The past week has been a roller-coaster of highs and lows. A week ago I was worried about the head-cold I had come down with for the second time in less than a month and the nagging cough. Then after getting some meds for that I felt much better last Thursday as we all headed out to fly to Chicago for what would end up being my second chance to run the Chicago Marathon. An afternoon of fun in Chicago with the family was ended by a freak accident in which I got my pinky toe caught in a revolving door at the hotel and once again the odds of running Chicago were thrown into doubt.
After not being able to walk on it and put any weight on that foot, Friday night I was resigned to the fact that I would not be able to run on Sunday in the marathon and consequently I posted Not Meant To Be. After that I went as far as calling the airline to see about getting our tickets changed to fly out on Saturday instead of Monday. However after finding out there was plenty of room on the flight but it would be $75 each…. I figured for $375 we could keep our original flight.
So Saturday morning Sharena convinced me that we should at least go to the expo and pick up my race packet and get my shirt. After-all – I had paid for the shirt and should at least get it. I was hesitant at first because I didn’t want a shirt from an event that I did not complete. However after thinking about it for a bit I figured that if nothing else I could just use it as one of my normal running shirts since I go through them so fast.
The funny thing was that as the day progressed I figured out that I could walk on my left foot without horrible pain as long as I did not flex it very much and kept it flat. In fact I at one point decided I would try a little jog and keeping it flat. I found that by doing this I was able to move with an acceptable level of discomfort.
After getting to the expo (which was an adventure itself with all 5 of us in a cab) – the bug bit me that maybe I should just line up and give it a shot. Worst case scenario if I was hurting too bad we ran right past our hotel within the first mile and I could just stop.
So Sunday at 5:45am I was up getting ready to walk to the start of the marathon. The temps were in the upper 30s with not too strong of a breeze but enough to make you notice it. I wore a long sleeve shirt that I would just throw off at the start but even with that my teeth were chattering by the time it was close to the start.
This year the Chicago Marathon implemented a new dual wave start. The first wave started at 7:30 and the second wave, which I was in started at 8:00. I don’t know if it was just imagination or real but it seemed to be much less frantic in the starting corrals this year. It was still pretty much elbow to elbow but just not as crazy with the inching forward only to stop and wait. There were still the annoying people that waited until 5 minutes before it started to jump the gates and said “Excuse Me” as if you could just magically disappear so they could get in front of you. I crossed the start line at around 8:03 – so not much longer after I did last year with the single start at 7:30.
By this point my feet as well as most of the rest of my lower body were pretty numb from the cold. So starting out I wasn’t really hurting all that bad. My form was pretty bad though. I had to try to keep my left foot landing flat which threw everything else off. I got to the corner by Embassy Suites and saw Sharena and the kids – they were freezing I could tell and I hollered to them but they couldn’t hear me. At this point I was feeling pretty good so I saw no need to stop.
By the time I turned onto State St. I had settled into a pretty good pace and really was feeling pretty good. Looking back on it now I am not really sure how I was able to feel as good as I did through it except through a lot of people praying for me that I would be able to run it. I had somehow settled in just on the heels of the 3:55 pace group – faster than I had anticipated going out – but still within my normal run paces so I decided to try to stay with them.
The route at least seemed familiar this year and I remembered several of the areas as I ran through them again. I am not sure but it seemed like the supporting crowds may have been down a little this year compared to last year. It may have been because the temps were so much cooler and jackets were required if you weren’t running. But – that by no means translates to thin crowds – the streets were still 4-5 people deep in places.
I kept looking down at my race pace tattoo that I had gotten on Saturday and I was consistently staying ahead of the goal paces for a 4 hour finish. By mile 13 I started to feel a little twinge in the toe. Not enough to cause enough concern to stop, but enough to bring me out of my zone mentally and make me think about it. I tried to ignore it and keep the pace going. At this point I was half way through in under 2 hours so I was well on my way.
Mile 16-20 were the toughest for me last year and that stayed true this year. Not sure why – but nonetheless they were tough mentally to stay focused. The crowd support was still good and you pretty much have runners all around you within arms distance the whole race in Chicago so it shouldn’t bother me but it did. This is also the section of the route that I noticed a lot more uneven pavement. Normally this is not an issue but with the toe injury, every pothole and slant of the pavement caused me to grimace and limp ever slightly.
As I got to mile 19 I noticed that I had slipped a little further back from the 3:55 pace group. My time compared to the goal time on the race pace tattoo was still about 2 minutes ahead of schedule but in the back of my mind it cause me to realize I was starting to slow a bit. By mile 20 I suddenly noticed a very painful cramp developing in the top of my left foot leading up the the shin area. I am sure this was due to the way I was trying to keep that foot from flexing and landing as flat as I could. I just kept telling myself – lets try to make it to the next mile marker.
By mile 21, my pace had slowed to over 10 minutes per mile and my total time was creeping back towards the goal times on the tattoo. Not a problem I kept thinking… I just need to keep pushing and try to get the pace back. I did try a couple of pickups to try to re-energize the legs but each time I tried I kept getting a sharp pain in the top of my foot from the cramping.
At mile 22, things definitely slowed dramatically. The cramp in my foot was causing me to flex my foot more. This in turn cause me to immediately start feeling the shooting pain from my toe. Within a half of a mile it forced me to stop and take my shoe completely off and try to stretch the foot out. Just getting my foot out of the shoe was enough to cause me to moan. This caused me to really worry that I might not get it back on. After about 45 seconds of letting it rest I forced my shoe back on and walked a bit to see if it would loosen up. It didn’t.
The last 4 miles were the worse of the whole race. By this point I saw the 4 hour pace slip by me. My foot was cramping terribly. My toe was starting to ache constantly and mentally it beat me up. I kept telling myself I just had a little longer to go and I could sit down.
I vividly remember crossing the finish line last year in Chicago. I became immediately amped up when I made the final turn from Roosevelt onto Michigan Ave. I can remember the elation of seeing the finish line and picking up the pace to cross. This year was different. I wanted to feel that again… but all I could think about was getting off of my foot. There was no chance of me picking up the pace to sprint. I crossed the finish line at 4:19:30 – almost a full hour faster than I did last year. I had hoped to break 4 hours in Chicago this year with the perfect weather and what I felt like had been pretty good training leading up to it. I can’t feel too badly – I mean I beat last years time by almost an hour and I set a new marathon PR on an injured foot. But I am one that once I set a goal – I hate to not see it happen.
After crossing the finish line, I texted Sharena and let her know I had finished and that I just needed to sit down for a bit. This was the first time I have ever used one of the thermal blankets they hand out. I was freezing sitting there on the grass. It seemed like the wind was blowing 20MPH through there and my teeth were chattering. After about 20 minutes, I finally made my way across to the 27th mile after-party area and found my family and after a few hugs and kisses we started to make our way back to the hotel. I think it probably took me 30-40 minutes to get back and I was hobbling pretty badly. Chicago was finished and what I thought was going to be my first DNS turned out to be a race I completed and will always remember.
I am incredibly blessed! I had a family that put up with me through all of the training and even more importantly – all of the highs and lows in Chicago after injuring my foot Thursday evening. I also can not say how much it meant for all of the friends and family back home that were praying for me and supporting me! That was truly amazing!
Whats next? Well I saw the Ortho yesterday and got an X-Ray. He said he could not tell for sure from the X-Ray whether it was a hairline fracture or not or just badly bruised. He offered to put it in a boot for me but I declined. I asked him how soon I could be back out running and he just said – As soon as you feel like it – So not much more in terms of definites.
I have Dogwood Canyon 25K Trail Race in about a week and a half. I hope to be able to run it. Time will tell. I have not ran since being home and worry that the extremely uneven and hilly trail might be too much – but we shall see!!