2013 Bank Of America Chicago Marathon Recap

by Kim on October 17, 2013

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What an exhausting weekend!  It took me a couple of days to recuperate, but I’m feeling rested and my body is no longer sore, so it’s time to dive into the recap!  Being a few days after the fact, I hope I remember everything I want to say… cause I have a lot to say (as usual), so let’s stop dilly-dallying and get right to it!

Race Day Weather
I’d been checking the weather periodically in the week or two leading up to race day and it, as expected, gradually shifted.  The night before the race, it looked like the low was going to be in the high 40’s for the start of the race, but the weather Gods thought that was too cold and it was right at 50 degrees as I made my way to my corral.

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My phone somehow died during the race (oddly enough, since I wasn’t using it) so I couldn’t get a screen shot of the weather right when I finished, but as soon as I found a power source to juice up my phone ever so slightly to let the concerned parties know I was still alive (about two hours or so after I crossed the finish line), I took this screen shot.

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So I’m guessing the temperature was hovering at about 60 degrees when I crossed the finish line.  Definitely warmer that I would have liked, but much cooler than I’d trained in, that’s for sure!  To my dismay, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky during the race, so I got quite the sun burn.  The sun is one of my top enemies in races and we had several stretches of no shade.  Even though the sun didn’t really make it “hot”, I find it to be quite blinding and bothersome in general.  At any rate, the weather wasn’t my ideal race weather, but it could have been a ZILLION times worse.  I have friends who ran the Chicago Marathon when it was 90° out.  Training all summer long in that kind of weather, I know that must have been miserable for them!

Feelings Going Into The Race
I talked about some of my feelings here and here, so, to quickly summarize, I felt the whole spectrum of emotions in the weeks and days leading up to the race.  The day before the race, I felt relatively calm and the evening before the race, I felt a sense of “I have to run 26.2 miles tomorrow.  That’s far.”  It wasn’t a sensation of being overwhelmed or dread, but rather feeling like that was a lot to wrap my mind around.  The morning of the race, I felt calm again.  I’ve noticed this calm feeling being a trend with all three of my marathons.  I guess that’s good.  I’ll take it as a sign that I feel prepared.

Meals Before The Race
I stayed the night with a good friend from college, Beth, and her husband.  They were super accommodating and wanted to make sure I was properly taken care of before the race.  I assured them that I’ve eaten the entire spectrum of dinners before a race so anything was fine with me.  We settled on pizza.  We ordered one with sausage, red and green bell peppers, and mushrooms.

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It was SO yummy!  My stomach had been upset from what I ate on Friday night (something I know that makes my stomach upset, but it’s yummy so I eat it anyway), so I wasn’t super hungry all day on Saturday, but I had two slices of pizza and called it a day.

In the morning, I had my usual Central Market English muffin.  I brought one from home with me.  Beth set out a jar of peanut butter and a banana for me, so that’s what I had with my English muffin.  Pretty typical stuff.

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What I Wore
I actually broke a marathon rule and wore some new things!  I wore my oldy-but-goody C9 white sports bra which actually chafed me pretty badly for a change.  Since I was running with Team VW (more on that in a post tomorrow), I wore a new Nike Team VW T-shirt.  When I picked it up at the expo, all they had were men and boy shirts, so I got a boy’s XL.  I was still swimming in it.  On the bottom I wore a pair of black and pink Nike Tempo shorts.  For socks, I wore my Nike socks that I picked up at the Nike Women’s Half in DC.  I wore those with my brand new  Brooks Glycerine 11 running shoes, which I bought less than two weeks ago (big no-no for race day).  To hold back my wispy hair, I wore a pink Swirlgear headband.  (The headbands aren’t available on the website at the time of writing this, but I am an ambassador for Swirlgear and if you are interested in getting a headband for yourself, let me know and I’ll see what I can do!)  I also wore my grey Flip Belt, my Garmin Forerunner 610, and my RoadID bracelet.  I carried six Clif Shot Bloks in my Flip Belt as well as my phone, driver’s license, train pass, and credit card.  I wore an old Turkey Trot long-sleeve shirt as my throw-away shirt to stay warm before the race started.

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The Course
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon starts and ends on different ends of Grant Park.  We headed north, running close to the lake, before turning around, heading back south, then west, then zig-zagging our way south and east, before turning north again to head back to Grant Park.  We hit 29 neighborhoods and saw the city in all of its glory.

2013-Course-Map

The Chicago Marathon is known for being notoriously flat.  Sometimes I find flat courses to be mentally harder than those with rolling hills, since every tiny incline I came up to, I’d curse and say (in my head), “what the heck, I thought this was supposed to be flat!”.  The minimum elevation on this course is 573 feet and the maximum elevation is 603 feet, so in 26.2 miles, that counts as being pretty darn flat.

Elevation Chart

The steepest climb of the race is at the very end, right when you turn from Michigan Ave to Roosevelt Rd.  In the grand scheme of things, this was hardly a steep hill, but at mile 26, it felt like Mt. Everest!

The Race Organization
The 2013 Bank of America Chicago Marathon was the 36th annual race and it is one of six marathons in the World Marathon Majors.  Registration maxed out at 45,000 participants and this year’s registration process crashed their website, causing the Marathon to go from an open entry system to a lottery after about 15,000 people registered.  The Chicago Marathon has no required qualifying time, but participants must be able to complete the race in six and a half hours.

I found this race to be extremely well-organized, although I had heard from others that in the past, this wasn’t the case (especially the two years when the temperatures hit over 90°).

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Packet pickup was a breeze.  About two weeks prior to the race, the organizers sent out an email to participants with packet-pickup instructions, including a personalized UR code (you know, one of those square bar codes that you can scan with your phone).  In addition, they mailed a packet with the same UR code and you could either use the electronic version or the paper version.  Since Nick and I moved since I registered for this race, my mailed UR code is still in transit, making its way to our new house, so I used the electronic version.  The line was extremely short (in other words, I didn’t have to wait in line at all) to get my UR code scanned.  Once scanned, I was sent to a second table to pick up my bib.

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When I walked up (again, no line) the guy handing out bibs said, “Hi Kim, here is your bib.  You can pick up your shirt in the back of the expo.” It was pretty cool that he knew my name before I even told it to him!

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I actually didn’t spend a ton of time at the expo, but I did hit up just a couple of booths/vendors.

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First up, I headed over to the Volkswagen booth to pick up my Team VW stuff (again, more details on Team VW in a future post).

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From there, I headed over to the Nike booth to get two T-shirts for friends who requested them back home.  Before entering the Nike “store”, I signed my name on the Nike CHICAGO board.

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And finally, I made one quick stop at the Austin Marathon booth to see if they had any coupon codes, but alas, it was a failed attempt.  I snapped one last picture of the Goose Island booth before my hostess, Beth, and I headed out.

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Oh, and Beth took a picture of me in front of one of the Chicago Marathon signs.  Thanks Beth!

IMG_7730 Two other things I should mention about the race organization before I move onto the other topics.  1: Water stops.  Granted, this is only my third marathon and first HUGE marathon, but these water stops were AMAZING!  They were literally two blocks long.  The first block was entirely Gatorade and the second block was entirely water.  Each water stop had aids handing out Vaseline as well (I used this once) and from roughly mile 20-24 the water stops also had people handing out bananas.  The tossed bananas (from runners) made the ground a bit slippery, but it was still a nice feature.

The second thing I want to mention is security.  The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is the first major US marathon since the Boston Marathon bombing and security was definitely tightened.  We received several emails in the months and weeks leading up to the race about the security precautions.  Every runner had to pick up their own bib at the expo, which is a change from the past.  Spectators were not allowed into the start-finish area and those runners wanting to bring a bag to check during the race had to bring it in a designated clear race bag.  Those who brought the clear bag had to go through an extra bag “search” area before they could enter Grant Park (the start/finish area).

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IMG_7750 The course was barricaded at several points, but not the entire way, keeping spectators off the road and the last 0.2 miles of the race had MAJOR barricades, keeping spectators away from the course by 10 feet or so.  In years past, I believe there were open bleachers for spectators to watch the finish line.  The bleachers were still there this year, but they were not open to the public.  In other words, you had to have special access to sit and watch the end of the race from the bleachers.  There were police along the way, which is pretty typical, but there were also SWAT teams out, people under cover, and bomb-sniffing dogs.  I didn’t notice their presence as much as I noticed the heightened security at the Nike Women’s Half in DC two weeks after the bombing, but others said they noticed the high police presence along the course.  Someone also mentioned helicopters circling the course, but I didn’t really notice those either.

Crowd Support
Oh my gosh, talk about crowd support!  There were a few voids along the way, but for the most part, every inch of this race was lined with spectators!  I regret not having my name on my shirt because spectators were cheering runners on by name if it was printed out for them to see.  Live and learn, I guess!

The one aggravating thing about a handful of spectators, though was those who ran across the street in the middle of the race.  I mean, I get it, you are trying to get somewhere and the race is limiting your access of getting there, but please be smart about how you cross the street.  Look for an opening and run at an angle in the direction the runners are going.  Runners are looking straight ahead so be aware that they might not see you trying to cross!  Several people did the exact opposite, running at an angle against the flow of runners.  I literally ran into a woman and her child as they darted in front of me at mile 22 or so.  Being that late in the race, my mind was mush so I didn’t say anything, but it totally freaked me out when it happened because I wasn’t expecting it.

The Race
I know I get long-winded in these race recap posts, so I’ll do my best to keep this section short and sweet.  No promises, though!

I left Beth’s place at about 6 AM and made my way downtown, along with practically everyone else in the city.

IMG_7748 After a quick trip to the port-o-potty (where I met two very nice and very speedy women from Minneapolis), I headed to Corral E to get settled in before the race started.

IMG_7751 I scanned the corral for two of my Dallas running friends, Jessica and Becca, who were also assigned to corral E, but I couldn’t find them.  Before I knew it, the announcer came on and introduced the singer for the National Anthem.

Since the speakers kept cutting in and out, everyone began to sing the National Anthem.  I cried.  The National Anthem never had much of an effect on me before the Boston Marathon bombing, but now I can’t help but get choked up.  I took a couple of pre-race pictures as we slowly made our way towards the start line.

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And I made a little video right as we were about to cross the start line.

And then we were off!  Things started out fine, but I was feeling a little uneasy at first.  Among 45,000 other runners, I suddenly felt kind of lonely.  In local races, I tend to run into a lot of people I know and I knew my chances of finding any of my friends running this race would be slim to none at this point so I was feeling a little sad and missing home, but I continued to plug away.

Around the 5k point (3.1 miles), I started to get a side stitch.  Crap, I thought to myself.  This is WAY to early in the race to start to have problems.  I tried to knead it out with my hand and shortly after I spotted a spectator handing out mini water bottles.  I gratefully grabbed one from him, assuming the stitch was from dehydration (they typically are).  I took a few sips before we hit the second water stop.  I downed a cup a Gatorade and that instantly took care of the stitch.

Somewhere around mile 6 or 7, I actually found my running friend Becca!  We ended up running together for several miles and I was so happy to have her by my side, even though we didn’t really talk too much while we were together.  It was comforting to have a familiar face near by!  She pulled off to the side around mile 14 or so to do a quick stretch and I kept going, telling her that I was probably going to slow down some, so she might be able to catch back up to me.  I ended up not seeing her again, sadly, but it was great to run with her for 7 or 8 or 9 miles… or however long it was that we were together!

Shortly after Becca and I split up, I hit the Charity Block Party.  All the race-sponsored charities were out cheering runners on and I cried again.  I couldn’t help myself.  Marathons make me sentimental!

After that point, I started the mental games.  I told myself to make it to mile 15 and then I could intentionally let up my pace.  I hit mile 15 and told myself to make it until mile 18 and then I could intentionally let up my pace, and so on.  My Garmin was about 0.3 miles off at this point and I started to calculate what my finish time would be if I simply held where I was.  At about the 18-mile mark, I estimated I could cross the finish line at about 4:20 and change.  It was also at the mile 18 water stop that I finally tossed that little water bottle that I picked up near the 5k point.  I had refilled it several times and used it as my little clutch or security blanket for all those mile.  By mile 20, I gave myself the “excuse” (it wasn’t really an excuse, but I’m using that word for lack of better words) to take full advantage of the 2-block long water stops.  I wasn’t exactly “hitting the wall”, but I was simply fatiguing and so I walked though the water stops as a way to rest.  Some of them I walked the entire two blocks while others I only walked through the water portion of the water stop, and I didn’t necessarily take something to drink during that stops.  I saw my time slipping and knew 4:20 was a long shot, but mentally and physically I wanted to take the water stops more than I wanted to finish around 4:20.

Overall, I felt decent all along the way.  Like I said, I never hit the notorious wall in the traditional sense and I never once walked outside of a water stop.  I despised the long stretches in the sun and felt like I could run all day long when we were on streets canopied by lush trees.  I was pretty hot early on and wished I’d worn a tank top instead of the short-sleeve Team VW T-shirt.  At mile 23-ish, we turned onto 33rd St. and to our left we had a clear view of downtown Chicago.  My jaw nearly dropped to the street.  That was three miles away!?!?  No way in hell was that 3 miles away!  Downtown looked like it was at least 18 miles away.  I began to question the course and the race director.  What the heck were they doing to us?  Where are these 18 extra miles coming from?!  Haha.  Somehow what looked like 18 miles was really only three and I survived.

Also, around the 23 or 24 mile mark, I got the “oh no, where are the port-o-potties” feeling, but I was determined not to come to a complete stop for a bathroom break at this point, so I plugged away, praying I could make it to the end without pooping my pants.  By mile 25.5, that sensation passed, thankfully!

We headed north on Michigan Ave and it looked like the finish line was straight ahead since there was a huge Chicago Marathon sign.  I so convinced myself that this sign was the finish line and I just needed to make it to that point and I’d be done.  As I got closer and my Garmin ticked away, I realized that the sign was about a quarter-mile off from being the 26.2 mark.  Instead, it was a big television screen, broadcasting the race, right at a turn.  The turn was onto Roosevelt, which I mentioned above being the largest incline of the race.  The end was finally in sight.  One more turn and I was home-free!  Once I peaked on the climb, I did my best to pick up my pace (hardly fast at all, but faster than what I had been going for the last few miles) and booked it to the finish line.  I saw the clock ticking and the seconds whipping by on my Garmin… Just get in under 4:30.  Just get in under 4:30!!  4:29:51 on my Garmin!  Done!

As I crossed the finish line, the announcer said something like, “Congrats Team VW!” I threw my hands up in the air and he said, “Yes, that’s you, way to go Team VW….” and then talked about Volkswagen being a sponsor.  Yay, I got recognized by the announcer at the very end!

I pulled my phone out of my Flip Belt to take some post race photos, only to discover it was completely dead, so I apologize for the few and crappy photos of the post-race amenities.  (I was able to get my phone ever so slightly charged thanks to being part of Team VW, but more on that tomorrow.)

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Oh, and here is my pace chart… you can see where I took my walking breaks!  And the crazy up and down spikes in the beginning are from the tall buildings throwing the GPS off.

Pace Chart

Post Race Food And Vendors
The finisher’s chute was full of volunteers handing out medals, mylar blankets, and tons of food.  I grabbed a bottle of water, a banana, a power bar, and a snack box, as well as a Goose Island beer.

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I actually didn’t eat any of it because I was on Team VW and got to go in the VIP area where there was way more food, so I took my snacks with me on the plane home and, actually, they are still sitting on our dining room table.

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Once I had my phone on-so-slightly charged, I took a few photos of the finisher’s chute, but all the fencing is in the way since I’d already exited that area.

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IMG_7768 I didn’t go to the mile 27 post-race party, so I can’t really report on that, but I’m sure it was a nice setup for the finishers.  Spectators were not allowed in this area so I imagine a lot of people didn’t stick around too long if they were trying to reunite with loved ones.  When I was leaving, I noticed the exit was lined with cups of Goose Island beer.

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It wasn’t until I was nearly all the way out the finisher area that I realized all those beers were there because you couldn’t leave with the alcohol.  Haha.  Duh!  As soon as I walked down the stairs leading into Grant Park, I saw all the loved ones waiting for their runners.  Such a sweet moment!

IMG_7773 Anyway, I decided to head up the road about a mile or so to the Nike store to pick up a race pullover for the trek back to Beth’s place.  (It was quite breezy!)  Upon reaching the outside of the store, I was greeted by about a dozen Nike employees cheering for runners as they either passed by or entered the store.  What a welcome!  When I went in, I found an awesome dance party going on!

That guy cracked me up!  What a blast.  I ended up joining in as well after I stopped filming.

On my way to find the bathroom in the Nike store, I discovered they were engraving medals for free!

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Since my phone was practically dead, I hadn’t been online to see my official results, so I had them engrave my time as GOOD ENOUGH and my place as CHICAGO.  I thought that was kind of funny! 😉  Oh, and here is the Chicago Marathon finisher pullover I purchased:

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No Pain No Gain
I didn’t really have any significant pain.  I felt pretty good the entire time.  Of course my legs were getting tired and fatigued and my left IT band was tightening up, but I never felt like I was in so much pain that I had to stop or walk.  After the race is a different story, but that pain was expected.  My legs were sore almost immediately, especially when I sat down and stood back up again.  I chafed pretty badly from my sports bra, which rarely happens to me.  My inner thighs (another spot where I never chafe) were also chafing and I could feel it happen as I was running, so I grabbed a blob of Vaseline around mile 14 or so and slapped it on my thighs while still running.  I got a HUGE blister on the top of one of my toes on my right foot. Four days out, I’m pretty much back to normal!  The chafing has scabbed over and is itching and flaking off and I pricked the blister last night and my entire toe seemed to deflate in the process.  My left arch has been bothering me for the past day, but I think that is more due to the fact that I’ve been wearing the same worn-out, poor-arch-supporting shoes to work for the past three months because all of my other work shoes are still packed up in a box from our move.

Other Random Thoughts
Hmm.  I know I will come up with something I wish I mentioned later, but I really can’t think of anything off the top of my head.  Oh, but here is what the participant shirt looks like:

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And if you want to see my professional photos, click here.  I’m not in love with any of them, so I decided they weren’t worth the money.

Overall Opinion
I enjoyed this race.  I’m feeling mediocre about my results, but as far as the race goes, I thought it was well-organized and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to do a HUGE marathon.  October isn’t typically a hot month for Chicago, but I can see this race being awful if it ever has a freak-90-degree-weather day again with several stretches being in full sun.  I heard they pushed the race a week later in October from years past to help prevent that, but with the way weather is these days, you never know.  Even though I was surrounded by 40,000 other runners, I never felt crowded or needed to dodge through the crowd.  While I did feel lonely at times without many of my running friends there, I’d do this race again, for sure.

Race Stats
Bib Number: 17903
Division: Female 30-34

Official Chip Time: 4:29:48
Official Race Distance: 26.2 miles
Official Average Race Pace: 10’18″
Overall Rank: 20,151 out of 38,871
Gender Rank: 7,050 out of 17,391
Division Rank: 1,425 out of 3,250

5K Split: 30:17
10K Split: 1:00:59
15K Split: 1:31:23
20K Split: 2:02:16
13.1 Mile Split: 2:09:13
25K Split: 2:33:56
30K Split: 3:06:44
35K Split: 3:40:16
40K Split: 4:15:15

Garmin Time: 4:29:51
Garmin Distance: 26.64 miles
Garmin Average Pace: 10’08″

Garmin Splits
Mile 1: 8’57”
Mile 2: 9’19”
Mile 3: 10’16”
Mile 4: 9’42”
Mile 5: 9’46”
Mile 6: 9’38”
Mile 7: 9’47”
Mile 8: 9’40”
Mile 9: 9’40”
Mile 10: 9’53”
Mile 11: 9’45”
Mile 12: 9’39”
Mile 13: 9’53”
Mile 14: 9’23”
Mile 15: 10’08”
Mile 16: 10’24”
Mile 17: 10’24”
Mile 18: 10’15”
Mile 19: 10’42”
Mile 20: 10’34”
Mile 21: 10’39”
Mile 22: 10’42”
Mile 23: 11’01”
Mile 24: 11’17”
Mile 25: 11’09”
Mile 26: 10’48”
Mile 26.64: 10’04”

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