This was the first major race my sister-in-law and I have done. About a month ago, I did an impromptu 5k, but that was a last minute type of thing. So the race was in Chicago, of course, and so I took the train up there from St. Louis. The train ride is 5 1/2 hours and boring as hell. I came up on Friday. Raymond (my cohost and brother-in-law) picked me up from Union Station around 12:45. We grabbed some lunch (Five Guys) and went back to his place to wait for Lauren. She got home around 5, showered and changed, and we all went up to the race expo. Being that it was Friday night, it was not too busy there. Packet pickup was easy, and the three of us looked through the dozen or so stands there. Not many deals to be found. We went home and cooked up a big spaghetti dinner to get some quality carbs in. That seemed to make everyone tired. By 10, everyone was sleeping.
Saturday morning I got up early as I usually do (6:30am) and just relaxed. Being a married father of three, grad student, and full (plus) time worker, I don’t get to do this very often. There’s always something to do at home. I wanted to make this weekend about me as much as possible, so I just relaxed. Lauren and Raymond were up and moving by 8:30 or so. We got cleaned up and decided to go see an early movie at the theater. “The Other Guys” seemed like the only choice that all three of us would enjoy. I had been hydrating as much as possible (maybe too much). By the time the movie came on, I was 4 bottles of water into the day. Needless to say, I had to hit the bathroom numerous times during the flick. Afterwards, we stopped into Subway for lunch, then Dick’s Sporting Goods for last minute gear check.
We returned to the condo and started getting ready for the live show. Surprisingly, it went smoothly. Being constantly plagued with audio problems, one recording that goes easy is nice. The show went great! My wife, mother-in-law, and parents all got to watch the show. We had more people tune in than we were expecting (not a bad thing at all). By 6, we had taken apart the impromptu television studio and started our dinner of brown rice, chicken breast and peas. To get in the mood for the race, we all sat down and watched “Spirit of the Marathon”. What an inspiring movie! It was especially meaningful since it follows Chicago runners. By 10, we were all trying to find the elusive sleep. Unfortunately, Ray had to do some work from home from midnight to 2am. Lauren and I were able to sleep though.
Sunday morning, alarm went off at 4:45. We wanted to take off by 5:15 (which we did). The race started at 7, but 20,000 runners in Chicago presents quite the parking issue. Luckily, we found a spot within a mile of the starting line. Nervously, we walked to the start, jumping immediately into the Porta-John lines. It was a good call, emptying the bladder before the trek. Last thing you want to do is wait in line at the 3 mile mark or have to pull up a tree. Raymond, armed with his Canon DSLR and my Flip camera, took a few pics of us, wished us luck, and went to get into position. We lined up with the 2:20 pace group. Neither Lauren or me really had a time goal in mind. We really just wanted to finish. If I could finish with a 12 min/mile average or better, that would be icing on the cake.
The race started on time. Being near the back of the pack, it was a good 12 or 13 minutes before we crossed the actual starting line. Lauren and I started strong. I wanted to stay with her as long as possible. It was Raymond’s idea that we do this race. Lauren joined in when we signed up. Then, Raymond suffered a stress fracture. So, in his absence, I wanted to support Lauren as much as possible. I knew that we could finish, I just wanted to be there to remind her as often as possible. She had been having some knee trouble on her long runs, so we were just hoping that they would hold off as long as possible for the race. I had been having calf and hamstring issues here and there, but I was hoping clean eating and proper hydration would keep my cramping to a minimum.
By the 3 mile, Lauren’s knee started flaring up. We took walk breaks every 4-5 minutes. We had shared some Sharkies (organic fruit snacks) at the 5 mile mark, hoping to get an energy burst. By mile 6, she seemed worried. She was moving slower and felt like she was holding me back, so she gave me the go ahead to take off. So, off I went. I passed the 2:45 pace group, then the 2:30 pace group, and caught up with the 2:20 pace group. Around mile 8.5, I realized that taking off quick like that was a mistake. I had used up a lot of my energy doing that. Rookie mistake, I guess. By mile 10, I had slowed down back with the 2:30 pace group. I took a Gu with some water at the aide station. This is where my knee issues began.
I have been very fortunate through my training to not really have any joint issues. My damage has always been in muscle or tendons. All of this changed after mile 10. This was the furthest I had run in my life, so I was in uncharted waters in my endurance. By mile 11, I was into a 5:1 run/walk cycle. By mile 12, 3:2. My knees felt like they were made of cement that was cracked. Each foot fall felt unsure, feeble, and painful. 3/4 mile to go, I was visualizing how far that would be during my normal training runs in downtown Belleville. Ok, 3/4 mile to go, so I’m near Auffenberg Ford, running down 159 towards my house. 1/2 mile to go, I’m at the gas station on the corner of 159 and the South Belt Line. 1/4 mile to go, I can see my house from here. I go around the last right turn towards the finish line. Raymond was on the sidelines yelling towards me. I ran by and gave him an update on his wife, then went to finish my race.
The finish line was surrounded by people. After finishing, there was a long corral full of photographers, bananas, bottled water, chocolate chip cookies, and tired people. I kept walking for fear of my legs locking up. I collected my medal, ate a Clif Bar, cookie, and downed a bottle of water. I went back to wait for Lauren near the finish line. Around 30 minutes later, she came across the finish line with Raymond running next to her. He had joined her for the last 1/4 mile. She was hurting pretty bad. But she made it. And I made it. We did it. We ran 13.1 miles down and back Lakeshore Drive in Chicago. We wore our medals proudly. The three of us made the impossibly long walk back to the car. Funny how the mile long walk from the car wasn’t as bad (or seemingly as long).
After going back to the condo, we ate some delicious Gino’s East pizza, a Gatorade, a beer, and well-deserved naps for us all. 5:30 rolled around and we left for the train station. Right now, I’m halfway home on the crowded train bound for St. Louis. (Of course, I won’t be uploading this until the next day) Here’s to the first of many races! Chip time, 2:37.