Monday, October 11, 2010

10-10-10: Chicago Marathon Race Report

Here's the proof.
Thanks to for the pictures.

I feel a little lost right now.  It's that feeling you get when you've been dreaming about something for so long that it has become a part of your psyche, and you don't quite know what to do with yourself once you've arrived.  I have been dreaming about and working my ass off to become fit enough to qualify for the Olympic Trials for the better part of five years, and yesterday, on 10-10-10, I did it.  I ran 2:45:09 in the Chicago Marathon.
Pre-race Paranoia

I will say this.  The easy part was running the marathon.  The hard part was dealing with my brain this last week.  I refrained from blogging or Facebooking about any of this pre-race madness because I didn't really want to put it out there.  Putting it into words makes it real.  If it's simply in my head, there's a chance it isn't real or won't come true.  I don't think that what I experienced was in any way unique, but boy was it uncomfortable.
For starters, my right foot started acting up last week.  It's never, ever done this before.  My arch was very sore after my runs, even after easy runs.  I immediately started thinking "stress fracture."  I just knew that in my next run, my foot was going to break, just like Deena Kastor in the 2008 Olympic marathon.  I worried about this pretty much non-stop over the week's course.
Then, there was the weather to worry about.  The long-term outlook appeared good a week out from the race, but, as we approached race day, things started looking bad.  Really bad.  I know that people say there's nothing you can do about it, but you do have to respond to it in your preparation and your race plan.  I felt lucky that most of my training runs were run this summer in very warm conditions.  I was certainly acclimated to the heat, but I knew this did not make me immune to it.
I made the mistake of spending way too much time this weekend looking at the literature on how heat affects running performance and everything pointed to a marked slow down for the temperatures predicted for race day (60s at the start, mid-70s at the finish).  The most depressing factoid I found was that, the equivalent of a 2:46 marathon in these conditions was somewhere between 2:40-2:42 in ideal conditions (<60F).  I was not convinced that I was in that kind of shape.
After allowing myself to get worked up about it, I finally resolved to just go for it and stick to my original race plan.  I would hydrate like crazy and see what I could do.  Needless to say, I did not sleep well at all the two nights leading up to race day.  Worry, worry, worry.  Well, sleep was also made difficult by some punks outside the hotel making noises that sounded like vuvuzelas all night long.
The Race of My Life  

I awoke at 4:15 and started my pre-race routine of eating as much as I could stuff into my gut, showering and getting into my battledress.  I pinned my Airborne wings on the back of my shimmel, ensured my race numbers were in place, and both D-tags were affixed to my racing flats (yes, they required two for elites and sub-elites).  I bundled up in sweats, a long-sleeved shirt and jacket in hopes that all weather predictions would be wrong and I would be chilled en route to the start. 
The Genius and I headed out into the dark Chicago morning to catch the train to the start and were greeted with still, warm air.  Damn. I so wanted it to be cooler.  The Genius later told me that a digital clock/temperature sign on a bank we passed read 71F, but thankfully, he did not point that out to me at the time.
Regardless of all of my worrying, I was surprisingly upbeat as I ventured off to the Elite Development Tent in Grant Park.  I love the energy in the hour or so leading up to a marathon race.  It's electric and intoxicating.  I found myself feeling super excited as I blasted a few upbeat songs into my head before heading to the starting line for our 7:30 start.  After getting a big hug from fellow Impala, Brooke Wells (who would go on to run 2:37!), I took a deep breath and waddled forward with the crowd as the gun sounded.

My race plan was to go out under control for the first 5k, hydrate like a mad woman, see how I felt and try to get through the half in 1:22.  My pace band showed splits for a 2:46 marathon.  Back when the weather was looking a bit more favorable, I had printed one for a 2:44, but that seemed a bit too ambitious under these conditions.
I had several women and men to run with for the first 5 miles, but there was never a consistent pack like I had in the Twin Cities Marathon last year.  It was more of a string of women that I knew were likely shooting for the same time as me.  It turned out that my best pacers, my only pacers actually, were a couple of dudes that I hooked up with around mile 4 or so.  I believe I stuck with them through about mile 14 when one of them sped up and one of them slowed leaving me stuck on my own.  I would later pass the one that sped off at around mile 25.
I gulped at least a half cup of water at every aid station and took my gels every 5 miles without incident.  I was thrilled to see water bottles offered at a couple of spots on the course.  It was nice to be able to carry it along for a bit to make sure I got enough.  Hydration was not a problem for me, except that I think I over did it.  My bladder felt full at the start, which is normal, but it usually resorbs within a few miles.  I had a full bladder the entire race and seriously considered peeing my shorts many times because it was very uncomfortable.  You'll be happy to know that I refrained.
My right foot started to bark around mile 10 and the worrying set in big time for me.  I cringed with every step thinking the next would be my last with intact bones.  While the aching remained on and off for most of the race, my foot did not break and actually feels quite good now.

Aside from the right foot issue, I felt great in the first half of this race.  I mean really great.  The heat was not affecting my pace at all, and I was easily clicking off splits of 6:10-6:15.  I kept watching time being deposited into my race bank account with each mile split and ended up at 1:21:37 by the half.  It was a little faster than I had planned, but I couldn't deny how I felt.  I decided I would keep at the 6:12-6:15 pace through mile 20 if I could, taking it mile by mile.  I kept thinking about keeping my feet light on the ground, repeating "tap tap tap" to myself, mimicking the sound of my quick little feet hitting the pavement.  I thought about running smoothly like Bernard Lagat.  For me, he is the vision of grace in a runner and thinking about his stride relaxes me.
Around mile 16, I saw a tiny figure up ahead that I thought might be Joan Benoit Samuelson.  I wondered when I would see her, if I would see her in the race.  As I approached, I could hear the crowd yelling, "Go Joanie!"  I was star struck.  I quietly ran up behind her pacer and ran alongside her for about a half mile.  I looked down at her face at one point and saw this look of sheer determination in her eyes.  That short bit running with Joanie might have been the highlight of my race.  When I finally looked down at my Garmin and noticed that my pace was dropping off into 6:20 territory, I moved around her pacers and kept going.  I was still able to hear the chants from the crowd urging her on for several minutes as I thought about how amazing she is and got a little choked up.

I was blown away by how many people I passed in the second half of the race.  Based on a quick count, it looks like it was about 100 men and 10 women.  It made me nervous at times, coming up so fast on people going backwards so fast.  I wondered whether my ambitious pace would bite me in the butt after mile 20.  I decided to not worry about that and just took the race one chunk at a time.  I thought this even as I saw the banners go up indicating that course conditions were now moderate for running and race officials were blasting over the PA system that we should think seriously about adjusting our pace accordingly and to be sure to drink extra fluids.  Around mile 20 or so, I ran past a bank that showed the temperature at 80F, and we were entering the most exposed part of the course.

In the final miles and covered in sweat.
Even at mile 20, I was surprised with how the pace felt as I was able to easily breathe through my nose with my mouth closed.  I was, however, preparing myself mentally for the last 10k, ready to pull out some Chuck Five Zero action to get through those last miles.  I pretty much knew I would slow, but I wanted to get as much as I could out of every mile before the lead filled my legs.  

Cruising down the home stretch.
I finally started to slow around mile 23, but not by a lot.  As I ran up Michigan Ave., I figured I was probably going to meet my goal, but I knew I couldn't let myself slow too much.  The sun was really beating down on me at that point, and I saw 6:30 pace on my Garmin for a few splits.  I decided to just take in everything and kept telling myself that this was my day.  I was going to do this, and I needed to remember what it felt like.  I took in the trees lining Michigan Ave., the spectators and their cowbells, the other runners and even the bright sunshine.  This was my day.
As I rounded the corner to head up the last cruel hill to the 26 mile marker, I looked at my pace band and misread the numbers.  A major wave of panic set in as I convinced myself that I was barely going to beat 2:46.  My brain wasn't working right as I rounded the corner, and I began busting ass to get to that finish line which was more than 200m away.  I couldn't see the clock and didn't have time to look at my watch.  With about 100m to go, I finally saw the clock and it read 2:44:40-something.  I knew that I was going to make it.  I raised my arms up as I crossed the line and then, just kept walking.  What had I just done?  Did I really do this? 

Marathon Finisher!

My Splits
1   6:11
2 6:16
3 6:21
4 6:06
5 6:14
6 6:12
7 6:11
8 6:14
9 6:12
10 6:14
11 6:11
12 6:15
13 6:17
14 6:13
15 6:15
16 6:15
17 6:20 (the Joanie mile)
18 6:16
19 6:17
20 6:20
21 6:18
22 6:19
23 6:30
24 6:30
25 6:34
26 6:37
26.22 1:19

Post-race party

I got my finisher's medal, waved on the mylar blanket and ate a banana as I walked for about a mile to get back to the Elite Development Tent to collect my gear and look for my family.  The whole way, I was alternating between being choked up with happiness and frightened that someone was going to tell me that I hadn't actually qualified for some reason.  I was relieved to get my iPhone and see on Facebook that others had virtually witnessed me cross the finish line in 2:45:09.  I had failed to stop my Garmin when I crossed the line, so I didn't even have my own chrono-documentation of my achievement.
I was greeted by The Genius, my Mom and Val soon after reaching the tent and was showered with many hugs, flowers and tears.  It was quite a moment.  I enjoyed hearing about my sister Jill and brother Jeff tracking me on line and how my sister was calling my Mom with updates.  We went to the results tent to get a printout of the results of my race.  I found out that I had placed first in my age group and was second female master overall--second to Colleen De Rueck.  If you have to be second to someone, she's a pretty cool competitor to follow.

Looking back on this race, I have to rank it as my third easiest in terms of how I felt.  I never once felt a rough patch.  I didn't have to call on Chuck 50.  Maybe this was the result of the focus I put on my mental preparation for the race paying off.  I'm not sure.  Aside from a sore foot and a bit of understandable slowing at the end, this was a pleasant experience.  The heat certainly kept me from reaching my full potential, but it didn't overwhelm me.  I have no doubt that I could have run a lot faster in cooler conditions, but there's always something that seems to keep you from running to your potential in a marathon.
I loved reading through real-time Facebook comments from people who continue to encourage and inspire me.  Joe posted a touching account of his experience of my race including some great Facebook chat, and Julie announced my achievement to the world in a very cool post about my race on her blog.  
The outpouring of congratulatory notes and comments I have received from friends and family has been truly overwhelming.  Thanks everyone for all of your support and encouragement along the way.  I have been blessed to have so many people express how much they believe in me and my ability to achieve this goal.  Indeed it is a big reason I crossed the line in under 2:46.

The Future
As originally conceived, this accomplishment would mark the end of my blogging journey.  I set out to write about my trials in achieving this goal, and I am now there.  I am not sure what I will do next in my running or my writing, but I will continue to do both in some form.  I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of a community of writing runners and feel like I have gained a whole new perspective on running, writing and a unique and satisfying relationship with readers and fellow bloggers, most of whom I've not met in person.  
Houston 2012, here I come!


  1. Super job. It was a pleasure to be along for the ride.

    And after Houston: NY 2012.

  2. Congratulations on your race!!

    It was exciting watching your 5K splits come up on the online tracker.

    Recover well, and look forward to reading about your buildup to the Olympic Trials.

  3. It is REAL. It is REAL. You did it.

    Thanks for a wonderful race report; it choked me up a few times. Excellent work and you really earned it.

  4. congratulations! great blog and great way to tie it all up together in a neat little bow at the end. you know, you really paced yourself perfectly for this marathon. chicago has a knack for sucking you out a bit faster then you think... but you never got belligerent and you held on very well during the inevitable slow down at the end (by the way.... that's the thing i always strive to overcome: that damned slowdown that steals minutes away from our overall time! only once have i managed to run a really good final 10k... and that's when i pr'd in 2002!). you ran a very, very smart race... though i would not expect anything else from you. congratulations on achieving this goal you have worked so hard for. i'm glad you were able to take in the moment in that final mile. i recall doing that same thing the first time i qualified... on the chicago course of all things! it really is a special moment and an achievement that you can always, always feel good about.
    the funny thing about achieving a goal is the surprising, subtle empty feeling you have once the dust settles. shooting for the goal is what keeps the fire burning... gives meaning to the running and the workouts. a spark in your life. until you determine what the next goal is, you may have a moment of feeling a bit lost or even down. it's like after getting married or having a baby or any other big event... there's the inevitable let down after the huge build up. but soon enough you will have new goals to shoot for and hurdles to overcome. hell, maybe we can both master the art of maintaining 6:15s at the end of a marathon! the feeling of being a bit lost will go away fast and will be replaced with really enjoying a nice, well deserved break! next stop... houston!

  5. as i look at your blog on final time, another thought comes to mind. i think you handled yourself really well this past week, if you had a lot of angst about various things before the race. leonard always coaches us to not verbalize negative thoughts because then they become all the more powerful and real. and he certainly doesn't want us complaining about the weather. infact, he always tells me that bad weather is an opportunity... because you can be strong when others fade and buckle. it's hard to truly feel that way when you know you are in for heat... but the point is to not let the angst and negative thoughts take on a life of their own. and it sounds like you were very disciplined about that, which is also what makes up a champion. you see, being a champion is not just about the training and the physical aspect... but the mental. you need it all to achieve great things... and you managed to pull it all together this weekend. it was a huge triumph for you on every level.

  6. Ernst Bloch called it "the melancholy of fulfillment" -- the letdown that happens when you move from the "not yet" (or hoped for conclusion, or in his grand vision, Utopia) to, well, Utopia. Which in your case meant seeing 2:45:XX on the clock.

    I hope you don't close down this blog, because I see what you did on Sunday as just the beginning. Look to the fifty-something woman you passed for inspiration there. I think this is only the beginning for you.

  7. When I saw via tracking that you did it, I couldn't help but tear up. It's been wild to follow your journey and then see you go out there and grab the dream exactly as planned. And girl, you were a clock! I couldn't believe how even those splits were. Just makes me wonder what you'd have run if it had been 50 degrees. Congratulations, fast woman.

  8. Your recap was awesome, just like you! Very happy for you and so happy to hear it was "easy." You've worked so hard for this and I can't wait to watch you run the Trials. Congratulations, Jaymee!

  9. Great race report. Goosebumps and tears! It has been so fun to watch you progress over the past few years and go after your goal. You accomplished what most of us will only dream of.

    Your blog has been one of the very few I read regularly and I will miss it. But I have a feeling it will resurface again!

    Enjoy your time in the spotlight! I'm so excited for you and Houston 2012!

  10. Great job and huge accomplishment - made even more special through having the distinction of running a mile with Joanie!

  11. Joe: NY is definitely on my short list. See you there in 2012!

    Phil: Thanks for keeping track of me! I thought about everyone watching me and cheering me on as I crossed over those timing mats, and it kept me honest and inspired!

    Andrea: Many thanks for your encouragement and I am thrilled that you were able to feel some of what I did that day through my writing.

    tmeat: Thanks for all of your insightful comments. This is why I love blogging--it allows us to share experiences that we would otherwise not have access to. Thanks for your encouragement and advice along the way. Sacramento Masters Women kick ass!

    Julie: Of course you knew the person who academically described that feeling:0) I don't think I'll shut down the blog. I mostly need to think about my new focus for running and writing. I guess I just thought this goal would be hanging out there for a while longer. As Joe pointed out, I need to update my byline if nothing else. I do agree that there's more to come from my running. It's just kind of fun to think about trying something a little different, though I'm not sure what different might look like. Thanks for always believing and for sharing my story with others. You are a gift.

    BTW, what will you call me now that I've graduated from being a Hopeful? I guess it might be something like Houston Qualifier, though that's not alliterative.

    GIM: Blog sister, you have been such a source of support, humor, ideas and inspiration for me. You are one of the people that I feel blessed to have met, virtually and only hope that I get to meet you face-to-face some time. Keep rockin' it!

    Glorybelle: Thank you so much. You know easy is a relative term, right? Compared with how that pace felt in training, it was easy. Thanks for all of your support!

    Hover K: I feel lucky to have been able to train over the last couple of years with you. You are such a fantastic runner and friend. You're putting in the hard work, training smart and now it's your turn for a breakthrough race! Can't wait to watch you tear it up at CIM!

    Thanks, Mark. I know you didn't have the race you were looking for, but I am absolutely impressed with your positive outlook on the day. Very inspiring. That was just a practice marathon for you, though. You have a couple more to get ready for, right?

  12. Jaymee, great account of a great race. I'll admit to a little eye-moisture while reading it. Love "the Joanie mile", as I remember watching her win in '84 and was quite emotional then too. Also watched her WR in Chicago. I hope there's a photo out there of that part of your race.

    Keep writing and blogging if you can, at least from time to time. I'd like to follow your build-up to the trials and about the race. All the best.

  13. Wow, I haven't seen Ewen cry since they put up the price of beer!

    Seriously though "J" I was so happy to see that you achieved your goal and showed all of us that there's still justice in a sometimes seemly unfair world. Yes, sounds melodramatic but it is so good to see reward equaling effort.

    And you are very classly to finish your blog on this note. I'm far too needy ;)

    All the best in what ever you do and don't forget to look me up in Japan when you come over.

  14. Congratulations--what an amazing feeling to accomplish this incredible goal. Glad to hear everything worked out. You are such a great athlete, and it has been full to follow your journey!!!


  15. Obviously that should have read "FUN"!!!!!!

  16. Congratulations!! You ran a perfect race, and managed to beat both the clock and the heat. Solely for selfish reasons, I hope you continue blogging, just because I love watching people fight through and reach their goals. You're too competitive and strong to have finished setting and reaching goals, anyway!

  17. Huge congratulations! I'm new to your blog, but Joe Garland tweeted about this post and I clicked over and am so glad I did. So inspiring! I hope the let down dwindles and you are able to bask in your accomplishment, because you deserve it!

    Congrats again!

  18. Scott, yes, that was a sad day. I also cried when you beat my 5k PB.

  19. This is beyond amazing!! Congratulations, and thank you for the awesome race report. I've never commented here but have followed your blog for some time (it was linked somewhere...)and admired your dedication, talent and writing style! Hope you will keep blogging about the rest of the journey to Houston and I can't wait to find out what you'll do next after running 2:45:09 in that kind of heat!! It sounds cheesy and easy to type, but I really mean it when I say you have been an inspiration to me (a not nearly so talented or hardworking runner)and made me rethink what I might be able to accomplish - in any given area of life - if I mustered even half the dedication and drive you have! Ok enough blather, enjoy reveling in your accomplishment and look forward to more blog posts soon! Schöne Grüße aus Berlin - Heather

  20. What an awesome achievement, Jaymee. You are an inspiration to us Masters runners. I've never commented, but felt compelled to after witnessing your fantastic run in person. I was cheering for you at mile 11 & 22. Can't wait to read about your training for the Trials. You are amazing!

    Jen from Ann Arbor, MI

  21. Ewen: Thank you. She is a true champion. I was honored to run with her ever so briefly. I think I would miss the blogging community too much if I gave it up completely.

    Scott: Thanks! I like that: reward=effort. It feels that way to me. Since I will most likely continue my blog, I must not be that classy after all;) When I get to Japan, I am going to call you.

    Thanks, Jenner for your continued support (and for prompting so many of my posts!).

    Layla: I felt like that race was pretty perfect in many ways. Thanks for supporting me!

    QS: Many thanks to you!

    Renee: I'm glad you found me. Thanks for the kind words. It is always a great feeling to read the word "inspire" in proximity to my name:) I am starting to come out of the fog…

    Thanks, S Diddy.

    Vielen Dank, Heather! Your comment just inspired ME to keep blogging. Wow! Very moving.

    Thanks, Jen. Your cheers helped me out tremendously! I knew ahead of time from a Facebook post that another runner, Larisa, would be out there cheering for me. However, I heard my name called out several more times. I was so excited to hear this from the crowd in a city where I know very few people. Thank you so much for cheering me in!

  22. OK! This is amazing. FIRST OF ALL CONGRATS TO YOU!!!! I went thru the same worries about Chicago too w/ the heat and while I am slower than you - my goal was to break 3.10, I really appreciated your RR because it was NOT a PR day in Chicago and your tenacity was amazing. GOOD FOR YOU! Enjoy your accomplishment and good luck at the Trials!

  23. goodness, imagine what you will do in perfect temperatures...such a spellbinding report! Congratulations on reaching your biggest dreams