A 4 a.m. wake-up call is early - no matter how early you go to bed - and I was not excited when the alarm went off. I even commented to Mark that I must be crazy to pay a $100 entry fee so that I can get up at 4 a.m. and run for 2+ hours. Especially when I can run for free any time want.
But I was already dressed at this point, so I sucked it up and began to psych myself up for the 13.1 miles ahead of me.
Pre-race: Mark and I were able to park just a few blocks from the starting line and conveniently right across the street from a Dunkin Donuts. Coffee for me! Too bad it was crap coffee and I only ended up drinking no more than a quarter of it.
Thankfully, I was sufficiently awake by this time and was able to limit my irritability by the massive crowd swarming Grant Park. Seriously, there were like 25,000 people PLUS the spectators. I do have to say that it seemed organized, there were a bajillion Honey Pots (though the one I used was out of TP) and the corrals were clearly marked. Mark left me at No. 17, and I waited to get started. I
The first wave of runners set off about 30 seconds ahead of the 6:30 start time, and the following waves followed in about 90-second intervals. I thought it would feel like forever but you seemed to be moving often enough to not get bored.
It was about 6:55 or so when I finally got to the starting line and saw Guiliana Rancic of E! News walking toward me. She and her pal stood right next to me and commented that Jake the Bachelor was supposed to me in Corral 17, too. I commented that I wanted to pass him and G. said she did, too. Ga! I just talked to another celebrity. Alas, she was quickly called away to be, you know, a celebrity, and I was called to the chip mat.
The race: I started off too fast. I knew I started off too fast. But there was something inside of me that just wanted to go!
I don't remember much from those first few miles, which took us north and west of Grant Park. There was the running over grates on a bridge. There were a couple of guys just ahead of me who wanted to run a sub-2:00. I thought about hanging with them but I weaved ... they weaved ... and I was alone. Oh, and there was a guy holding a sign that mentioned the words "long," "fast" and "hard." Quite funny. I laughed. And then I passed him.
Mark was waiting for me at mile 6, and I actually saw him. He waved. I waved. He waved. I asked him where his camera was. He fumbled. I told him he sucked at life. We laughed. And then I passed him.
The next part of the course took us along the side of a highway, down to Soldier Field and through a tunnel at Soldier Field. I hated these parts of the course the most. There were fewer spectators, fewer things to look at, some rough pavement in the dark tunnel and the route was narrower, making it more difficult to get around people.
Mentally, I struggled as well. I thought there was supposed to be a Gu stop at mile 7 and it wasn't there. I kept waiting for the Gu and began to worry about fueling, bonking and finishing strong. Around mile 8, I opted to drink some Cytomax as I wasn't sure I was going to get a Gu to take at mile 10 (I took my first, one I brought, at mile 5). Big mistake. Big, big mistake. My stomach began to cramp, and I thought about wretched scenarios.
Enter my decision to stop for the Honey Pot at mile 11. It ended up being an unnecessary stop but my legs were thankful for the minute break. Even if it hurt my time. Then again, at this point, I didn't really care about my time. I walked through water stops. I took a 20-second walk break. I let myself run more slowly. Intermittently, I told myself to suck it up and reminded myself that I am not a quitter. Never, ever quit. I would get up and go, trying to gain back some time. I took in the views of Lake Michigan, appreciated the breeze off the water. Got mad at spectators.
Yeah, you read that right. Spectators were encouraging runners, trying to tell us we were in the home stretch. Half a mile is not a home stretch, people. Don't tell me I'm almost there when you have your cup of coffee and lawn chair. Don't tell me the finish is right down the hill when I have to go down the hill and up another hill to get to the straight away. It's irritating. It makes me run faster and burn out and want to walk to the finish.
But I didn't. I gave myself 5 seconds and made myself haul ass across that line. I even remembered to raise my arms and smile. At least, I hope what I did was smiling.