Running with the Pack 90: Chicago Marathon Race Report

This podcast is totally dedicated to my run of the 2010 Chicago Marathon. If you’d prefer to read a race report, store I have written the highlights below along with some pictures. Enjoy!/

Andrew and I went to Chicago on Thursday, more about October 7th, so we could enjoy the city before the marathon. We came in through Midway Airport and took the Orange Line to a stop that was about four blocks from our hotel – VERY convenient! We checked into the Congress Plaza Hotel around 11:30 am. It’s an old hotel with some maintenance issues, but it was clean, centrally located, and about as close as possible to the start and finish line.

Thursday was an exploration day. We hit some of the shops that we like, but don’t have in our little college town: Nordstrom’s and H&M. We also explored some of the clubs on Halsted on the North side of town. It was a lot of walking and a bit of dancing, but still within the “tapering” zone. I also unpacked on Thursday evening so I could lay out all of my running gear to make sure that I had everything that I needed. The logic of doing it so early is that if I had forgotten anything, I could pick it up at the race expo on Friday. As it turned out, I decided to buy some Tylenol, just in case I had pain during the race.

On Friday, the main event was going to the race expo, which was about two miles from our hotel. Andrew and I spent a few hours there. We got my race bib, verified the D-tag (the chip they use to track runners), and then picked up the rest of my packet, which contained the official race program, race shirt, info about some other races, and some samples. We walked around the booths and eventually found the Newton booth, where the mighty IronBrandon (drink) was busy singing the praises of the shoes that he loves so much. We ran into the Running Laminator while we were waiting for him to finish talking to some folks. This was the first time I’ve actually had an opportunity to try a pair of Newtons on, so I listened to the pitch and tried on a pair. Brandon had us run around the expo a bit to see how they felt and I have to admit, they feel different than I thought they would – very light and very springy. So based on the recent discussion of the corporate responsibility concerns with Nike, I decided to buy a pair of Newtons and give them a try. I’d still run the marathon in the Nike Free shoes that I had been using. The Newtons would be for post-marathon training heading into the Goofy Challenge in January.

After the expo, we jumped on a Metra train from the conference center and went to our friend’s apartment in Hyde Park. She (Terrie) is doing a post-doc with the University of Chicago. Her fiancee (Jonathan) came into town that night and we went to an Asian fusion place for dinner. After dinner, we got back on the train, which dropped us off about a block from our hotel. We were planning to go out again, but the lock to our hotel room wasn’t working correctly – so after an hour and a half of waiting for security and then maintenance to fix the issue, we decided to call it a night.

On Saturday, I ended up having a burrito for lunch, shopping, and then doing Indian food for dinner. It wasn’t your traditional pasta-based carb loading, but it worked. Andrew, Terrie, and Jonathan stayed out while I went back to the hotel room to get ready for the next day. I double checked my running gear, pinned on my race bib, powered up my phone, set several alarms, and called it a night. I went to bed around 9:00 on Saturday and fell asleep closer to 10:00.

On Sunday morning, I woke up around 5:15, which was 15 minutes before my first alarm was set. I checked the weather, hoping that the predictions would be wrong – but they were right on target. The temperature in the morning was in the low 60’s and it was going to be sunny and into the mid-80’s by the time I’d be finishing the race. That’s about 20 degrees warmer than I would have liked, but there wasn’t anything I could do except dress appropriately and adjust my race plan.

I drank a vitamin water (which tasted like something they’d scrape off the floor of a Kool-Aid factory), ate part of a Cliff Bar, and then jumped in the shower. Normally, showering is the first thing on my wake-up list, but I did things in this order so I’d have a little time to digest and so I wouldn’t have to pee while waiting for the race to start. Shower done, I put on my running gear and headed downstairs around 6:45 am. It’s a good thing I was only on the 5th floor. I tried to get in the elevator, but it was absolutely packed with runners who were leaving at the same time. I took the stairs down and ran into some of the charity teams who were organizing in the conference section of the hotel. It was very cool to be surrounded by so many runners.

I went across the street and tried to get into corral C, which is one of the time-qualified corrals (elite, A, B, C, D) that are in front of the open corral. The line to get into the corrals was very long and hardly moving. Some guys got nervous and climbed over the fence. I heard about one guy who did that and fell right on his back – not a good way to start a long run!

The gun went off and I expected a slow shuffle to the starting line, but within three minutes, I was over the starting line and off running. The first mile felt very good, but I knew it was going to get hot and that hydration would be an issue. I was already sweating a lot by the first mile marker, but I was good and used all of the hydration stations, even when I didn’t feel like it. They had Gatoraid (G2) along the course followed by water. The stations were on both sides of the road, which was nice, because it meant fewer collisions.

Every mile marker, I checked the pace band around my wrist, which is a printed list of miles and times that would keep me on track to finish in 3:45. I was only a little ahead of pace and feeling good, so I kept a steady pace close to 8:30/mile. Everything was going as planned … until the sun rose higher and the temperature climbed into the 80’s. I was around mile 15 by then and started having problems keeping cool and hydrated. I kept drinking, but started feeling thirsty all of the time. I also had a little dizziness and some strange chills, despite the heat.

At that point, I realized that I would have to slow down to finish the race without making myself sick or getting injured. I had anticipated this and even said to people ahead of time that if it got into the 80’s I’d have to take some walk breaks. So that’s what I did – run when I could, try to stick to the shade where it existed, drank a lot, and walked through the aid stations. The aid stations also broke out the high-heat aid – kiddy pools filled with sponges that you could grab and wipe down as well as hoses with sprinklers attached so runners could run through a mist and get a little relief.

I’m glad I changed my plan for the rest of the race. There were a lot of people who were cramping, stopping to stretch, or even sitting down or laying down at the side of the road. I heard a lot of ambulances running around. Marathons are rough enough, but the heat can make them dangerous.

I ran and walked through mile 23 and then when I had about 5K left to go, I decided to run the rest of the way and finish strong. The final turn toward the finish line was a little uphill, which seemed cruel after a tough run, but it was a big relief to finally see the finish line.

So I crossed the finish line at 4:07:48 (chip time), got my race medal, and grabbed some drinks and a banana. Mentally, I was a bit fuzzy and I staggered a little, but not to the point where I needed assistance. I felt a lot better after getting a little extra food and Gatoraid in me. I found someone with a phone (I had mine with me, but the battery ran out thanks to the Nike+ GPS Facebook Update feature!). I called Andrew and walked back to the hotel.

At the hotel, I rinsed off and got into a cold water bath. Andrew got me some hot tea, a fruit cup, and a bucket of ice. He added the ice to my bath to drop the temperature further. It was shocking at first, but I’m getting used to ice baths, so it wasn’t too bad.

After the ice bath, I got dressed and we headed to Bella Bacinos for the meet-up. There, I met Josh, who brought his wife and two sons.


A couple of hours later, I heard that Angela and Christine were going to be able to join us as well, so we waited and ordered desert when they arrived.

Angela and Christine:

On Sunday night, we went out to the clubs. On Monday, I was a little sore, but was able to spend most of the day walking around Chicago. Tuesday, I was a little less sore. We flew home that day. By Wednesday, I was back to work and was able to do a 3.3 mile run/walk interval with Andrew. Today (Thursday), I felt back to normal and did a 5 mile run over lunch.

So that’s basically how things went. I did the absolute best I could given the race conditions. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t have changed anything. Chicago is a great marathon. I highly recommend it! I may head back there for another attempt when I’m trying to qualify for Boston in 2013.

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One Response to Running with the Pack 90: Chicago Marathon Race Report

  1. JCM_LR says:

    Allan and Stevie,

    Congrats on your race at the Chicago Marathon and I enjoyed the great race report. I am glad that you were able to adjust your racing strategy to match the conditions and came out of the marathon without injury or major issues.

    Congrats again,