On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

10/10/10 Chicago Marathon race report pt. 2

Here's how my Sunday went down, for those of you who like details.

By 6:30am, I was at the host hotel, meeting up with Carla.  She, too, was aiming for a sub-5 hour marathon.  We walked over to gear check, met up with Carla's friend Kim, and headed to the portapotty lines around 7am.  After waiting... and waiting... and waiting in the line, we were only maybe halfway to the toilets.  The crowds were too thick for any sort of clandestine public urination, but at least we could see the corrals.  Little did we realize that the entrance to the open corral was actually several blocks away.  We finagled our way in, but we weren't able to push quite up to the 5 hour pace team.

By 8am, we'd crossed the start line.  We got into an even pace pretty quickly; the crowds were thick, but it wasn't too bad.  Our first few miles were pretty even with pace.  There was nice shade and good crowd support, and we chatted away, stopping at every water station.  I didn't mention it to Carla at first, but every mile made me more nervous about my ability to keep up our pace.  It was already a hot day and I was exhausted.  By mile 7 or 8, it was harder than it should have been to maintain that pace while talking.  I was sweaty and dehydrated.  Carla gave me a salt pill around mile 9 or 10, but I expected a quick pick-me-up and instead I was still plodding.  By 10am and the halfway point, I'd lost her for good.  I had become a liability at this point.

Carla, for the record, is a saint.  She's fun to run with, completely likable, and she carries extra salt pills.  I was sorry to watch her go, but I felt powerless to hold on.  (She went on to rock her marathon, running 5:07 with consistent splits despite the weather.)

What do you do when you realize halfway through a marathon that your race, as you planned it, is over?  I kept going.  I wanted to wear the shirt, and - worst of all - I knew that DNFing would mean that I'd have to do yet another training run.  But seriously - my race was over.  I was done mentally and mostly done physically at this point.  With the sunniest, hottest half of the race left to complete.

Watch your step.
So I plodded on.  It was slow, with as much walking as running.  I took water at every station and wished desperately that the "Event Alert System" would change to black and the race would be canceled (it got up to red but never black).  I ran through misting stations and tried not to trip over soggy, deteriorated cups or banana peels or orange peels or sponges in the middle of the road.  I took ice from police on the course and avoided ambulances (several; scary).  I tried to help a woman who was throwing up fairly aggressively and was reprimanded by her friend: "She's with me. She has help."

Maybe I'm alone in this, but I hate negative signs intended to cheer me on.  I love Chicago for its crowd support, but what about when that support is, well, unsupportive?  I got actually angry every time I'd see a sign that said something like, "Stop Lollygagging!" or, "If you can read this, you should be running faster."  Some of these signs were downright mean.  And the one saying "Morticians up ahead - look alive"?  I haven't heard reports of anyone having died this year, but that one freaked me out.

By 20, I was still able to pick it up now and then, but it was rough.  My stomach was full of fluid but my mouth was parched.  I don't remember mile 25 very well, except that I just wanted the f*&$ing thing over with, now.  I physically couldn't run.  I didn't want water.  My body wasn't cooperating and my mind had completely given up.  The only way I can explain it is that if someone had said, "Tracy, here's $10,000 for you if you can jog it in to the finish, even if slowly" I would have said, "No thanks, Imma walk this one out."  I turned onto Mt. Roosevelt and saw a medical tent (the finish line was literally in sight at this point) and considered stopping.  Instead I pushed myself forward, somehow.  I kept asking myself, "Do you know your name? Do you know what date it is?" just to test myself to make sure I wasn't completely losing it (I couldn't remember if it was Sunday or Monday - I knew it was a holiday weekend - but otherwise I was good.)

Taste: repulsive.
Powers: magical.
At 1:46pm, I crossed the finish line and immediately burst into tears.  Sobbing, hysterical, terrific tears.  Nothing like this has happened to me before - I wasn't emotional, I was just exhausted.  They weren't tears of relief; I thought I was going to die.  I got my medal and stumbled to the medical tent.

I've DNF'd a few races, but I've never, never ended up in a medical tent.  I've never even seriously considered a medical tent.  A friend saw me finish said that I looked completely unaware of my surroundings, and that at one point in the last 200m a cop darted across the course - my friend thought that the cop was on his way to see if I needed aid, I looked that bad.  Weirder still, evidently I didn't acknowledge the cop (because I didn't see him).  Yeah, I was out of it.

Twenty minutes, one wet towel, one misting station, an RN, an MD, and a Gatorade recovery drink later and I felt better.  An hour later and I actually felt good.  Like, quite good.  Perky.  Happy.  Hungry.  Not at all sore.  It was the heat that did me in.  You'd think after all the time I've spent dehydrated in the hot, Egyptian sun that I'd recognize the symptoms of heat exhaustion, but noooo.  It's a marathon; you're supposed to be sweating and have a rapid pulse.

That is a massive plate of Carson's chicken & ribs and a smiling, recovered me.
And finally, from the "that's really cool" file, check out this video of the start from Runner's World.  If you squint closely, you maybe, maybe, maybe can see me in my orange shirt and blue skirt:

Tomorrow: the Chicago Marathon recap ends with some lovely, lovely, lovely photos of me.


  1. OMG! Poor you! That must've been awful!

  2. Good. Grief. That sounds horrendous. Wait, let me change that. Horrendous (it needed a capital "H") So proud of you for making it through and amazed at your instant recovery!! you are a machine. Congrats.

  3. Oh my God. That just sounds like a nightmare. You are to be commended for finishing, but...yeah. Wow. Marathons!

    Also, I agree with you about the negative signs. I find that humor distasteful anyway (like the I'm with stupid nonsense), but it's totally moronic in a marathon. For one day, be hokey and supportive!

  4. Crap, that was a lot worse than I thought. I bet if you had pushed it further, you would have ended up like Jane. Still happy you didn't DNF though.

    Maybe you should get some of those salt pills for NYM just in case? It's called endurolytes, by Hammer. I usually take one pre-run (though now that I think about it, I forgot to do that on Sunday), and then once every hour (they recommend 1-3, obviously just taking 1 wasn't enough for you.)

    I HATE the negative signs. I saw TONS of those. And it's like "if it's so easy, why aren't YOU doing it, instead of just standing there holding up that stupid sign??"

  5. Just wait until you all see the pictures. It's actually kind of funny.

  6. 1. There were a lot of hipsters out with "witty" signs that were more annoying than helpful. I was amused by a few, but I kind of wanted to bitch slap some of these people.

    2. I'm still confused by the way the corrals were laid out. I honestly think it was a case of too many people in too small a space, but gah...how early DO you have to get there?

    3. The medical tent is a depressing place. Especially on a day like last Sunday - it was stupidly hot later on in the race, and that shit ruins everything. I think in the end, a lot of us have walked away with some war stories.

    Sorry the day sucked, but now NY will seem like a cakewalk, or so I'm claiming here ;p

  7. Hey--this is Carla's friend, Jane. That is exactly the race I was having! I mean, I was already having an off-day.. then add the heat and lack of shade. Plus, my body's less than stellar ability to actually absorb all of the liquid I was trying to take in... it all added up to trouble.

    I keep reviewing everything and I just don't think I could have foregone the medical help and finished. It took me an hour w/ an IV, oxygen and 2 massage therapists to finally stop cramping. So, I am extremely impressed that you and everyone else were able to finish and recover so quickly! You'll do great in NYC!!!

  8. Oh no! Glad you're okay now, but yeah, that was a rough, rough race. As far as the mean signs, sometimes they helped me, but sometimes I just rolled my eyes and wanted to throw some choice words their way!

  9. You poor thing! You really had to work hard to make it through :(

    I cannot believe you got yelled at for trying to help! That is awful! :(

  10. I'm sorry, but my favorite part of this was the woman "throwing up fairly aggressively." I picture her barfing and doing a cheer at the same time.

    Good race, dude. I heard it was bloody awful out there.