What a great weekend - I love Chicago! I had so much fun in/around the city, and cannot say enough incredible things about this event. The way the city embraces the swarms of runners and families is second to none, and at no point leading up to the race did it "feel" like there were 45,000 other participants in this race. From the expo to gear check to getting corralled appropriately, it was all so seamless and clean. I have no doubt I will be back to race Chicago again and again!
For me, the problem with travel races is this: I like to play. I didn't want to spend a GORGEOUS weekend, in one of my favorite cities, holed up in my hotel room. So we played. And walked. A lot. No regrets, but how the legs felt on Sunday let me to the "shouldve/wouldve/couldve" mindset for a little while when dissecting my race on Sunday night/Monday. I did make sure to eat dinner early, get back to the hotel early, and put the feet up for awhile Saturday night. I was hydrated and ready to give everything my body had to give.
Pre-Race: Race morning I was up at 4am to ensure I got all of my fuel in before heading to the start line. Sara and I decided to fuel up in the hotel lobby. Let me tell you, I don't remember the last time I saw such debauchery. I wish I had brought my phone/camera to document the mess - the amount of drunk people we saw walking into the revolving door, stumbling through the hotel lobby, and dancing up the escalator was way more than one would think when staying at a nice downtown hotel on marathon weekend. No complaints here though - I ALWAYS struggle to get in food before a race, yet the distraction race morning made all of my nutrition go down perfectly!
We eventually made it back to the room to change, and went for the short walk to the race start. A beautiful, albeit warm, morning in Chicago. There was a ton of signage once we were close to Grant Park, so there was never a question as to where to go, where gear check was, or where the entrance to our corral was. An incredible easy morning, especially considering the race size. Huge kudos to the race director on the organization front!
When I stepped into the corral I looked quickly to my right and saw Kristina! How I managed to bump into her on race morning remains a mystery, but it was a great surprise. Having someone familiar to chat with before the gun went off was awesome. Oh - and we saw the woman who went on to deliver a baby Sunday night - she was standing right in front of us in our corral - crazy! We heard the signal for the start, wished each other a great race, and inched towards the starting line. Luckily, having been in a seeded corral, our time to the actual start was only about 4 minutes. Not too bad, considering some runners had 30-40 minutes elapse before crossing the starting mat!
The Plan: I was given an "A" plan consisting of the weather being overcast and under 60 (HA!), a "B" plan which consisted on a warmer day, and then the "C" plan, which was laugh about it, and go have a kick ass time running 26.2 miles. The race plan was based on heart rate zones, and this was the first time ever I would NOT be racing based on pace. Scary? Yep! Necessary? Oh yeah. I haven't had a marathon since 2009 where I haven't had to stop/walk/cry/etc. This was my chance to come off a few months of athlete hell to race smart, collect data, and close the books on this horrific 2011 season. The weather was forecasted to be sunny and warm. There was nothing I could do to change the weather, only do my best to stay as cool as possible during the race and watch my heart rate.
Up next.. Committing to the plan..