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Chicago Marathon Race Report

October 14, 2009

Now, where is that list with all the things I’d like to do in my life?chicago marathon logo

Oh, here it is…

Run a marathon.


On Sunday I ran the 2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  I finished in 4:34:07 and placed 19,615th out of 33,608 finishers.  While I just missed my goal of finishing sub-4:30, I’m very happy with my time and I would consider all of my goals met.

  1. Finish. – YEAH!
  2. Control my Blood Glucose – YEAH!
  3. Have fun – YEAH!
  4. No walking – YEAH!
  5. Finish under 4:30 – close-e-frickin-nough!!!!!

5:00 AMDSC_0036

After a restless night, the alarms goes off in a VERY small room of the Hotel Felix in Chicago, IL.  My father-in-law, who was sleeping on a mattress we just happened to buy at IKEA on the way up, is already showering and getting ready to go.  (SIDE NOTE:  He took a bus to Chicago, practically slept on the floor, and still beat me by about 8 minutes).  We do a last minute check of everything and we’re out the door around 5:30 to catch the EL to Grant Park.

7:42 AM

I started running back in August of last year and have been preparing physically and mentally to run the Chicago Marathon.  Everything I have thought about and trained for has come to this –   I’m off for a little 26.2 mile run.  The official race start time was a 7:30 AM.  We were in the Open Corral somewhere between the 4:15 and 4:30 pace groups.  I had heard that it might take 20 or 30 minutes to get to the start given the huge number of runners, but it only took us 12 minutes.  It wasn’t bad at all.  I was dreading the slow shuffle, but it really wasn’t a problem.

The temperature at the start was around 37 degrees with very light wind.  After shedding many layers before the start I was down to shorts, a singlet, arm warmers, and light cotton gloves.  Most of the race would be in the 40s.  PERFECT running weather.  Not the best spectating weather however.  Just ask my wife.

9:54 AM

At the half way point.  My half split was 2:13:41.  The first half of the race was a blast.  The crowd support was amazing and so much fun.  The time just flew by.  The were a few stretches where the crowd was light, but for the most part there were people the entire way.  It really was awesome.

10:04 AM

Around the 14 mile mark, I comment to Matt (my father-in-law) that my legs could feel better.  They just never really loosened up and felt comfortable.  I was ok, just not great.  Over the next few miles, the crowd seemed to die down a little and at around the 16 mile mark, Matt decided to push ahead a bit and I dropped back into a 10:30-ish pace to try and conserve some energy.

21 Miles (Time starts to get a bit fuzzy 😉 )

I start to feel some cramping in my quads, but I was able to push on without stopping.  I’m glad that I did.  Had I stopped to stretch, I would’ve probably been in a world of hurt.  At this point, I’m in unknown territory.  I ran 2 20 milers in training, so every step after 20 miles was the farthest I had ever run.  My wife had planned to see me again at mile 23 and that’s all I could think about.  She saw us at miles 3 and 12 and then took a train down to 23.  She missed Matt go by ahead of me, which I forgot to mention when I saw her (WHOOOPS!!), but was there for some much needed support and encouragement.  I had just gone 3 miles farther than I had even gone and had 3 more to go.

22 Miles

As I pass the “Nike Keep On Going… Energizer… Guy with a Microphone Zone” or whatever it was called, I hear “and here comes the 4:30 pace group”.  Uh-oh.  They caught me.  No biggy.  I had realized many miles before that sub-4:30 was out of the question, so it didn’t really bother me.  I would finish just a few yards behind them.

12:15 PM

I crossed the finish line of my 1st marathon.  I was so glad to reach the finish that the emotions I had expected didn’t come.

12:17 PM

I grab my Chicago Marathon medal.  The emotions came.

12:18 PM

The cramps came.

I S.L.O.W.L.Y made my way through the finish area and got my bag from the gear check tent.  My quads were really cramping up, but I was moving.  The worst part was my left arm.  I couldn’t straighten it out or raise it more than about an inch without serious pain.  It was AWFUL.  I made my way over to where I had planned to meet Matt and my wife.  The time until they showed up was lonely.  I felt terrible and could barely move without cramps taking over.  It was not pretty.  I wasn’t able to eat anything (I think I managed 1.5 small pretzels), but had Matt go and find my something to drink.  He came back with an orange juice, which was perfect.

My wife, after her crazy journey trying to keep up with us, made it to our meeting point and handed me a card.  She had signed it along with our 2 kids.  Inside the card was the one other thing I had dreamed of…  a 26.2 sticker.  She had no idea I wanted one, but was thoughtful enough to think I would and got it.  The emotions came again.  26-2Oh yeah, Type 1 Diabetes…

I had a great control day.  My normal basal rates in the morning are .8 units between 6 and 10 and then down to .7 between 10 and 2.  I lowered my basal to .4 at 6 AM and then to .35 at 7 AM and left it there until 12 when I went up to .60.  Here are the numbers…

11:08 pm Sat night – 92.  I ate 1 fruit snack packet to keep from going low over night.
5:05 AM Sun morning – 84.  Nice wake up number.
5:20 AM – Ate package of PB crackers and took .6 units of insulin.
6:46 AM – 86.  Ate just over half of a fruit snack packet.  Didn’t want to over do it a go high.
8:40 AM – 172.  I ate another package of PB crackers just before the start, so I was doing fine here.
9:37 AM – 190.  Again not bad.  Just held pat at this point.  No insulin or carbs yet.
10:09 AM – 152.  Started taking GUs just prior to this.  I needed the nutrition, so I was doing PERFECT here.
10:54 AM – 123.
11:23 AM – 144.
12:25 PM – Took 2 units of insulin at the finish to prevent a spike.  Had a few pretzels and some OJ.
12:30 PM – 124.

The rest of the day was fine.  No lows at all.  I did go a bit high after dinner, but that was ok.  Overall, I couldn’t have been happier with my control.  I did eat 4 or 5 GUs during the run and I would also note that early on I was alternating between Gatorade and water at each aid station, but switched to just Gatorade nearer the end.  In hindsight given the cramps, I should’ve taken more water.  I think I was pretty dehydrated at the end.

I did have a close call the night before the race.  I was starting to run low on insulin in my pump, so I decided I would change my infusion set before dinner instead of waiting until later and risk a problem.  I left the old site in and put in the new one and went off to the marathon Expo and then dinner.  Dinner comes – time to bolus – NO DELIVERY.  Nice.  The exact issue I wanted to avoid happened.  (For the record… the problem site was a small “gusher”.)  I switched back to the old site, bolused for dinner and then put in a new site when we got back to the hotel.  I decided to go with the old site for the race and kept the new one for a backup.  A good plan with a close call.

I’m still dealing with the post-race emotions.  Sometimes I forgot what I just did and I don’t think it has totally sunk in yet.  It’ll come.  I ran TWENTY-SIX POINT TWO miles.  26.2.

Bite me Type 1 Diabetes.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2009 7:38 am

    Yeah! That was an awesome race report that read like it was written by a pro, not a rookie! Congratulations and welcome to Club 26.2! You just reminded me of why I’m shooting for #2 in three months.

  2. October 14, 2009 8:43 am

    Congratulations!! Running a 4:34 in your first marathon AND dealing with insulin levels is impressive! I don’t know what I would do if I had to concentrate on those kinds of numbers while also thinking about running numbers. Good job, MARATHONER!

  3. October 14, 2009 12:40 pm

    Congrats!! Great write-up. You are now a certified runner!

  4. Agent Nero permalink
    October 14, 2009 7:03 pm

    Great work, Gary! I’m about ready to jump into the running shoes myself. See you soon…

  5. Tanya permalink
    October 22, 2009 11:32 pm

    Nice run-down of your race! I’m training for my first full marathon next March. Thanks for the idea of keeping a second site in for a back up; in 2 of my 3 half marathons I’ve lost sites. Congratulations on your success!

  6. Vic permalink
    October 23, 2009 5:00 am


    Great job! I’ve done 3 marathons now – the best one being when I had the best BG numbers for the duration of the event. Heading out shortly for a quick run before the rain starts in ATL again…So when’s the next one!

  7. Felicia permalink
    October 26, 2009 7:27 pm

    Great story. I have type 1 diabetes and just ran my first marathon – Denver Marathon last weekend. I got to your story from the Point newsletter from Insulindependence. I felt like getting good control of my blood sugars during and after the race was half the battle. I trained hard with my doctor to achieve that and did. I think I’ll do two more next year. I usually run half marathons. Unlike you, I have to increase my basal rate during my long runs and race to accommodate proper “fueling.”

    I had a great experience, was under 5 hours, never had to walk, avoided hitting the wall, and had a great time. My blood sugars were a little too high (180’s – 190’s but came down towards end) I think due to adrenaline since they were perfect during all my long runs. Oh well! My mother, who is also a type 1 diabetic, was amazed and proud.


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