On Friday, I told you I was going to write about how I screwed this tooth up, but I thought, while it is fresh, I would tell you about my marathon. I will tell you about the screw up on Friday. [This is kind of like a blog cliff-hanger.]
The run was on Sunday. We were to arrive in Chicago at 1pm on Saturday. Everything seemed fine when we made the flight. But as the day went on, it seemed like we might be getting tight on time. See, if you are in a HUGE marathon like this one, you need to pick up your race number, your race packet and T-shirt the day before at the Expo. And this Expo closed at 6pm.
Still seemed okay. But we didn't want to get in to Midway, go to the hotel, check in, then go to the Expo. This was too scary of a time crunch for us. So we went straight from the airport to the Expo, and the Expo was an absolute madhouse.
(outside the Expo Center...very cool)
(inside the Expo Center)
It was very well-run and picking up your stuff was pretty easy and efficient, but there were so many people there. And we were doing all this with our luggage in tow.
No big deal. We made it out of there alive. We made it to our hotel and settled. We went out for some Chicago-style pizza for our pre-race meal.
The excitement was building. We were to meet at 6am for a 7:30 race start. My friend and I stuck together. We were going to try to meet with a bunch of others but it was just so crazy.
We had planned on checking our gear (wallet, cell phone, extra clothes) in my friend's tent. He had raised money for the American Cancer Society, and they have a hospitality tent where all their participants can sit, check bags, get drinks and such. But this tent was one of the farthest tents away. So we met at 6am and didn't get to his tent until 7. That means we walked for an hour - not really the calm morning we were looking for. We made it to our corral and had about 10 minutes to spare before the race started.
The place was a mob scene. Even getting into your corral (they place you in the starting line according to your best time) was crazy. We finally got in and there were about 20 port-o-jons lined up with about 20 people in line for each. Apparently that wasn't enough, because people were just peeing everywhere. Girls were actually squatting along a fence. I have never seen anything like it. (I know it is probably TMI, but I wanted you to see what I saw.) And I guess, once you start and the urge comes on... if you got to go you got to go. There again, girls literally just pulling off to the side and squatting. All in the first mile. I guess men have it a bit easier this way.
As you might imagine, the start and beginning were a bit of a fog for me. Runners everywhere and the crowd was 6 deep. It was awesome. You were running down the city, huge buildings on both sides of you and people cheering and screaming everywhere. It was incredible.
Everything was going so smoothly. We passed the halfway point at 2:08. I felt just okay. Nothing great. I was just trying to chug along and make it to the end. I wanted to make it to 20 miles to then just gut it out. Everything was fine and I even thought to myself that things were going so fine that I wouldn't have anything to write about in the blog.
(Feeling sporty at about mile 10)
Well, that didn't last long. At mile 16 my legs, more like my calves, started to cramp. At first it was a tightness and a little walk relaxed it a bit. But then it turned into a full on "I am going to clench into a ball and not relent" kind of cramp. Nothing would relax this thing. No amount of walking, no amount of stretching. I was in pain and I still had 8.5 miles to go.
To his credit, my friend stuck with me. "I am not leaving you. We are in this together." So now, not only am I frustrated with my body because I wanted to run, but my legs would not cooperate, but I had the guilt of ruining his race. I tried my best to work it out. I would say, "Okay, let's run and see what happens," and we would go literally 20 yards before they would freeze up.
Finally, at mile 22, he told me, "My legs are freezing up with all this stopping and going. I am going to have to leave you." He ran off, and I was left to my own misery. I finally walked/crawled/ran through the finish line at 4:48. I was so glad it was over. It was misery for about 2 hours. I didn't feel that bad because I had to walk so much. I didn't really feel that spent.
I found my friend (he finished about 8 minutes before me) sitting on the ground waiting for me. I sat down with him. I ate a couple of cookies to try to get my blood sugar up. At this time the event people asked us to move so we got up - and this is where things started to get interesting.
I said to my friend, "Now I don't feel so good. Let's just stand here for a second."
We stood there and I put my head on his shoulders.
"Are you ready to go?"
He took a step forward and I took a step sideward and that is the last thing I remember. He told me I was out for about 10 seconds. He grabbed my arm and I started to go down. He pulled me to him and then grabbed me around my waist. (Now, I am not a small man and he said his legs were fine after the race but he did strain his side trying to hold me up.)
The next thing I know is that I hear a woman in a very strong voice, "LAY HIM DOWN, LAY HIM DOWN!" I came to and I was being laid flat on the ground. They put me in a wheelchair and rolled me over to the Medical tent. Inside this area was like a M*A*S*H unit. There were very chipper people asking you how you were doing. I told them that after I got in the wheelchair, not only did I feel like a wussy, I felt alot better. I was put in the "not going to die" area and they waited on me for a couple of minutes. They got me a cold towel and a Gatorade. In about 5 minutes I let myself out. I met everyone else back at the hospitality tent. And that was my marathon experience.
(After the medical tent. This is my friend who saved me from breaking my teeth.)
The Gators lost (I don't want to talk about it). I was disappointed in my run, but I FINISHED and I didn't have to go to the hospital. We took a taxi back to our hotel and I got in a shower and some rest. I couldn't nap because I was really hurting.
But after some rest and football-watching, we were looking forward to a nice dinner out. We all knew we were going to splurge so we didn't even think about it.
We went to a place called Hugo's Frog Bar and Fish House and it was AWESOME. I had some beer and a big fat steak. The food and the company. The race, the pain, the triumph, the friends, the sharing.... All of this is why I love running.
The next day, we got up and had about 5 hours before we had to go to the airport.
So it was off to breakfast first. I was still full from the night before, but we had heard a lot about this place called Bongo's. You know how much fun it is to go out to see a new city and eat or shop at places you don't get in your town. Bongo's was worth it. A small place with about 20 tables, packed to the brim for breakfast. Take a look at the photos and you will see why. It was only time I have paid $14 for pancakes but...
(Breakfast at Bongo's... these are the $14 pancakes. Are you kidding me? Check out the $14 French toast.)
Then it was off to shop. American Girl Place was our first stop. Then my camera battery went out and I didn't bring a charger.
Shopping was fun because a lot of people were out and wearing their medals. They were easy to spot. They were the ones that needed help lifting their legs to get up a curb. They were the ones that couldn't bend their ankles, walking with their toes up in the air. Hilarious.
Nike is the official apparel for the Chicago Marathon, so it is the only place you can buy racewear. The Nike store in Chicago is a five story building that you couldn't even walk in because there were so many people. There were people everywhere buying everything in the store. If they didn't do a million dollars in sales that day I would be shocked. There were lines at cashiers on every floor. Huge crowds was definitely the theme for the weekend.
Chicago... an absolute fantastic city. I love it every time I go. It has awesome stores and restaurants. Great arts, great parks, easy transportation. Great people. One of our cab drivers was telling us how much he loved America and what an awesome country it was (he was from Nigeria).
The Marathon was great, but I don't think I will do it again. I think I am not a fan of crowds. I am actually not a fan of people cheering me on, as weird as that sounds. I just wanted to be by myself, in my struggle and in my pain. I guess I am weird that way.
Have a great Wednesday,
ps. I am done with the blog. Uh oh!! I guess that means I have to get up from this chair. Small things like this are very difficult when your calf muscles hurt at every move. Advil is my friend.