Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hobby Jogging: 10/10/10 - Chicago, IL - Chicago Marathon

The Chicago Marathon has been very popular for its flat and fast route. It is also known for its very unpredictable weather. Last year it was 32 degrees at the start and 2 years ago it was over 80 by 11am. Fingers had been crossed for the cold, but we weren't so lucky. It was brutal!

Ever since Boston last year, I have been dealing with some hamstring issues. They would be ok for the first few miles of most runs, but would really bother me when I was running fast and racing. These issues had been plaguing me all season, but I kept running, stretching, getting massages and hoping for the best. After they bothered me a bunch during the Virginia Beach half, I thought of pulling the plug on Chicago, but I am glad I stuck it out and did it, as it was a tough mental challenge that I was happy to get through.

My teammate, John Simons, and I got out conservatively and went through the mile around 6:28. We picked it up slightly in mile 2 for a 6:18 or so. Mile 3 was more of the same around 6:20. At 5k, I felt a big pinch in my right hamstring. Hoping to run it out, I just kept trucking through a good second 5k to hit the 10k in a good, but conservative 39:40 or so. The pace didn't feel hard, I just had no pop in my stride because it hurt picking my right leg up. I continued to slow, but ran effectively through the half in 1:26:30 or so. This is when it got tough.

The second half of the race was outside the comfort of the shade of the buildings and the wind that whips between them. Crossing the bridge at the half I threw in a little surge just to see how my legs would react. It wasn't what I had hoped for. A quick half mile turned in to a slow second half before mile 14. The heat was beating down and I was limping around the south side of Chicago on a bum leg.

This was when I had to toughen up mentally. I knew that a PR was out the door. I knew that sub 3 was likely out the door as well as I had no action in my legs. I then knew a 2012 Boston Qualifier was on the line as Chicago qualifies for 2011 and 2012 because of where it falls in the calendar. With the pain I was in, the thought of doing another marathon to get me through 2012 was too painful to fathom. It was either make it through the last 11 or so at a decent enough clip to get me under 3:10:59 or try again later. I decided at this point to see what I was made of. When I made this decision, I could feel some strength in knowing I had an attainable goal out there that I could accomplish.

Erin, John and I
Now my splits from 30k to 40k are downright embarrassing, but the key was staying up, hydrating, not walking and getting to that next aid stop. It was a death march with a purpose! Luckily, when I hit 40k, my blistered feet and legs had gone numb and I just started moving faster. I was downright competitive in the last 1.6 miles or so and that felt good. I saw someone drop flat on the asphalt with 400 meters to go and I just put my head down, hammered up the last hill, then cruised in. Now my time was far from sexy or a PR (in 3:05:22), but I learned more about my pain threshold here than I did in New York last year or Boston in April.

Sometimes the will to keep going is just as important as the will to finish fast. Some dreams come true and some are nightmares, but the good part is that we get to wake up the next day and gain more fodder for these dreams. Looking forward, I can't wait to get this hamstring right and then run some shorter races. I didn't win the war, but I did win a battle. The marathon is a tough race and they all aren't going to be perfect. I just know next time, that if it gets tough again, I can handle it.

More info is available at: http://patprice.com/running/races/reports/20101010ChicagoMarathon.htm

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