2023 Marathons — Chicago & Columbus
Despite my best efforts, I really haven’t been writing much this year, but have to dust off the keyboard to do my annual marathon retrospective. I detailed this year’s training in my previous post, but had a major setback three weeks before Chicago. On my last long run of the season, I tripped over a cut off sign post and landed pretty hard on my right hip. I had jumped off the sidewalk in order to go around homeless guy, and when I tried to jump back on, I just didn’t see the stub of the post — it was rainy, and there was enough grass growing around the post that it must have just not registered as an obstacle in my mind. It was one of those situations where you don’t remember falling, just coming to your senses on the ground and thinking “what the @#$%&! just happened?” My hip was probably at a 6/10 for pain, but I kept going, hoping that keeping the joint/muscle moving would aid recovery. While I was able to finish the run, it was definitely not enjoyable. Once my hip started to feel slightly better, I noticed that one of the toes on my right foot (the one that kicked the signpost) felt “off” — confirmed broken on my return home. I guess the fortunate part of the whole thing was that it happened far enough ahead of my schedule races that I felt confident of recovery, and was able to (mostly) continue with my training taper.
First race up was Chicago. I took a day off work and drove up with the family — we hoofed around downtown for two days. The kids had never been, and it had almost been 20 years(!) since I had last visited. We got a cheap-o hotel near Midway, but train access was pretty convenient, so it worked out. Race morning promised great weather. There were so many people in town for the marathon, it was just on a different scale than what I had experienced before. Getting to the starting point and gear check was straightforward. I had so much time to kill that I sipped on some Gatorade while waiting. This turned out to be a problem later, as I felt like I needed to hit a porta-potty once I got into the starting corrals, but it was too late by that point.
Since I’d never run Chicago before, I figured I’d hang out with a pace group for a while and just try to enjoy the course. The first mile was dead on 7:15, but the next three were under 7:00; not sure what the pacer was thinking. I was worried about going too fast, so tried to relax and slow down, but ended up keeping ~7:05/mile pace for most of the race. The 3:10 group never caught back up to me, which was kind of unfortunate; I felt like I wasn’t really able to enjoy the crowds/scenery as much because I was so focused on keeping my own pace. I was very pleased with my nutrition strategy, which involved bringing along 4 Maurtens (2 regular, 2 w/ caffeine) and 2 Honey Stinger Golds. They were easy to get down, and had enough variation that I could look forward to eating the next one. The only hiccup in the race was that I eventually had to stop for a bathroom break at mile 23 — it was just too uncomfortable at that point. The rest of the race was really just hanging on; lots of folks were having to drop out and start walking. At the finish line I had barely enough time to breathe a sigh of relief before having to avoid a dude getting helped into a wheelchair, while simultaneously stepping over piles of puke. It was pretty savage. My finish time was 3:08:43, about a 4 minute improvement to my PR. Although that is fast enough to apply to Boston, it probably isn’t enough to actually get accepted (scroll to the “Qualifying History” section).
Even after a pretty hard race the previous weekend, and getting a fairly nasty respiratory illness that same week, I decided I was going to run Columbus as well. My body felt mostly recovered from Chicago, but I was still coughing up snot. I took some daytime cold medicine that included decongestants, but blew my nose fairly frequently during the race. Since I wasn’t in 100% condition, I told myself not to push too hard, and just enjoy the course. My average heart rate was noticably higher (around 5bpm) than the previous week, which I attributed to still recovering from sickness. The first mile was slow, due to congestion at the starting line. Since the Columbus race is so much smaller than Chicago (3,000 + 6,000 ½ marathon vs. 47,000!), runners in the first corral vary wildly in terms of speed, and I didn’t do enough to move to the front of the group. After the first mile, I was able to settle back in to the ~7:05/mile pace that seems to be comfortable for my current fitness level. The unfortunate thing was that I could feel my legs fatiguing much faster than the previous race. A brisk wind blowing from the north also made the traversal up High Street (around the halfway point) pretty uncomfortable. There were times when I felt I was going incredibly slowly, but just grit my teeth and focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Miles 24 & 25 were the worst, but after passing the #25 marker, I realized that I could still finish around the same time as Chicago (or maybe faster) if I kept a 7:00/mile pace. I felt pretty bad, but somehow dug deep enough to get that speed and finish 36 seconds faster. I have to say, Columbus’ post-race snacks were a lot better — Cheryl’s cookies and real chocolate milk instead of waxy donuts and Muscle Milk (bleh).
After back-to-back races, I’m going to take a bit of a (well-deserved) break. Looking forward, however, I think there are a few goals I can work towards:
- I’m going to put in the work to make my diet less trashy and try to drop 10 lbs; haven’t really had the motivation to lose weight, but it’s another factor under my control
- I might do some speed training and see if I can do sub-1:30 at the Cap City Half Marathon
- Since Boston registration is the opposite of Columbus, the earliest I would be able to run is 2025; I might try to enter a race earlier in 2024, to get more of a buffer on my best time (Cincinnati?)