Monday, October 11, 2010

Chicago Marathon 2010 Race Report - 10/10/10

General Commentary

7:30 A.M. race start, I crossed the line at 7:35 A.M, having started in seeded corral D
Abundant sunshine, 60 degrees and 74% humidity at the start of the race with a mid 80s forecast for later in the day.  A fellow runner was right on when he said "a perfect day, unless you are a marathon runner"
Temperature was in the mid 80s around mile 18 with abundant sunshine

Race goal - finish under 4 hours, don't get hurt, slow down if too hot
Race plan - run 10/10/10 on 10/10/10 - goal was to run easy for the first 10 miles, run a little faster for the next 10 miles, and then finish strong for the last 10k
Stretch goal - sub 3:50

Race Commentary

Mile 1 - 9:10 per mile - Streets very wide, lots of room to run, tons of fans out at 7:30 A.M!  Awesome! Half of the first mile runs through an open tunnel, and it was hot in that tunnel!! I thought "I'm going to struggle if it is this warm during the race"

Mile 2 - 9:00 - Feel good, knees feel great.  Loving the crowd, I am very surprised at how many people are out watching the race so early, cowbells and all.  The crowd energy was really awesome (and much cleaner than the New York City streets!)  I had my music off for most of the first 2 miles.  Ran by the Chicago Theater, which had "Yo Gabba Gabba" in town.  We just saw Yo Gabba Gabba at Radio City in NYC last weekend.

Mile 3 - 9:05

Mile 4 - 8:40 - feel good, although for the first time I could tell that it was very humid, because I already felt hot at this point and was soaked.  My pace for this mile feels a little harder than it should.

Mile 5 - 8:50 - enter Lincoln Park area.  Beautiful area.  Lot of trees.  Good mix of sun and shade.  Lots of people out.

Mile 6 - 8:45 - Run along Lakeshore drive.  Tons of fans, great area

Mile 7 - 8:40 - Wrigleyville.  Awesome area.  Lots of shade to stay cool.  Feels like the temperature is rising.

Mile 8 - 8:16 - my fastest mile thus far.  feel good and strong.  Plan to run this mile hard and take the next mile easy.  Still a lot of shade.

Mile 9 -  8:44

Mile 10 - 8:47 - I slow down a little bit to look for my friend TC.  I didn't see him but he got 3 pictures of me as I ran by (I'm in the neon shirt).  Thanks TC!

Mile 11- 8:57 - More sun now, less shade, and the temperature is noticeably warmer.  Starting to feel hot.  Somewhere around this point I heard announcements over the PA system on the course saying that the alert level had been raised by one notch to Yellow "Moderate Conditions" - "less than ideal conditions, slow down, be prepared for worsening conditions".  A few times during the first 10 miles of the race, I saw the alert level at green "good conditions, enjoy the event, be alert".  I was surprised it was at the lowest level - if I was feeling hot I assumed others were too.  I remember thinking to myself  "if it keeps warming up this fast, people are going to get hurt".  I thought that the race was extremely well run and thought that it was really cool that they had an active alert system (likely the result of the hot weather in 2007, when it was so hot that they stopped the Chicago Marathon halfway through due to hot conditions.  Last year, it was 36 degrees for the race).  Later in the day the alert level was raised the highest possible level before stopping the race - High "Potentially Dangerous Conditions" (slow down, observe course rules, follow event instruction, consider stopping).

Mile 12 - 8:12  - starting to push a little but still feel good.  Volunteers were handing out green sponges soaked with cold water, which was refreshing.  I took a few sponges and soaked my head, arms, back, and even legs with cold water (and picked up a second sponge 100 yards later and did the exact same thing a second time).  This helped to cool me down for a mile and I was able to run a strong mile as a result (in fact, I was sub 8 for most of this mile, only slowing down to get some water at the end of the mile).  This race had plenty of fluids.  There was water and Gatorade every mile, which I slowed down to pick up from volunteers, who also did an awesome job.   I alternated between water and Gatorade every mile, taking 2 sips each mile.  I started pouring a cup of water on my head every other mile starting at mile 5.

Mile 13 - 8:28 - still feeling good, back in the Chicago loop, on Adams Street.  Tons of shade due to the tall buildings.  At this point I feel like I have executed my race plan flawlessly, particularly given the conditions.

Half Marathon Split - 1:55:31 -  Right on my game plan, now it's time to push.

Mile 14- 8:06  - feel good, still in the shade, feel hot but manageable.  feel like I can hold this pace in the shade.  My Garmin 405 watch says "battery low".  WHAT?  Last time this happened, the watch died within minutes.  I turned on the stopwatch on my iPhone while running just in case.  Luckily, the watch didn't die during the race.

Mile 15 - 8:06 - feel strong, still in the shade

Mile 16 - 8:36 - the shade has left the building in favor of abundant sunshine.  Hot, hot, hot sunshine.  Noticeable difference in my effort level in the sun.  Average heart rate for my first 16 miles was 158.  Perfect.

Mile 17 -8:44 - still nothing but sunshine.  For the first time during the race, I feel tired.  Just like that, I went from feeling strong to feeling completely exhausted.  I looked around and everybody else around me was struggling too.  For most of the race, I ran around the 3:50 pace group.  Not because I was trying to, but because their pace was my pace.  They were struggling to.  My heart rate was hovering around 170 at this point.  Actually pretty good given the conditions.  Average heart rate would sit around 170 for the remainder of the race.  My heart rate jumped from the low 160s to the low 170s once I was consistenly in the sun. I actually felt a few PVCs in my heart during this mile (i.e., extra beats, something I get when my heart is beating too slow, hardly ever when I run).

Mile 18 - 8:48 - still able to run a sub 9 minute mile, but by the end of this mile I felt dead tired.  Going all out to run a sub 9 minute mile.  Starting to see the carnage on the roads.  I saw at least 10-15 people down on the ground - a  mix between people looking horrible, hurt, cramped, or in two cases, passed out.  I saw a few people collapse right in front of me (both holding their leg in agony).  Scary stuff.

Mile 19 - 9:07 - took everything I had to run this pace.  Everything.  I realize at this point that I will run around a 3:55 - 3:56 marathon if I keep running sub 10 minute miles.  I feel like complete crap.  I consider walking but figure that I will feel like complete crap either way, so I might as well push for a sub 4 hour marathon and be proud of myself while feeling like complete crap.  I never felt light headed or in peril (like I did during the Wisconsin marathon).  Tons and tons of people are walking.  I feel ok to be running but it is taking everything I have to do it.  I do everything I can to find shade, even if for 20 feet.

Mile 20 - 9:15 - Giving it everything I have.  Completely dreading running 6.2 more miles at this point.

Mile 21 - 9:32 -  At this point, I know I'm done.  there is no way that I can recover to sub 9 minute miles.  I decide to slow down.  It feels like I am running 15 minute miles.  I can feel my body, but barely.  My right knee/IT band is a little sore, but it isn't hampering me.  I said to myself "just keep pushing and you'll break 4 hours".

Mile 22 - 9:51 - somebody gives me one of those green sponges.  It helps.  I start to wonder if I'm going to break 4 hours. Only 4.2 miles to go, I think.  I'm counting the miles.  Each mile marker seems 100 miles away and 9 minutes feels like an hour.  I think to myself "man, running a marathon is hard!!!" 

Mile 23 - 9:31 - somebody gives me an ice cold soaked white towel, which I soak myself with and carry with me the entire mile, squeezing out a few cold drops every 50 meters or so.  At the end of the mile, it was bone dry.   There is still carnage all over the place and tons of people are walking.  Tons of people have cramps.  A bunch of people are limping.  I'm happy to still be running, no matter what the pace.  "a great day, except if you are marathon runner", I think to myself.  Only 3.2 miles to go.

Mile 24 - 9:34 - south Michigan avenue.  The other runners around are struggling just like me.  there are more people in the crowd during this mile and tons of people are cheering.  this pumps me up, keeps me going.  Only 2.2 miles left to go.  I think I can make it without walking, although I can't wait to stop running!  A kid gives me a cup of ice.  This saved me!  I carried it for the entire mile, chewing on the ice and wetting my lips.   It cooled me down just a little bit

Mile 25 - 9:35 - More people, tons of cheering.  I want to be done now.  I dread running the last 2.2 miles but push myself.

Mile 26- 9:43 - I'm almost done but struggling big time.  I have absolutely nothing left in the tank.  My mind tells my legs to keep moving.  At the end of this mile, there is a sharp uphill.  I think to myself "what kind of a person would put this kind of hill 400 meters away from the end of the marathon????".  It took EVERYTHING I had to run up that hill, EVERYTHING.  I didn't walk but I was close.

Final 200 meters - 8:48 pace - When I got to the top of the hill and turned the corner to approach the finish line, I saw a sign that said 200 meters to go.  YES!!!!!  I can do it!  I ran hard for the last 200 meters, crossed the finish line and pumped my fist.  I did it.  While I wanted to break 3:50, it just wasn't in the cards today.  I gave it everything I had.  I had absolutely nothing more to give.

Final Time (26.2 miles) - 3:56:34 (a 9:01 per mile pace).  A PR by 2 minutes.  I'll take it!!!!!! 

To see the Garmin file and map with my splits, click here

Overall, I really enjoyed this race.  It was well run (except for the seeded coral area which had a line of at least 500 people to get into the seeded corral 5 minutes before the cutoff time of 7:15 A.M.  This caused panic and nearly a riot.  Many runners refused to wait in line after not moving for at least 10 minutes and started jumping the fence.  The security guards were grabbing a few of these runners and said that they were kicked out of the marathon.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  While I didn't jump the fence, I wanted to but thought for sure I would hurt myself doing it.)  Also, we were surprised that the seeded corral baggage check was farther away from the seeded corral than the open baggage check area.   The Chicago Marathon should consider moving the seeded corral baggage check closer to the seeded corral next year).

I'm still thinking that I will run the New York City marathon on 11/7/10 too....

I took a few pictures before the race.  I just didn't have the energy to take them during the race.  I also took a couple of short videos as I was approaching the start line.  Here they are....

Video taken as I approached the start line. The race started a minute before I started shooting the video

At 5:40 A.M. on Michigan Avenue.  Was up at 4:15 A.M. to drive into the city with my friend RFL

The medal....

At the expo with my friend RFL

Minutes before the race in the Corral D

Another Shot as the race started...


  1. Great race, and great report!
    The heat must have been really tough. I'm really impressed that you pushed through for a PR.
    There was a similar corral riot at last year's NYC Marathon, fence jumping and all. I seems to be one of the major logistical challenges at these big events.

  2. OMG Jim...great job, and what a roller coaster ride. It did not come across that way at all in the text updates. Glad you made it sub 4 !!solid! Heidi