Monday, October 23, 2006


Instead of one super-long post about my entire trip to Chicago I think I’ll break this into 2 reports; 1) the race and 2) sightseeing and other odd and ends.

In mid-September I posted an entry about wanting to have "that feeling" on October 22nd - that feeling that surrounds running a good race. It’s when confidence abounds and, as they say, effort becomes effortless. It’s also that feeling of hype, excitement, wonder, hope, etc. all rolled together that surrounds a marathon. I don’t know about you but I can’t get that feeling from a 5K or 10K, it’s gotta be a marathon. Sure I had time-related goals, three to be exact; 1) sub-2:55 (6:40 pace), 2) PR (sub-2:58:10) and 3) sub-3. However, having gone 16 months without running a marathon I was looking forward to “that feeling.” While “effort” didn’t quite become “effortless” it was pretty close for a large majority of the race.

I admitted being nervous when I typed my blog entry from last Monday. But I can honestly say, that’s the only time I was nervous leading up to the race. Going to the expo, meeting Dick Beardsley, watching a video of the 2005 Chicago Marathon, etc. Nothing! It was like I was a passive observer, not someone about to toe the line with 30-some thousand other runners.

I left the hotel at 6:30 and walked about ¾ mile to the start area. It was probably about 35 degrees with a strong NNW wind. I couldn’t believe it when I saw other people walking in just their race gear with a trash bag on top. I had on enough cloths to make sure I wouldn’t be wasting energy trying to stay warm for the next 90 minutes.

I was kind of surprised at how easy it was to get around at the start. I was expecting a mad house. I found a spot near a “real” toilet and just sat outside out of the wind. At 7:20 I went to drop my bag off and got a little nervous because there was a huge line trying to get to the gear check and a huge line coming the other way. No one realized that there were openings in the fence every few feet which would allow us easier access to the gear check tent. Oh well, lesson learned. Crisis averted. I still had about 15-20 minutes until the start and I did a little jogging on my way towards my corral. While I was probably running about 10 minute pace I was happy with how my legs felt.

It took me about 30 seconds to cross the mat. I felt calm and relaxed and just kept the pace easy. I said all along that I’d rather be at 7:00 pace early in the race than 6:40 pace. It turns out our hotel was located about ¾ mile into the race, right where we make our first turn. I stayed wide to the right so I could wave to my family, as that’d be the only time I’d see them. A minute or two later I cross 1-mile in 7:01. Perfect!!! I settled in from there and rattled off 6:42, 6:46 and 6:43. I’m kind of on autopilot as I respond automatically when a gap opens up and I’m feeling the headwind. I’m able to gradually pick up the pace and get on someone’s shoulder.

I’m not sure what happened during mile 5 as I ran 6:36. I backed off a little (too much?) and ran 6 and 7 in 6:58 and 6:54. Those would be my two slowest splits during the first 23 miles. About this time I’m behind two guys that are chatting away. One guy sees Chuck Engle. Apparently he’s running 52 marathons this year and he just ran 2:48 at Indy yesterday.

At mile 8 I’m back in the mid-6:40s. This is also when the urge to pee appears. While I’d love to stop and take care of the urge, I know that’s not going to happen, so I run on. I believe mile 9 is where I hit the “stop” button on my watch instead of the “lap” button. It’s not a big deal. I figured it out at mile 10 and just restarted it. My overall time will be off the rest of the way, but I’ll still be able to track my splits.

There was actually a point around miles 8-10 where I was thinking “this is kind of boring.” It’s like I wanted to pick up the pace, but I knew it was way too early. I kept telling myself just relax until halfway and then I can open it up a little.

After missing some splits due to “user error” I see 6:48 for mile 12 and 6:45 for mile 13. Just before the half I see Jenna and Matt. I have no idea how I heard them or picked them out in the crowd, but I did. Seeing them, combined with getting to the halfway point was a huge boost. I used thoughts of Matt’s training group and Jenna’s Olympic trials qualifying performance at Grandma’s to spur me on for miles 14 to 17; 6:32, 6:41, 6:38 and 6:40. The first two of those splits were into a cross/headwind. To make it worse, the packs were beginning to breakup and it was tough to find shelter.

Mile 16 is when I first thought; “This is getting tough.” These thoughts were probably due in part to my calves starting to tighten up. I could sense some negative thoughts starting to entry my mind.

It turns out mile 17.5 is the perfect place to hand out gels. Any sooner and I might not have grabbed one. Any later and I may have already been in shuffle mode. By mile 18 (in 6:51) the gel was kicking in and I was feeling pretty good – other than my calves. It’s at this point when I realized I could run 6:50 pace fairly well and that it made more sense than trying to push 6:40 pace. So I started to do the “2-mile-dance.” You know, just get me to mile 20 in 6:50s and I’ll be happy. Okay, just get me to mile 22 in 6:50s and I’ll be happy. It seemed to be working as I ran 19 and 20 in 6:50 and 6:45, followed by 6:50 and 6:51 to get me to mile 22.

This is where it gets really tough. Things started to slip as I ran my last sub-7 mile (6:54) on my way to 23. This is where the course turns north, directly into the wind, and there’s little-to-no shelter. To make matters worse, at this point in the race you’re either passing people or being passed. There’s really not a lot of drafting opportunities to be had.

While the stoppage of my watch at mile 9 hasn’t been an issue, it does mean that I’m not positive what my overall time is. There are clocks at every mile mark, which is awesome, but I’m not positive how long it took me to cross the start line. At mile 23 I’m pretty sure I’ll break 3 hours. And I’m pretty sure that 7:01 for mile 24 means I can run two 8:00s and still break 3.

It’s during these last two miles when I think back to something I wrote on the 16th; “If I slow down and it feels like I’m running 9:00 pace, I’ll probably still be running 7:30 pace. Keep fighting. Everyone else is hurting too.” I still find it kind of amazing that I can run the last 2 miles into the wind on trashed calves in 7:18 and 7:29 – yet barely hold 8:30 for some of my training runs.

Another thing I like at Chicago, is the 800 meters to go sign, followed, I believe, by 600, 400, 300, 200 and 100 meters to go signs. Somehow I spot Matt and Jenna again at the 300 meter to go sign as I “sprint” it in for a 1:33 last .2.

I knew I broke 3, but didn’t know my exact time. And I didn’t have any time to celebrate as I had to jump on the “L” fairly quickly in order to make our 2:30 flight.

I’ll end this portion of my report with a few observations;

* I need more shoe. Try a light-weight trainer next time instead of a heavier racing shoe.
* The stretch from 13-17 probably cost me a PR.
* Try taking 2-3 gels instead of 1 gel and gatorade.
* Other than that short stretch around mile 16-17, I was “there” mentally the whole race. Had my calves held up, I think I would have PR’d.
* 2:55 was probably too aggressive. All my MP workouts indicated something in the 2:57-2:59 range.
* I think my personality allows me to run (fairly) even splits, but it also keeps me from laying it on the line and going out in 1:27 and seeing what happens. More on this later.

Here are my 5K and half splits;

5K 21:09
10K 42:15 - 21:06
15K 1:03:17 - 21:02
20K 1:24:12 - 20:55
13.1 1:28:45
25K 1:44:47 - 20:35
30K 2:05:42 - 20:55
35K 2:26:58 - 21:16
40K 2:48:49 - 21:51
26.2 2:58:57 - 1:30:12

Alright, if you’re still reading, you need help. Again, I’ll post more about the weekend later.

Quote of the day;

“Those are the things I want to experience again on October 22nd – maybe even more than a PR.” - Me, 9/14/2006


Anonymous said...

excellent job on the marathon. congratulations!

thank you for your always thoughtful and insightful posts. i quote you often to my running group, the last was "that guy" post and now i'll be sharing this "that feeling" post. so true...

when is the next marathon/race?

Don said...

Great job Zeke!

I'm so impressed, ans a bit envious, at the evenness of your splits. That in itself is quite a skill.

Ryan said...

Monster race performance. You came and you conquered. Nice to see you can reflect and acknowledge 2:55 was a stretch for this go. Perhaps it'll be your next marathon time. I'm even more impressed that you darted off to catch such an early flight. Discipline!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your race. Very well done considering the conditions.

I agree with qp, your posts on your blog and other boards are very informative.

DawnB said...

Nice race Zeke, congratulations on a job well done!!! Thank you for a great race report

Chad said...

qp, thank you for the kind comments. However, it's like I just gave birth and you're asking me when I'm going to have another kid. My next race will probably be in February. My next marathon will be no sooner than the spring.

Don, thanks. Pacing has always been a strong point of mine.

Ryan, taking a 2:30 flight is called poor planning on our part.

Thanks Proverbs and Dawn.

brent said...

good report, great race. i'm so impressed with the splits, particularly in those tough conditions.

Lawrence said...

A very well done race report. I enjoyed reading it.

Jenny said...

Great report and congratulations again on a fantastic performance.

Lance Notstrong said...

Sounds like a great race Zeke. You SHOULD celebrate :-)

E-Speed said...

apparently I need help ;) Looks like you ran a strong race. Too bad I didn't get to meet you out there. Under 3 is extremely good especially in those conditions. The wind definitely took away most chances at a PR.

Looking forward to reading your reflections!

Anonymous said...

Let me add my congratulations for a solid race. You came pretty close to a PR in unfavorable conditions, and with an injury-affected summer. You'll push that PR down some next year.

See you sometime for a recovery shuffle!

qcmier said...

Awesome race and report. I could use all the help I can get.

This sounds quite a bit like my first marathon experience. Except, I couldn't hold an even pace.

Did the urge to pee go away?

Again, congratulations.

Lance Notstrong said...

I just read your comment on Running Rabbits blog about the "in-depth" race report and laughed my ass off!!!

Chad said...

Evan, yeah I'm looking forward to hearing about your race - even though you probably don't want to talk about it.

Alan, the urge never went away. I couldn't wait to get my gear and hit the porta potty.

Lance, she posted her time and then jumped right to drinking beer. She deserves some sarcastic comments.

Anonymous said...

Actually I've been more disappointed by better races. Odd but true. In the end it doesn't matter whether you run 1:25/1:34 because you went out too fast and ran out of fuel, or ran 1:25/1:34 because you made an unexpectedly bad choice of shoes. What I feel disappointed with is that I didn't give myself the chance to hit the normal kind of wall. Somewhat different feeling from when you run out of energy.

Unknown said...

Congrats Zeke! Great race!

Anonymous said...

congrats on a very well run race...not to mention an awesome time!

Chad said...

Evan, as usual, you're right. It's kind of weird to have energy at the end of the marathon, yet not be able to go any faster cause your calves are trashed.

Thanks Brian, Sue and Susan. Susan, I didn't realize you had run Chicago. Yeah, a nice little nap prior to heading to the airport would have gone over big with me.