CHICAGO MARATHON 2018
I have been in several minds about this race. So, why not write this report and get it out of my head?!
Road to Chicago
After having entered this marathon last December, I was stoked to find out that my bestie, Laura was also in! She is a native of Chicago (in a manner of speaking, she lived there before moving to London 6 months before we met 3 years ago) - so this was a Homecoming race. Of sorts.
She had been training for Chicago before she had to pull out years ago due to health issues. This was time to put it to bed.
Alas, life got busy between December 2017 and August 2018. In August, she let me know she was deferring her place to the next year! Darn!
I didn't blame her though. She had a charity race (Midnight-2-Midnight) to direct in the middle of London at the end of September. This usually meant lots of long hours, sleepless nights and organizational manpower even before the 24 hour relay was upon us.
She was still coming to Chicago though. AND, she was bringing an extra Mascot/ cheerleader. Okay, we also call him her boyfriend but I saw an extra cheerleader!
We planned to meet at the airport on the morning of our flight to take our United Airlines flights out to Chicago. I got my Uber and my giant almost empty suitcase and gritted my teeth through the SLOWEST route to Heathrow that I have EVER witnessed. It was like he was trying to make me late for our rendez-vous time! Don't worry, it was like 3 hours before the flight departure time.
On arrival to Heathrow, I located the self-service check-in and looked around for the rest of the party. Not a sausage (British saying for 'nothing here')! So I settled in to wait as I was sure Laura would be here and we just couldn't see each other.
Ten minutes later, they rolled up. This became a theme for this trip. Which is funny because, I'm the Nigerian who often shows up a few minutes late. Otherwise, my British leanings kick in and I'm early!
Laura is the American who is always on time! So this must have been down to Myles. This was confirmed later in the trip but initially, I just thought traveling as part of a couple had thrown off her usually impeccable calculations, maybe. What did I know?
The flight was largely uneventful. Good food and movies.
Once we landed and got the weirdest Uber ride known to man (our driver stopped for gas and left the meter running and wanted us to pay....lol, nope. She had to stop the meter once she made stop 1 of 2.
My hotel was a dream and about 10 minutes walk from the start line. Hotel Julian was a find! (I booked 2 weeks before flying out - yes, I am THAT person!).
I went for a good little run shortly after arrival in my room. My friends arranged to meet at the Oak Shore Beach and I used good old Google Maps to get there. Almost immediately, I noticed the famed "issues" with GPS between those skyscrapers! OMG, it was unreal! For a 1 mile run, I picked up very little actual distance. Then I ran the rest of my 60 minutes since my friends were once again running late. No complaints here!
What better ending to a run along a beachfront than to be complimented by another runner as I was in the last half a mile on my "very smooth running stride". Amen! Any my ankles were not sore after flying - that was a first since August!
The Chicago highlights of the trip before and after the race included:
I did run around a few times in the GPS-challenged downtown area of Chicago. I figured, I really needed to turn off the auto-lap as it had no idea how long a mile was anymore!
I also went to a Blues Bar and Second City Comedy with my friends in the evenings and had a pre-race evening meal with Kenny (pasta)! It was a nice chilled but enjoyable trip.
All too soon, Race day was upon me!
I woke up very early and put on my racing outfit - my new red MyWambas sports bra with a handy pocket for my phone and my newly-designed Mornington Chasers Racing Crop top were on! I also put on my vest over the top because, I had no idea what the weather would hold.
A quick selfie before the extra insulation layers (long running tights, long-sleeved running hoodie and my race number, initially pinned to my crop top).
The long walk to the start line was in order. Many runners in various states of sleepiness, zombi-like or just plain nervous, all joined me in that long trugde. Security checks over, we went to the areas for bag drop-off. I opted to keep mine a little longer.
It started to rain.
At this point, I was starting to question my life choices - What am I doing out here in the dark, in the rain, waiting to run 26.2 miles. Okay, the last bit I couldn't wait for (I'm a sicko like that) but the early morning rain was really getting to me!
I found a little hut to huddle in and sat next to a lovely lady from South America who had flown over for her first marathon! I encouraged her to not put time pressure on herself, go easy in the first half and really just ENJOY the day. It is a celebration of all those months of preparation! We soon were unceremoniously kicked out of the hut (they had to set up some refreshments for post-race), so we parted ways with good luck wishes. I dropped off my bag and started the next bit of searching for my start pen.
The day was brightening up quickly and I was feeling a bit less of that pre-race foreboding feeling.
I found my pen and started doing some warm-up drills. The rain even decided to stop! Hurrah!
Of course I then felt the need to pee! Could I hold it in for another 10 minutes? Nope.
So I climbed back out of my starting corral and went to join a pretty swift-moving porta-potty queue. Funnily enough, I was not the only person climbing out and finding the loo (yes, I am British!).
Business done, myself and my fellow last-minute stoppers somehow made a gap in the fence to shimmy back into the corral. Oh, such rebels!
And all too soon, it was go time! I thought, there goes Mo Farrah, time for me to follow! Lol
Miles 1 - 13
The first few miles were all about finding my stride and starting slow.
I noticed that the rain had stopped and the GPS was indeed crazy. Thankfully, I had managed to switch off my automatic lapping function just after the Shake-out run with McKirdy Trained athletes the day before.
As expected, Mile 2 read a funny little autolap (like 5:xx) so that was out!
I chatted briefly to a lovely racing lady who had braids and maroon lipstick - darn, I need a race day lipstick colour like that, I thought - and she was aiming for around 3:25 finishing time. I was aiming for 3:20 at this time. We wished each other luck and carried on trucking.
There were a bunch of "Jesus Saves"-style signs along the start of the course. I'm a faith-filled Christian and I appreciate that they wanted to be there but their tone was OFF. Most of the signs seemed to say, why are you running when you should be in church, you heathens? How about, God gave me a passion to run and every mile is my prayer and praise to Him? That's what I wanted to answer those posters. It was so off-putting! Other runners I spoke to later said they'd felt the same way.
Did I mention, it started to rain again around mile 3 or 4? This continued for the remainder of the race but it was a gentle steady drizzle most of the time.
I finally settled into my groove by the 6th mile, but found I couldn't get myself to speed up much more. I realize now, I prefer to be a metronome in races - a steady pace overall since the later miles take more effort to keep even the same pace. So holding a 7:50-ish pace became it!
A friend had texted me just before the start saying he would cheering be around 9.6 miles - I know, random distance or what? So, I craned my neck left to right and scanned the roadsides from miles 9 to 10. No dice! We missed each other. Just as I'd missed him whilst cheering at the London Marathon. Oh well!
I kept saying to myself, see how you feel at halfway, maybe you can stop for a second!
As soon as the 12th mile marker went, I knew it was just a lie I had been telling myself to keep me turning over. I had no GI issues, I had no need to pee, I had no cramps in my legs....so, no GOOD reason to stop. I ran past that 13th mile marker and the clicked my auto-lap, as planned.
Miles 14 - The Finish
The remainder of the race was about putting one foot in front of the other and noticing my surroundings a bit more.
I noticed Chinatown - there was no food cooking. Apparently everyone was out cheering! lol!
Around the 17 mile mark, I was still enjoying my jog (sorry, run) through Chicago. Thinking about how to keep avoiding the Gatorade holders and grabbing water after eating a Clif Blok or two, I choked. Yes, I choked on a gulp of water! I tried to style it out. Act like I meant to choke on that very sip and just cough to the side.
Just as I was recovering my breath, I heard my name being called. That can't be right?!
I looked up to see my best friend, Laura yelling and jumping up and down in excitement! And her boyfriend, Myles was going nuts too! (Camera forgotten around his neck as he waved manically at me! I don't know if I managed a high-five or not. All I know is I was touched and super suprised!
It was so unexpected but it was the very boost I needed!
I ran on to the finish, just focusing on the mile I was running. I completely forgot to lap the 23rd mile (so it was extra-long - lol!). I ran up to and said hi to Julia (from Instagram) who went on to run a PR!
A guy ran alongside me at mile 24 saying I was "looking strong"! I thanked him but knew I was partially faking it, partially just not working that hard. It was positive reinforcement though. I kep going.
A thing about Chicago is that it is famed for being FLAT. Well, I felt every incline up a bridge, every decline and I wondered, "what the hell are they talking about?"
I felt Boston was more my speed even with its accepted hills and valleys! Whenever a race is famed to be so FLAT or even DOWNHILL, it tends to backfire. I mentally hated every slight or proper incline.
So at mile 25.9 when THE hill of Chicago came, I was over it! I was like, whatever, just show me the finish.
And as I turned left at the top of the hill, I was so ready for that finish line.
I also noticed one other thing - the clock read 25:xx. So I sped up and raced across the line.
I stopped my Garmin but didn't even look at my time.
My watch had a joke for me though. Knock, knock....who's there? Fastest 26.2 time: 3:18:xx. Lol! This GPS really is a joker!
It was only much later that I realized my time was 3:26 FLAT. Yes, you read that right. I'm that precise! Ha ha!
On to the celebrations!
Post-Finish and Lessons Learned
First things first. They had an UH-MAZING set of goodies for the runners!
Shortly after crossing the line, I was given a can of beer (lol, I don;t drink but okay)! I'm not sure if I got that before or after my Medal! I took a few sips as I was handed 2 plastic bags to collect goodies from tables lining the finishing chute.
Then handfuls of Gatorade recovery bars and products were thrown into my bags and I was offered bags of Ice. Yes, ICE! Perfect, I can sit on that later for my glutes- I thought! Post-shower, of course!
Suffice it to say, I had a blast grabbing my goodies! (I still have Gatorade bars I grab after a workout on the treadmill from my stash - I kid you not!)
I bumped into the legend that is Patrick Cutter (@irun26point2_) one of the McKirdytrained coaches and an IG buddy, @Diorisromero. Her friend turned out to be the lovely lady with the poppin' (yes I left out the 'G') lipstick! So we took some pictures and got changed!
I then stumbled across the free massage tent on my way out - Yaaaaasss! So I limped my tight butt over there and walked out a bit less like a Zombie and more like a lady (after a fashion). I also tried to convince my masseuse to give Marathon-running a go!
I will admit now that I stopped at a Starbucks on my walk home (all of 3 blocks) to grab a croissant sandwich which I devoured). Post-race meal was actually another Chicago deep-dish pizza - this time at Pequod's Pizza. I live the life of a marathoner!
Hope you enjoyed my little mind ramble and the pictures.
Do drop me a line below if you were in Chitown or have run a marathon this year.
Any questions or tips are welcome!
I RAN BOSTON! | BOSTON MARATHON RACE RECAP
THE NIGHT BEFORE....
After psyching myself up for this race for say 8 months (I lie, a whole year), imagine my dismay to realise that the weatherman's predictions were true. It was going to rain and be very windy with 30-50mph gusts and freezing cold temperatures on Marathon Monday!
Anyhu, I had packed an old black cotton hoodie I was willing to throw away. It was meant to keep me warm in the Athlete's village before the start. I added a pair of cheap (thank you, Primark) leggings to the mix and my outfit was complete!
All that was left to do was apply my Sarah Marie Design Studios Boston-inspired nail transfers at 1AM in the morning! Yes, I am that person. In my defence, they looked pretty cool and I had slept well the preceding few nights.
JOURNEY TO HOPKINTON
On waking up, I threw on my outfits and added my game face - light make up and Unicorn cheek glitter. Every marathon feels like a Festival to me so why not look ready to party? Oh and never mind the rain!
I rushed downstairs to get the packed breakfast essentials the Hotel had left out for the runners: I opted for the Raisin bagel and peanut butter (YASSSSS) and left the granola and apple - too fibrous by half!
I did something that saved the morning then. I asked the concierge if they had any trash bags. She did - she gave me two see-through (for security) trash bags that I made holes in the top and sides for head and arm holes. On wearing it, it was almost floor-length on me - I am short! He he!
Stepping out of the hotel, I was immediately assaulted by the tempest outside! No word of lie, The wind and rain whipped at me. I quickly slipped my arms back inside the bag's protective poncho-like cover and held my food bag to my chest. As I walked the 800m to the bus loading area on Charles Street, my feet (which were the only parts not protected by the bag) were well and truly sodden. Oh and my Buff had to come down. It was so soaked with water from the driving rain, I felt like I was being water-boarded! Not the best of feelings.
I opted not to leave any gear for checking to avoid a 1-mile walk after the race. (A smart move prompted by a fellow-runner's suggestion the night beforehand.
Sliding through mud, we got onto the bus queues and I was directed by the Volunteers to a bus. They loved my facial glitter! I was low-key singing Rihanna's "Work, work, work, work, work!" in the cue and they agreed the sound system should be blasting tunes!
The bus ride was long but cozy! However, by the time I was on it, my shoes and socks were soaked! I noticed on the line that people who thought to protect their shoes fell into two categories. They either covered each shoe with a plastic bag, or they carried a pair of dry shoes for the rave, sorry race (Freudian slip!) and aimed to throw away the pair they wore. During the bus ride, my feet thawed out a bit and my Buff dried - yes it was that long a ride!
Arriving at the Athletes Village revealed a new set of issues.
ATHLETES' VILLAGE AND STARTING CORRALS
The Athlete's village at Hopkington was a muddy affair! There was snow which had fallen in the earlier hours of the morning. And there were mud pits from all the rainfall thus far!
I quickly used the ladies' facilities and made my way to the Clif tents where we were promised there were heaters. Of the four, there was only space in one! And in that one, there was face painting on offer. I declined since I already had my glitter on but they used my glitter style to entice others to have their faces similarly done up with glitter or country flag colours. I assured the curious runners that the glitter tended to last for the whole race (at least it had for CIM - lol!).
I sat briefly to put in my toe warmers (which did absolutely NOTHING for my numb toes) and shake out and apply my Hand warmers inside my arm sleeves and gloves. As I ate some of my snacks, a tall man came in and wished us well. He warned us to try and keep warm and watch it on the downhills. Then he said, "I'm Scott Jurek". *Gasp*
I looked to my left and YES, it was Scott Jurek! I was internally fan-girling but was too cold - numb fingers and all - to grab my phone for a picture. Darn it!
Shortly, they called the first wave Red bib wearers and then our second wave!
As we moved towards the holding area in the parking lot behind Athlete's Village, we all excitedly chatted and tried to calm our nerves. All too soon, they herded us forward on the half a mile walk to the actual corals. On the way there, there were more porta-potties for us to get rid of the extra layers and food we didn't want for the race.
I took of my leggings at this point but kept my trash bag poncho and the black hooded sweater.
I grabbed a mouthful of water and gave my spare trash bag (which I hadn't used for sitting at the Athlete's village (too muddy and wet) to one of the many lovely volunteers.
All too soon, it was time to go! Aaargh. I jogged up to my corral - actually, I jogged past it, oops - then waited to be let loose on the course. I quickly wrapped my Buff around my Visor hat instead of my neck to prevent a repeat of the previous water-boarding incident!
THE FIRST 6 MILES
So after pretty much NO warm-up because, what would be the point, the rain was freezing, I started at an 8:20 - 8:20 pace. Immediately, my Garmin started having issues. The sleeve of my hoodie, made heavier by the heavy rain, was hitting the touch screen and making false-laps!
Using that as a gauge was OUT then! So I ran on feel.
I made sure to be careful on the downhills and not go too fast.
I was very afraid in those early miles. Coming back from an injury that had me not running for 2 weeks and then having a short taper for the same reason, I didn't want to damage anything on the course! So when I noticed that my feet felt like blocks of wood, I was afraid!
You see, my feet were numb - not just the toes anymore - the bottom of the feet and I could just about feel my ankles. With a recent Right shin splint injury and the left calf being tight as usual, I was scared I was unwittingly doing damage! Hence, I took it easy and prayed internally for my feet to be okay. "Dear Lord, help me!" I made sure I did absolutely NO WEAVING between people. No energy wastage here!
I took my Clif bloks at just over the 3 mile point and kept moving! I threw off my outer trash bag between mile 3 and 6. I was overheating within it!
There were puddles everywhere! The middle of the road, the sides and when we dipped into any valley, the whole width of the road was wet.
As I neared the 6th mile, I realized I was having some GI discomfort. My lower abdomen felt tight and it was making me run slower and slightly hunched forward. I had alternately been drinking a sip or Gatorade and 3 sips of water from the cups. I want to shout out @Heatheruns from Instagram who gave great tips for grabbing water in cups from volunteers. I used those tips at CIM last year and again this year at Boston!
I briefly saw Bethany Davis of @be.fit.davis (IG) whom I'd met at the Rambling Runner meetup the day before. She was looking strong! Whoop whoop! As my discomfort continued, I let Bethany power on ahead of me and I struggled to keep pace.
I kept telling myself: "Never trust the first half of a marathon!" and "aim to be slower in the first half to pass folks in the second".
The rain and wind continued to batter us.
Miles 7 to 12
I was taking the Gatorade and water at alternate water stops up to mile 11. And with each step from mile 7 to 11, I felt my lower abdomen feeling more and more bloated.
No matter how I tried to ignore it, I just felt more bent forward with the pain. As I passed mile 11, I felt I really needed to pee (TMI alert!).
So for the first time in any race, I ran for the first loo I saw.
As I headed back out, I felt SO much better! Suddenly, I was actually back within 10 seconds of goal marathon pace. And just like that, 12 miles were complete! I dropped one of my hand warmers at this point (from my right hand). This meant it started to freeze up with the cold into a claw hold!
That was when I heard them! The screams!!
I turned to my left, about to ask if there were people being murdered up ahead, then remembered.
WELLESLEY! This was when the tables turned! The much lauded ladies of Wellesley College were just as loud and encouraging as they have been spoken of.
After a few high-fives (no extra energy for KISSES), I was sufficiently reinvigorated to keep pushing the pace and start flying towards the hills.
Miles 13 - 18
As I passed the halfway point, I had a choice to make. Either I hold on to my top layer of clothing, which was wet and making my GPS go crazy in the rain, or I ditch it and face the elements that were here to stay cold and wet.
So I threw off my Hooded zip up sweater and ran for the hills!
The crowds were very much in support - I believe we were now in Natick and crossing shortly into Newton with its famed hills.
I was prepared to try the 1 mile easy, 2 miles hard approach I had read on one of the many articles as I'd swatted up on the Boston course last week.
Imagine my happy surprise to find that I barely felt the hills!
Yes, you read that right. I had trained on Primrose Hill and even around Hampstead and Golders Green as little as a week beforehand and those were WAY harder than the hills of Boston. Even with the downhills at the start. My quads were not shredded as I had been warned by Bill Rodgers and my pal, Dr Steve Harris to train well downhill in long runs!
The main thing I noted was to keep up my cadence on the uphills (whilst many started walking) and not break on the downhills. When my left knee gave some protest on the first downhill, I leaned forward and let gravity take me rather than the backward lean I had unconsciously started with.
I kept passing people and I even had a friend yell, "Looking good, Lola!" I turned to see Bethany Davis again. She was holding on there but I knew these hills were a struggle for most.
The crowds held up signs and yelled encouragement. More and more people read out my number and rooted for me! This was EXACTLY what I needed. People took to calling me "Sparkles" because of my facial glitter! lol!
At mile 17, I made my second bathroom pit stop as darn it, I drank one more sip of Gatorade and it made me cramp (abdominally) again! No more Gatorade thereafter. I grabbed water at every other station from then onwards.
I perfected a new water grabbing technique here. With my right hand now frozen into a bit of a claw, I would swoop my left hand around the cup to lift it from the volunteer's hands and prevent splashing us both! Oh dear!
Sadly, my second had warmer fell off at this point - darn mile 17 - so my Left hand was a bit less frozen than the right but starting to feel the elements too!
This stretch of the course continued uphill until I was suddenly upon the infamous "Heartbreak Hill".
Some spectators had a rad sign saying "It's only a hill, get over it!" at the bottom. I flew up this hill.
Okay guys, here's my take: if you've done even a 2-3% gradient on the treadmill once a week, you are good! I did 2-3% as my minimum inclination on even easy runs and 4% + when I was practising for Heartbreak Hill. This hill was actually a beautifully low incline upwards over - I guess half a mile - and I didn't feel taxed going up it. I'm sure the crazy hills of Ultra races were miles worse (one had my heart racing just walking up it!) and they are more formidable foes.
Around mile 22, I noticed I was running with the same girl from San Diego. I figured that her shirt showed that because the crowd would alternately yell my number or say, "Go San Diego" as she an I kept shoulder to shoulder.
Someone yelled out somewhere around mile 23 - it's all downhill from here!
For the next 2 miles, "San Diego" and I would pass each other on uphills (she would pass me) and downhills (I would pass her)! So we battled onward.
I had been surreptitiously looking up to the horizon, searching for the CITGO sign I had seen on my Charles River shake out run and when I had gone close to Fenway Park a couple of nights beforehand. No sign of it (excuse the pun).
Suddenly, with about a mile and a bit to go (maybe 24.5 miles in) I spotted it. And it was close!
Shortly, I say the One mile to go signs by the crowd.
Someone yelled, "1-3-3-3-3, you're the best I've seen!" That was flattering! lol!
I thought to myself in those last 2 miles, "I can put up with ANY amount of pain for 2 miles!"
I was feeling my hamstrings and I was just T-I-R-E-D!
Suddenly, there was the sign for the right turn on Hereford! We were almost there!
Within a few yards of turning on Hereford, we were turning Left onto Boylston!
I could just about squint and see the finish.
I asked myself, "Can I push it a bit more? Can I go faster?" My muscles were screaming "No!"
However, I looked slightly to my right and saw that "San Diego" had switched to that side and was revving up for the finish.
Well, it was ON!
I started to speed up and used my arms to drive me forward. I knew I had a finishing kick in distances up to the half marathon but here was a chance to use it for a marathon. And at Boston NO LESS!
So I ran for my life and kept her behind me as I strode to the finish!
I looked up and saw 3:49 on the timer but knew it was several minutes off when I started so I would wait for my net time. I had given up looking at my Garmin at around mile 22!
Once I was over the line, I followed instructions to keep moving. They were handing out water bottles just behind the photographers (yep, NO ONE needed that at this point)! I started looking off to the right side to see if I could sneak off to my hotel ASAP.
Then I thought, I feel like I'm forgetting something....
I hadn't even gotten my medal yet and I was trying to get home! *Face palm*
So I kept moving forward a few more yards and there were the medals *sigh* and the beautiful hooded foil ponchos! I was too cold to actually managed to put it on by myself so a kind volunteer helped me fasten the front velcro!
I then turned to the side and was showed a gap through the barricades to get back to my hotel.
On that short walk, approximately 300m - I encountered the slightest incline. I had to turn around and walk up it backwards to stop my legs hurting. I looked crazy but what else could I do.
After a quick selfie and a few frozen handed mirror pics, I jumped in the shower.
My back was seizing up from the cold!
After the first 10 minutes, I stepped out and immediately started shaking again.
Another 20 minutes in the shower it was! I actually posted my instagram update in said shower (hot water on my back!).
MY THOUGHTS ON BOSTON 2018
I just want to say how amazing that race was!
In spite of the crazily adverse conditions, I learned - alongside many others - that as long as I showed up and kept trying, I could achieve anything I put my mind to. The first half reflected my mind not being set on fighting (and my poorer fueling choices) but the second half more than made up for it with my rediscovered GRIT!
The volunteers and the spectators were the real stars of the show! To stand there in the pelting, freezing rain and wind and yell encouragement for us all! I am humbled beyond words.
My final time was 03:44:28. My personal worst! However, it is still a London Good-for-Age qualifier and on one of the hardest courses out there!
That was a whirlwind taster of Boston. However, it has left me wanting more.
I have a CIM qualifying time already for next year (holler!) and I will try to improve on that in the year!
Thank you for coming on this Boston Marathon journey with me!
Later, Ladies and Gents.
Ps: Hand warmers are the BEES KNEES for keeping warm in cold races! Toe warmers did NOTHING for me. I do have a spare pair so I will try them in drier conditions to see if they fare better then.
Sorry, nowhere else to share this random tidbit. Okay. I'm done now.
10 Lessons from Running Camp |
Hi, I'm Lola!
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