Saturday, October 19, 2019


If you find happiness
Hold onto it, hold onto it
'Cause most of us are bad at it
Got aching ribs from faking it
And even if it dissolves
It's still better than nothing at all
So if you find happiness
Hold onto it, yeah
~ 'Happiness', Wingtip

Last year when I signed up for the Chicago marathon, Jeff and I decided to make it a family weekend since Rosie & Grace had never been before.  Thus, last Friday, October 11th, all four of us got up at the crack of dawn for our flight to the Windy City.  Despite the hour, the girls were super fired up primarily because they were missing school but also because they LOVE to fly (unlimited Sprite anyone?) and they love a good family vacation.  I mean, who doesn't?  We breezed through security and bee-lined it over to Starbucks as I wasn't able to speak until I was fully caffeinated.  Thankfully, everyone in my family gets it and Jeff is pretty much the same way.  For the record, the girls prefer Dunkin'.  I don't know what Grace drinks, but it's loaded with chocolate so it probably has a similar effect on her as my latte does on me.  Whatever does the trick.

After we landed, we got in a cab and made our way to the apartment we'd rented through Airbnb which was in the Old Town district.  It was pouring  Not good for running.  It was also about 70 degrees and humid which was super weird and, again, very bad for racing.  I remember thinking as I looked out the window, thanks be to whoever is up there that the race isn't today.  We dropped off our stuff and Jeff and I went back out to get another coffee as the one we'd had at 5am was wearing off and we had a long day ahead of us.  We all did some unpacking and organizing and once we were pretty settled in, we called an Uber and headed back out again, this time to the expo so I could pick up my bib and race packet.

Having gone to the Boston expo with me back in April and having had an absolute blast (samples and free stuff FTW) the girls were more excited than I was when we pulled up.  Once we were inside, we picked a meeting spot and broke up as they like to do their own thing and do it on their own time.  Jeff came with me to grab my number and shirt and then we took a cruise around the floor, stopping at the booths that caught our eye like Feetures, Picky Bars and Biofreeze (one can never have enough Biofreeze).   

I made a point to find the NUUN booth so I could say hi to Mason French, our team leader and thank him for all that he does for us.  He has got to be one of the most upbeat, positive people I have ever met.  It's insanely refreshing to be around him.

I picked up a couple more "unneeded but kind of needed at the moment because I was excited" things and then met up with Jeff and the girls.  All of us were pretty hangry so we left the expo and headed to a restaurant to get some burgers and fries.  Sufficiently stuffed and in need of more activity before plopping down on the couch, we walked over to the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower as one can't be in Chicago and not go to the top of the the 3rd tallest building in the world.  

Unfortunately, the visibility wasn't great due to the storm that had come through.  So we could only see about 5 to 10 miles out instead of the usual 50.  It was still ridiculously spooky to be out in this small glass box on top of the city so the effect was not lost on us.  Of course, Rosie felt the need to do a handstand, not at all weird for her but it definitely got some looks from the people around us.  We're used to it.  And, personally, I though it was pretty badass.

Done with our touristy stuff for the day, we took an Uber back to our apartment for some chill time before dinner.  Jeff and I were pretty wiped as we'd gotten up at 5am to start this adventure.  The girls, however, were a bit punch drunk, likely over tired and unable to stop laughing and jumping around like wild animals.  Our two moods weren't meshing so well together in our small set up.  Around 7, we went back out to meet up with our friends the Eberhards, who Jeff and I went to Colgate with, for dinner.  They have kids our girls' ages but theirs had other plans so Rosie and Grace ordered sugary drinks and continued to laugh at each other through dinner.  Better than fighting with each other, right?  We stuffed ourselves with pizza and pasta and then walked down the street for some ice cream from Jeni's, quite possibly the best ice cream I've ever had in my life. No joke.  Finally, we rolled ourselves home and hit the hay.  Well, Jeff and I did.  Who knows what the girls did.  Probably a couple more hours of Tik Tok before they eventually passed out.  

As usual, I was up early the next morning.  After a quick cup of coffee I took off for a three mile shakeout.  The temperature outside was...wait for it...THIRTY SEVEN degrees.  I mean, it's not crazy cold, but given that it had been 70 the day before it was definitely a bit of a shock to the system.  Despite the chill, it felt good to be outside and the air was crisp as opposed to humid which was a nice change as well.  I was cold for the first five minutes or so but after that I was good to go.  The run felt great.  My legs were firing and I was itching to go faster which I didn't but obviously took as a good sign.  I just did a quick out and back and finished at Cocoa + Co., a sweet little coffee shop right by our apartment.  Yes, I planned it.  

As I walked back to our place, I started to get cold again and had the realization that I would likely be freezing at the start of the race the next morning given what I had planned on wearing and the current temp.  Oh well.  Our plan for the morning was to do the popular Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise that all of our friends had recommended.  We made our way back into the city yet again, got a third (or fourth, who knows) coffee and lined up for the cruise.  It was turning into a really beautiful day but it was not getting much warmer and sitting on the top deck of the boat with the wind blowing was a challenge.  We did our best, the girls caving and going inside before Jeff and I, but it was totally worth it as the city's architecture is so unique and learning about it was such a treat.

An hour and a half later and all of us were sufficiently frozen to the core and ready for some food.  We cabbed over to Lincoln Park to meet up with my friend Matt Jordan and his family for some pizza at Homeslice.  In hindsight, this was probably not the best decision for me, but I wasn't thinking wisely at the time as my hunger outweighed my ability to use my brain.  Matt has two little ones, ages 3 and 6, and Jeff and I laughed quietly as we remembered the days when high chairs were needed but the kids didn't want them and parents got reprimanded for bring the wrong set of legos.  It was so nice to catch up with Matt, who I went to high school with and hadn't seen since pre-kids.  I have to give his wife, Liz, a shoutout for her patience as she dealt with all of the toddler logistics and also to his kiddos who held it together beautifully considering how long we were there.  After pizza we walked down the street for cupcakes because...well, cupcakes.  Again, maybe not the best choice for me.  But, everyone was doing it.

A few hours later we hugged, said our goodbyes and rolled ourselves back home.  Lots of rolling over the weekend.  We only had about thirty minutes before we had to turn it around and go back out again as we had tickets to The Second City at 4:00.  Yes, we squeezed a lot in.  But, I have to say, live comedy the night before a marathon was a pretty perfect distraction.  And we all loved it.  I'll admit it was totally inappropriate for our girls, but we'd known what were getting into so it wasn't that big of a shock.  Well, it was for them, not for us.  Really, really funny.  We walked home around 7:00 and I made some pasta and got my stuff ready for the next morning.

My high school XC team had given me cards with notes and inspirational quotes which I read through multiple times before I went to bed.  So nice of them.  I was glazing the pages of a book by 8:00 and had my lights out by 9 as I had to be over at the start by 6:30 the next morning.  I'm sure Rosie and Grace were up for a good 3 or 4 more hours after me.  Whether they would be up in time to see me race was anybody's guess.  

Race day.  Finally.  I was up before my alarm at 4:45, sipping coffee and eating breakfast as I got myself ready to go.  I felt calm; ready.  This was my 24th marathon.  I'd had a great training block.  I felt really strong.  I was confident in a way I hadn't been in the past.  I was excited.  But not particularly nervous.  It was a nice change.  I embraced it.  I took a cab down to Grant Park and found the American Development tent which I had the privilege of getting to use since I'd applied and been accepted into the program.  It was amazing as the tent was heated and we had plenty of room to spread out our stuff and stretch as well as our own set of bathrooms.  I went out for a very quick shakeout run and it was right around here when my stomach started to feel a little off.  I chalked it up to pre-race nerves and tried not to think about it.  Around 6:45 we were told to make our way over to the start which was at 7:30.  So, yes, a ton of time standing in the cold.  But, Matt had given me a throw away blanket to use and for that I will be forever in his debt.  People were standing around in their tanks and briefs and I was the weirdo wrapped up in a brown dog blanket.  I didn't care one bit.  To my good fortune, I found two gals from my Oiselle team, Maeluen & Jessica, who were trying to run around the same pace as me and we agreed to work together for as long as we could.  This was a huge mental boost for me and I was very happy to have found some wing-women.  We all took some last minute strides out and then it was go time. 

Boston is huge.  Chicago is bigger.  And you can feel it when you're standing there.  45,000 runners.  It's kind of insane.  I'd been told that the GPS signal was inaccurate in the city due to all the tall buildings so my plan was use my stopwatch and just check my splits at the mile markers.  I wasn't thrilled about this plan, but there wasn't a better option if I wanted an accurate read on how I was doing.  Maeluen, Jessica and I took off together and hit the first mile spot on, right around 6:45.  The pace felt good.  Not too hard.  I was able to talk to the girls comfortably and able to get fluids no problem.  We cruised like this for a while, hitting goal pace without any issues.  All three of us in rhythm together.  Things were looking good.  Until they weren't.  Around mile 8, my stomach started to give me issues and I felt like I needed to use the bathroom.  I tried not to think about it.  No dice.  It was going to be a problem.  I then tried not to panic.  I needed to deal but, I really didn't want to leave my crew.  At mile 12, I told Jessica that I was going to try and speed up a bit and find a bathroom in hopes of using it quickly and then finding them again.  It was a long shot, I knew.  But, things had been going so well with them up until that point that I didn't want to lose out on working with them for the rest of the race if at all possible.

I ducked in, dealt as quickly as I could and hopped back out.  I have no idea how much time it took me but it was easily a minute or so.  The whole process was really unsettling and my flow, both mental and physical, was definitely rocked because of it.  I was rushing back through the crowd trying to find Jessica and Maeluen while also stressing about the time I'd lost and the fact that I was now running faster than goal pace to catch up to them.  Oh, side note, Pablo (in the photo above) and I were probably about the only two people in the entire field who weren't wearing the Nike 4%s.  I'm kidding, obviously, but you would not have believed how many people had them on.  We were definitely in the minority wearing a different brand.  It's crazy how much of an impact these shoes have had on our sport lately.  Ok, back on track.  Thankfully, I was able to link back up with my teammates which was a big relief and I was able to relax a bit and settle back in.  They both gave me a fist bump which I so needed.  We continued on together, now back on goal pace, averaging around 6:45.  Miles 13 through 17 went by relatively quickly without any major issues.  That said, I did start to worry a little at this point because my stomach was so off that I was afraid to eat my gels.  Who knows what happened.  Maybe it was the veggie pizza I had eaten the day before.  Maybe it was that I'd had too many meals out over the past couple days and my stomach didn't like all the changes in my diet.  Or maybe it was random.  Though, I kind of doubt this.  I was making an effort to sip Gatorade at every drink station but I knew it wasn't the same amount of calories that the gels provide and I was anticipating a zap in energy due to the lack of fuel. I worked hard to put it out of my mind, but you know how that goes.  Around mile 18, we saw the Oiselle Cowbell Corner, which just about the best thing ever.  

Our bird teammates were cheering their brains out and I got a huge surge in energy because of it.  I'm pretty sure all three of us did.  Around mile 20, I realized that Maeluen and I were on our own, Jessica having pulled back a bit.  I asked if she knew whether we were still on pace as my ability to check my splits post-bathroom was not the best.  She thought we were but wasn't 100% sure.  Oh well, I remember thinking, it was now going to be a fight for me to the finish.  I could feel my energy waning.  I was trying so hard to push through and stay on pace but it wasn't happening and I knew it.  In past races, when I've gotten to this point, I've stopped and walked, defeated and often a little out of it.  But, that was not happening.  I was still sharp, just not operating at full speed.  I told myself to relax.  To focus on putting one foot in front of the other.  At mile 22 I saw my friend Courtney and was able to give her a smile, which I knew was a good thing. I didn't feel great and my wheels were wobbly but they weren't falling off.  I was determined to keep it together and I was doing ok.

My pace was now notably slower but I forged ahead.  People were passing me.  It was tough but, at the same time, I was tough.  I was absolutely still in the fight.  And I was close enough to the finish to know that it wasn't going to be a throw away.  Thankfully, I could process that for those last few miles.  And then, there it was.  The finish line.  I crossed it without much fanfare in 3:02:28.  

I wasn't out of breath.  I hadn't been able to give an all out sprint because I simply hadn't had enough fuel in the tank.  So, I was just kind of okay if not a little unsteady.  I felt instant relief.  And then a little sad.  But also happy.  It was a weird combination of emotions.  Things hadn't gone the way I'd hoped.  And yet, I'd managed to run goal pace all the way through the 35K.  I was able to recognize that as I walked to get my medal and blanket.  Maybe it's because I'm older.  Maybe it's because I've done so many races.  But, for the first time, probably ever, I was able to see both the good and the bad as I started to process how things had played out without being completely devastated that the day hadn't gone my way.  A photographer asked to take my photo.  I am sure that in the past, had I run a bad race, I would have told him no thanks.  But I stopped and smiled.  Because I was oddly okay.  I'd run a brave, bold gutsy race and all things considered it had gone pretty damn well.  

I called Jeff and we made a plan to meet up.  They weren't able to come through security with their bags so I gathered my things, gave hugs to Jessica and Maeluen and wove my way out of the park.  Man, was it nice to see my family post-race; exactly what I needed at the moment.  They never travel with me to these things so having them there to wrap me up was such an incredible bonus.  

They told me good job and congratulations.  They could have cared less about whether I ran my goal time or not.  I love that.  Yes, it mattered to me.  But, in the grand scheme, it's really not that big a deal.  Jeff and the girls were proud of me.  I felt the love.  That was what was important.  I know had all things gone the way I planned, given how my training had gone, I had a PR race in me.  And sometimes, when the stars align, that happens.  But, more often than not, it doesn't pan out that way.  And that, my friends is the nature of the beast.  If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.  There is always an unknown that we can't plan for despite all of our efforts to practice every single thing.  That unknown is kind of the magic of the race itself.  Sometimes we can work with and overcome it. Sometimes we can't.  But if we love what we're doing, and over the years I have realized that I truly do, than we keep trying until we hopefully find that magic again.  I'm 100% sure that it's going to happen a few more times before I hang up my shoes.  I have no idea when.  And time is not on my side given that I am 44.  But, I'm going to do my damndest to stick with it for as long as I can because I'm not ready to let that feeling go.  It's just too good.  Oh, and yes, I'll be bringing my own food to my next adventure.  All these years later, I'm still learning.  Thanks for letting me share marathon #24 with you.  Up next?  I have no idea.  Stay tuned.  

Listen to this:
Happiness - Wingtip