2013 Chicago Marathon Recap

2013 Chicago Marathon
This was my second Chicago Marathon and my fourth overall. However, it would be my first time running as a guest in my home city since we had moved to Boston earlier in the year and I was excited to get back and see friends and have a good race. Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting much performance wise, since I had basically phoned in training since the blisteringly hot Disneyland Dumbo Double Dare Challenge (10k + half marathon) in early September.

We arrived early Friday morning and hopped on the Orange Line into the city (since experiencing Boston’s mass transit system, Chicago’s “el” felt like the Concorde). After savoring over some very missed Chicago-style hot dogs at Portillo’s with some of my wife’s old work friends, we headed over to the expo at McCormick Place to pick up our race bibs and packets. 
I miss you so much

The excitement builds
The Chicago Marathon expo is probably my most favorite of all expos, as it’s chock full of running delights for the most discerning racer. All the heavy hitters are there: New Balance, Mizuno, Brooks, Asics, Newton and Nike, most of which are showing off some type of new shoe/apparel. New Balance had a lot of its glow in the dark gear (some of which I’m going to be trying out at Wine & Dine), while Brooks had a pretty cool display with robotic runners suspended above their booth. I picked up a New Balance T-shirt that called out all of Chicago’s neighborhoods that the marathon would travel through. I also ran into runDisney’s Bob Hitchcock who would be running in the marathon as well.
My favorite booths were New Balance & Runner's World

Last year I was in Corral F so this was a huge accomplishment
I met up fellow runner Linzie and headed over to the Runner’s World booth to get our picture with running legend Bart Yasso and pick up his book (which is a great read). Bart recognized me from the Disney World Meet Up in January, which was the surprise of the day. Afterwards, we said goodbye to Linzie and headed out to a friend’s house where we were crashing for the night. 
Linzie (@SeeSharpRun)

My running hero, Bart Yasso.
So a few things about our friend: he's awesome, from Europe and always down for a good time. So, I had a feeling how the night would end after we decided to go out for dinner and drinks. Not to mention, my wife and I had been up since 3a to catch our 6a flight. But, since I still had a day to recuperate, I figured just a few drinks couldn’t hurt. 
"We'll just take it easy tonight..."
 Well, after a few beers, he introduced us to a variation of the Fireball shot that included RumChata. After that experience, the night basically turned upside down and any apprehension about drinking prior to the marathon went straight down the drain. Throughout the rest of the evening, we ran into a cast of colorful bar patrons, played terrible games of pool, and spun a “wheel of pizza.” 
Pizza slice!

 All the while continuing to receive drinks from the bartender who seemed to take a liking to my European friend. At the end of the evening, much later than I would have liked, I noticed the bartender had comped us a ton of drinks. Since I had picked up the dinner bill, my friend said he would cover the drink tab. Well, since the bill was only about $25, he tipped off the total and disregarding all the free booze. On the way home we decided he will make that bar his local watering hole for a while and make amends. I friggin’ love that guy. 
Take it easy, my ass.
The sun rose much quicker than I had hoped and I awoke with a pretty terrible crick in the neck and an awful feeling in my stomach. The previous night’s antics had come back, but instead of the warm, fuzzy good times, it now reared its gritty, ugly, nausea-inducing head. With haze in our heads and fuzz on our tongues, my wife, European friend and I headed to the closest brunch establishment to meet my dad and soak up the previous night’s antics. The conversation was quiet until we had a chance to dig into our respective hangover meals and after the color returned to my face, the conversation picked up.

After breakfast, we all went our separate ways and my wife and I checked into our hotel in the city. It’s a very surreal feeling to be a guest in your home city, especially since our hotel was next door to my old office building. After checking in (yet, another room by the elevator), we took a much-needed nap, had dinner, and then back to bed. Unfortunately for me, not everyone was running the next day and through the vents we could hear a very loud party with people screaming and carrying on like this was the last party on earth! Worse yet, our next-door neighbors came home about 2a and proceeded to have a fight. I finally fell asleep about 3a and was up at 5a. Luckily, I have never been one to sleep the night before a big race so I wasn’t too wrecked when my alarm went off. A final note on our hotel, we were able switch rooms the following day and had no other issue. Back to race day…

Marathon breakfast
I headed over to the race about 6:15a. I didn’t have to be in my corral until 7, but I wanted to walk around and drink in all the excitement that washes over folks in a big race setting. The weather was a little brisk, about 45 degrees, but much more manageable than the previous year. For those who haven’t read last year’s recap, I got to the race way too early and froze my ass off for 3 hours. Luckily, this year’s weather was cooperating.

Throughout the year, I had been able to improve my running time to move me into Corral C, three corral spaces up from 2012’s Corral F. I felt a little guilty being there since I hadn’t really put in the training like I should have, but I figured, “I still earned the spot. Enjoy it.” Once in the corrals, I couldn’t believe how many people entered in late and pushed there way around to the front giving no consideration to those who had been standing there. It was incredibly rude and a stark contrast to the belief that all runners are in this together. I hope those people got cramps and received shitty times.

As we surged forward, I started my Garmin and Nike+ app on my phone. Passing over the start line, I then remembered how bad AT&T’s service is in Chicago as my app told me I had already run 3/10ths of a mile. The whole race, my Nike was off by about three quarters of a mile and my Garmin off about half. At least the math kept me occupied throughout the race. The racecourse was the same as last year with the start in Grant Park, north to Lakeview, then south the Loop, West to Ashland Ave, south through Chinatown and then back up Michigan Ave to Grant Park again. One thing I noticed immediately was the absence of spectators along the start of the race and overpass that had been there in year’s past. I guess since the Boston events, security deemed it an unsafe area and closed. Sad, since it was such an inspiring sight as you started your 26.2 mile journey. The ironic part was race officials allowed spectators to congregate under the overpass, which seemed more like a liability than having them in the open air. No matter, I was on my way. Passing through “Pee Break Pass” (a name I coined as it’s littered with runners who have spent too much time waiting in the corral and couldn’t hold it), I zoomed through the streets of the Loop amidst the towering skyscrapers and cheering fans and felt great. I was averaging about 8:45 per mile and hoped to keep it closer to a 9:09 per mile, which would put me just under four hours. But, I was feeling very relaxed and easy, so I let my time slide faster and hoped for the best on the backend.

Turning north onto LaSalle, I started heading towards my favorite part of the race, Lincoln Park. Since we used live in Lincoln Park and this part of the course was my training ground for years, I relished in the fact of coming back and seeing what had changed since moving to Boston. At Mile 5, my wife, who for the second year had to sit out with an injury, was my pit crew, taking my arm warmers and stocking me up with sustenance. As I traversed the route, I suddenly felt very homesick for this city and kept busy by recalling all the great experiences I had when we called it home. Before I knew it, I had gone another four miles and was again within view of my wife and old next door neighbor who had come to cheer me on at Mile 9. Heading back into the city, I noticed a lot of dogs, which are always a good distraction for me. We then, headed out west over the highway and into territories I seldom traveled when a Chicago resident.

Coming back into the city and then turning south, we hit Greektown, which is littered with great little restaurants with outdoor seating. Passing one of them where some patrons were drinking mimosas, I wondered what they would have done if I ran over to their table and drank their beverages. Alas, I decided not to deviate as my time was a constant 8:45 per mile and I thought this might end up being a PR race. Of course, in a few short miles I would all but surely let that idea go.

By Mile 19, the effects of under training were becoming apparent. I was starting to shorten my stride and think more and more about the distance I still had to carry. “C’mon, kid,” I mumbled to myself, “c’mon.” for the next five miles or so, I did anything I could to keep my mind off of the pain in my left calf: singing out loud, drumming in the air, reciting movie quotes, anything to get me to the finish line. At Mile 25, I felt something in my left leg, like someone took the edge of a book and jammed it into the middle of my calf. Thankfully, after stretching it out for a few minutes, I was able to shuffle my way to the finish line. I had completed my fourth marathon in 4:09:09. Not great, but not awful.

The Chicago Marathon is one of my favorite races in the world, and not just because Chicago is in my DNA. The race isn’t just merely a race. It’s the deepest of dives into Chicago’s historic neighborhoods and cultures. While it illustrates the city’s expansive diversity, it also shows strength in the city’s united spirit of the being the best city in the world. I don’t know how they are going to set up registration next year, but I will continue to run this race as long as I can get into it. I urge you all to experience this race, if not running then cheering on those who do. 

Can't wait until 2014!