16 October 2013

Chicago Marathon Race Report

“When you do the things that you can do, you will find a way.” 
A.A. Milne
Chicago skyline from Navy Pier
Distance: 26.2 miles
Elevation: 116 ft
Time: 4:31

These are the conclusions that I have after my weekend in Chicago and running the marathon:

1. Chicago is awesome, perhaps as awesome as Boston (my former hometown)
2. The Chicago Marathon is still a well organized machine (Carey has it dialed)
3. Running a marathon as fast as you can is HARD (Respect!)
4. I prefer lollygagging for 30 hours to running hard for 4 ('cause I'm lazy)
5. I need to run a road marathon every year to become a faster ultrarunner (to combat all that lollygagging)

Despite my lack of training and running too many ultras coming into this race, I still managed to have a good day. My one rule was "No Walking". I knew that once my hips and legs got stiff and sore (they did, within the first hour) that the temptation to walk would be strong. So it became a mental game to will myself to keep going as fast as my stems would go. My thoughts were reduced down to just putting one foot in front of the other and grabbing liquids at every aid station.   

Since I didn't want to invest in a new pair of road shoes, I used my Scott eRide Grips, which were relegated to my flat speed training runs due to being about a half-size too small and bruising my toenails on descents. They worked really well along with my Drymax socks. I kept things simple by just packing a couple of gels to supplement the water & Gatorade available throughout the run. It was a nice change from all the prep needed for an ultra. 
Got braids (thanks to Marlynn) and ready to roll!
Basically, my race played out like this: I averaged 9-ish m/m for the first couple of hours as I maintained a quick cadence (180 - 190 steps per min) while running just above conversational pace. The third hour I averaged 10-ish m/m. The fourth hour I was averaging 11-ish m/m and my cadence had fallen to about 170 stp. Overall, I averaged 10 minute miles.

I have never pushed that hard for that long in my life. I've pushed hard when doing tempo runs for 30-45 minutes, but even those were periodic in frequency. I need to change that in 2014, making speed work a weekly part of my training. 

Despite running on unroad-trained, unspeed-trained and 85-mile-fatigued legs, I still managed to PR by 14 minutes with a 4:31 finish. As I mentioned in my last post, my best official time was 5:09 ('98). My best unofficial time was 4:45 ('09). Competitor Mag gave us the stats on the 39k that finished the race and I was happy to see that I was a mid-packer. Woot Woot! The average finishing time was 4:32 and among women, the average ranged from 4:42 - 5:20. It's nice not to be in the back-of-the-pack for once!
The toughest tempo run ever!
So, I'm happy with my finish and glad to see myself push through the discomfort and get the best time I could under the circumstances. But as I think about my 2014 race schedule, I think that keeping a road marathon in the mix would be a good thing. I don't normally push myself hard for long periods of time and training for a marathon PR would help me to develop more speed that will only benefit my longer distance running. Next time however, I will devote some time to preparing specifically for it.

I expected to get shin splints from this race, but what I ended up with was tendinitis in my right Achilles. My quads were extra sore too and I couldn't walk down stairs properly until today. Now that I'm in my off-season, there will be no running for a few weeks. Me and the bike will get reacquainted in the meantime. 

Once again, I'm impressed with what a well organized race this is. With over 40k people starting, everything from packet pickup to the post-race festivities was well done. The communication, the volunteers and the runner support was top notch. Little things like putting a sticker on our foil blanket so we can proceed hands free, the volunteer offering Tylenol bottle next to the podiatry tent, the bag of ice for our sore legs, the wet towel for wiping salt/sweat off as well as the recovery drink and snack box in a bag were just what I needed. There were so many massage therapists that I didn't have to wait and they took extra time with me (45 min!) which was awesome. My only complaint was the lame tech shirt design, which they do in order to get you to buy a better one at the Expo. Good thing I don't care about the shirt. For anyone with a hankering to do a big city marathon, this is one I recommend after doing it two times in 15 years. Well played, Carey Pinkowski. I'll be back again for a 3rd running someday.

I'm going to do a follow up report on my downtime in Chicago because it's such a great city and it deserves a separate post. In the meantime, I'm enjoying time with the family, much needed rest, race planning and job hunting, which will add another challenge as I continue to train and run ultras.

Big thanks to my husband Jonathan, who has supported me this year as I've pursued these running adventures. He's been Mr. Mom to our kids while I've been away and missed out on his mountain bike rides. He understands the desire to play in the mountains and need to push one's physical limits, even if he doesn't get why anyone would want to do it for an entire day or more. I couldn't do what I'm doing without him. Thank you honey, I love you!
Me & J, hiking up Flattop, outside Anchorage

Happy Trails,



  1. Congrats on an awesome race season dear!! And way to go with your PR in Chicago. I love your race reports...

    1. Thank you, my friend. Glad to know you're enjoying my crazy ultra adventures from afar!

  2. Congrats on a PR! I haven't been able to finish in under 5:00, and decided that rsther than put my body through the pain and stress of road marathons, that venue is just no longer a goal. But you are right sbout the beed for speed(work).

    1. Thanks Lori! After my time off the trails, I look forward to running with y'all again!