Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Writer's Block

I started writing about my Chicago experience. But I can only think in 160 word packets. I'll try again tomorrow night.

2009 Chicago Marathon

Several things I learnt at this year's Chicago Marathon. Gels turn stiff at fridge temperatures. I was carrying mocha flavored Cliff Shots and Espresso flavored Hammer gels and they both were semi-solids when I tried to squeeze them out. Granted, my hands were pretty useless due to the cold but the contents were pretty stiff. Gatorade and water felt like it was taken out of a fridge. I enjoyed drinking cold Gatorade. In fact, my stomach tolerated it very well.

I find it interesting how this marathon claims to sell 45,000 entrants yet for the last 3 years the actual finishers end up being in the low 30,000 range. This year, it was 33,000 and change. So, where the heck is the rest of the folks? This race is not cheap.

Anyway, be careful what you wish for. Apparently, 33,000 runners wished for a cooler marathon weather after 2 years of October heat. We got it. The temperature at the start of the race was just below freezing at 31 degrees. I saw several bank signs showing 28 degrees. For this cold start, I decided to wear a sleeveless tech T under a long sleeve tech shirt. For the bottom, I was sticking with running shorts as I do not own any long garments. I packed some tech gloves and a tech baseball cap to round out my outfit. To stay warm in the corral, I also brought an XL T shirt to go over my outfit (Yuri's Night 5K). As I was taking my track suit off to check my gear, I held up the Yuri's T shirt and hesitated as the thought of tossing it started to sound like a bad idea. Sentimental? Maybe. More like brain freeze. Anyway, I put the T shirt back in my bag and checked my bag. So, the cold morning became colder.

I parked myself at the 10 min. pace sign. It was 6:45 AM. Marathon started at 7:30. It's pretty cool to look forwards and backwards and see a crowd as far as the eye can see.

Mile 1: 9:48
Mile 2: 9:34
Mile 3: 9:12
Mile 4: 9:13
Mile 5: 9:06

As you all know, when the race starts, you don't. By the time I crossed the starting line, Wanjiru had already passed mile 2. But no matter, I was running with the crowd. It appears everyone around me lined up for 10 min. pace but was running much faster. Blame it on adrenalin and one of the most electrically charged spectator/atmosphere at the start of this race. I was also just wearing my Timex so as every mile markers came up, I was surprised at how fast we were all moving. For these first several miles, the pacers were also trying to sort themselves out. The 4:00, 4:15 and 4:30 groups were all mixed in together.

Incidentally, why does the marathon line you up by minutes per mile but the pacers carry overall finish time.

Mile 6: 9:25
Mile 7: 9:04
Mile 8: 9:13
Mile 9: 9:19
Mile 10: 9:19

When the route turned south again, the spacing amongst runners became looser. So, despite the overcharged crowd support, I decided I needed to find my "running forever" pace. That certainly wasn't 9 minute pace so I tried to slow down. I also realized by the 6th mile that I was between the 4 and 4:15 pace groups. My goal was to slot myself between the 4:15 and 4:30 group. Water and Gatorade support was excellent this year. The stops also appeared a block long, if not longer on both sides of the street. So even on the very first water stop, it was possible to grab a drink without much issue.

Mile 11: 9:23
Mile 12: 9:30
Mile 13: 9:45
Mile 14: 9:42
Mile 15: 9:37

We came back into downtown and veered west at about Big Willie (aka Sears Tower which is now renamed Willis Tower). As I passed the halfway point at around 2:02, I took inventory of my condition and pressed on. The fast pace of the early miles concerned me a bit as did the coldness that permeated my body. I was not getting warmed up and noticed myself being cold throughout the race.

Mile 16: 9:36
Mile 17: 9:47
Mile 18: 9:59
Mile 19: 10:18
Mile 20: 10:33

Perhaps it was the fast start, perhaps I'm just not good at race management, perhaps it was too cold, or perhaps the distance is too darn long for me, but I started to slow down. Interestingly, the perceived effort I was putting in seemed to be the same but my splits were getting slower. But, there was only 6 more miles to go. I was telling myself to shuffle in if you must but we are so close to the end that we should not unravel. Well, China town was a nice distraction and when we finally was back on Michigan avenue, I knew the end was close. It was during these last few miles that the 4:15 group passed me. I tried to keep pace with them for about 2 blocks but there was no way I could at the pace I was going at this time.

Mile 21: 11:07
Mile 22: 10:39
Mile 23: 11:25
Mile 24: 11:11
Mile 25: 11:38
Mile 26: 11:57
0.2 Mile: 2:24

Total: 4:21:55 (10:00 minutes/mile pace)

A new P.R. by about 30 minutes. The finish time temperature was 42. Thankfully, they gave out mylar blankets before the medal. Good thing too. I never realized how warm those things can be when it is so cold.