Monday, October 13, 2008

The Chicago Marathon (with pictures)

I don't even know where to begin....
What an experience... you really need a few days to decompress when you put yourself through such an emotional experience as the marathon, but I have decided to start blogging about it, because I know most of you want to know how it went for me.
Just to get to the nuts and bolts of it....
1. I finished the marathon
2. I set a new PR
3. My time was a disappointment, given the training that I put in.

So I know that all doesn't really make sense to 99.9% of people, because finishing the marathon and setting a new personal record, would make for the perfect day, but my expectations were higher and it didn't work out for me the way I planned. With that said, I had my best marathon experience yet, by far!!! Chicago is an unbelievable city, and I can't imagine a marathon more electric than that....and if there is one, I don't even think I could handle it, because I thought I was playing at a Bucs game (how loud the crowd was) and the game was over 4hours... and they were all cheering for me to finish 26.2 miles!!! Here is a video of an overview of the race
So basically this is how it all went down: Sit down and get some popcorn....

Saturday - Marathon Eve
I left Tampa on a 7:10am flight on Saturday, and got into Chicago at about 8:40 central time. Chris and I ended up taking a shuttle to our hotel, and were able to go to the expo (which was located at our hotel), go for a 3 1/2 mile run on the lakefront (that is a great place to run.. Soldier Field on one side and Lake Michigan on the other), hang out a bit around the hotel... all before noon. Talk about making good use of your time!!!! Later on, we met up with one of Chris's clients, Scott, who had lunch with us. We enjoyed his company, and he is a really cool guy. We watched some college football games and talked while at the restaurant. After that we went upstairs and watched more football, and I fell asleep for about an hour or so. Later on, we went back to the expo, bought some cool running gear and then went to dinner. Our hotel had a marathon "dinner buffet" and we decided on that for our meal. Pictured below is Chris' plate of food, not mine!!I had a chicken breast (which was my initial plan, and a bowful of pasta). I didn't eat much at all, as I wanted to play it safe going into tomorrow.
Everything was ok, and felt fine, and later we went back to the room, I showered up and watched the Rays game... or at least the first part of it. I was able to get sleep in for an hour here and there, but I felt ok.... until about 3 am.... and my tummy started grumbling and acting funny. To spare you the details, I had to go potty about 5 times from 3am to 5:30 am. At this point, Chris just shook his head in utter amazement how this stuff always happens to me. I basically thought it wasn't too big of a deal, and didn't want to psyched myself out... because of my stomach problems, I was unable to have any breakfast in the morning, because I didn't think I could keep it down. So by time I left to go on the bus, I took it out of my mind and just started to focus on the race.

The Race
The atmosphere was like nothing I have ever seen. It was the Disney Marathon x 50!!! I think Chicago is the largest marathon in the world, with 45,000 registered entrants... not sure if any other marathon (maybe New York) allows that many people in. From getting on the Bus system, to getting to Grant Park and entering the runners area, I really just tried to soak it all in...and I did. I didn't talk much, I just looked around and at one point I just felt so blessed to be able to experience all of what was going on.
At this point, my stomach was holding up, but I had to go do the other potty...maybe a little nervous energy and the fact that I had a full Gatorade before I left to offset all the fluid loss from earlier in the morning. By time I got out the bathroom, there was only 4 minutes to start.
Once we started, I tried to fall into a groove and not go out too fast. I also told myself that I would run this 1st part of the race based on my HR, so I could save a lot for the last half of the race. The problem was that my HR at that level was making me run about 1 minute per mile slower than any other typical day. I knew something wasn't right, but I stuck with the plan. After finishing the 1st 2 miles, I was able to keep the pace pretty easy, but not because I was sticking to the game plan, but because I couldn't go any faster!!! But honestly, I was very concerned, but about 5 miles into the race, I knew this wasn't going to be the race I hoped for... but I would just make the best of the race... and that was very easy to do. I took it all in, I ran at close to 9 min pace by mile 5, and just looked at the crowd, and the sights of Chicago and took it all in. I was running at a pace close to what Chris and I ran the previous day (where my HR was averaging 140 at 11:30 am) and today my HR was 30 bpm higher.... by the halfway mark my body started to cramp up... and then a mile later, it was very severe... but because I am experienced in cramping during races (LOL!!!) I was able to understand that even though it is painful, I know I can work through this... so basically I ran/walk the rest of the way, and just enjoyed the sights of the city. The crowd was so encouraging, because there were times were it was quite visible how my body was failing me, and people would encourage me to keep pushing on.... it wasn't even an option for me... I have never been so happy with a disappointing race result. I have been able to think about everything over the day or so, and it was amazing how I felt low at the 1st-3rd mile because I knew my body wouldn't cooperate with me so early in the race... how high I felt after I got over that my time wasn't going to be what I initially expected and I embraced the crowd from mile 4-13... and then hitting another low when I started to cramp severely all over my legs... and basically figuring out how I was going to get through the next 13 miles... but I did it... given the situation, in a fairly respectable time I might add :) So... I was able to get through it, and again I found out things about myself that I never knew. And actually, I think that's why 45,000 people subject themselves to this punishment (and pay big money for it!!!). Because the marathon race/distance gives you so much, and you get so much from it. The truth is, you can't get this from running a 5k, 15k, or a half marathon.... just when you are pushed a bit in those races, and it's getting to be a's over, but for the marathon, you realize how deep you are able to dig to muster up that much more energy to get a few more steps, and a few more, and a few more. It makes everything else that you do in everyday life seem so much easier... and not to sound like an elitist or anything, but now I realize why so many of these marathoners are such resilient and successful people, because they use the race as an annual event to show what they are made of, and that no obstacle is too big for you to overcome, and also how strong the human spirit is. It was also so beautiful to see how the city of Chicago (which is such a culturally diverse city) was able to come out for the race and support the runners. From Michigan Ave. to Wrigleyville to Greektown to Chinatown to Harlem, all races and cultures wanted me to finish the race... and that was just incredible. If everyday could be like yesterday... oh..what a more progressive world we would have.
So once I got up to the end of the race, I tried to sprint (with my locked up calves and quads) to the finish, and I did... it was probably pretty ugly, but I did, and I kept on jogging because I wanted my medal so bad. Like the other marathons, I felt like I really earned it... and I wanted it around my neck. I kept on asking the volunteers, "Where is my medal?" and they kept on telling me, "Straight ahead sir!"
I put on my medal, and headed back to downtown to find a bus to take me back to my hotel, and unfortunately I waited over an hour before I just had to find a cab, but people were just high fiving me, and saying congratulations for running. But unfortunately, I saw many dejected people that had on bibs, that didn't have medals around them... and that was when, while waiting at the bus stop, that I bowed my head and just raised my hands for a brief moment and thanked God for allowing me to finish the race and be ok... I felt very blessed, and I know its because of everyone of you that were praying for me that allowed my body to get me to the finish.... I thank you all and I thank God for that.

Post Race Recap

As for my race performance, I was able to go on today, and hear from all the folks that have been training extremely hard, and hear of all of there experiences. The good, bad and the ugly... and I realized that I am very blessed. But the truth is that, to have a good marathon performance, everything must be right. The weather, your body, and everything else!!! Ironically, yesterday was the Ironman Kona, which is where the best of the world compete to finish the Ironman, and last year's winner??? Was unable to finish.... he obviously has the talent, certainly trained well, but yesterday wasn't his day. Will he quit?? No, just pick up the pieces and try again. As Pat Riley said, "Hard work doesn't guarantee you anything, but without it, you don't stand a chance." I don't know any other way to train and approach my life in all of its various aspects , but to give it my all... and during my training I enjoyed every run, (except for 1), and I wouldn't change anything.... and can't wait to get back out there and do it again.

So Where do I go from here?
I will use the next few days to rest and start back to running later this week (yes, I will be running again in a day or two). But I will take it fairly easy over the next month. It takes a week or two to get back in the full swing of things. I have a half-marathon scheduled for the beginning of December. I am hoping to run under 1:32.... I know that sounds aggressive, that would be over 10 minutes better than last year's half marathon, which was probably my best half marathon race performance. So let's see what happens.


Pastor Shrodes said...

Greg, I had to laugh when you told about just wanting your medal. I totally get that. Hopefully one day in the future I will be able to get my first.

screaminzab said...

Nice post. Great job making the best of a a difficult situation.

Great perspective on things, too. It's easy to forget how many positives can come out of the marathon even though it didn't go exactly as you hoped. Enjoyed the wrap up on the RW 3:20 Thread as well. Good luck to you and your next race. Great job!


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Kerry said...

Hey Babe,
So very very proud of you!!! Congrats on your Chicago marathon medal. You did it!!!

Deanna Shrodes said...

It was really cool to see your pics to go with the blog.

BTW, just a tip if you are not already doing not drink ANYTHING with local water when you are traveling. My husband gets sick the same way everytime he has tap water or anything that includes tap water if it not boiled and he's in a different location even just an hour or two away in the same state!

When we go on vacation or business trip he always has bottled drinks. And then he's fine, but the moment he drinks tap water he has the same reaction you did on your marathon trip.

He was told by a doctor that a lot of people have this happen...


Cornelis said...

Greg I am so proud of you! Man if only I can slowly get my body to that stage to be able to run a marathon but it seems just when I get my distances a bit higher - then some injury shuts me down.

I applaud you - keep going!