My 2016 Chicago Marathon (Part I)

Testing…Is this thing on?

My deepest apologies for my 9 month hiatus. Life got really busy once my training began for the Chicago Marathon. Speaking of Chicago, let me tell you a little about my experience.

Our flight departed nice and early from Chattanooga, arriving in Chicago by Noon. Once we arrived to our hotel, it was too early for check in, so I literally paced. Too excited to be there; too nervous to eat; too anxious to sit still we left our luggage with concierge and headed to the expo. There was a shuttle departing every 15 minutes, and lucky us, the line was already incredibly long. img_9912-3

The school bus arrived, we hopped on, and all I could do was sit on my hands. I kid you not, I could have probably used some sedation at this point. We arrived at the expo shortly before 3PM, and IT. WAS. PACKED.

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Abbott Health & Fitness Expo

The first order of business was, of course, bib pick up.

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Does this bib make me look ready?

Up next was visiting vendors and, OH MY, were there vendors. If there was anything a runner needed, it was there. Forgotten at home, it was there. Simply wanted, it was there. We spent the most time at (surprise, surprise!) Nike.

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After what felt like days, we boarded the shuttle back to the hotel. Checked in and unpacked, I settled with having dinner at the hotel restaurant so I can unwind and head to bed early. After all, I had a 5K to run in the morning.

It was a lot colder than I had anticipated for the inaugural International Chicago 5K. But you’re only cold if you’re not moving, right? Leaving the hotel, I had no idea where I was headed to, so I did what any runner would do: follow the group of runners wearing your matching bib. I made it to the starting area with about 15 minutes to spare. I made my way to the start, the gun went off, and off we went.

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Marathon Starting Line

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The best part was, yes, getting to run past the marathon starting line. Kind of gave me butterflies in my stomach thinking about what was going to take place the next day. I received my finishers hat, grabbed a hot drink, and made it back to the room to do some foam rolling.

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Finishers beanie

We went to grab brunch at a restaurant across the street from the hotel. Estimated wait time: 3 HOURS. It was PACKED. I was getting hangry and I really didn’t want to, nor was I in the mood to, wait around that long. We headed over to the Magnificent Mile, where we were planning on doing some shopping, and grabbed a burger and fries at Shake Shack.

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There was a reminder everywhere you looked about the next day’s race. Signs, billboards, merchandise everywhere we went. I spent more time on my feet than I probably should have, but the alternative was probably pacing in my room. We visited every store and shop up and down The Magnificent Mile. But we spent the most time, you guessed it, at NikeTown Chicago.

I mean, what’s not to love about 4 stories of workout stuff? Am I right? 🙂

We made the long walk back to our room, then headed down for dinner at Giordano’s. Lucky for us, the wait was only 40 minutes. The catch? You better know what you want to eat because it’s then a 90 minute wait until your pizza is made. To be honest, I am not a fan of deep dish pizza. My stomach can’t handle the red tomato sauce. I had the Fettuccine Alfredo, while the family had pizza. I won’t lie. The pizza looked and smelled great.

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This is a small pizza. Spoiler alert: we had leftovers

It was now a little after 7PM. I was tired. Nerves were starting to set in. I felt overwhelmed. We went back to the room so that I can get my things ready and have some quiet time. After all, tomorrow will be a big day.

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Race Ready

 

 

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Good night, Chicago

xoxo,

Esme

 

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Chattanooga Marathon Recap

  

2016 Inaugural Chattanooga Marathon 

When registration was announced that my city was hosting a marathon, I knew it was a race I had to run. But let’s back up for a minute here. When I registered for this race, I was neck deep training for my first marathon, the WDW Marathon as part of the Dopey Challenge in January. So that means I would be completing 2 marathons only 8 weeks apart. Haha! Color me crazy! 

Racing locally meant I didn’t have to worry about travel costs, so I went down to the First Tennessee Pavilion on Friday for packet pickup.  

 
I signed my waiver, picked up my bib and tshirt, and walked around visiting vendors. There were some vendors that you expect to see at races. Vendors that sell compression sleeves, tshirts, foam rollers, skirts, chiropractic care, headbands, fuel, etc. But then there were some vendors that I wasn’t quite sure about, such as windows and siding for your home? I didn’t get that. But moving on, I ran into my running friend Jessica, who was running the half and I got to chat with her for a bit.  

 
Then I took a look at the course map and elevation change for the first time.  

 
I don’t like to study the course map. A lot of people say that I should know what I’m getting myself into, but I know myself, and I know I will over analyze every mile. I mean, would you blame me? Just look at the elevation change! 

I woke up on Saturday morning with every intention of getting in one last shake out run. But anyone that knows me knows that, if there’s a 5K going on, I am there. Not wanting to miss the registration cut off, I got dressed, and drove as fast as I could to Finley Stadium. Success! I’m in!  

 
The morning was very cold, so I stayed in the car until the last possible second. The course took us just about down Main Street and back. My shins were bothering me, so I tried not to push it. My official time was 34:54, so I was happy with that. The bling was nice, too.  
 
I laid low the rest of the day, determined to not let the next day’s race get to my head. So I ate, napped, painted my nails, laid my things ou, and went to bed early. 

Now on to the marathon. Sigh. This race is why it’s taken me this long to write a race weekend recap. I’ll try to get through the remainder of this post with minimal crying. 

We drove down to the finish line staging area at the First Tennessee Pavillon, where we were then shuttled to the starting line at the Tennessee Aquarium.  

 
We met up with some IG friends, did some light stretching, lined up at the start, watched someone perform the Star Spangled Banner, and were off shortly after 8am. Once again, my shins got the best of me. It was cold, my legs were tight, but I knew it was too early for this nonsense. Both marathon runners and half marathon runners took off together until the split at mile 1.56. What?! I looked behind me and a huge majority of the runners took off towards the half marathon course. So I found myself quite lonely at this point and knew, right then and there, that this race was going to be a fight. 

I turned on my music and pushed forward. Before I knew it, I was passing mile marker 5. I got a text from my best running friend/turned running coach, letting me know I was at the one hour mark. Ok. Good. One hour down. I can do this. 

 
By this point, I was feeling good. I felt strong.  I got a text at the halfway mark telling me I reached the halfway at 2:31, and my estimated finish time would be 12:58pm. That would be a sub 5 hour marathon finish. I knew I was going fast. I knew I would burn out. I knew I needed to save some in the tank. But I struggled slowing down. I was feeling good. I would soon come to see that I made a huge rookie mistake! 

I kept running and, boom.  

 
Every turn was boom  

 
At mile 17, I began to question whether I could pull this off. The sub 5 hour finish time was getting further and further away from me. Which was fine because I never really had a time goal, but at this point, the wheels began to fall off. I had my 3 best running friends texting me, telling me to finish what I set out to do. I was trying. I really was. At mile 20, I. Was. Done. I was done with this race. I was done with the pain in my feet. Done with the sweat in my face. Done with the pain in my foot. I didn’t want to be there anymore. I was reduced to a shuffle when my phone rang. Who’s calling me in the middle of a marathon? 

I answered the call. On the other line was my best running friend, turned running coach, turned best friend. I didn’t talk. I simply listened. “You can do this. You got what it takes. I believe in you. Finish the job.” On the other end were my running friends texting me to keep pushing forward, and my family texting me to not quit. I shuffled my feet. I cried. I walked. I cried.  

 
The end was near.  

 
This felt like the longest mile ever.  

 
But with some more encouragement, and another phone call, I made it. Official time was 5:39:12. A marathon person best by almost 2 hours! I cried. A lot. I sat in a chair, trying to process the trauma I just put my body through, and the high of becoming a marathoner again. I don’t remember much about the rest of the day. The free food was great, and the company was even better.  

 
  

I hobbled the rest of the day. I slept. I ate. I rode the high of what I just accomplished. That is, until the next day. 

Rumors began to circulate on social media in reference to the course length. Specifically, it was short. While the course certification was correct, the barricade placement was not. The course was, in fact, 25.9 miles. So that means, on paper, it was not a marathon. 

I struggled with this for a while. I became upset. “How can this again happen? Why did this happen? My race no longer means anything.” These were some of the things I told myself over and over. But, as the day wore on, I was reminded that this does not erase all of my hard work. This doesn’t mean I didn’t run a marathon. This doesn’t take away from the fact that I was out there doing the dang thing. So, yes. I am a marathoner! 

Will I run this race again? At first, the answer was a firm, “heck no!” But time heals sore feet, and all wounds. Ask me today if I’ll run the race again, and the answer is, “Yes! See you in 2017!”

Until next time. 

XOXO 

Mercedes Benz Half Marathon Recap

A few months ago, a friend told me I needed to come down to Birmingham, AL for one of the best races I’ll ever run: The Mercedes Benz Half Marathon. Best race? That definitely sounds interesting. I registered and booked hotel accommodations; excited to run “the best race ever.” I felt good in the months leading up to this race. Until mid January, when I came down with who-knows-what after my trip to Walt Disney World. Once again, I was sidelined and missed a few weeks of training. My doctor advised me I should probably pull out of this race because it takes me a while to bounce back after an asthma episode. But anyone who know anything about races knows that everything is always non-refundable, there was no question about it: I was going.

I made the short drive down to Birmingham in almost 3 hours because, yes, I got lost. No surprise there. My first stop was packet pick up at the expo:

Everything was very well organized and I picked my things up in less than 5 minutes. I spent some time walking the expo, meeting new people, and visiting vendors. I kept my hands out of my purse, and walked away without buying anything. Shocking, I know! I didn’t stay long. I was tired and wanted to get settled in to my room early because of the last minute 5K I registered for on Saturday morning.

Saturday morning was COLD. Temperatures were hovering around the freezing mark, so that really wasn’t the problem. The problem was the terrible head wind in the Downtown Birmingham area.

Regions Field Birmingham, AL

The race was very fun, and it was nice seeing so many people dressed up in their favorite costume. I met up with a good friend who was there to pick up her bib for her first half, raced, picked up my medal, met up with another friend, and got out of there. It was cold. For dinner that night, I met up with a group of friends at a local burger joint, where no one thought of having a group picture taken. What were we thinking, Jodi? But it was a good evening, and we shared a lot of laughs.

Once back in my room, I got all the morning’s race gear laid out, packed my bags, and got myself to bed. This is where things began to unravel for me. I couldn’t sleep. At all. I tossed and turned, got up to change the thermostat FIVE times, went to the bathroom a handful of times, and sat straight up in bed for hours with a stomachache. I wanted to cry. I knew morning would be rough if I didn’t get some sleep. Finally, a little after 2am, I dozed off only to be awoken by my alarm at 4:45.

My head hurt. My stomach hurt. I felt sick. I sat at the edge of the bed wondering what should I do. I decided to eat something slowly, and get ready slowly, and see how I felt once I got down there. Only, I didn’t bring my true and tested bagel and/or peanut butter. All I had was a Clif Bar that I purchased the day before at Starbucks. I don’t like to try anything new on race day, but I had to eat something. I nibbled on my Clif Bar, sipped on my Nuun, and was out the door by 5:45. I turned my GPS on, and Siri could not find the starting line. 

Zooming into the map, I saw all the surrounding roads were closed off. I, somehow, managed to make it down there, got into the wrong lane, begged the car behind me to let me in, parked the car, and made it to our meeting point, sobbing into my friends arms. It was a rough morning, I was late, I had less than 3 hours of sleep, and somehow I was supposed to get through 13.1 miles. 

Once I was calm, we made our way to the starting line, and I realized I left my sunglasses and Chapstick in the car. Then I became separated from 2 of my friends. I was so upset because I wanted and needed to be by Sherita for her first half. Suddenly, the gun went off, and I’ve also yet to use my inhaler or take in my fuel. I literally crossed the starting line swallowing my GU, and washing it down with water. I then stopped to use my inhaler and blow my nose. I couldn’t find Sherita so I began my lonely run.

It was cold, but not as cold as the previous day. I began to get hot at mile 3, so I shed my scarf and tossed it. I felt good at this point. I focused on my music and the people and sights around me. I saw the clock at mile 5 and realized I was running faster than usual and maybe I should slow it down because there’s no telling how long I could keep this up. I tried to slow down but kept finding myself speeding back up. I hit the halfway mark in 1:10:19. Again, faster than I’ve run in a long time, and I wondered if I could pick it up some more and run off with a PR (something I was not planning for at ALL).

But then we hit the UAB campus, and the hills and turns started. Now, the hills weren’t TERRIBLE, but enough to where my foot was wanting to shut it down. I hit the 15K checkpoint at a slower pace, and was way off the mark for a PR. But I was determined to run hard the last 4 miles. After all, what goes up must come down, right?

The course began to go downhill, so I was able to pick some speed up. I remember reading once that if you’re able to cross the finish line at a sprint, you didn’t race hard enough. So my goal was to race hard right now. My foot began to yell at me at mile 11, and I began to yell back at it. I couldn’t stop. Not now. Not this close. I hit mile 12 at 2:23:18. I’d need to wrap this race up in less than 6 minutes if I wanted to PR. I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but I ran as fast as my aching legs and burning lungs could take me. Rounding the corner, hearing the crowd, hearing the race announcer call my name, with the finish line in sight, tears began to sting my eyes.

2016 Mercedes Benz Half Marathon 2:33:31

I crossed the finish line 4 minutes shy of a PR. So why was I as ecstatic as I was? Why was I ugly crying? Because I can honestly say that I gave it my everything. Because I ran my fastest, and my hardest, since undergoing back surgery in September. But also because I ran on less than 3 hours of sleep, and had a crazy emotional morning.

I collected my things, and hurried into the auditorium to meet up with everyone, eager to hear their stories. One at a time everyone made it in and lots of sweaty hugs and stories  were shared. Then the after party started.

After The Party Is The After Party

Let me tell you about this race: the after party alone is worth the trip down here. They had something for everyone: free massages, BBQ, beer, soda, chips, fruit, live music, and dancing. I spent time with friends, and made some new friends:

 

We shared stories, race tips, celebrated success stories, and I laughed until my sides hurt. I always knew my race routines and OCD will one day catch up with me and be my downfall. It is true that you can never truly be prepared for every situation possible. 

I had a complete turn around from the morning I had, and I know this group had a lot to do with that.
Not every race will be a PR, but I am pleased with how I raced. I am excited to begin to train hard and work on my speed, because that PR is right around the corner.

Thank you, Mercedes Benz Half Marathon! I will see you next year.

  
 XOXO