09 October 2011

Race Day!

Race bib properly pinned and ready to run. Tip of the day: before pinning the bib to your singlet, crinkle it into a ball to make it more pliable and less noisy.

Instead of the usual pacing wristband, the Chicago Marathon and Nike created these easy to read and non-interfering temporary tattoos. Since this was my first full marathon, 3 hours 10minutes seemed like a feasible accomplishment. By the end of the course, I would be rather pleased by my somewhat faster time. Does the first time racing a particular distance count as a PR?

During the wee hours of the morning I gathered with my energetic race support team. T-shirts on, the team is ready to zip around Chicago (by foot and even by taxi -- just to make sure they'd be able to cheer often and loudly) and encourage me through all 26.2 miles. Fantastic job!

While walking to the start line we spy some last minute race prep. each drink area featured one block of gatorade followed by one block of water -- tables, cups, and volunteers lined both sides of the street. thanks so much to the entire Chicago Marathon volunteer team -- it wouldn't have been possible without you!

Still waiting for the sunrise, I am more than adequately hyped up on adrenaline, nervous energy, and just general excitement. After a leisurely walk to Grant Park and the race coral area, it's time to say goodbye for a few hours. One last hug and quick photo before heading into the racers' only area.

An artistic photo (courtesy of my outstanding and never-tiring race support team) of the sun rising over the lake and illuminating the urban architecture along East Randolph Street.

And they're off! The elite marathoners (including eventual winners Moses Mosop (2:05:37) and Liliya Shobukhova (2:18:20)) head north on Columbus Drive, away from the start line toward the tunnel under East Randolph St. At this point I'm still nervously waiting to be released. Somewhere near the back of the A coral, I'm ebbing and flowing as the crowd attempts to surge forward, only to be restrained and slightly bottlenecked in the staging area.


Reggie, Alyfia, Jon, and Carmen make a quick breakfast stop at Dunkin' Donuts. 

After fueling up for a long day of zipping around the city, they're hot-footing to another spot along the course.

Here come the elite runners (see Ryan Hall stealthily drafting near the back of the pack), so the rest of the marathoners can't be too far behind...

Somewhat blurry, here I emerge from under the El tracks shortly after the elites (seconds? minutes? I'm not really sure, like the photo, the specifics of time during the race are somewhat blurry).

Oh, to be an elite marathoner. If you've ever run in a large event, you know how chaotic (not to mention treacherously slick) the hydration stations become. No matter the density of the pack that you are running with, the mad dash for fluids and fuel gives rise to a near riotous atmosphere. If you've never participated in a large event (it doesn't need to be anywhere near the size of the Chicago Marathon, get more than a few hundred runners on the same course and things get a bit hectic), glance up the screen to the pre-dawn picture of the Gatorade table. Now superimpose an image of pandemonium from Tale of Two Cities or perhaps Les Misérables and you'll have a fairly accurate understanding of la terreur of taking on fluid (I jest of course, a bit hyperbole and [hopeful] humor). Now, contrast the hydration of mere running mortals with the personalized fluid and fuel tables provided for the running elites. Pretty cool! Each runner has a specific fluid mixtures (differing ratios of carbohydrates, proteins, and fluids depending upon time/distance/weight) are skillfully placed atop the table by the volunteers trying to shrink themselves under the collapsible surfaces and stay well out the way as elites comes zipping through.

Eager with anticipating and noisemakers on the ready, my supporters swiftly repositioned themselves throughout the race course. Their unwavering enthusiasm was a welcome boost throughout the 26.2 miles. Although I never knew when I might hear and see them again, the mystery of it all kept me galloping through the streets.

Nearing the end and growing a bit tired, I am still loving every minute of the race. As you can see, the weather was outstanding (albeit a bit warmer than desired).

Not a cloud in the sky and the upper 70s makes for a wonderful October weekend. Much of the course featured beautiful treelined (and consequently pleasantly shaded) streets, but some portions were somewhat more of an industrial urban landscape (such as  above -- South Michigan avenue, just north of 33rd Street if I recall correctly) and a bit on the warm side.

And, now on the finishing straightway, a final surge of energy to blast toward the line (the next three photos are courtesy of MarathonFoto, thank you.)...

Realizing that I've rounded the final corner and that I actually have some energy remaining (arguably it may not have been "real" and "remaining" energy, but more accurately a boost of adrenaline), I kick up the speed a bit. The time on my watch indicates that I've qualified for the 2013 Boston Marathon, but I really want to finish under the three hour mark.

The facial expression should effectively translate the effort. With all bodily energy, I was trying desperately to break the three hour mark...

Well, that wasn't so bad. Look at that smile. One of relief? In all seriousness, it was a wonderful race and an outstanding first marathon experience. Although I just missed the three hour mark, I am well satisfied with a finishing time of 3:00:42 (757 overall, 659 male finisher, and 150 in my division (male 30-34)). While there is some much needed rest and recovery upcoming, I am already looking forward to my next marathon. Now having run a full marathon, I have a better sense of what to expect from my body over the entire 26.2 miles and believe the next race I will be in a position to [hopefully] improve upon my time.