Saturday, October 22, 2011

It's a wrap!!!

Several weeks have passed since I ran the Chicago Marathon, my first marathon. Why is it that, when you come back from a vacation, no matter how long or short, how far or near, the subsequent days after you check back to reality are freaking crazy??? I haven't had a chance to sit and write about the race itself, the pre-race energy and anticipation, and the post-race adventure. Too crazy a days...

I've been giving this a lot of thought. What should I write about? How much detail should I go into? Will I bore people to death? You know what...when you take up something and commit to either trying it or doing it, you normally do it for yourself...because you have an itch, and you wanna scratch it. And then, along the way, you bring people in either by sharing what you are doing with others, receiving support from others to do whatever it is that you're doing, or you are actually making a difference in other people's lives by doing what you're doing. But at the end of the day, it's a personal satisfaction to actually go through with whatever you decided to do.

So, with that said, I will go into as much detail as my memory will allow me to. And I will most likely comeback to this post every now and then to fill in some more facts, memories and thoughts as they peek into my brain. Why? Because I want to memorialize what I accomplished, what I went through, what I saw, what happened, what I felt. Why? Because I believe it's worth sharing, especially with the people who helped me get there.

The night before the race I had some pretty intense feelings roaming around. First, I wrote on my bibs the names of the people I honored by running my first marathon; people who have survived cancer and, unfortunately, others who did not. Then, I shared a picture of those bibs with my group of donors and other close friends as a closing message of gratitude prior to the race. Then a close friend sent me some well wishes, some very personal notes and a letter written to his training coach with details of race day after completing his first marathon. That same friend suggested that I should do the same: put in writing what I recalled from race day, and save it for future reference. I will do just that. Bear with me; this might become a very long read.

Later that night, after the kids had gone to sleep, and with the help of my wife, I took out all my race day gear, my on-the-course food and other personal stuff that I was to take with me to check in at the marathon's bag check. I attached the bib number and my honor bibs to my shirt. Wrote the previous blog post. Read some last minute things related to the race that I had put off. God bless procrastinators. Reviewed the course map...again. Went through my race strategy which I hadn't decided until a few days ago. And then, close to 11PM, I tried to go to sleep. I tossed and turned for about an hour. Good anxiety keeping my mind and body from shutting down. It's more effective than a double espresso. My wife hadn't gone to sleep yet. I remember having what seemed to be an REM moment while consciously being awake but with my eyes shut. Very weird.

I think I finally fell asleep around midnight. I had a deep 4-hour sleep and that was that. I had set my alarm clock for 5AM. I wanted to eat a light breakfast 3 hours before race time which I estimated at 8AM considering the gun is fired at 7:30AM but it takes almost half an hour to get to the start line. I guess it takes a while to move 35,000 plus runners. Woke up at 4AM. Hit the toilet. Everything went well, thank you. Ate my breakfast: a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and a Gatorade. I had some time to kill between then and 6AM which is when I was to meet my group of friends to take a cab down to Grant Park. I saw the race-day banners my kids had prepared. For the next hour or so, I sat in front of my computer just looking online for positive and inspirational phrases. I went to the LIVESTRONG webpage and read the Manifesto. Made a point of remembering USKPAE. Unity is Strength. Knowledge is Power. Attitude is Everything. Looked up some old Lance Armstrong Nike ads from his Tour de France days. And finally, read one of his most famous quotes and almost branded it to my forehead (then I remembered I can't read it there...but you get the point.): “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” After that I really didn't need much else but to get dressed, trust my training, stay focused on my plan and ENJOY THE DAY!!! In the end, that's what it's all about. And I did just that.

My wife had gotten up to say see you later and wish me all the best. She snapped a couple of pictures, a kiss goodbye and out the door I was at 6AM. Once in the lobby, I met my group but soon enough some were hitting the bathroom for a last minute release. At around 6:20AM we got into a cab and headed down to Grant Park. We were staying about a mile and a half north of the park. That's quite a walk if you are planning on running 26.2 miles a little later. But dozens of people were walking down from Magnificent Mile down to the start line. As we got closer, the crowds got bigger. It was still dark outside but it felt like a busy weekday at noon. The energy and the anticipation was everywhere. I tried to look at people's faces and see their expressions: anxiety, fear, happiness, sleepiness, joy, excitement, worry, relief, focus. It was all there.

Once we got out of the cab, we gathered our bearings and just followed the crowds. Along the way we were stopped to get our picture taken by the staff photographers from the company hired to cover the race. Volunteers were everywhere helping runners, family members and spectators as to where to go. We got to Buckingham Fountain and near our bag check area, and our group split. Everybody had to do their thing: leave personal items at the bag check area, stretch, take one last leak in the port-a-potties, find a good spot in the starting corrals, walk around to take everything in. I decided to hang around the fountain for a bit. I was in no hurry to hit the corrals to just wait there for an hour. I found a LIVESTRONG teammate and introduced myself. We sat by the fountain chatting for a good 15 minutes...about the race, obviously, Chicago, where we were from, what we did for a living, race expectations, was this your first marathon, when are you heading back home. The sky was already clearing up and the sun was about to come up. There wasn't a single cloud in the sky. Beautiful morning. Temperature was in the low 60's by race time. They kept saying and warning that it was going to be a hot one. The high temperatures on the two days prior to the race were in the low to mid 80's. Had a camera with me, so I took a bunch of pictures of the Chicago skyline lit up by the rising sun, the sunrise and the lines to use the port-a-potties. I hit those next. While waiting in line and about half an hour to start time, I started my iPod playlist, tied up my shoe laces (double knot...of course), and put my gels and chews in my pockets. Took a leak, snapped a couple of final pictures, left my stuff at the bag check and off I went to the start corrals. Once there, I did my stretching routine and soon enough the crowds started to move forward. A sea of runners. Just an amazing sight. I could barely see past the start line. I could see the signs for the Nike pace groups sticking out from the crowd. I spotted the 5:00 hour pace group and tried to move forward as close to it as possible. Music was being blasted from a set of speakers every 100 meters or so. I remember hearing Van Halen's "Right Now". The music drowned whatever I was trying to listen to through my earphones. As we pushed forward to the start line, I left my long sleeve shirt on a fence (all clothes left around get picked up and donated to charity) and I started to see the sea of runners but now with their heads bobbing up and down signaling that they were off and running. The start line got closer...and I suddenly was off. 7:50AM read the clock as I crossed the start line.

More to come...

Canyons | Spectators | Pedestrian bridge | Tunnel peeing | 1st bridge | Grand & Michigan Ave | Chicago marquee | Loop | Run-Walkers | La Salle | Lincoln Park | Lost blind runner | More peeing | Water girl  | Just a 10K | Surf Ave | Super Girl | Addison | Plastic bottle dresses on stage | Gay Cowboy Hoedown | LMFAO | Sedgewick | Walter Payton Prep | LS crew 2nd time | Trying to find family | Mile 12 | 2:30 @ 13.1 | Greektown | Charity Block Party | United Center Blackhawks season opener | Jackson Blvd | Cliff Shot station | Liquor store line @ Ashland Ave | Pilsen | Orange wedges | Sponges | Halsted St football catch | Bananas & slippery pavement | Chinatown | Hell by the Expressway | Mile 22 to 23 Stopped Run-Walk  | The Gap | Tom's short run | Soiled pants | Pavement lines | Heads turning right | Roosevelt Ave bridge | Turn home | Finish | Long walk | Beer | Picture | Bag check | Family meeting | CRAMPS!!!

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