[EPIC] Chicago Marathon Trip

Maybe my longest post ever.

Ben and I put in for the Chicago lottery last fall, and we both got drawn!  So that was awesome, so we knew we were going to make it an epic get-away, probably sans kids.

My mom came down and watched the boys for four days and we escaped.  Bless my mom's heart, little Dash was still popping molars so there were some sleepless nights involved.

Anywho, off we went to Chicago!
I traded the diaper bag for a purse.  We went to China when Bentz was seven months old, but other than that, we've not been sans kids for over four years!
Sans kids is SO MUCH FUN!!

I miss the boys.  I wonder what they're doing.  I wonder if they miss us.  I wonder if they are being good.  I wonder if they'll sleep tonight.  I can't wait to see the boys.  (lol)
We stayed at the host hotel!  It's expensive, but for a World Major it is worth every single penny!  We checked in next to Gwen Jorgensen (USA Olympian who took gold in 2016 in triathlon).  We saw a number of Kenyans and elites all weekend long, and at times we'd just sit in the cafe to watch them come and go.  

While Ben was in line, I wandered over to the concierge to ask about dinner recommendations since it was getting later.  Well I turned the corner and ran RIGHT INTO GALEN RUPP!!  He was all by himself with his bags, and there was a hotel staffer a little bit behind him that I had seen escorting other elites.  I was like, "uhhh I know you.  HI!!"  #facepalm

He was super cool and was like, "hey!!"  And I proceeded to mumble a bunch of who-knows-what, and probably seem like a total idiot.  lol  And I didn't get a picture of any of it.  I know the hotel staffers try to keep the elites from being bombarded, but I should have gotten at least a selfie.  #fail

I saw him numerous times the rest of the weekend.  I failed to get a picture numerous times the rest of the weekend.

But here is Gwen Jorgensen (below).  This was her 2nd marathon and she would like to ultimately win gold in the marathon at the next Olympics.  She ran a "disappointing" 2:36.
Abel Kirui next to himself on the elevator.  He took 2nd to Galen last year.
So to our surprise we got an awesome suite that faced the race start/finish!  It had windows on three sides and double doors to get into it.  It was I think all by chance, but it was a pretty sweet surprise.
We had a Segway tour scheduled to go tour around Chicago and the bean and such, and they canceled on us an hour or two beforehand, for the weather.  It was a massive bummer because the weather ended up being PERFECT.  Like almost 60 and cloudy.  I was so annoyed.  I think somebody didn't want to go to work that day...

So we went straight to the Expo.  The Expo was a mile away and the host hotel had shuttles for us which was super convenient.
I suppose 45,000 runners could cause a crowd or two.
Ucan reached out to me on Instagram (IG for the WIN) and we were able to join them for a panel of Olympians including Meb!!  I was super excited for this, and I saw Meb and got a picture of him too.  He's my favorite.  The nice thing was it was at our hotel.
We Ubered 3/4 of a mile away to the bean.  You just never know with runners before a race.  We can definitely walk anywhere, but then again, we want to preserve our feet.  :P
 Lots of bean pictures because... Bean!
We had dinner at a restaurant directly under the bean, which was kind of cool.
The day before the marathon they hold a 5k.  Many use it as a shake out run, we just watched from our window and slept in.  And by slept in I mean we just stayed in bed as long as possible.  Something about having kids makes you unable to sleep in.  :D
We Ubered to Navy Pier and walked around for a little while before jumping on a boat for the Architectural River Cruise.  The Ferris Wheel wasn't open yet so we didn't do that, but it was $18 a pop too, so that's crazy.
The tour was amazing!!!  Ben loved it so much he would have jumped right back on another boat and done it again immediately.  It was so interesting hearing about the buildings and the seeing such a big city with a river running right through it.  They dye it green for St. Patty's day too.
A guy blowing bubbles.
This was my favorite building (below).  The building was finished in 2017 and it sits between the river and railroad tracks, thus the base is 1/3 of the width of the actual building.  It goes really deep into the ground and into the bedrock, but it still makes me nervous that it's going to topple right over.
 Lunch at a restaurant in our hotel that I don't remember the name of but it had ginormous tables.
I wanted to take an Uber to Kevin McCallister's house, but it was a solo desire.  ;)  We ended up reading in bed for the afternoon which was amazing.  I had a nap.  That was amazing.
Outfits were set out and we went to sleep.  Or TRIED.  And it was pouring rain and I couldn't stop staring at the forecast.  I don't mind rain, but a dry start would always be nice.
Race morning!!  We watched out our windows until the corrals started to fill and we boogied.  We got there at the perfect time and even ran into my friend Tiffanie (who watched my stuff while I pumped at the start line of Revel Mt. Charleston in April) in the security line.  We had tons of time to spare, but I heard people who cut it a little closer were stuck in the security line and some missed their corrals.
Below is where I planned to take my Humagels.  I prefer to take them with water and my memory faileth me while running.
45,000 runners and almost 2 million spectators and volunteers.  It was unlike anything I've ever been a part of!
The morning rained until we left the hotel, and then it dried up until a few miles in.  I got dumped on a bunch, but Ben said he never did, so it must have been spotty.  I invited the rain, it combatted the humidity, and I learned that my headphones are waterproof (hooray).
Overall I had a great race!!  I had a hard time getting into the groove because GPS went wonky with the tall buildings and after training in the heat I had no idea what my efforts were putting me at with my pace, so I think I may have sandbagged a little bit.  I immediately had to pee, however, but I refused and I ran the whole race having to pee!
When I'd hit the mile signs I would look at my overall time and try to divide and figure out my pace.  I think it was nice because it would take like a mile to figure it out, then I had to do it again.  hahaha

We ran through the city, over the bridges that are metal grates, through Lincoln Park, through the awesomest neighborhoods with row houses and amazing scenery.  And the CROWDS!  They were one of a kind epic.  The signs were hilarious.  There was just so much to take in, and I tried hard to absorb it all and enjoy it while running a mostly-comfortable pace that had me still shooting for a goal (sub 4:15).
I didn't really get into much of a groove until about half way.  My watch was just all over the place, it had me clock a 4:50 mile at one point, and I would click the lap button when I'd hit mile markers and my watch was off, just to try to get an accurate mile time for the next one.  I think despite the pace telling me funky things a lot, the second half was pretty accurate.
Mo Farah for the WIN!!
I was feeling awesome in that last 10k, even better than I felt in the first.  I have never ever ever had a marathon feel like that, and I was literally sprinting to the finish when I saw I had seconds to go to beat 4:10.  My last 5k was definitely my quickest.
 Shoot, I'm 2 seconds slow.
Done!  And that was EPIC!!  4:10:05 official.
Ben had gone back to the hotel to check us out so we don't have any together afterwards, but he had a time goal of 3:30 and despite basically running by feel the entire race, he ran a 3:30 exactly!
I went back and showered in the gym locker room which turned out to be really nice, and then our shuttle took us directly to the airport.  It was all so fast, but we were ready to go home once we were done!
Here's an example of what the tall buildings did to my GPS.  I manually changed it to 26.2, it had me at 27.32.
Compression socks for the WIN.

Most memorable parts of the race:
-Looking around at the start and taking in that I was running the Chicago Marathon!
-Crossing the start line -- here we GOO
-Pee tunnel (WTF!! dudes peeing everywhere noooo)
-Michael Scott's Prison Mike face blown up huge
-"You're all nuts!!  ...I like nuts." -a person dressed as a squirrel
-"You're not even close!"
-Turning into Chinatown!  That was SO loud and amazing and I think I picked up the pace.
-My name being yelled since I had it on my shirt.  Especially that last mile, it felt like everyone was like, "GO CHRISTY!!!"
-The row houses and the street with tons of green trees overhead.
-That last mile where I felt like I was some sort of important person with these huge crowds yelling for me!  
-Passing a lot of people in that last 5k and being amazed with the fact that I was running a negative split in the marathon!!
-Getting a message while in the middle of the race, that said Ben ran a 3:30!
-Getting messages on my Garmin from my brother while I was running!  I'd pass a checkpoint and I know he'd get an update on me, then he'd send me a message and it was the best!
-Finishing so strong!
-Immediately getting a text from my coach that said I ran a "very impressive" race.
-Seeing Ben on the hotel steps waiting for me.  :D  I love him!!
-There are a million more instances, maybe more I'll remember and come back and jot down.

I don't have Ben's pictures because he didn't buy them, but I want to post his race report that he did for our running team.  I was going to do one, but I hadn't ever gotten around to it.

Here it is...
Chicago Race Report: My only previous experience with Chicago was a quick business trip in mid-December and I was so cold that I thought the distance from the hotel door to the Uber door was too far. It’s funny, that used to be my very thoughts on running too, but thanks to my wife’s enthusiasm for self- torture, we went back to the Windy City for the Chicago Marathon. Here’s a few thoughts about my experience:
Training/Prep: Living in Phx means that we are usually on opposite training schedule from the rest of the country but when my wife and I were both drawn for the Chicago Marathon, we said, ok lets run through the summer so we can do this. It meant a lot of 4am runs and hot miles, but Charlie kept us motivated and accountable. I tested and liked a new fuel, Huma, (the lemonade ones are tasty) and became best friends with the Saloman S/Lab Sense Ultra 5 hydration vest. My first marathon left me beaten and broken, so this time I worked on the mental game. I spent a lot of time on the long runs practicing what I would do when things fell apart. How I would react to things being different than I planned on. More on that later. Point is, a good part of my preparation was about being prepared to combat the situation that I found myself in on marathon #1.
Days Before Race: For those people lucky enough to know and spend time in Chicago, wow, lucky you. It was beautiful. We got there a few days early and checked in the hotel with a few close friends, (Galen Rupp and crew, no big deal. Lol). Bit of advice here, stay at the host hotel for a World Major.#WorthIt. We ate deep dish pizza and took the architecture tour, we saw the bean and did general tourist stuff. The expo was the first time that I got a sense of the scale that we were dealing with, there were thousands upon thousands of people. It was massive and the first time that I started to get a feel for the logistical handling of 45k people. We attended a panel with Meb and other elite runners about all the thing’s we mortals wonder about, nutrition, training, tips, funny stories and motivation. Some time to rub shoulders with some of the greats was inspiring and we left feeling good about the upcoming run.
Race Day: Nerves, jitters, butterflies. We woke up early, of course, and walked across the street to the start gates. This is when I really began to be impressed with the organization and preparation. There was signage everywhere, volunteers and helpers all over. I didn’t know how any city could host 45k runners from a port-a-john perspective and yet, they did it. I waited for about 40 seconds for my turn and then hoped right into my wave. There was plenty of room cordoned off and despite people everywhere there was no crowing or space issues. Right before the gun, they moved some gates and we all packed in for the start. It was a cool, slight misty rain and we took off. Within the first mile there was a tunnel and I lost my GPS. I knew this might happen and told myself to not worry about it, it would catch up. It didn’t. I never got GPS back, but I just went back to my plan to not let something that I could not control ruin my race. I could see the pacers that I wanted to stay ahead of and so I just settled in and did what I had practiced for. Run some miles. It was beautiful! The course was amazing, so many spectators cheering and yelling, high fives and funny signs. It was so easy to get lost in the experience and just enjoy it.
The Run: I chunked the race in to five sections of 5 miles each.
• 0-5 The first five was all about not going too fast. Keep on pace, even without GPS, just go by feel and pacers. It was a wonderful 5 miles of beautiful scenery and awesome crowds.
• 6-10 The second five felt good, and I kept telling myself that it should feel good, don’t do anything different, just keep logging miles.
• 11-15 This is where I was worried that I would start to gas out and would repeat marathon hell #1, but I found a buddy and we talked. We pointed out cool things and funny signs. We distracted each other and then I was through 15 and feeling great.
• 16-20 After hitting 15 and feeling good I kept after it and tried not to do anything dumb. Take my fuel and drink my water, keep doing work. I distinctly felt really good through 18. I hadn’t had any of the knee pain I expected, my muscles felt good, my breathing was on point and overall, I was ahead of where I expected to feel poor. 19 and 20 started to change that.
• 20-25 From feeling great at 18 to having to really start to work at 20, this is where my race really began. This is where I was telling myself to do work. To hang in there. To not slow down. It started to really hurt. My effort went from easy to hard to very hard, in just a few miles. The pacer that I was trying to stay ahead of caught me. And passed me. I would have kicked him but didn’t have the energy or the coordination at that point, so I just kept chasing him.
• 26. I knew this didn’t fit into my neat little five-mile sections. This was the odd one out and I just kept telling myself it was a rounding error. Only a mile-ish, no problem. Lol. It was a problem. I found myself clawing at the air trying to keep my pace. It took everything I had, from one second to the next to keep going for 10 more steps. The sign that announced 400 meters to go was depressing because it was too far. Haha. It sounds silly as I write this, but at the time, 400 meters seemed like I would need a piggy-back ride to get there.
Finish Line: And then it was done. I nailed my goal, hit my pace plan and it was done.
Post Race: Chicago, you impressed. The race was amazing, outstanding organization, perfect weather, awesome crowds. It was world class, without a doubt the best race event I have ever seen. After the race I saw a lot of comments about poor weather, this sucked or that was terrible, and I am reminded of a thought from Charlie: It is what you make of it. There is only one thing that I can control in this and that’s me. I would choose Chicago Marathon again and again, because it was epic, the kind of race that I only dared dream about it. The kind of experience that I will look back on and smile about. Shared with my lovely wife, the Chicago Marathon is now my most favoritest race ever. Thank you to my coach Charlie and most of all thanks to my wife Christy, you bring life and joy. Cheers and keep running!

It was overall an awesome race, amazing trip getaway with Ben, and something we need to do more often. In fact, Ben literally just sent me this:

So our World Major plans are expanding!!!  

To all 6.

Maybe we should buy a lottery ticket.  We might need that billion dollars to afford it.  lol  ;)

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