I had everything laid out the night before, so it didn't take long, and I was ready to go!
I wore my black/pink capris, the shirt that I posted about a few days ago, and the new Flip Belt that I bought at the expo--with two and a half packs of Shot Bloks, two Gu's, and my phone.
Caitlin had accidentally bought an extra Balbo Hospitality ticket when she registered for the marathon, and she gave it to me. I wasn't sure exactly what it was, but from what I read on the website, it sounded like a VIP ticket for private tents, gear check, etc. before the race.
I really didn't want to try to rely on a bus or train to get to the race, because that was a disaster yesterday so I just got a taxi--much easier! The taxi drove me the two miles to just outside the Balbo Hospitality tent. We had to go through security to get in--they used the wand thing to scan my body, and they searched my bag that I planned on checking. After the Boston bombing, they weren't going to take any chances!
Once I got through security, I was able to check my bag--literally no waiting!--and go inside the food tent. The Balbo Hospitality was awesome! They had private gear check, private porta potties, free breakfast (tons of options, hot and cold), music playing, a tent to sit in until an escort took us to our corrals, and other things. I felt very special ;)
I used the porta potties once before it was time to leave, and then an escort took a group of us to the corrals. I was in Corral G, starting at 8:00. I was freezing cold, so I was really ready for the race to just start already. I tried to make my way up to the front of the corral, between the 4:10 and 4:25 pacer. I didn't have a goal time or pace, but when I did my long runs, I was running about a 9:30 pace, so I figured that was a good spot to start.
Finally it was time to start. The only thing I really knew about the course was that people described it as "pancake flat". Well, I quickly learned that those people have never been to southeast Michigan! The course wasn't nearly as flat as what I run daily, so I definitely felt the hills (very small, but enough to make my legs feel heavy).
Around the first mile, I saw a sign someone had made that actually brought a tears to my eyes. It said, "Remember when you thought you couldn't do this?" and it just seemed like it was meant for me to see! I never thought I could do a marathon, or a half-marathon, a 5K, or even a MILE. I loved that sign, and I thought about it through the whole race.
I wanted to pay more attention to my surroundings, because I was running in Chicago, but I was just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. I kept thinking about how much I still had in front of me, and it seemed like the race would never end. During the Detroit Marathon, it seemed like I blinked and I was at 10 miles! This race felt MUCH longer.
My legs felt really great, and everything was going so well. I was eating my Shot Bloks every couple miles, alternating water and Gatorade, and didn't have any stomach issues. I wasn't trying to hold a specific pace, but I noticed my splits were around 9:20-9:30. For miles 2-3, I don't think the pace on my Garmin was correct. There were lots of super tall buildings, which I'm sure messed with the satellites. I know I wasn't a running as fast as 9:00/mi or as slow as 10:20, which is listed for mile 3. I was starting to wonder what to do, because the pace on my Garmin was incorrect. I didn't want to run too fast. I just tried to pay attention to the times on the clocks at each mile marker, and see if my pace was at least a little on target (no faster than 9:15--that would have scared me).
I was surprised that it wasn't super packed (like sardines in a can). Yes, there were a ton of people in the race, but thankfully, there was room to move around them. There were a couple of spots where it bottle-necked, but other than that, the number of people running wasn't an issue at all.
The crowds were amazing! There were SO MANY spectators, which was awesome. It was actually so loud that if I wanted to chat with someone (and I did!), it would be difficult to hear. The crowd support helped a lot when I just didn't feel like running anymore.
Once I hit the 13.1 mark, I was pretty excited to see that I was on course for a 4:10 finish. That's faster than I ever expected! I kept moving on, feeling really great. At around mile 18, I was feeling really hot with the sun beating on me, and someone was offering popsicles. I almost passed by, but I grabbed one, and I'm so glad I did. It was SO GOOD. Yes, it was just a popsicle, but at the 18-mile mark of a marathon, when I was hot and starting to get tired? It was HEAVEN.
I kept up the 9:25 average pace until halfway through mile 20. I ate my second Gu (when I noticed that an entire pack of Shot Bloks had fallen out of my new belt!), and shortly after that, my stomach revolted. I got really nauseous, and it was all I could do not to stop and vomit on the side of the road. I slowed my pace into the 10:00's, which was discouraging because I had less than a 10K to go, but there was no way I could have kept that pace with the way my stomach was behaving. My legs felt great! But my stomach wasn't happy.
After that, I stopped eating/drinking anything at all. I tried a tiny sip of water, but it made me super nauseous, so I just kept running at the slower pace, hoping the nausea would pass. At around mile 24, someone offered me a Jello shot. My stomach was starting to feel a little better, and I just thought about how fun it was to be offered a Jello shot during a race, so I accepted. It was pretty strong (I could definitely taste the vodka), and surprisingly, my stomach felt better after eating it. I picked up the pace for the last mile.
At around mile 25, there was a man next to me that turned and ran to the side of the road, where the small wall barrier was. He put his hands on it, and then the whole thing feel over, and he fell right on top of it, stiff as a board. He'd completely collapsed! I panicked for a moment, because I'm the last person anyone would want to be around in a situation like that (I tend to panic and am no help at all), but a few other people went over to him; so I felt bad about it, but I kept running. I think I saw him at the medical tent later, and I was glad to see he was okay.
At around mile 25.5, I saw one of the wheelchair participants with course marshals around him. I felt awful for him, because he was struggling so badly to finish! The wheelchair racers usually finish early in the race, so he was out there for a long time after the others finished. I can't even imagine how hard it would be to do the entire marathon with arm strength alone.
There is a hill at mile 26, and I was surprised how many people stopped to walk there; it's the last two-tenths of a mile! I wanted to walk, believe me, but I was so ready to be done. I was SO HAPPY as I crossed the finish line! I finished in 4:16:38.
Compared to my Garmin:
I cannot believe I didn't take any pictures after the race! When I crossed the finish line, it took FOREVER to walk to the hospitality tent. I was really achy at that point. I sat down (with a beer), and Caitlin met up with me there. I decided to go take advantage of the free massage. There was NO wait at all, and within seconds, I was lying on a comfy massage table while two women massaged me for about 15 minutes--one did my back and the other did my legs. It was amazing!!
I was absolutely freezing after that (my whole body was shaking uncontrollably, and my teeth were even chattering). Caitlin was leaving, so I said goodbye to her, and then picked up my bag from gear check and changed in the semi-private changing area. I felt much better in a dry sweatshirt and pants. I realized that I could possibly make the 2:30 train back to my sister's house (if not, I'd have to wait until 4:30, and I really didn't want to have to sit around waiting).
I walked as quickly as I was able to where I was told I could get a taxi, and I tried unsuccessfully for about 10 minutes to get a cab. I decided to just start walking to the hotel, which was two miles away--ugh. At this time, it was just before 2:00. I had to go to the hotel to pick up my suitcase, and then hightail it to the train station. I started running (this is AFTER running a full marathon!) the two miles to the hotel, dragging my gear check bag with me. It felt like forever, but I finally got to the hotel at around 2:15. I got my bag, and the concierge got me a cab super fast.
Thankfully, my cab driver was a speed demon, and got me to the train station at 2:26. I quickly paid him, ran into the building, dragging my luggage, and booked it to the train. I got on the train at 2:28, and it left the station at 2:30. The only downside was that I was super thirsty, and I didn't have time to stop and get a drink.
I totally made up for it later, though, because I went out for Mexican with my sister and the kids, and I ordered a huge margarita.
Dinner was amazing. I ate too many chips and salsa, so unfortunately, I was nearly full when my entree came, but it was the PERFECT post-marathon meal. I'm back on track tomorrow, but I wanted to splurge today after such a great race! With my 4:16 finish, I PR'ed by 35 minutes from Detroit (and 70 minutes from Cleveland!).
Tomorrow, I rest. :) And the day after that, and the day after that... for at least a week, maybe two!