I think this will be my last update before the race! Unless I get so nervous that I have to expend some of that nervous energy and write again a few days before as I prep for the travels and run.
I officially finished my last long run in this training cycle for the Chicago Marathon! We are officially within 2-weeks of the race! I am officially excited, nervous, scared, anxious, and everything in between! And I am officially ready to run my first postpartum full marathon!
I did my last run on a flat course this weekend and planned to do the first half slightly faster than my long run pace, but slightly slower than my race pace. I thought that would give me a little insight as to how my 3 goals are stacked up and where I stand after all this damned hill training. I did not take into consideration that this course was mostly on gravel road and pathways. Oops.
It went super well overall! I had a friend pace me slightly fast the first 10, with a bathroom break at mile 5 ish, ending those with a 10:37 average including the break (10:21, 10:17, 10:49, 10:17, 11:40, 10:44, 10:14, 10:17, 10:24, 10:26). I felt really strong at the start and we both kept reminding each other to slow down. I think I had too much coffee (1.5 cups instead of my 1 cup) so I took my first nutrition a little early, closer to 3 miles instead of 4. This first round was Honey Stinger Orange Blossom chews (so juicy and delicious!). I’ve been part of #thehive for a few years and find Honey Stinger to just be an all around standout company that ends up being my “go-to” for a lot of training and race nutrition. That helped reduce my “jitters” and let me focus better. It was extremely humid, we were literally running in a cloud and the temps weren’t terrible, but they weren’t favorable. I was aware that my second half was going to be erring on the hot side of things. Yeesh…
Another friend picked us up a little after mile 8 and she was going to pace me the rest of the way, planning to slow down a bit closer to my long run pace. I was drenched by that point, partially because it was so hot, but also due to the freaking moisture in the air. There was sweat dripping off my eye lashes! I fueled my second round when we picked up Mary, choosing the apple cinnamon Huma I’ve been waiting to try. I love the consistency of their products, they go down easy without having to dilute them so much with water. Gu’s are usually just too sticky for my liking and I feel like they coat my mouth. This one tasted like apple pie! I was saving my caffeinated nutritions for a little later, especially considering I had the jitters from my coffee the first few miles.
We slowed down closer to my long run pace (I’ve been spending most of these long run miles in the 11-12mm range, depending on the course) and kept on trucking. I took my first caffeinated nutrition at mile 12: a Spring Energy Gel (these have become a huge favorite!) hill aid with banana and mango. The heat was definitely more noticeable, so we stayed as close to the shade as possible. I took another bathroom break at mile 15, and then found it really hard to keep my pace down after that break. We did a short walk break at mile 16, more caffeinated nutrition – a cafe mocha Huma (delish!!!) and I mentioned to Mary how tired my legs were and that I might cut to 18 miles instead of 20.
Clara had me up from 2-4am, so I had minimal sleep… I spent probably too much time on my feet Saturday volunteering for a bike race… and the gravel road/pathway was really fatiguing my legs. After chatting with her about this for a bit, she endorsed my idea to cut it short, especially considering I have 2 16’s, a 20-miler on hills, and this would be my second 18-miler. She urged me to “see the finish line” the last 100 yards or so and really kick it down, like I would in the race. What great advice! We finished the last 8 miles in 10:31, 11:11, 10:49, 11:05, 12:15, 11:37, 11:49, 11:05.
So after this run I wasn’t quite sure what to do with my goals. I’ve been thinking about them throughout my training and whenever I run a marathon (or race in general, for that matter), I usually set an A. B. and C. goal for what I want to accomplish.
A. goal: fastest finish that I think is possible under the best circumstances. For Chicago, I think my A. goal is 4:30 finish. This would push my limits, but I think it’s still in the realm of achievable. This would require a 10:17 average pace, but I would have to take into account the bathroom breaks – I know I’ll need at least one. I’m planning on starting with this as my main goal, and then reassessing within the first 6-10 miles.
B. goal: beat my PR of 4:41 from Rehoboth, 2016. I’m extremely optimistic about this one, regardless of the conditions on race day. This would require me to hold a 10:40 average pace throughout the race, including and stops or breaks. I think, based on my training, this is absolutely within my wheelhouse and will be my backup primary goal.
C. goal: finish without injury, and enjoy the experience. This is usually my fallback to when any race starts to go to shit. My motto usually ends up being: a bad day running is still a good day out of the office. In other words, I worked hard and paid money to be here, and I’m surrounded by thousands of people who are achieving incredible things. I’m literally running in the footsteps of some of my biggest idols. What could be better than this??? There will be a day where I’m wishing this was what I was doing. Enjoy!
With those goals, my plan is to start with the 4:30 pacers (if I can find them in the crowd!), hang on as long as possible, stay relaxed and keep steady. I’ll be eating mid-run nutrition every 4 miles, and caffeine at the half and mile 20. I’ll probably stick to Honey Stinger or Clif shot blocks, and alternate that with Huma or Spring Energy gels, since that’s been most of my training.
I’ve started my packing and planning list and researched the course, aid stations, hotel distances, and TSA breastmilk rules (Clara is not coming with, but I’ll need to keep pumping while I’m away). I’m planning on keeping things as simple as possible, with the smallest/lightest bag possible, and only the necessities. Also, I’ve been stalking the weather, and while I know it can change drastically between now and race day, it’s really looking like a beautiful forecast! I’ve been planning my race outfit, and just have to decide on the top layer as we get closer to.
In the meantime, I’m spending the next 13 days sans alcoholic beverages, watching what I eat and fueling pretty carefully, drinking a gallon of water per day minimum, and doing yoga and foam rolling daily. I’m going to visualize my goals, visualize me achieving my A. goals, and meditate on the hard work I’ve put into this and the sacrifices and support my family has given me. Even if they aren’t there to watch, I’m motivated by the idea that they’ll be cheering me on back in North Carolina and I’ll be anxious to share the details of the weekend with them.
Thanks for reading! What’s your race day strategy or rituals? Have you ran Chicago in previous years? What’s your advice??