My training program for this marathon was similar to the last few, where I run 1 day a week on the track, 1 day tempo and 1 day long run. Because I trained with a group (Andy, Noal and later Paul) I only missed a few days, and did not miss a single long run. I ended up doing 6 twenty mile runs. The times we ran were targeting a 3:40 marathon and given that probably 90% of the runs we were a bit faster than the proscribed times, I felt pretty prepared for this marathon, even though I was a little heavier (167 or 11.9 Stone) given I did not adjust my diet at all prior to the race.
For the first time, the family came with me to the marathon. Although it was fun having them there to see the race, it did mess with my mind as I am a very obsessed for control of everything pre-race. And with three kids in our hotel room the night before, I had zero control. Kids did not want to go to a restaurant for dinner (we already went to Jones for brunch prior, I had pancakes and waffles) so we got them room service. Ba-Nhi and I ordered in from a restaurant by the hotel called Vietnam and I had vermicelli and lemon grass chicken. Because I had carbo-loaded with Carbo Pro for the few days prior I was not worried about having maxed out the glycogen storage.
Pre-race met Paul at the medical tent right at 5:45 for the 7:00 start. We first stood in line for 25 minutes at the port-o-potty than went to our corral. A lot more people were running this race than I thought, it definitely had the feeling of a big city marathon. Probably most similar to Chicago at the start. My initial goal was to try to run a 1:50 first half and then try to do a negative split. Our wave was 2 minutes after the first wave and had a very clean start with no real congestion at all. The Marathon had pretty wide open start near the fine art museum and down a wide road so by the time we hit Arch Street I was able to settle into a groove. Paul and I were separated early on. I saw Ba-Nhi and the girls right after mile 1 and it was great hearing “DADDY!” during the race. I know I probably should have stopped for some sort of quality moment but I just slowed down a bit, gave them all hi-5s, a “Hey Girls!” and kept going.
My first mile was 8:10 but my second was 8:03. So I tried to slow it down, doing the next few miles in the mid 8 teens. But I started to warm up and ran the next couple in 8:04s so was still going a bit fast. The course itself was great for the first 10k. Very city like, very cool as we ran through old city, then up into center city. Reminded me of the Chicago marathon as we went through the city with great crowd support. The supporters had more signs up than I remember in any other marathon. They were either a sign that said “Go XX” or something really cheesy or punny, so it kept me entertained. For example, 4 different times “Why do the cute ones always run away”, stuff that would normally make you groan but for some reason I enjoyed it. We ran over the Schuylkill river into the Drexel campus but we turned on 34th street so I did not really get to see the Penn Campus. I was still feeling pretty strong so I was really just focused on trying to keep the pace between 8:10 and 8:20. During this race, for first time carried a water bottle with some Roctane powder in it. I sort of liked not having to worry about the water stops, although I did grab water here and there. By mile 8 I had finished the water bottle and threw it away. We entered a park area with not much crowd support and headed back toward the museum. We ran alongside the Schuylkill for a few miles as we approached the uphill finish of the half-marathon. The half-marathon runners finished to the right and the full marathon runners went left up the other side of the Schuylkill. My first half was 1:48:21, a little fast but I still had not given up on my negative split goal. We ran down boathouse row, slightly downhill with a much thinned out group now that the half marathon was over. So I ran a pretty quick 8:02 mile 14 before I slowed down, running the next 4 around 8:20ish pace. More great support around here for the runners. Every runner had their name in big, reverse type on the bib, so I got a bunch of “Great job John!” as I had to register for the race with my legal name. But I really appreciated the support. Around mile 15, someone yelled right at me “Allright Sinclair!” That threw me for a second. I actually looked at my bib to see if my last name was on it, then looked at the people right behind me to see their names, no Sinclair. Then I rushed ahead to the people right in front of me, looked back and sure enough, there was a man with a big “SINCLAIR” on his bib. I looked after the race and he was the only first name Sinclair in the race. Not sure what happened to him as he ended up running like a 4:30 marathon after being right next to me at mile 15. I assume he got hurt and had to walk. Because it was an outbound/inbound part of the course, the leaders showed up around mile 16 on the other side of the road. It was really cool seeing the leaders go by running low 5:00 miles go right by you. Of course they were almost done and I was starting to figure out if I was going to run a negative split I was going to have to pick up the pace. As we crossed a bridge over the river around mile 18 I still felt ok so decided to pick up the pace going up a hill knowing I could keep it going on the downhill. I ran the 19th mile at 8:01, remembering I was annoyed I did not get it sub 8. We entered into Manayunk where the road was a bit tight and there were a ton of people making a lot of noise. I think 19th mile took more out of me than I thought and I had a hard time with the next few miles and started running the miles in 8:30. I was also looking to see if I could find Paul as I was worried because I knew he was battling some injuries. Although I did not see him, I was happy to find out after he finished sub 4:00. It was also here I noticed more than normal amount of people on the side of the road getting medical attention. A few people dealing with cramping legs but also a couple who were receiving real medical help. Although it was cool (in the 50s) it was really muggy and I think that may have effected people. At Mile 23 I started to slow down even more as I started to feel crappy. Mile 23 was 8:38 and mile 24 was 8:44. At this point I had given up on my negative split but still thought I could be 3:40. Doing the math in my head I figured as long as I could keep it under 9s, I was going to make it. Right at the end of mile 24, the 3:35 pace group passed me. I figured I only had a couple of miles left so I thought I would try and stay with them. It can be great running with an official pace group as the leader is typically yelling words of encouragement and that can be really helpful at the end. They were running at an 8:10 or so pace but I was able to keep up with them for about ¾ of a mile. At that point I started feeling a bit dizzy. I thought that there was no real difference between 3:37 and 3:39, and I was still thinking of all the people I had already seen pull up, so I let them go and went back into a more reasonable pace. But with their help, I did run an 8:20 mile 25. Then I ran an 8:29 mile 26 as we entered the area around the Museum again and there was a ton of crowd support. I was able to run the last .4 or so at a 7:47 pace (my GPS was .19 more than the course) so I finished at 3:38:36. My second half was 1:50:15. I was definitely happy breaking 3:40. After the race they gave out huge medals which were gold, and present an interest contrast to the simple small gray NYC medal I had from 1994. I was more nauseous than usual after the race and was a bit worried for about 5 minutes. I ran into Ba-Nhi and the girls shortly after I left the finish area. Although I had not seen them as I finished, they saw me. It took me maybe 40 minutes to slowly walk back to the hotel. I showered, we got cheesesteaks and chocolate milk and drove back to New York.
Overall it was a really interesting race, well organized with great support.
My training for the Chicago Marathon was similar to my Boston plan. Only run 3 days a week (1 track, 1 tempo, 1 long run) where the focus is on quality not quantity. My plan had distances and paces to run a 3:25 marathon. I stuck pretty closely to the plan, only missing 3 or 4 days. By the end of the program I was faster than plan on the track, about on plan for the tempo run, and 20 to 40 seconds/mile slow on the long runs. I ran four 20 mile runs, each one faster than the last, with the final one at 8:11/mile pace. Everything about the training results screamed a 3:30 marathon. I trained with my friend Kenny who was also going to run Chicago, and as we got close to the race we tailored our runs for an 8:00/mile race pace which translates into a 3:30 marathon.
We flew into Chicago Saturday afternoon. I tried something a bit different this race for carbo loading. Rather than eat as much as can the day before, I basically carbo loaded the 4 days before the race, supplementing my diet with 100g+ of carbs from a powder supplement. So the night before the marathon all I ate was a normal portion of pasta. I slept well and was up at 5:30 AM. The temperature was 42 degrees as we walked the mile or so to the starting corrals. The starting area was in Grant Park and was extremely well organized. It was different than the other big marathons (NY and Boston) where you spend hours in the staging area. We got there a bit past 7 for a 7:30 start and went right to our corral. We were in Corral B so only a few thousand people in front of us. The gun started and we got off without any delay or congestion. The people around us were definitely running fast and we tried to just get into our 8:00/mile pace. At the half mile mark there was a tunnel and it messed up my GPS watch so I was not sure of our pace. When we got to the 1 mile marker at 7:30 I was a bit worried. Although the pace felt very comfortable it was clear we were running too fast. I mention to Kenny that we should slow down to get to our goal 8:00/mile pace. Although Kenny is a triathlon veteran and a faster runner than me this was his first marathon and we were supposed to keep each other in control with the pace. So we try to slow down but we did the second mile in about 7:30 as well. A couple of more miles went by but we just couldn’t slow down. We generally were running at a 7:42 or 7:43 pace most of the early miles with a few miles under that. Chicago’s course is perfectly flat and had tremendous crowd support. As we ran through the city the crowds were loud enough that it was hard to talk to Kenny. And there were very few dead spots. By mile 5 we still couldn’t slow down and I said to Kenny “What I would give for an 8 minute mile”. We felt so comfortable at the pace we were running that by mile 11 when we ran a 7:28 I just gave up trying to slow us down and accepted our fate. We had trained well (except for Kenny being sick and missing 3 weeks and 3 critical long runs which would come back to haunt him in the end) tapered perfectly and the weather was perfect. So we just ran what was comfortable and that is always the mistake people make in the marathon. I knew all about this mistake it but there was also a part of me that thought “hey the speed workouts we did were way faster than plan, maybe it IS possible that we could do sub 3:25.” I wanted to tell Kenny “we are screwed. Miles 20+ are going to be hell” but I didn’t want to freak him out and burden him with my obsessiveness with the plan. So we just decided to press on running whatever pace was comfortable. The first half of the marathon we did at 1:41:42 and it felt easy. But I still feared that the pace we were on was going to crush us when we hit mile 20.
The course was great as went through Lincoln Park, the North Side of Chicago, Little Italy, Chinatown, and finally back up into Grant Park. The weather continued to be perfect as it reached maybe the low 50s. By mile 16 we started running in the low 8s pace, generally between 8:05 and 8:10. I usually start to really feel bad and slow down in a big way around mile 20. But in Chicago it did not happen until mile 23. I think the extra couple of miles of being able to keep pace was due to the difference in carbo loaded, the perfect weather, and the perfectly flat course. Mile 23 was an 8:26 and Mile 24 was an 8:32. I think this is the point that Kenny dropped back as the lack of long training runs combined with the much too fast first half got to him. With 2 miles left I did the math and I just needed to not fall apart to beat 3:30. I still had saved a little bit of energy but was still a bit concerned so with 2 miles left I had enough to run an 8:19 mile 25 then a slightly sub 8:00 pace on the last 1.1 or so miles. The end of the race had a ton of people cheering you on which especially helps at the finish. There was a baby hill of maybe 200 yards right before the finish and then it is a nice little downhill to the finish. I was able to kick it in at the end and finish passing large groups of people. I waited for Kenny at the finish and he came through about a minute after me. We were both really hurting. I had some Gatorade and pretzels and hobbled to the grass in the park to rest for about 10 minutes. Then Kenny went off to meet his parents and I started to walk to the hotel. The hotel was probably 1.5 miles away. It was in the low 50s but those space blankets they give you after marathons really work when its sunny. I tried to get on a bus but they wouldn’t let me on without paying the fare. So I shuffled to the hotel, got in the shower, got a cab to the airport, and was home by 6:30. I have run 7 marathons and in only 1 of those races (Boston) I ran a smart first half. I think if we had run the first half of Chicago in 1:44:40 rather than 1:41:40, we could have run an even faster race with much less pain in the end.
Overall Chicago was logistically the best marathon I have run and the course was one of my favorites. It is definitely one I would recommend.
If anyone is interested, here is the Garmin map/stats of the race.
This was supposed to be a stress free marathon as I was not really going for a specific time, my training was not great, and I was looking forward to a scenic course in Falmouth. My training suffered in the last 6 weeks as I suffered with runners knee. I ended up keeping most of my long runs on weekends but drastically cut my schedule during the week to 1 run. It worked as I was 100% healthy for the race. As we got closer to the date the weather began to look really poor. The forecast was predicting 35 degrees, slush and heavy rain, and 40+ MPH winds. The drive down there from my brother’s house 45 miles away was in a driving snowstorm. But by the time I got to Falmouth there was no snow and the rain had stopped. I picked up my number and sat in the parking lot for a couple of hours staying warm. It looked like it was going to be in the 30s with wind in the 30+ MPH (but no rain) so wore two l layers of technical shirts, wind jacket, dri-fit hat, and running tights. That ended up being about the right amount of clothes given the weather and wind. I never felt overheated or particularly cold. I was able to walk over to the starting line a few minutes before the start of the race.
The race itself was about 1,000 marathon runners and a bunch of relay runners. I appreciated the fact the relay runners actually had to carry a baton. The race started through the town center and the first three miles were essentially the last three miles of the summer Falmouth Road Race. That brought back great memories, a big hill, and some great scenery. I had heard that the course was a tough one with some hills, but I was not concerned as I had most of my long runs on courses with hills (I ended up be very wrong about this). The first 10 miles or so were not difficult. I was running between 7:55s and 8:05s. I thought it was a bit fast given conditions and training but figured I would just go at whatever pace I felt comfortable. After the first 5 miles or so the course was mainly inland and away from the water, so the wind was not that bad. It was cold but the weather was really not an issue. About mile 10 the course started to get hilly. These were rolling hills where you would have gradual, sometimes steep uphills, then quick downhills. I find I rest better on flats than downhills so I think I was having a hard time getting into a groove. I ran the first half marathon around 1:48 but was starting to worry it was a bit quick and I would pay for that in the second half. I started to realize around mile 16 as the rolling hills piled up that I made a pretty big tactical error by going out too fast. The course started to beat me up and I was surprised at how relentless the hills seemed. There were more people walking up the hills than I have ever remembered in a marathon. I have a thing about never walking in a race. I would run slow, but avoid walking at all costs. So I was going up these hills pretty slow! By mile 18 or so we start to leave inland and are now more in town, running by nice golf courses and starting to see the water again. The scenery was great, but I was just getting pissed about ANOTHER hill! I realized at about mile 18 that this was not going to be a fast day for me. I actually started to hit the wall. It had been a bunch of races since I really hit a wall but I do recall the feeling. I knew I could do it, but it was not going to be fun. So I girded myself to grind it out for the next 8 miles. At this point I was running in the low to mid 9s, so it was going to be awhile in this painful state. I remember someone saying early in the race that the last hill was at the lighthouse at mile 22, but that was not true at all. There was a couple more pretty long ones. The last couple of miles were thankfully flat and on the water. The finish line was in the town center, and they actually announced my name as I crossed the finish line, which was only the second time that has every happened to me. My final time was 3:47, so I essentially ran the second half marathon in almost 2 hours! A horrible split, but given my training and conditions, it was certainly the appropriate time. You can’t fake a marathon with lack of training like you can a half-marathon. My parents surprised me by being at the finish line as well. But I couldn’t do more than say a quick hello and recap of the race as I was already tightening up and getting really cold. So I hobbled over to my car, drove about an hour to my brother’s house, showered, and drove 4 hours home back to Port Washington.
Overall it was a really interesting race. Much different than a big city marathon. There were less water stops, the mile markers reminded me of the old ones on the west side highway path, and very few, if spirited, spectators. The course was definitely the toughest I have run. And I have learned that probably not wise to just treat a marathon like another long run!
Off to the cape cod marathon in a driving snowstorm. This will be an interesting run!
RT @andrewparker: I’m only 130 pages into REAMDE and I’ve already got 2 new startup ideas out of it. #NoSpoilersPlease
RT @ddayman: Congratulations to Matt Blumberg for his election to Chairman of the DMA board for 2012. @mattblumberg @returnpath
"Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them." mathematician Alfred North Whitehead