) and check my gear before I hit the porta potties to let loose Mr. and Mrs. Bowels that were now all packed and ready to go :D.

Gear check was uh…. They tied a plastic trash bag to the handles of my bag and wrote my # on it with a sharpie and then put it on the sidewalk. Yeah… okay. And then once I got into the porta pottie, Mr. and Mrs. Bowels decided that it was too cold out and they’d rather just stay home and chill by the fire. Needless to say I was not able to go. That made me nervous… but once again… has happened during training so I wasn’t too worried.

I met up with the 5 hour pace group and introduced myself and got to know everyone and then all of a sudden everyone started moving. Our pace group leader said “oh, I guess they just started the race!” so off we went! Thank goodness for the timing mats or else I would have lost 2 minutes not realizing the race had started!

I stuck with my pace group strictly through mile 6. I’m really glad I did too because I’m pretty sure I would have rushed that if I hadn’t. My legs felt amazing! Go taper! But at mile 6 I realized I didn’t need to go QUITE that slow so I sped up a little. Not toooo much but just a few seconds per mile.

I saw my dad around mile 8 for the first time and I had to yell out his name for him to recognize me! It was kinda funny. We missed the first photo op, but not worry there were many more! My dad drove around to almost every spectator spot there was to see me! I must have seen him almost 8 times throughout the race. It was amazing! I didn’t really think I’d care that much about having crowd support or whatever since I like running by myself but it actually meant a LOT to see him so many times. It was very uplifting. Anyway, back to race report…

Miles 6-13 were pretty good. My legs felt good, things were going well, I wasn’t thinking about the distance or the cold. Things were just… good. I constantly had to force myself to slow down and take walk breaks to keep my pace under control (very happy later on I forced myself to slow down!). I took in the georgous scenery and enjoyed my playlist.

Mile 13.1 was where I started to really feel the distance wearing on me. I was surprised because I wasn’t expecting to feel it until mile 16 so that kind of worried me, but then I realized I was going a lot faster than we go in training runs so I guess it made sense to feel it sooner. When I saw my dad at mile 15 I was started to really feel it. I remember telling him “10 ½ miles to go…” and him telling me “just your normal run, you got this!” and me thinking “oh goodness, I hope so”.

I saw him again at mile 17 and told him “uhh dad…. I’m dying” and him kind of chuckling. This is where I knew the last part of the marathon was going to be tough. I wasn’t actually that bad at that point, I think I was more mentally dying than anything else because I knew if it hurt at THAT point, the last 6 was REALLY going to be hard. But, I was still positive because at this point I started to think “wow, I may actually finish this thing”.
Then I saw him at mile 19 ½. Somewhere between mile 17 and mile 19 my “mental fatigue” turned into real physical fatigue and I started to panic. This has happened in a couple of my training runs too so I wasn’t too caught off guard by it. I knew that the “not able to breathe heart racing out of my chest” would stop as soon as I walked for a bit and took a breather. Poor dad saw me coming down the trail and got the camera out… and I had just enough air to yell “No…. Pictures…. Dad…. No…. More….” Before I burst into tears. He gave me a hug and told me, “one step at a time, just take it one step at a time, run down that path, back here, and then to the finish”. I’m really glad I got to see him at that point. The “little path” he was referring to was a 3 mile out and back north and then south and the wind was coming from the north at 20mph at that point. So there I went, down the “little path” straight into the howling wind. I just kept telling myself I’d see him again in 3 miles. Halfway through this out and back (mile 21ish) there was an aid station the volunteer there asked me “are you at the end of the pack? Do you think there’s a lot of people behind you?”. I was so angry I could have strangled him. What a rude question to ask first of all, second of all I don’t know, third of all… ummm… sorry you’re cold and wet but so am I. Sorry to the volunteers out there but I was having trouble sympathizing with him at that point. Every OTHER volunteer on the course was amazing though, just throwing that out there. I felt bad for all the rest of the them because they were out there in the freezing rain, just to cheer us on! Man it was great.

Anyway saw dad again at mile 22 and at this point I knew I’d finish. He asked if I was feeling better and I said “yeah, I know I’ll finish now, but HOLY HELL THIS SUCKS” and that made him laugh. And he said “well yeah… you just ran 22 miles!” and that made me laugh. Then he got in his car and left for the finish line, and I plodded along. The last 2 miles were slightly uphill and into the wind, that sucked. But, I could see the finish and just wanted it so bad. When I saw the “mile 25” sign and looked at my watch I saw “4:40:00” and I knew that I had 20 minutes to make it 1.2 miles and still be “sub 5” at that point I started running again (I had been walking) and I told myself to just ‘jog it in… jog it in…” and that’s what I did. When I saw my mom at the finish I knew I was going to cry, but held it together long enough to get across the finish line, and then broke down. It was just such a release of emotion… crazy built up tension from almost 5 hours of running. I just lost it. And then I realized how bad my legs hurt. So… I kept walking. Parents had to help me get around and whatnot. It was pretty entertaining. I couldn’t seem to do anything by myself (i.e. open a bottle of water or climb up steps or untie my shoes :D). It was really nice having help! My step-mom even bought me pretty yellow finishing flowers :D.

Side note here…. To the race directors – please do not use Velcro “around the ankle” timing chips. I now have a nice red chafing line ALL the way around my ankle. It looks like someone tried to cut off my foot. Not cool.

All in all I’m soooo happy I did it. Was it pleasant? Ummmm parts of it were. Parts of it were not. The wind was REALLY tough and it was also tough not being able to move my fingers past mile 3 (getting gels open and whatnot became impossible so I had to go on just Gatorade the last half). Plus with the rain, I was sooo wet.. and cold. It was just… gross out. But am I happy I did it? Ohhhh yeah. So happy. I can’t wait to do my next one. My legs actually don’t feel that bad! I think staying mobile today helped. I didn’t sit around all day like I would have liked :D.


Enjoy some photos! :D Since it was a small race, there aren’t any “on the course” ones. However, my dad will email the ones he took before I yelled at him next week, so you’ll see those from me then :D


  1. many congratulations, lauren. well done pushing through. that's a decent first marathon effort of which you should be very proud.

  2. Congrats! Great job especially considering the conditions were less than ideal!

  3. congratulations! you rock!

  4. CONGRATS! Lauren, you are awesome!! And #3 in your AG, AWESOME!

  5. Congrats!!! Welcome to the club, marathoner!! I can't imagine dealing with such bad conditions, and knowing before the race that things were going to be that way could have made for a more difficult race but you overcame that just fine.

    Nothing new on race day, and if that means you drink the same diet coke you did during training, that's what it means!!

    Mr and Mrs Bowels... hahahahahhahah

    It's funny how you don't realize how great crowd support is until you are out there. Kudos to your dad. I wish I would have had someone see me that many times during my first... during ANY of my marathons. For No. 1, my wife and girls were just before the finish line so it was a huge carrot dangling in front of me but it would have been awesome to have seen them as many times as you saw your dad. That's a great memory.

    Great finish line shot!!! You smiled!!!

    It's also funny how your body just holds everything in until you cross the finish line. It's like as soon as the race is over, you realize A) how horribly bad your legs feel B) your body just wants to shut down C) you need food and water inside you badly. It's like literally, you couldn't have taken one more step. I've felt like that every single time.

    What a great moment for you! You've got such an amazing feeling now, I'd imagine. Just think of all the time and energy and preparation and everything you put into this, not just on race day but throughout your training, having overcome the injury and all that before Chicago last year and now here you are, a bona fide MARATHONER!!!

  6. Yay!

    What an inspiration you are!

    I have a feeling we would be running side by side if I did one. My paces are so similar! Which is very encouraging to me!

    Way to go!

  7. Way to go Lauren and a third place finish to top it all off! You should a whole lot of toughness in the miserable waether and all of your emotions flowing out is what most first time finishers experience. You will never forget this race and having your family there made it more special.
    Great RR and you rocked it girl

  8. Congrats Marathoner! Good job in tough conditions! Way to go!!!

  9. I am so proud of you!!! I mean really, what more is there to say? You did it! You're a marathon finisher! No more ghosts of injury past haunting you, you did it!!!

  10. Congrats on a great finish in such horrendous conditions! I was planning to do the half but bailed because I'm a weather wimp. Definitely next year!

  11. Awesome-town! Congratulations on finishing your first marathon especially under such brutal conditions. And you placed in your age group! You’re a rock-star!

  12. Hell f#%kin' Yeah Bananas!! I loved reading the saga, I can relate to every moment. Big congrats! So glad to hear about you getting through the injury and finally kicking some serious ass. When is the next one?

  13. Hello! I want to run my first marathon this year. I was looking at this race. I have a few questions, first I think I'd be running about the same time as you since it was such a small course, did it feel lonely and frustrating? 2nd how were the aid stations? Were they plenty or few and far between? would you run this race again? Thanks!!! Brooke