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Monday, October 12, 2009

Revenge is sweet: Chicago Marathon '09 Race Report


Official finish: 04:11:44 PB (old 04:54:38)
Place: 13,958 out of 33,608


(Click on the pictures for a larger view)
Photos by Katie Piekarski, Christina Morales. Finish line photo by Marathonphoto.

Wow, where to start? I've had a couple of days to take it all in, and I can safely say that I had the race of my life this past Sunday. A personal best by 43 minutes in only my 2nd full marathon- I don't think I'm down from that cloud just yet.

The 2008 Chicago Marathon chewed me up and spit me out and had no mercy on my soul. Don't get me wrong, I loved every minute of it, and I would expect that with it being my first ever marathon and all, but man did it hurt. I cried my eyes out at the finish last year, happy that I had done it, but I knew I had more. One full year later, it happened. It was tough, I had my doubts, but I did it.

The Start: Yes, It's Cold Folks


I struggled to the very end with what to wear during the race. I knew I'd be fine once the sun came up and the temps went at least over 35F. Even at 31F, I went with my singlet, arm warmers, shorts, a head band to cover my ears, hat, and topped everything off with a junky pair of sweatpants and two layers of long sleeve shirts that I could peel off once I started running. It was a great choice- no regrets. Katie and I took the train in from Palatine and it put us in about 6 a.m., then took a cab to the start and the never ending sea of humanity that is the Chicago Marathon.

Gear Check Fail: Forgot to put the Garmin on

Wouldn't you know it? Despite getting a new Garmin 205 just for this race after my previous one kept shutting down on me, I forget to put it on through all of the madness that was Gear Check and everyone fighting to get in their proper pace groups. Fortunately, the watch I had on me had a stop watch with a split timing feature. That and the Pace Tat I forgot I had on saved my skin this day. Because of all of this, it was even more critical that I find my way to the 9:00 minute-per-mile pace group.

Pace Group Fail: Now you're on your own

After fighting the crowds to finally reach my 9:00 minute pace group, Katie takes off to spectate further up the Start chute, and I end up hopping the fence to get into my corral. I can see two pace leaders with signs in front of me. I'm in good company- there are tons of runners in this group. As the gun goes off, I jockey for position near the pace leaders along with everybody else, it seems. I did this for the first 4 miles and just gave up. I was spending so much energy bursting forward and slowing down to stay with the pacers, that I feared I wouldn't have anything left for the end. I clocked an 8 minute mile at one point doing this, but I just took a deep breath and fell back. I was on my own.

It's all about the training: You've worked hard for this

With my pacers long gone, it was up to my stop watch and the 4:00 hour Pace Tat stamped on my arm to tell me how I was doing. The last of my clothing layers came off around mile 5. I was feeling really strong, but still hoping for the best. I knew that if I could hit the halfway point at 2:02 and mile 20 at 3:09, just like in training, I'd be in pretty good shape. My left calf started to cramp up fairly early around mile 8 which had me worried, but a gel and some fluids took care of it quickly. I was spot on with my splits all the way to mile 13 and hit 13.1 at 2:02 right on the dot. The crowds are so amazing at this race and the cheering pushes you along, allowing the miles to just click by as you enjoy the sounds. It's the best part of this race, and I was loving every minute of it.

Mile 20 is in the bag: Six point two to go

I hit mile 20 at 03:09 on the dot, just as I did on my previous 20 mile training run just three weeks before. I was feeling pretty amazing at this point, and got so excited to see Katie cheering for me at mile 20 that I ran over to give her a kiss :) My quads started to hurt around mile 22, and I knew if I stopped moving forward at a fast clip, I'd have some serious cramping issues, so I walked briskly through the fluid stations, and ran in between each. My pace dropped off to 10 minute miles around mile 23 and fluttered between 10's and 9:30's the rest of the way. Once I got on to Michigan avenue for miles 24 and 25, I was mostly just trying to carry each leg forward with every ounce of my being. The cramping was getting a bit more intense, but I was still under 4 hours, and knew I could possibly make it before 4:15.

The Finish: 04:54 falls to an 04:11

I heard people screaming on the Roosevelt bridge at Mile 26, but it seemed like I was in some kind of tunnel and everything else around me was a blur. They put this hill here for a reason- to soak up whatever strength you have left. By this time I knew I had done it. I'd sunk my time from last year, and I was on goal to do a sub 4:15 marathon. I don't remember much from here on in, but I did remember to throw up my arms at the finish line and smile. I had done it. 04:11:44 officially.

Picture 002

It was another incredible experience. I absolutely adore this marathon, the city of Chicago and all of its beautiful sights and sounds. There's a pretty good chance I'll do it again next year and try for a sub 4:00!

Thanks to all of you for your support and words of encouragement, my family for your love and coming out, Katie and her showing Chicago's "EL" who's boss!, Lindsay for your inspiration as always, Luke, my many Twitter running friends, and you for reading.

I'm going to rest up for a few days, heal up, and start planning a few small races through the end of the year. Next year is a big year for me personally, so I have to plan something big (more later). Not sure what yet, but it will most likely involve running I'm sure :)

Click here for more photos.

Much love.

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Blogger Lindsay said...

This is one of the best Race recaps ever!!! Love the Gear Check Fail and the Pace Group Fail titles! :-)

Good going as always! I'm so proud of you and very glad to have met you along this journey of ours!!

5:40 PM

Blogger Jesse said...

Thanks Lindsay! It has been a great journey for sure! Also linked up your blog since I forgot to do so when I last published :)

6:06 PM

Anonymous RunTiffyRun said...

You rocked it out! That is such a huge accomplishment to "roll with the punches" and just let it rip.

I am motivated by you to take this year and better my time for my second Marathon! I loved doing my first marathon and can't wait to run another one!

Thanks for all of your support!

8:24 PM

Blogger runner-grrl said...

Jesse, Great race report! Well written and thoroughly enjoyable! It's wonderful to see you celebrate this great victory :-) Congrats on a HUGE PR. It was a great race this past weekend--I remember last year vividly as well! --Alex (aka run350)

9:09 PM

Blogger Jesse said...

Tiffany- I'm glad you enjoyed your first marathon experience! Looking forward to reading about your progress towards #2!

Alex- Thanks! It was a weekend to remember for the both of us I'm sure! Good luck in Boston!

10:25 AM


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