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Chicago Marathon 2011

October 12, 2011

Going into the 2011 Chicago Marathon, I had a very specific goal in mind – one that I had trained for all Summer long – a 3:50 marathon. I had missed a sub 4 hour marathon my last 2 attempts by minutes. I knew I could do it, so I pushed myself and set an even faster goal. Going into the race, even the Saturday before, I felt comfortable and confident that I could do it. The limiting factor was going to be how well I could handle the less than ideal warm temps in Chicago on October 9th.  The temperature at the start was around 64 and pushed into the mid 70’s by the time I finished.  Sounds beautiful, right?  Not for a marathon runner.


Not only did I not make my goal of 3:50, I missed a sub 4 hour marathon by 13 seconds. Just one less walk break and I would’ve done it. Disappointment. It’s very easy after a race like this to go back in my mind and think that I could’ve done it. Just ONE less walk break… but I know that’s not how it works. I didn’t want to stop and walk, but I had to. 4:00:12 was everything I had this past Sunday. I gave it everything up “Mount Roosevelt” at the end as I fought off the cramps one last time. That was all I had and I have no regrets.

I absolutely cruised through the first half, right at my goal pace of 8:46 per mile.  I was literally closing my eyes and going with the flow of the pace group.  It was easy.  I was conserving as much energy as I could.  I wasn’t even taking in much of the unbelievable crowd that turns out every year for the race.  I was focused.  I usually joke and talk to as many people as possible during these races, but not this time.  I was in the zone.

Once I got to mile 14 I was taking stock of where I was and how I felt.  I didn’t feel bad, but I certainly didn’t feel perfect.  This was crunch time and I was able to hold it together from 14 – 18, but then the wheels quickly came off.  In the early going, I was running through the aid stations, while still doing a good job of staying hydrated and cool.  Now it was time to walk a bit during the aid stations.  Soon after than it was time to walk when the cramps started to take over.  I referred to this a “cramp intervals”.  Go as far as I could, let the cramp (calf or inner thigh) take over, stop, walk it off and then run again.  I couldn’t even make it all the way through the last mile.  Awful.

I had 10 minutes in the bank through 18 miles and I had to let that go.  I thought that I still maybe would make it even though I saw a few folks with 4:00 pace signs on their shirts.  I gave it one last go at the very end and just came up 13 seconds short.

So it goes.  I never felt warm or over-heated at all, but at those temperatures, I just can’t run as fast and as far as I could if it would’ve been 50 degrees.  While I’m still disappointed with my race, I know deep down that I did what I could given the conditions.

I did have a very good blood glucose management race.  Wasn’t even a factor.  The only thing I had to do was completely turn off my pump around mile 20, because I was starting to have trouble eating and taking in calories, so I couldn’t risk going low.  That worked out well and I finished around 120 or 130.

I do want to give a shout out to my wonderful wife for being there and being supportive throughout the race.  She has got Chicago Marathon spectating licked!  She was at miles 3, 12, 22 and even ran over to catch me at 23.  I couldn’t wait to see her at 22.  Unfortunately, I had to tell her that the wheels had fallen off, but most importantly I wanted her to know that I was ok and would make it in fine.  I’m smart about not pushing too hard and listening to my body.  A sub 4 hour marathon is important to me, but not as important as my family.

I’ll get ‘er next time…

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 12, 2011 11:50 am

    great job gary! very impressed. are you doing st jude again this year?

  2. October 12, 2011 11:52 am

    Thanks Aaron. Nope, next up is Carlsbad in Jan. with IN.

  3. October 12, 2011 5:51 pm

    You absolutely will get ‘er next time Gary! Way to go, and a totally awesome performance, even if it wasn’t quite what you hoped for. You should be proud!

  4. October 13, 2011 3:40 am

    Sounds very similar to my experience. I was also there in the 3:50 pace group. I trained about 45 miles per week with 2x 20 milers and a 3 week taper. I felt I couldn’t have trained much better and couldn’t have been more prepared.

    Well, the first 14 miles went beautifully and got a new half PR of 1:56. But shortly after I was getting hot so I backed off the pace. At mile 19 calf spasms started–something that’s NEVER happened to me before in 1000+ miles of running. They continued to get worse and worse until I had to walk/run the last 3 miles to finish at 4:29. Still a PR but hardly the time I trained for.

    I talked to a lot of people in the airport the next day and met 1 out of maybe 20 who was happy with their performance (he BQ’d) And some of these people ran 10+ marathons. So I think the heat got to pretty much everybody.

    Aside from that, awesome course, great spectators, and the entire event was very well managed.

  5. Tom Hootselle permalink
    October 17, 2011 5:06 pm

    I feel your pain……seriously!! My resume includes the following: 2008 Go St. Louis Marathon (4:00:32), 2009 Gateway Olympic Distance Tri(3:00:08), and 2011 IMKY (14:00:34). In every one of those races, I walked away knowing that I gave 100%, had an “A” day, and couldn’t have done any better if I tried. You can train smarter and harder, but at the end of the day the weather is an uncontrollable variable. You left it all on the course and should be proud of your PR. You are a great endurance athlete and an inspiration to everybody around you. Keep up the great work.

  6. February 21, 2012 9:57 pm

    Hey man, how did Carlsbad go for you? I ran the half a few years ago. Anyway, I wanted to know if you’re running Chicago this year? I am giving it a shot and I have a goal of under 4:00:00. We’ll see what happens.

    • February 22, 2012 2:57 pm

      Carlsbad was great. I decide to run with a friend and didn’t try to set a PR. Just enjoyed the run (which was nice for a change). Not doing Chicago this year. Focusing on Ironman Arizona this year. Good luck going sub 4!

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