The Chicago Marathon Experience

FasterSkierOctober 15, 2004

Plan for Chicago Marathon 2004: Ride with the 3:00 pacing group for about 25
km, then try to get 5 minutes out of the last 10 miles. With a good close,
and ideal conditions, a 2:55 would be within reach.

As you might expect, things played out differently from the plan. In my
blind trust of the pacers, I expended way too much early energy trying to
ride them. Early miles of 6:36 to 6:45 developed a 62 second time bank by
Mile 5, peaking at Mile 11 @ 103 seconds ahead of schedule. Not really the
even pacing I wanted. Of course I had a watch & a time sheet on my wrist so
I was able to see for myself what was happening. I decided to stay with the
quicker early pace as I am a momentum athlete, and I found it quite easy to
maintain the pace in the early going. When I saw the time bank was so large,
I wanted to focus on relaxing back to goal pace, while it seemed the pacers
were intent on moving backwards to meet the schedule, so I let them go back.

The temps were probably 55 to 58 F the entire way, with sun. But the wind
was gusty. I noticed it during the half. I FELT it during the second half.
The wind direction seemed to swirl from generally favorable directions until
about 25k, then it seemed to become a headwind from around every corner.
From 15 to 17 I withdrew 20 seconds from my time bank. I arrived at the zone
of truth with 10 seconds in the bank (Mile 20), and serious doubts began to
creep into my head about even finishing. I wondered why I was experiencing
such difficulty staying on pace when I had long runs up to 23 miles. During
the period from Mile 19 to Mile 24, this was the most difficult thing I had
ever done. Despite how bad I felt, despite how slowly I was running, I was
actually passing runners and very few were passing me. I would estimate that
I actually passed hundreds of runners in the last mile alone (groups of them
at a time, the seriously walking dead), and from Mile 21 to the finish I
only lost a handful. It was a tough day for the entire field this year. The
men's winner had 20 seconds in his time bank account at the half (20 seconds
under WR pace !), he withdrew that, & had to take out a loan for 75 seconds
by the time he finished, in order to cover his 95 second positive split. An
11 time marathon veteran elite male Clint Verran, gave up over 10 minutes on
the second half and was quoted as saying he doesn't think he will ever feel
that much pain ever again in another race. I actually covered the final 2.2
miles from Mile 24 to the finish in 15:43, at a 7:09 pace, having rallied
somewhat. The 26th Mile was the windiest & gustiest – those gusts that want
to stop you, and you ALREADY want to stop !

I got in under 3:03 on a blustery day for a huge PR of 12:24. Then I saw the
“DONE” sign – a preprinted yellow sign held up by a spectator on the other
side of the fence just after the beautiful, glorious, heavenly & welcome
finish line, with the letters “DONE” on it. I was surprised to be overcome
with emotion. I was finished with a long marathon season. The clock did not
read under 3 hours like I wanted it to. It was such a tough day. I felt I
had the fitness on race day to get well under 3 hours but the conditions
were not ideal. The race took all I had to give & I was spent & very weak.
The sign read “Done” and that perfectly described me. What followed was a
brief moment of “mental permission” (mental permission is a concept
attributed to Rebecca Dussault which I read about last week, and it fits).
I'm looking forward to some rollerskiing this week. See you on the snow eh !


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