Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chicago Race Report

We left Cleveland on Friday morning, before dawn. After a bit less than 6 hours, we arrived at McCormick Place for the pre-race expo. I picked-up my packet, and started wondering the floor. I love the expos, and Chicago's was huge...lots of vendors giving away samples of various runner-specific types of foods and drinks, lots of running gear companies pushing the latest tech clothes and shoes, lots of representatives of other marathons trying to entice you to come to San Antonio, or Rome, or Dublin, or Memphis, flashing their shiny finishers medals in front of you like giant fishing lures. Really, the only disappointing thing about the expo was the Nike official Chicago Marathon gear. The graphics were retro 70's looking, just not very interesting stuff, so I didn't buy anything. We hung out with Wayne and Kam who arrived a few hours after us. We had some food and saw some of the elite athletes. When there was nothing left to see, we left and drove to the home of Sue's sister Sandy and her husband Jeff. We stayed at their place for the weekend, which was great. (Thanks Sandy and Jeff!), and Sue's sisters Lisa and Sharon also drove up from Cleveland to watch the race.

On Saturday morning, we met-up with my friends
Sarah and Riel, who came in form England to run the marathon. We went to Ginger's Ale House to watch the England v. Kazakhstan match, a World Cup qualifier. We had a great time (England 4 - 1 Kazakhstan). Despite all the great beer on tap at Ginger's, I was a very good boy and had only a half glass of Boddington. After the match, we went back to Sandy and Jeff's and relaxed for the rest of the day. I tried to stay off my feet as much as possible.

I was up before five on Sunday morning, had a light breakfast and a little coffee. I put on my navy-blue SERC singlet and shorts, and my Nike Lunaracers. I pinned a couple of Powerbar Gel packs to the waist of my shorts. In my pocket, I had two Vivarin (to be taken at 16 and 21 miles). I also had a small plastic bag with 8 Endurolyte capsules. These are essential for preventing cramping when running in warm weather, or at least that's what I thought. More on this later.)

At this point I should say that the weather forecast for Sunday in Chicago had been getting hotter all week. On Monday, they predicted low seventies, with cloud cover. Unseasonably warm, but not too bad. By Wednesday, they were saying mid to upper seventies, and maybe not so cloudy. On Friday, this had changed to a high in the low eighties, and sunny. It was starting to look like a potential repeat of last year's disaster.

Sue and Sandy dropped me off at Grant Park. I wondered around for a while, taking in the excitement of the morning. It was still dark, but the city was lit-up and the park was full of runners and volunteers. Eventually, I found a comfortable spot and sat for a while, just to get off my feet. At about 7:30, I made my way to Gate A. I found the 3:10 pacer and talked to him for a few minutes. I told him I would try to stay with him for a long as I could, but I was thinking, "Who am I kidding? I've never run faster than 3:15." I was surrounded by exceptionally good runners, and I was doubting that I belonged there.

I thought through my plan one more time. Water at every other aid station, skipping the first two and starting after mile five, Endurolyte capsule every half-hour, Vivarin and gel pack at mile 15 and mile 21. It was already getting warm, so I knew I would need to stay on schedule with the Endurolytes to prevent leg cramps late in the race.

When the horn went off, we started shuffling slowly, en masse, toward the starting line. By the time I crossed the line and started my Garmin, 5 minutes and 21 seconds had passed. At that point, we were actually running, but it was very crowded. Within only a minute, were were in a tunnel that seemed to go on for a half mile. We were heading north, then looped back and headed south, then turned again and headed north, serpentine through the heart of the city. The streets were lined with loud, enthusiastic supporters. I checked my pace after three miles, 7 minutes 32 seconds. Not too bad considering the conditions and the crowd of runners I was weaving through, but not nearly good enough for a 3 hour 10 minute marathon. I picked up the pace from that point, and as it turned out, those would be the slowest three miles of my day.

At around five miles, we reached the south entrance of Lincoln Park. An aid station was just ahead, so I reached into my pocket for my bag of Endurolytes. The plan was to take one here, with a water, then one every half hour thereafter. And I think it would have been a good plan, if the bag didn't have a tear in the side, dropping the capsules all over the street. I managed to grab one before it fell. After a few seconds of total frustration, I refocused and developed an alternate plan. I put the lone Endurolyte back in my pocket, saving it for mile 20. I decided I would switch from water to Gatorade. I remembered that they were using the Endurance formula, which provides more salts and electrolytes. Since it also provided more calories than water (obviously), I also decided to cut back to one gel pack.

I put the whole stupid incident behind me after that. At about the 7 mile mark, I checked my Garmin and my average pace to that point was 7:10. That was the pace I needed to finish to get my 3:10, but seven miles is not 26 miles. At 7.5 miles, we turned south and headed back into town. The neighborhoods were beautiful, especially Old Towne, and we could see the Sears Tower looming on the horizon. We crossed the river at about mile 12, and shortly after than, we turned west on Adams Street. By now the temperature was getting near 80 degrees, and I noticed some runners backing off, walking, even stopping. I cannot explain why, but I was still feeling good. At the half way point, 13.1 miles, my time was 1 hour 33 minutes 57 seconds, which is exactly 7 minute 10 second pace. I felt good, not great, but good.

I knew Sue and everyone would be waiting for me somewhere on this westward stretch, but I didn't know where exactly. I ran the 2.5 miles west on Adams, and never saw them. I turned south on Damen, and then I saw them, shouting and cheering on the west side of the street. I ran over to them, gave Sue a hug and kiss, did the big Ohio State "O - H' and Lisa replied with a big 'I - O'. Here's a brief video which Sandy shot. Note the lovely neon green Nike Lunaracers as I run off.

The next five miles were not as scenic as the area north of the city, but running through Pilsen was a blast. The crowds were huge and noisy. They were shouting, singing, playing drums, and generally having a good time. And since the streets were narrow, the effect was like your were running through a party. There was an aid station just before mile 21, and it was there that I took my lone Endurolyte. I knew with the rising temperatures, cramps were a serious risk. We zigzagged through Pilsen, and then went south on Wentworth, right through Chinatown. Again, great crowd support, including dancing dragons and the smell of great food.

Just past mile 23, we turned and started north, back toward the city. I had been warned that this would be the worst part of the race, and it was. The area is not scenic, unless you are a student of aging urban industrial zones. It was hot, there was no shade, and we were running on broad, flat concrete that reflected the heat. There were lots of runners not doing well, many falling into the 'marathon shuffle', just managing to keep their legs moving. I checked my pace, and I knew I was just three miles away from not only a 3:10, but possibly 3:09 or even 3:08, if I could just settle in, and keep the cramps away. I kept focused on my stride and pace, and ignored the surroundings. I chewed up the last three miles. Then two funny things happened, almost simultaneously.

I felt the first twinge of a cramp in my left calf at around 25.5 miles. I ran through it. Then I noticed a guy running a couple hundred yards ahead of me. From the back, from that distance, I doubted that it was him, but he sure did look like Mike Boyer, a renowned veteran Cleveland runner who has won more races than I have run. Odds were it was not him, but...what if it was? Just the thought that I might be within striking distance of him at the end of the marathon was all I needed. I fought through several more cramp onsets, and passed him with a few hundred yards of the finish line. I never looked back to see if it was Mike, I just kept my focus on the finish.

I finished with a time of 3 hours 7 minutes and 58 seconds, 9 minutes faster than Boston. I grabbed a water, a banana, an apple, and oh yeah, my medal, and walked north toward the park for the after-party. I talked with a few of the other runners who I had seen on the course, and we agreed that we felt bad for the rest of the runners who were still out there were , some of them had two or three more hours to go. I got my free beer, and it went down very quickly. I got a second, and after drinking half, I decided that I should eat something before I had any more beer.

Sue, Sandy, Jeff, Lisa, and Sharon all met me at the park. They were more excited than I was. We walked around for a little while, got some food. I got a call from Jeff U., a running buddy from Cleveland, congratulating me on my new marathon PR (personal record). He had been tracking the Cleveland area runners on line. He asked me if I knew I had passed Mike Boyer at the end of the race. Ha! I knew that was Mike! A little icing on the cake.

Later on Sunday, I checked the website. According to the official results, there were 45,000 registered runners, but only 33, 033 started the race. I think the heat scared quite a few off. 1,679 dropped over the course of the race, so there were 31, 404 finishers. I finished 667th. In my age group, there were 2100 finishers, and I was #20. I guess the top 15 isn't too bad. ;-) Here is an excerpt from the Chicago Sun Times, Monday October 13th.

The heat was on Sunday, but that didn't stop thousands of long-distance runners from crossing the finish line at the 31st Chicago Marathon. With temperatures in the mid-80s, organizers elevated a race-day alert system to "Red/High," meaning potentially dangerous conditions, three hours into the race. Despite the heat, Carey Pinkowski, executive race director, said it was "an extremely good day" and that the 20 aid stations along the course kept up with the demand for fluids. Still, there were 110 calls for medical transport, and 61 runners were taken to area hospitals, said Dr. George Chiampas, marathon medical director. Sunday's heat combined with memories from last year may have kept some runners from the starting line. Of the 45,000 registered, 33,033 started the race. And 31,401 runners crossed the finish line.



WOW!!!! That Kiss almost cost you from running 3:07.

duchossois said...

Your right, Mark. What was I thinking?!?! Next time, I'll just wink as I run by. ;-)

EbethS said...

Congrats on a great run and a new PR. So what is the final verdict on the shoe.

duchossois said...

ebeths, I forgot to talk about the shoes! Thanks for the reminder. I will add a post dealing with the shoes.

solarsquirrel said...

WOW. You are incredible! Way to go, Frank!!!!!!!

Jim Oper said...

Congrats !!! Ok, what's next ?

Graham said...

I love the fact that whenever you see Sue at one of the races that you she gets a kiss...I think it gives you the extra drive and motivation to finish strong!! and THATS why you were able to run 3:07.

Sounds like a great race and a fun time and way to not let the loss of your Endurolytes get the better of you! Congratulations again!!


Graham said...

me again... I was re-reading your race report (because it was worth a 2nd read) and I zoned in on your comment about your moment of questioning about being with the 3:15 pace group. Hope you don't mind but I had to add that to my list of quotes on my blog...


duchossois said...

Jim, that's a question that has been on my mind. I have already received my acceptance for Boston in April 2009, but I want to do a tune-up marathon in February. Watch this space for developments.
Graham, funny you would mention that. I had a real moment of self-doubt there. I was actually with the 3:10 (not 3:15) pace group, and it was obvious these were serious runners. It was also obvious that I was much older than most of the runners up there. When I was in the last mile, and I knew I had a shot at a 3:07, I did remember that moment at the gate, and it made the finish that much better.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Frank! VERY impressive time despite the heat!

Who'dathunk it would be a repeat this year of last year's bakefest? Unreal.

Happy trails,

Connie :)

DaisyDuc said...

Fantastic job Frank! Way to not let loosing the enduralytes mess ya up! Awesome effort on a less than ideal day!

Lloyd said...


Congrats on a huge PR is less than ideal conditions.

E-Speed said...

Dang Frank, Somehow I never caught this post, just your short recap. Fantastic job (obviously) especially considering the switch in nutrition late in the game. I'm glad you were able to stomach that gatorade!