Chicago Marathon 2016 Recap and Review (State 14 — Illinois, Marathon 19)

Yesterday I ran the Bank of America Chicago Marathon!  This was my 14th state and my 19th marathon.  Here is my recap and review.

Race:  Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Location: Chicago, Illinois.

Size:  Big!  Over 37,000 marathoners.  (But no half option!  YAY!)

Time of Year and Weather:  This race is held on a Sunday in early October.  A few past years have been unseasonably warm but the weather for my race was really, really nice.  It was about 52 degrees at the start and climbed into the 60s.  It was sunny and there were some light winds.  Nearly perfect weather.  I got slightly warm at a few spots but really nothing worth complaining about.  I wore shorts and a tanktop — no need for a cover up at the start or any point during the race.

Getting-There Logistics:  We flew in to O’Hare on Friday on direct flights from Denver (me) and DC (my husband).  Love when I can get to a race flying direct.  We took Ubers into the city.  There was a lot of traffic because it was Friday afternoon, and the airport isn’t particularly close to the city.  I’m guessing it took about 45 mins for me to get to the hotel.  I feel asleep during the ride.  We stayed at the Hotel Palomar in Chicago, a Kimpton hotel.  I booked it really early because I heard that lodging filled up.  A few thoughts: (1) I had booked through the Chicago Marathon site so I was thinking I was either getting a discount, or would at least have automatic late check out on Sunday.  Neither was the case.  I did get free wi-fi, but you can get the same by signing up for their free rewards program.  (2)  I paid something like $640 for two nights.  That felt expensive but it must have been approximately the same cost of some of the other nicer hotels, or else I’m not sure why I chose the Palomar.  (3) We asked for late checkout and were told that it would be $50 more to move checkout from noon to 1 pm, or $100 to move checkout from noon to 2 pm.  The race started at 7:30, and the finish was a 20-30 minute walk from the hotel.  Only the fastest runners in the first corrals would have made it back by noon, so I thought this was pretty sucky.  We opted not to do late checkout, and after the race I ended up toweling the dried sweat off with  a free cool towel I was handed at the finish line.  Good enough.  (4)  After we were told that we couldn’t get late checkout, we requested all of the complementary toiletry items to extract some more value from these stingy Kimpton folks (fashion tape!  shaving cream!  toothpaste!).

Expo and Swag:  For some reason the expo was a million miles from everything on the south end of the city.  The race conveniently provided shuttles from several spots around town to get to the expo.  (Although we did end up walking there on Saturday, there wasn’t a good, direct route, so we walked through the maze of corrals, through parking lots, around stadiums, etc.).  On Friday, I wanted to beat the rush and get to the expo before work let out.  The traffic on the shuttle was absurd, but I made it by around 4 pm.  There were long lines of folks trying to leave the expo on the shuttles at this time (I think there was a backup because of the traffic).  Literally hundreds of people.  Luckily by the time I left the expo, there were no lines.  Packet pick up was easy — very short lines.  T-shirt was a nice Nike short-sleeved tech shirt.  Very soft.  Definitely size up with these.  I got a medium and it was perfect.  The expo was nice with some free samples of a variety of bars; tastes of Nuun, Gatorade, and beer; some popsicles.  I hit up The Stick folks and got my calves rolled out, which felt great.  By far the best value was the KT Tape booth, which was offering FREE taping.  As I wrote about in my pre-race post, my IT band suddenly freaked the eff out during Orangetheory on Friday before my run.  Honestly, it was hard to walk at times during the week before the race, and I was freaking out a little.  I can’t tell you how much conflicting info is out there regarding the causes and cures of IT band pain, and most of the tips that were consistent were for more long-term management of the IT band, and not acute treatment.  I ended up completely resting it and even avoiding walking for most of the week before the race, but even on Friday I could feel that terrible catching pain every few steps.  Enter: KT tape.  (SEO: Does KT tape help IT band syndrome? 😉) I had read that formal studies were unable to confirm KT tape’s effectiveness, and the explanations provided by the company for why it worked didn’t always make sense.  But I was desperate, so I waited in the long line to try it out.  It was amusing to watch the folks in front of me get basically their whole bodies taped even though the technical rule was “one body part.”  And I saw a few ass cheeks.  I finally made it to the front and was taped up within 2 minutes.  OK real talk.  I felt immediate, amazing relief.  Was it all in my head?  Maybe.  Very, very possibly.  But my knee felt supported and pain-free, and that’s all that mattered.  I was told the tape would last about 3 days if you followed the procedures, but my tape started to peel off in one spot that was rubbing on my capri pants.  I don’t think it was changing the function of the tape, but I ended up going and getting free re-tape on Saturday before the race so that I would continue to feel confident in the tape’s efficacy.  That stuck for the race.  I also bought myself a $20 roll of the stuff, just in case.  After the race, we were given a good snack bag, a Gatorade protein shake, and a nice medal.  There were also heat blankets and cool towels depending on your temperature.  (I took the cold towel.)

Race-Day Logistics:  The race started at 7:30, so I woke up around 6, had some Froot Loops and Vega caffeine drink, covered by body in Glide, and headed out.  The Hotel Palomar was about 1.5 miles from the start line, which is a little farther than ideal but I guess it worked out OK.  I split from the hubby at Gate 1, went through security, and headed to the porta potty to get my nervous peeing done.  The line was fairly long and not moving quickly, so I opted for nature’s porta potty behind a tree.  (If you are modest, don’t become a runner.)  Then I headed for my corral.   For some reason I was in Corral E, which appeared to be the 4 hr-ish folks.  The pace team I was interested in — 3:40, was up in Corral D, so I wasn’t able to start with them.  I wove my way as far up in E as possible, and then we were off!  Post-race was a little wild as is expected for a race of this size.  Lots of family members were penned in behind fences, and runners had to walk a good distance to get “free” of the corrals.  I didn’t mind it, but my husband was annoyed.

The Terrain:  Pavement.  A few bridges are metal grate.  The organizers put out rugs on these bridges, but in some cases only one side had a rug.  Either way, not the best footing but those were short, passing spots.   Flat and fast.  A few rolling spots, often on or approaching bridges.  One of the bigger rolls happens right near the end of the course — so be mentally prepared for that.

The Course: Started and ended in Grant Park in downtown Chicago.  A few things to note:  (1) The crowd support for this race was amazing, especially for the first half or so.  Very few open spots along the course.  Great energy.  (2) The course goes through the neighborhoods of Chicago.  I love courses that do that because it gives you a cool way to explore the city. (3) There are a fair number of turns in the first half.  Most of them are to the left, so hang out over there for the tangents.  The second half is pretty straight.

So How Did It Go For Me: First, you can check out my goals for this race in my previous post.  Spoiler alert: I ended up missing my A+ and A goals, but I hit my B goal so I’m just going to be happy with that.  I told myself I was going to start slowly.  But I can’t.start.slowly.  I felt so good, and I just could not stop.  The crowd support!  The thick sea level air!  The beautiful day!  I had tatted my arm with the 3:40 splits, and I could tell I was running ahead of them.  But I kept going.  I took some Clif Blocks early in the race, since mid- and late-race hunger is something I’ve struggled with for a few races.  I think this worked well.  I spent miles 5-13 fully convincing myself that I could qualify for Boston and run a 3:32.  I went through all the people I was going to thank, and what kind of Facebook post I would post.  I got a little emotional.  Of course this was all silly because it was mile 5 of a 26.2 mile race, and I knew that.  But I let myself entertain the fantasy.  I hit the halfway point at 1:45:54, and that felt great.  I told myself “Ok, just do that same thing for the second half” and I knew, but refused to admit, that that was not going to happen.  I decided to “settle in” until mile 22.  If I could keep my 4 minute lead over the 3:40 pace, I thought maybe I could bust out a quick 4 miles to the end and come in close to 3:32.  Predictably, just hanging on to the 4 minute lead became tough, until eventually the lead was zero andI was right on 3:40 pace (A goal).  By then, my legs were toast, so I just let myself stay calm and even, and I ended up finishing at 3:42.  Here are my splits for the 5Ks:

First 5K: 8:04 min/mile

Second 5K: 8:07 min/mile

Third 5K: 7:57 min/mile

Third 5K to Half Marathon: 8:12 min/mile

Half Marathon to 25K: 8:32 min/mile

25K to Cheer Zone: 8:34 min/mile

Cheer Zone to 30K: 8:21 min/mile

Seventh 5K: 8:44 min/mile(this is when my legs were so so toast)

Eighth 5K: 9:44 min/mile(one foot in front of the other!)

40K to finish: 8:53 min/mile

Overall, I am really proud of this race.  It is a new PR for me by almost 3 minutes, and it gets me within 10 minutes of running Boston.  Physically, I know some things I need to do to help bridge that gap, so I’m going to get to work on that as soon as I can walk comfortably.

Overall: This one was a Love It!

Things to See and Do in Chicago:  Here is just a short list of some of the things we did in Chicago.  I didn’t want to walk too much before the race given my knee situation, so we certainly didn’t get done everything I would have liked.

  • Walk Magnificent Mile (eh)
  • Lou Malnati’s pizza (delivery! tourists!)
  • Brunch at Imperial Lamian (dim sum; just wanted something a little different, and this was pretty good and close to our hotel)
  • Dinner at Alinea (yum pre-race meal)
  • Eataly gelato and coffee
  • A little shopping in the River North/Magnificent Mile area
  • Post-race football watching at Public House (just OK)

Did you run Chicago this year?  How did it go for you???  And anyone who has BQed– what did you do to bridge that last 10 minute gap?  

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