Chicago Marathon 2018
Prior to the Chicago marathon, I had pre-written this seasons final blog post. But as the saying goes, anything can happen on any given Sunday, and that’s exactly what happened. So here is the new version.
It has finally arrived ladies and gentlemen—the moment we all have been waiting for. On Sunday, October 7, I towed the line with thousands of runners from all over the world to make a dent in history and run the 2018 Chicago Marathon. It’s been a long few weeks.
There is a hidden secret among athletes: You should never try anything new on race day. Stick to what you know. I had the perfect training cycle. Consistency is key. I had successfully completed every long run and a mini triathlon. During the middle of the training cycle I wanted to boost my training with something extra, so I took the advice of a friend, coach Kai with City Runners and began weightlifting once a week. Strength training had already been part of my training prescribed by my running coach Josh, but weightlifting was never on the docket. Runners secretly fear that weightlifting adds pounds to the runner in turn making the runner slower and heavier. Coach Mike with Next Level Fitness has been ensuring for the last few weeks of marathon training, that I stay injury free. Consistent in my running and weightlifting. Yea, I got this. I am in great shape. I was ready to run, so why not change things up a bit.
Maurten sports fuel has recently been considered one of the top fueling methods for athletes. Used by the top runners in the world, it is known for its performance enhanced ingredients. Maurten products offer a large serving of carbohydrates with minimal effort: up to 80 grams of carbohydrates per serving package. A few weeks prior to the marathon, I had ordered a supply of the Maurten drink mix 320.
In training, I had been using Honey Stinger Organic gels. Honey Stinger is a good product. The packet is worth 25 grams of carbs, but I noticed that after taking the gels, I would become thirsty. I had no problem dealing with this during training. On my long runs, I would stop at numerous locations throughout my community to get water. Therefore, when the Maurten drink mix appeared on my Instagram newsfeed as a sponsored post, I figured I should look into it.
After two weeks of research, I knew this product was all I needed to cross the finish line successfully. It would give me the carbs that I needed and keep me hydrated at the same time. On paper, it was perfect.
Sunday morning. It was 50 degrees and raining. The gun went off at 7:30 a.m., and I began my race. Running through Chicago, the crowds were wild. So many people came to watch the race. A runner could feel like a rock star with the cheers from the crowd. The adrenaline rush took over my body and I flew to the 5k line.
I had planned to drink my power drink every 5k to slowly fuel for the entire race. I crossed the 5k mark. Without looking at my Garmin, I knew I was flying. I just didn’t care. This was it, all of the training and work I had put into this, it was all or nothing. I told myself leave it all on the course. I drank more of my fuel.
My first impression of the drink was that it had no taste. No flavor, but the texture felt a bit rocky. I swallowed it slowly, even though it wasn’t sparking my taste buds. I had trained myself to drink my fuel and run at the same time. At the 10k mark, I drank more fuel. The second serving was not as harsh as the first; however, my stomach became upset. I continued to drink my fuel until mile 10.
Between the 10k and the half marathon point, I could feel my body began to slow down. Have you ever been on the highway and the gas light comes on? Depending on your car, you think to yourself “Hey, I’ve got another 40 miles ‘til empty.” So, you keep driving to see if you can push the limits to get to the gas station. My gas light came on and I decided to push it.
I felt sick to my stomach and my thirst felt as though nothing could quench it. At that moment, I knew I had made a mistake. I crossed the half marathon point at a slower pace than when I began. My accountability buddy Joseph was waiting, all smiles and cheers, for my half way accomplishment. I stopped my watch and went to the sidelines to tell him I felt a little sick and was unable to keep drinking my sports drink. I told him I would keep going and see him at the 22-mile mark.
Between 13 and 22 miles, it was a nightmarish blur. I have never vomited so much in my life. Anything I put in my mouth wouldn’t go down my throat. It was the worst feeling in the world and I knew the race was over. Gatorade and even plain water made me sick. Every water stop, I tried to drink but nothing would work.
When I finally reached the 22-mile mark, I sat on the ground and hoped the sickness would go away. It didn’t. Joseph saw me on the sidelines of the course. He told me I looked “green.” Since he and I love to crack jokes, I figured he was messing around, but he wasn’t. During our conversation, I told him, “I wasn’t sure if I could do it. I’m really fucked up.”
He asked me, “Do you want to pack it up and quit?”
I said, “No. I don’t care how long it’s going to take, but we are going to get to the finish line, just stay with me. I need you to stay with me. If I fall out, at least you are here.” I had dropped to a 40 minute mile. My head was spinning from nausea and my stomach was upset. I had given up on any food or drink. I felt like I would drop dead at mile 25. My accountability buddy had escorted me until he could no longer cross the barrier. As race officials began to take down the mileage signs and clean up the course, I was forced to walk the final mile of the Chicago marathon alone.
I crossed the finish line in 6 hours and 44 minutes. I earned that medal.
After turning off my Garmin, I had set three personal records: 24:00 5k, 53:00 10k and 2:07 half marathon. I began to cry.
So now what?
It seems like not so long ago I began running and turned my sights to completing a marathon. As a full-time working mom of four children, there are many things that I neglect to say. But this time, I will say what’s on my mind.
Yeah, I fucked up.
I have to be honest with myself and to those that have helped me get to where I am. When we lose the ability to be honest with ourselves, we lose who we are. I believe that honesty is instrumental key to my success. People like to censor the truth. Maybe it’s a pill that they don’t want to swallow. Today, I am going to swallow this pill.
I’m not sad or regretful of my choice to try a new energy drink. I wanted something new and I paid the price. All the months of running, strength training all went out the window. I have always been the kinda person that knows what they want in any aspect of life. I wanted to be able to finish the marathon not only in a respectable time frame but knowing that I had given it all that I had and came out on top. Jokes on me. I got what I asked for, but not in the way I had expected. I wonder, if the drink had worked to perfection would it have been something else that could have hindered my performance? The rain, maybe the wind? It was a cold day.
It’s been two weeks since the race and I have cried. A lot. I cried at the finish line, in the shower after the race, in the middle of the night, on the train going to work, at work. I am still crying. Literally. This shit hurts. My pride, self-esteem and emotions have taken a hit. In a way, I am somewhat happy that coach Josh is out of state; that way I don’t have to explain to him in person what happened. If I had to be subjected to see the look of disappointment in his face from my performance I don’t think I could handle it. It hurts badly. I have gone over and over in my head how I could have done things differently. Maybe had a plan B or C in play. But I only had plan A.
I tell my kids all the time that when things don’t go your way in life, get back up and try again. With some love and snuggles I say to them, “Be strong my love. You are strong.” I am sure they can see the confidence in my eyes when I tell them that. It seems to work, and off they go. I have looked at my reflection in the mirror numerous times these past few weeks and talked to myself.
My two-week running vacation is over. I am going to pick up all the pieces that I dropped along that course and put myself back together. I consider myself a year round runner, so there will be no break in my training. The leaves have begun to change and the temperatures have dropped. Fall is officially here. During the spring 2019, I will focus on races below the marathon and in May 2019 begin training for Chicago 2019.
Come on, you know me. Why would I go out like a sucker? Anyone can finish a marathon, but I don’t want to be just anyone. I have said it in previous blogs, I will do whatever it takes.
Running has become the biggest mystery and adventure of my life. It has been a bumpy ride. With that being said, I don’t intend on getting off at the next stop. I love a good challenge. It makes the end result even better when there is some resistance.
This race will go down in my running history not only as my first marathon but as the marathon where I became physically and mentally undone.
Until round two.