What a week! I got back on Tuesday afternoon but it has taken me until this morning to get round to the race report - between work, unpacking and spending some time with my family it has been so busy. The jetlag is getting me as well - it's never bad on the way out to the States but on the way home - it is terrible. Yesterday at work I was just overwhelmed by the desire to sleep at about 12:30pm... I went outside and soaked up some rays and got my friendly barista to add an extra shot to my latte. This morning I woke up at 5am eyes wide open... But I spotted the opportunity for a post so here it goes.
I had a wonderful time in Chicago. This week proved to be about friends old and new. I stayed with Jeff and Brian, who had supported me last time around, and they could not have been more gracious, welcoming and generous hosts. Reconnecting with them - lying on their couch drinking diet coke and watching wonderfully trashy tv, going out for some fabulous sushi, shopping on Michigan Avenue - was just fantastic. And then, of course, there were my new friends - Charlie, Melisa and Maddy. I met Maddy for the first time on Friday morning, outside her hotel. A little late as I had driven into downtown myself and had got utterly lost in the tunnels underneath the Loop. (Note to self - satellite navigation does not work underground - remember this with a Garmin..). We set out for a lakeside run which was not as easy as it might seem - we ended up on the side of a highway and had to turn back on ourselves before we found the lake. Check out my wonderful "on-run" photography skills - you can just see the brim of my cap there.. And get some sense of the beautiful lake, and the sun coming out. Maddy had a full day of sight-seeing ahead and so after 3M we headed back to the hotel and went our separate ways, agreeing to meet up at the expo.
Which we did - later that day. The expo was great - for those of us who like shopping and running, these occasions just have everything! Just before leaving I had entered an online competition at the RunnersLounge to trial "The Stick" and won one of the trials, and so I headed over to their stand. The guy who runs this business is fascinating and we spent ages discussing running, injuries and how and where the stick would work. He would keep saying to me "now I'm not getting fresh with you here" and then demonstrate another slightly embarassing but very effective move.. While I was chatting to him, Tom from the Runnerslounge came on over and we chatted as well - what a nice guy! We settled on this particular Stick and I will be starting my review of this over the weekend over on Runnerslounge - though fear not, I have already started to use it!
At this point my iPhone conked out. And with it, I feared, my chances of meeting up with Charlie and Maddy (I had already received Melisa's message that we had missed her). However, meandering through the stalls I suddenly spotted Charlie - and seconds later Maddy and her entourage found us as well. Cue some more photo taking..
Charlie, myself, Maddy and her adorable daughter, Chase. Maddy and her family went off again and Charlie patiently waited while I dithered over which race tee to buy.. And then he took on the weekend's real ultimate challenge - to allow me to drive him back to his hotel! We spent some time driving around underneath McKormick Place but eventually found our way to his hotel - always staying on the right side of the road as well! He made it in one piece, as did I..
The next morning Charlie, Maddy and I went off for another early morning run - on another beautiful day. Just a quickie - I think we did just over 2 miles - and then Charlie treated me to a delicious breakfast. What a guy! A run and some breakfast makes me a happy woman!
That evening we all met up at an Italian restaurant which Maddy had booked for about 20 of us (well done girl - it would have been beyond me) and I finally got to meet Melisa and her family. As I suspected, Melisa was a hoot and it was great getting to know Bill (her husband) and her family as well as Charlie's brother and sister-in-law...
And then race day dawned. Jeff and Brian rose with me at 5:30 and had programmed the coffee maker (didn't I tell you these were perfect hosts?) and then drove me to Maddy's hotel. I got there early and dawdled in the lobby waiting for Maddy (even waking up her husband, I fear, when I rang up to check she hadn't overslept..). We then walked over to Charlie and Melisa's hotel where we chatted nervously for a while before heading over to the start and queuing for the portaloos... Oh wherever you go in the world some things are the same!
It didn't seem that long before we were lined up in our corral, singing the national anthem and then standing around, listening to Born to Run while we were still waiting to go through the start. I think it was nearly 20 minutes before we crossed the start line and I immediately realised that I should have applied Friday's navigation lesson to my brain - my Garmin cut out in the tunnels and between the tall buildings... Oh well. Maddy and I had decided to run the race together and we were aiming for a 4:30. The first mile came in at about 12 minutes, but I figured with the crowds this was not bad. We stuck at this pace for a few miles, trying to find Maddy's family (we missed them until much later in the race). At 8 miles, we saw Jeff and Brian (photos to follow) which was fantastic - in 2006 I had missed them at every point. We were slowing down by this stage as the heat was making itself felt. I could see that we were drifting off our pace and made a decision there and then that we were just going to finish this race, come what way, and that we were going to forget about any time goals.. Which we did. Maddy has written a fabulous blow-by-blow race report at her blog although she gives me too much credit - I saw she was having a tough time (and I was plenty hot and bothered myself, may I add) and cannot begin to describe how much I admire her for sticking with the race (and me). The upside of the weather (and yes there was one) was the audience - the people were just having street parties everywhere! Highlights of the race include:
- the people in Pilsen - they know how to party!
- everyone who hosed us down with their garden hoses
- all the people who shouted out our names and made us feel like superstars - especially that band in Lincoln Park!
- and for me, Maddy. This girl has grit and determination and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to run the race with her. I was quite convinced that she would sock me (especially after I made her cry at mile 20) and I am just thrilled that we managed a PB for her - there's more where that came from girlfriend!
I think for all of us, it was a much tougher race than we had anticipated. We didn't think it could get as hot as last year again, and it almost did. The race was fantastically well-organised - the last 3 miles felt like one continuous water station - but nonetheless, this doesn't do the running for you. It really was tough out there and it seemed there were a lot of people at the aid stations and bent over with cramp by the side of the road.
But Maddy and I made it across the finish line - hand in hand! We need to get that photo! What a relief to stop running... And then there was the long drag to the medals, the apples (?) and my bag. Maddy had to make a quick turnaround to get to the airport so we hugged farewell - there is nothing like running together to cement a friendship! - and then I wandered off to find Brian and Jeff (stopping off at the beertent to collect my free beer, which, I have to say, was one of the most delicous things I have ever tasted in my life - and I'm not a beer drinker). After running in the heat for over 5 hours, there was no need to ID me... When we hooked up the boys took me home, and then we partied! Champagne at the John Hancock, a fabulous mexican meal and then singalongs to showtunes in their local bar. Bliss! And all too soon, I was wending my way back to the airport and home to my wonderful family..
Overall it was a truly wonderful experience. Meeting with Charlie, Maddy and Melisa was incredible - the strange combination of feeling you know these people but yet, you don't... We got over that last bit very quickly and I really hope to be running with these peeps, and others, soon enough. Thank you Charlie, Melisa and Maddy - for coming along, for being game. I am so sorry for encouraging you to run a race that did not live up to anyone's expectations achievement-wise. Next time I'll let you choose!