Saturday, May 6, 2017

illinois marathon recap

Disclaimer: I received an entry for Illinois Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Angie and I leaving the hotel room – ready to go... ?
photo credit: Ang

If you want to read Part I: expo and pasta feed or Part II: 5k recap, head on over to those links. You can read my shorter marathon review over on BibRave.

Also - sorry the photos won't always go with the text. I have too many and if I placed them where they should go, they'd all be in one spot haha.

And so we begin the long journey of the marathon (and not just how long the distance, how long it takes me to run one, but mainly I mean the length of this post haha). Make some popcorn, grab your favorite protein bar or beer (New Glarus? Revolution? Russian River?), sit back and enjoy ;)

The alarms were set (for Angie and I, at least – I know my mom woke up much earlier) for 4:45. That gave us about an hour to get ready and head out. The drive wasn’t long (15 minutes maybe), but we get anxious about parking and Angie had to find a friend to give him the bib she picked up for him at the expo.

The Start Line.

I have trouble eating before the big races, but I managed to eat half a bagel. That’s a big deal for me. I got dressed (which is always easy since I lay everything I need out the night before), brushed my teeth, and filled up my bladder with bottled water/Tailwind (always interesting to figure out logistics of things when traveling vs being home for the race). We packed up the car, checked out the breakfast foods at the hotel (they opened up their breakfast earlier for the runners which was nice – a great spread of bagels, breads, fruits, cereals, yogurt, coffee, juice, etc). I grabbed some granola bars for later, checked the room for anything left, and checked out.


When you and your best bud are together for a race,
you take as many photos as possible.

Before I forget, it was pretty chilly out that morning + very high winds (20–30mph), so I debated all night what I should wear. It was 43 feels like 35 at the start. Did I want to wear short sleeves? That was the original plan. In the end, I re-wore the long sleeve BibRave shirt I had worn for the 5k. DOn’t judge me too harshly. Haha. I ended up feeling pretty warm mid-way through with temps rising into the 50s (feels like upper 40s probably) and the sun came out. I didn’t regret the long sleeve, but I did push up the sleeves a bit later on. My hands took forever to warm up. If it wasn’t windy, I wouldn’t have had a problem, but since it was, my hands got cold and what usually takes a mile to warm them up, took about 3. Ooops.

We found Mel!

Parking was super easy. I went to the same lot that I had gone to for the 5k and there was no issue with backed up cars or anything. About 30 minutes before the race I headed over to the portapotties. We all know how important a good bathroom break is before a race. For me, especially, for the marathon, since I’m out there 6+ hours. And I know this is unladylike to speak of, but we are runners and I don’t think there is such a thing as TMI or any subject off limits haha. I wasn’t successful at the hotel. Very disappointing. It makes me anxious to not have that taken care of before the start of a race. Thankfully, I had success at the portapotty. I hate not having water and soap to wash my hands with, but I had some Wet Ones in the car and anti-bacteria hand stuff, so I used both, because I’m a hypochondriac. Ha. 



With about 15 minutes till the start (7:03), the three of us (Angie, my mom, and I) headed over to the start. Angie and I were in the same corral (did she forget to put a finish time estimate on her registration? haha), so it was nice to have someone familiar with me. Though it’s nothing like waiting in an hour corral like i have for Disney or Chicago, it was nice and helped my anxiety. I am usually very nervous before marathons (I used to be for halfs, but I’ve run so many now that they don’t phase me… unless I’m trying to PR, but that’s another story), but thanks to Angie and maybe being my fourth and feeling prepared, I was feeling pretty good. 

We ran down Race Street!

Going to our corral we spotted Mel and took a quick photo and wished each other luck. She was running the half, so I knew she’d be long gone by the time I finished. We unfortunately never spotted Andrey, but I did see his girlfriend walk by and we said hi (she wished me luck).



Anywho, they sang the national anthem and happy birthday to Alma again, and then the corrals were off. I think there were maybe 2 minutes between each one, but I wasn’t paying that much attention. I think Angie and I had our photo taken about 5 times from Marathonfoto photographers. It’s like every step forward we took there was one there to take our photo haha. We figured why not? and posed for each one.

Maybe mile 15ish or so? I liked running through this park area, though
if there were a lot of runners around it might have been hard since the
pathway is more narrow.

I hugged momma goodbye (she was running the 10k since we had a half tomorrow and even though I wasn’t reasonable in my plans, I convinced her to be smart about hers haha), and soon we were off. I told Angie not to hang back with me at all. My plan was to try and start out a bit slower that I normally do (turtle pace for most of you, and then scaling back to snail by mile 20 haha). I also knew that starting with my intervals from the very start would be the best thing for me. I have done other races where I run for a few minutes with the crowd so it can thin out and then start, but that wastes too much of my energy. Luckily it wasn’t too congested and we started maybe in the middle of the corral, so I didn’t have to work too hard to get to the side and walk when I needed. It’s also a delicate balance to not waste all my energy weaving in and out to try and be on the right to walk and then get around other walkers or runners when I need to run.

The split.

I was happy I managed a 13mm for the first two miles (how rare that I have the same pace for two miles straight!). The course was FILLED with volunteers, at just about every intersection and block. They were amazing. There were also plenty of aid stations, maybe every 1.5–2 miles, though I didn’t need anything since I like to take my own with me (I’ve learned that it’s the best for me – I don’t always like what’s on course, or sometimes races run out by the time I get further along, or it’s not frequently enough for me. I like to know I can drink whenever I want). I had also heard that the water tasted a bit funny down there. At mile 20 or so I took a cup of Gatorade, thinking it would taste normal, but it was funky (for me – I’m sure it’s just the water system and it’s different than Chicago… no one else seemed to have an issue). Around mile 22 I was able to grab a bottle of water which I carried for maybe two miles while I sipped at it.

Maybe around mile 20?

I took my Clif Shot Blok every 3 miles, and I think I stayed pretty on top of that, though sometimes I would be half a mile off when I remembered I needed to eat one. I also brought along a Clif Bar to eat at mile 10. I told myself YOU HAVE TO EAT THIS. I had been bonking during my long runs lately, and I think it was due to lack of fuel. Unfortunately, mile 10 came and my usual problem arose – the thought of eating made me gag. So, I never ate it. Luckily, I never had that bonking moment I had been experiencing during my long runs, and I attribute that to my bagel. Or my late night Jimmy Johns half sandwich after the 5k haha. Either way, something worked out great. Now to try honing in on the fueling issue during my next marathon training cycle.

Photographers happened to be walking by when I ran and they stopped
to take photos - so nice. I think they were headed to their cars to leave hah.

Anyway…

The course was lovely, in my opinion. Nothing super exciting, but I thought it was pretty and the volunteers really made a big difference. I was concerned about this race because I thought I wouldn’t get the crowd support I might need during times of exhaustion and defeat. They might not have been huge crowds Chicago can get (though remember my first year when I was super duper slow and most crowds were gone? Yeah, me too lol), but those singular volunteers all over the place, plus the aid stations and groups of community members outside their homes cheering, were fantastic. I said thank you to as many as I could – even at the aid stations when I wasn’t taking anything. I waved when I couldn’t speak because I was tired. I heard so many people tell me how great I was doing. Lots of compliments on my outfit. I think one older gentleman said I was cute. Another told me I won for best dressed. These kinds of things really made me smile. There were signs throughout the course with U of I trivia/facts. Others of encouragement. I saw a bunch of chalk written on the ground which, since I was often by myself, I could actually read because there wasn’t anyone in my way haha – but they were words of encouragement like ‘you are awesome’ and ‘keep going’. There were times I was feeling really tired, and this helped get a pep back in my step.

Just passed mile 26. So happy!

YAY! Haha.

I felt great the first few miles, and then there were the moments of feeling nauseous, light headed, sickly, weird leg pains (almost like restless leg syndrome type feeling, which I’v never experienced when actually moving… so odd), foot pain, knee pangs. Everything went away quick, but they all put doubts in my head. Can I really go another 16 miles? It was so windy I didn’t think I’d make my goal time at all, which was a 6:10. Around mile 8 I was thinking ok, I can still PR if I come in under 6:16. 




My mom had finished her 10k and she came out to mile 13 to see me. I told her I was doing ok and I’d see her at the finish. Truth was feeling kinda crummy, but I didn’t want to tell her because I knew she’d worry. Plus, it’s not uncommon for me to feel that way, and often times I feel much better the second half. Which is what happened. I felt pretty great through most of miles 15–20. Then my knees started to hurt, but I kept on trucking. My miles slowed considerably then, but I knew I was doing ok and ahead of my goal time (for the moment, anyway). I had a pace card printed out and in my pack pocket that I would check periodically to see how I was doing. I was really surprised when I came to mile 20 and was about 5 minutes ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, that time dwindled as those later miles passed, but when I hit mile 25, I told myself to give it everything I had to get to 26.2 and hit my goal and PR.


I kept looking around at mile 11 to see if anyone around me was running the marathon. There were four different color bibs out there, which made it tough to decipher, but I knew blue was the Full I-Challenge and I think orange was the marathon, then white for the half and I think yellow for the half challenge. I was hoping I wasn't the only one in the mid/back pack that was continuing on haha. It's a scary feeling. Luckily, the course was very well marked, so I didn't have to be worried about being lost without anyone to follow.

I finished my fourth marathon. Best time yet.

Around mile 12ish. the half and the marathon course splits, and I look around… there’s a person ahead of me and one behind. Not much else for a while. Eventually I catch up to a few different groups of people or a single runner. Some of them I chatted with. One guy who had run a few marathons he told me and was worried about the course closing in 6 hours. I told him the finish line was staying open 7 hours so he would be ok and not to worry. Another older man who said he wasn’t doing much running anymore. I told him that he was still moving forward and that’s what mattered. Another older gentleman who was wearing a marathon in 50 states shirt – I said that’s so cool he had done one in every state, and he told me he had done it twice. How cool is that? Basically, everyone I encountered had their own story and was amazing. It’s why I love the running community. We all support one another. 

Most of the second race I’d say I was by myself. I didn’t mind it. 

Marathon and Full I-Challenge medals.

Again, I said thank you and waved at people cheering, volunteers, police officers. I think it was around mile 20 or 21 where the course crossed what seemed like it could be a busy street. A police officer was there guiding traffic, but I still looked both ways to make sure everyone had stopped before I crossed, and he told me don’t you worry - I got you! I really appreciated that, though I wanted to say I trust you, I just don’t trust the drivers haha. Nonetheless, so great to have so many people out there supporting the runners. Every major intersection had police officers and all of the rest had volunteers. And I know they were out there just as long as I had been (and longer), so know they were tired too, but they kept on cheering. I can’t say enough great things about this race and everyone involved with it. I knew of a hill around mile 23/24, so when that came I wasn’t too depressed about it. As long as I am aware of the harder parts of a course, I am ok with it. I get annoyed though when I’m told something is flat and then there turns out to be any hills haha. I know that’s flat to most, but any hill means it’s not flat in my mind and I need some warning to prepare myself lol. So anyway, thank you to whoever it was that told Angie about it, which she told me, which had me looking at the elevation map and preparing myself accordingly.


I had to hold my bib number down because it was still so windy!

I guess back to the finish – I passed the 26 mile marker and was headed into the stadium to finish on the field. Only one other runner around me. I could hear my mom and Angie in the stands cheering. We finished. I was under 6:10 and was SO PROUD. I never raise my arms at finish lines, but I did it for this moment. And at the finish line they treated me like royalty. They got me my marathon finisher medal. Brought me my challenge medal. Gave me my finisher blanket. Took my photo multiple times, and gave me a heatsheet (which tried to suffocate me… it was so windy out still and I don’t know what I was trying to do. I think take it off for a photo, and it just flew up around my face and with my hands full of whatever, I had trouble getting it to come back down haha). There was a PR bell at the finish area and you bet your ass I went to ring it.


After some photos, I headed up the stairs gingerly, slowly, painfully to the concession area where they had giant bags of pretzels, bananas, granola bars, bagels, pasta, and Nature’s Fury. I think I got a bottle of water right when I finished, but I don’t remember. It might have been upstairs too. Lots of food left for the back of the pack. 

With the RD Jan.

We hung out for a bit, were able to briefly chat with Jan (one of the RDs for the race) to tell her how awesome it was, and yay! No rain! She laughed and said they traded in one bad weather element for another, but I think most would want wind over rain, but who knows. I’d rather be dry (well, relatively, since I sweat so much it probably wouldn’t matter if it rained - ha! But it would have felt a lot colder if the rain had come with the wind, which was a possibility). Eventually we made our way outside. The finish line party on the 27th mile was pretty much over. No more cake or beer available. That was ok, since I couldn’t eat anyway.

The 3 medals for that race weekend. Earned one more the next day.


Love this girl!
Professional Photos. Out of order. My bad.

We went back to the cars, I made/drank my protein shake (the almond milk held up well in the cooler with ice packs, thankfully), we chatted and took more photos before saying goodbye to Angie. Mom and I drove a little closer to ARC where we took showers before heading home. It was nice to get clean and put on dry clothes before the 2 hour drive back. Definitely worth the $5/person (we brought our own towels. I guess you can rent them, but they said they’d likely be out of clean ones that day or something… I’d rather bring my own anyway). The facilities were clean and though I had trouble moving, was able to get my compression tights on for the drive back haha. We stopped for gas before getting on the highway and then one more time for a bathroom break / stretching of the legs. We stopped at Jimmy Johns to grab dinner and then mom went home. We would see each other again bright and early the next day for a half marathon… which I’m sure you can guess didn’t go great the day after I ran a marathon haha.


I was so happy not only with how I ran this race, with a course more difficult than any other marathon I had run before (granted it still wasn’t super hard, minimal elevation, but more than I am used to, though I did train with some hills - proud of that because I used to always take the easy, flat routes haha), but with the race itself. It was so well-organized, with anything you might need to know being on the website or in the event guide. It was so well-thought out and thorough. So many races are lacking this, and I really appreciated all of my anxieties being let go because I could find out all the information I was curious about without much trouble. I am planning on making it my spring marathon again for 2018 and plan on breaking that 6 hour barrier I have hoping to do that in Chicago, but I’d like to keep that a trend ;) I’m sure I could continue to ramble on and on with my jumbled thoughts, but I think that’s enough for this one post. Is your head spinning? Sorry about that. I sometimes jump from thought to thought and then have to back track a bit so I don’t miss anything.

Hey look - I'm running and I think both
feet are sort of off the ground!

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