Monday, 13 October 2014

Chicago Marathon

Quick report on this weekend's marathon..

This was always my A race of the year, run a pr, hopefully 2:38 or so.. the Gold was sub 2:38, silver sub 2:39 bronze sub 2:39:57 (previous PR).. the second goal was run a fairly even race, which I've never managed. When I ran 2:39:57 I went out into a head wind and came back with a tail wind but even with that assistance I still ran a 1:19 1:21 split..

Training in the heat and humidity of the Philly summer had hurt me, I just did not feel fit but local runners assured me you feel OK once the cooler air comes. The last  months saw me add much more quality, fast finish long runs, 16 milers at 6:20 pace, lots of LT sessions and a 2:48 marathon to BQ, so I knew I was in decent shape. I'd tried to run a last quick half 3 weeks ago at Newport Liberty half but on a humid day I had a shocker and clocked 1:21.. not what you need when you want confidence to run a 2:37 marathon… But i'd hit 90-100, even 105 miles most weeks since my ITB issues back in July so I had a solid base. My training is always 75% aerobic base and then the final 4-6 weeks in a sharpening phase where I add the quality.

I stayed out at O'Hare, up at 4:30, ate a few muffins, 45 minute train in and the start area was superb for a huge city marathon, loads of toilets, signs and easy bag drop.

This time my plan was just run low 6's. The start caught me off guards, I was chatting to a guy from the Sunderland living in Baltimore, when the elites went off.. almost immediately the American Development Coral (sub 2:31 men) and then our rope dropped and we could go.. 20 yards from the line it was almost a rolling start.. from there the road dips down hill and through a tunnel so your GPS loses signal immediately, we pop out and surrounded by Chicago's sky scrapers my GPS is again all over the show so I just hold a comfortable pace and pop by the 1 mile marker around 5:55, perfect first mile buT I wasn't quite sure when I started. I'm a tad stiff but that's normal.  My watch was all over the show but I keep it around 6 and pass each mile marker very close to 6 min miler, we pass the 5k and I'm at 18:30 or so, about bang on.

The field has now thinned out and I ask a few around me their goal times, most are 2:35-2:40 so I'm pretty happy. The females were all shooting for 2:37 and at that level are often strong experienced runners so good to sit in with. The next 10 k were pretty uneventful, water and gatorade stops were well signed, at 10k I grabbed a gel, another at 20k, and also a 400 mg ibuprofen. We went through the half bang on 1:19, which was about spot on, possibly a read fast, and I still didn't know how much time I had on the clock.

We were now in a a good group moving seamlessly through, I was worried the group were too fast but we had a barefoot runner in the group and I couldn't let a barefoot runner drop me.. My main issue was my needing a pee, it started around 10 miles and I hoped it would go away but it didn't so I knew I had to stop, and soon after the half I jumped into the trees and went for a pee and quickly caught on another group. I now had another decision, play it safe or gamble on a few 5:30-5:40 miles and put myself back in my old group.. I gambled and soon caught them and got a breather whilst I sat in. At mile 17 you get a gel stop so I grabbed a few more gels.

Conditions were perfect, a tad breezy, enough that you wanted to be in a group, cold but not too cold. We again moved through well and went through the 20 miles almost bang on 2 hours. Our mile pace was perfect, almost exact 6 minute miles but the group started to fall away. I still felt good and pushed on. From mile 21 onwards you get banana's so I was eating and drinking well and feeling strong. Mentally if you pass people you feel good and in a fast marathon like Chicago you pass many late on. The course is flat but with a fair few tight turns but the fastest line was marked in blue through any turn and bends so I stuck to that like glue.

I ate well, 4 gels and probably 2 banana's in the whole race and so felt confident with a few miles to go I could pick it up and finish well.

I was now confident 2:38 was in the bag, I was doing maths and realised sub 2:37 was even on.. and I dug in still hitting 5:50's in miles 23 onwards.. despite supposedly being a flat course there is a sting in the tail at Chicago, at mile 26 there is a hill.. it's nothing but after 26 miles of pancake flat running this murders you but I caught a guy there, chased him down, crested the hill and ran strongly in to finish with just over 2:37 on the clock.. as I finished the PA stated my time was sub 2;37..

I grabbed a beer, it was free at the finish line, walked through to the bag drop and then had it confirmed by friends I'd ran 2:36:45.. I was pretty amazed. I never thought I was in that shape. That's almost 10 minutes off my pr since 2010 when I ran 2:46:09 and it took me two years to beat that, so my next target is Boston and sub 2:35… But most pleasing I ran 5:59 pace, not many clock a sub 6 min mile pace marathon.. and with 1:18:31 and a 1:18:14 splits, a nice small negative split and a very evenly
paced run.

I now need to get quicker so its more of a focus on speed work over the winter.. but with TNF50 San Francisco thrown in.

Strava details:

Marathon photo: