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Friday, October 28, 2016

2016 Chicago Marathon

Finish line - "Meh"
For my final running event of 2016, I ran the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Oct 9th. Which meant, among other things, a trip down memory lane (I lived in Chicago from 2007-2012) and a belly full of tasty regional grub.

Alex and I flew in Thursday, dropped our bags at our friends' apartment in Lakeview, and immediately hit up The Wiener's Circle for a Chicago dog with everything on it (but no ketchup, rookies). The days leading up to the event also consisted of Giordano's deep dish pizza, Big Bowl stir-fry, and all the Irish pub fare and Midwestern craft beer a boy could ever hope for. I tend to become a vacuous expanse leading up to running events, I'll admit it.

Blah blah carbo-loading blah blah glycogen. The truth is that I friggin' love to eat.

The morning of the race arrived. My pre-race ritual is very nebulous and unstructured. I sorta let my focus drift in and out. Sometimes I try to go through the course in my head mile by mile, but then other times I just let my eyes glaze over and check in with my body. Sunday was no exception. Alex came with me as usual to take care of the gear (an incredible support team of one. I dunno how she does it, seriously). We rode the train into downtown to avoid road closures and got to the starting corrals by around 6:15am.

The Chicago course is notoriously flat, and basically at sea-level, so I felt reasonably comfortable that I'd have a good race. I'll admit, I'm carrying a few extra pounds right now (shocker, based on my diet, right?), but my legs are probably stronger than they've ever been. Also, the weather was a perfect 50 degrees at the starting line with very little wind. The race got underway and, within the first couple miles, I could tell this race was gonna be...

...a problem.

Wait, what?

Yeah. A problem.

See, I felt fantastic out of the gate. So good, in fact, that my original race plan went quickly out the window. I had told myself to start at around an 8:05 min/mile pace and aim for negative splits, which would put me on track for a 3:25:00 marathon. But when I looked down at my watch after what felt like a slow, easy first mile and saw 7:46 staring back up at me, I got excited.

"Holy crap," I thought, stupidly. "I know I shouldn't keep up this pace, but that was too easy. Let's keep this pace and see if I can crush my PR!"

And, had I actually done that, I might have.

But I went full-idiot and did something worse: I sped up.

7:31
7:29
7:20
#beastmodeJVB
7:24
7:32
7:15
#Iamagoldengod
7:32
7:29
7:37
#untouchablemuthafucka
7:27
7:25
7:54
Wait...what?... No, that can't be right. My GPS watch just screwed up, right? Yeah, that's it. Don't let it go to your head, JVB. Just run your race.
6:59
....shit. That was a bad over-correction.
7:23
7:27
7:42
#um...what?...
7:46
8:04
#nonononooo
8:21
#commencedownwardspiral
8:44
8:48
#abort!abort!
9:42
#killmenow
10:16
10:14
10:17

I reached the half-marathon marker on pace to finish with a 3:17:56 time. But I had over-exerted my body in the first half of the race, depleting my fuel too early, and I ultimately struggled hard to finish with a final time of 3:33:53.

Was it the worst result in the world? No.

Am I mad at myself for greedily sabotaging my own race even though I knew better? You bet your ass. This was my eighth marathon and I made a newbie mistake.

Am I done trying to push myself past my boundaries? Come on now, get real. ;-)

~JVB