An experience many of us can relate to … By Coach Oscar Gonzalez
I went into the Chicago marathon training program excited about the possibility, NO, the assurance of a cold, or at least chilly, marathon. I was so prepared for that cooler weather. However, by the end of the training season I had other concerns that had occupied my mind:
1.) there was the possibility of the not so cool weather that I had been anticipating;
2.) there was the pain in my left foot; and
3.) the reduced training/mileage in the last few weeks due to that pain.
I should have known within hours after we had landed and only about an hour after checking into our hotel that the weekend was going to be a little difficult. Elke and I were having Eggs Benedict at a restaurant called Wildberry, which was very good by the way, and my crown falls outta my head!! That event should have sent me into a meltdown mode, but I quickly put it past me…but the tone had been set. DAMN.
We finished up breakfast and went on to the Expo where I should have been as excited as a kid in a candy store. But, I found the expo to be just….OK. We walked around and said hello to fellow Rogues: Kamran and Asia Shah, Tom Whitesides who was an exhibitor for Livestrong, and Jim Baird. He told me that he was running with the 3:55 pace group and that pulled a little air outta my sails as we had initially planned to race together. But overall, I was a little excited about running Chicago.
We were laying around on Saturday afternoon when from outta nowhere came the biggest mind f*ck of all….I had no desire to run the marathon. Of course, I can’t vocalize this thought. If I say it aloud, it becomes a reality. If I say it aloud, who knows how Elke will react. How do I get past this? How do I get the bouce back in my step? How do I go out and run a great race when I currently don’t feel like I WANT to? “Never underestimate the MAGIC of race day” was what popped into my head. I told myself, the day will take care of itself.
The next morning (RACE DAY) we meet up with Jenn and Scoob. We had thrown the idea of Jenn and I running the first six miles together so that we could keep each other company and on pace (9 min miles). But on that morning, another mental blow, as Jenn decided to use Scoob’s bib to get into a different corral. What little excitement I was starting to feel was suddenly gone. I told myself, “It’s just you and your heart. How bad do you want this?”
I was in the corral by 7 a.m. and although I was surrounded by other runners…I felt alone. I kept calm and relaxed and continued to look around at the other runners. I listened to the music. I stared at the START sign. I looked for the pacers and found that I was in the 4:00 (9 min mile) section, which is where I wanted to be. Was my mantra of “calm and relaxed” really working on me? After all, I had been saying it to myself for about a week. I was trying to feel excited about this race that was staring in a few minutes. The corral is getting crowded and I looked again for the 4 hour pacers and realized that that group had moved up and I was now with the 4:15 pace group. I started to panic. YEAY, an emotion!! This gave me a little hope but I decided to hang with the 4:15 group. I figures that I would use them for the “give away mile” and catch the 4:00 group around mile 2 or 3.
It was 7:30 and the elites were off. I didn’t feel nervous, I didnt feel anxiety, I felt calm and relaxed as I got closer to the start. At that point I felt confident that I could do this. I thought about what Elke wrote on my FB wall an hour before, “…go do what you always do…amaze and inspire…” And just like that…I was off to the races. Here are my splits:
Mile Total Time:
Mile 1 9:39 (9:39)
Mile 2-5 44:09 (8:30 average)
Mile 6 52.44 (8:35)
Mile 7 1:00 (7:55)
Mile 8 1:09 (8:36)
Mile 9 1:17 (8:42)
Mile 10 1:26 (8:45)
Mile 11 1:36 (9:55) Pit stop
Mile 12-13 1:53 (8:40 avg)
Mile 14 2:02 (8:42)
Mile 15 2:11 (8:28)
Mile 16 2:19 (8:46)
Mile 17-18 2:38 (9:09 avg) cramping started
Mile 19 2:47 (9:05)
Mile 20 2:56 (9:19)
Mile 21 3:05 (9:17)
Mile 22 3:14 (9:00)
Mile 23 3:24 (9:44)
Mile 24 3:34 (9:42)
Mile 25 3:43 (9:26)
Mile 26 3:52 (8:53)
Mile 26.2 3:54 (1:39)
The race was like no other race I ever experienced…not because it was Chicago, not (at least not entirely) because of the crowd support. It was just different. My attitude towards the run was just different. I ran in a different state of mind. It’s hard to explain. I told myself (because of my concerns) that if things started to go wrong I was just going to have fun.
There little things along the way that kind of irritated me:
I lost a Clif Shot somewhere along mile 7;
I had to stop and use the porta potty at mile 11;
I started to feel light cramps in my right leg at mile 15; and
the walkers at the water stops in the later miles.
I really felt those cramps and some spasms starting at mile 18;
Every time I tried to speed up to get back to MGP, my legs would spasm and cramp;
but I just took it in stride.
This was the first marathon where I ran the entire 26.2 miles (only had to walk two water stops and they were at the end)
This was the first marathon where I mentally didn’t hit the wall (it was more of a road hump that I could talk myself over)
Looking back, I was on track for my 3:45 up until about mile 19 and then things slowly started falling apart. I kept my head in the game as best as I could and estimated my new finish time based on where I was at mile 21/22. That is when I realized that my time goal was gone, but I knew that I could still come in at 3:55 and I really worked those last two miles to make that happen.
My only regret is waiting until 25 to work. Had I kept my head in the game in a much better manner I might have been able to turn it around, but I will never know. Like you (Coach Amy Anderson) once said, “you are much tougher than you think you are”. I discovered that about myself in Chicago, I only wish I had discovered it a little earlier than mile 25. In the end, I am happy with my 9 minute PR.