Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Chicago -- One Hot Race
Finally getting back to posting here. I've been very swamped with work and travel and training. I barely have time to READ blogs, much less post anything.
Today, a moment appeared and I'm here blogging and drinking coffee. What could be better?
My great friends Marcia, Nat, Cheryl, Mary and I all trained long and hard during a hot, humid Minnesota summer so we could toe the line on October 7th to run Chicago Marathon.
We flew down to Chicago on Friday, along with Hubby, Marcia's husband, Marty and Mary's love, Tom. All of us were very excited about the weekend, but concerned about the weather reports. Forecasts were for hot, humid conditions. We had so many training runs during hot, humid conditions -- we were sick of running through pea soup and had been hoping for a crisp, cool fall day.
This was not to be the case.
Most of us stayed at the Chicago Hostel -- located a very short distance from the start and finish line of the marathon. The Hostel was great! Very inexpensive, free breakfast, free pasta dinner before the marathon, wonderful staff. We stayed six to the room and slept in bunk beds. It was like being back in college.
We hit the Expo on Friday afternoon with 40 hours, 55 minutes and 54 seconds to go until race start time. Great booths with a lot more "stuff" than the expo at Twin Cities. (Bigger money poured in to Chicago Marathon). Crowds at the Expo were feeling excited -- again, much of the talk was about the weather.
We all met at Carmine's on Rush Street for a delicious dinner -- although our waiter, Dino, pulled a slight "waiter" trick by ordering us a "fabulous appetizer to share, served family style". What we got was platter after platter of appetizers -- shrimp, calamari, sausage, oysters, bruschetta, and more and more and more. Great food, too much of it and very expensive.
We were all so full after dinner that we walked back to the Hostel via Michigan Avenue. It was great to be back in the city, enjoying each other's company, window shopping and taking in the sites. I love Chicago -- and was really happy to be there with my friends.
Saturday was full of fun for Hubby and me. We took the "el" up to Evanston to meet my friend Bev and her husband Ron for lunch. On the way back to the city, we stopped at Wrigley Field. The Cubbies were playing the Diamond Backs -- it was the third playoff game in their series. Hubby wanted to get photos and we both wanted to soak in the atmosphere. We hung around there until the beginning of the 3rd inning -- Cubs were behind. It was to stay that way until the end, and, just like that, the Cubs were out of the series.
I did have a chance to ask some of the Fireguys at the firehouse outside the ballpark if the city was going to have hydrants open for the marathoners on Sunday. The head of the House said "Ask the Commissioner -- he is right over there", and pointed to his left.
Commissioner Orozco was at the game, milling around with us regular folk. I went up to him, introduced myself and asked if the hydrants would be open. He said "Oh, we have something better than that for you -- HUGE misters will be at the end of the race".
The second I hear him say "end", I thought we were going to be in trouble. Having run Grandma's and Twin Cities marathons in unseasonably hot weather, I knew that we runners need relief early and often. Misters are great, but only if they are used early on. He indicated that the misters would be in use by mile 20 and beyond.
Hubby and I got back on the Train, got back to the Hostel and then the girls and I started to finalize our race prep.
Sunday morning came fast -- we all got dressed and headed out the door. The sun was just coming up over the lake, which was just beautiful. It was warm but not horrible -- yet. We stretched, went to the portypotties and then lined up in our respective pace areas.
Nat and I lined up with the 5:15 group. We chatted with other runners until the gun went off and slowly started making our way to the start line. It took us 21 minutes to cross the start, but we were finally off and running.
The heat and humidity caught up to us FAST. Nat had agonized about whether or not to bring a water bottle and by the time we hit the first mile, she was very happy she did.
We hit the first water stop -- no water, no Gatorade. They were all out. This was not a good sign. I think that this also started to impact runners mentally. "If they are already out of supplies, what will happen when we get to the other water stop?" This caused us to get a little panicky.
I had Gatorade with me and I shared what I had with Natalie. My back-up plan during races is always to carry money with me. I figure if I get in to real trouble, I have cash to buy supplies or make a phone call or get a cab ride home.
Our pace was strong, but we were hot and Natalie was getting a little nervous. Water stop number two: Again, no water, no Gatorade. All gone.
Now, runners are really getting nervous. Fortunately, because I had lived in Chicago, I knew were a couple of convenience stores were along the route. At North Avenue and LaSalle, there was a gas station to our right that was mobbed with runners looking to buy water or Gatorade. We went in to the gas station, but it was too chaotic to stay there.
We left the station and went to the left of North/LaSalle to a Walgreens. It wasn't crowded at all and Nat and I were able to buy water and Gatorade. That was a huge help. We drank the water, splashed each others back and head and soaked our bandanna's. (I also always carry a bandanna with me during runs. When it is hot, I drench it with water and use it to cool my face. That is always a huge help.)
We kept on and got in to Lincoln Park. At the third water stop (about mile 5 or so), they volunteers had just received their extra water supplies. The runners actually mobbed the volunteers trying to get a drink. It was surreal.
We kept on going -- still very hot, pretty pissed off about the lack of supplies, but we kept trying to move one foot in front of the other. I kept telling Nat stories about when I used to live in Chicago to help keep her mind off of being hot and on to other things.
The crowds were great, which was also very helpful.
We hit the next water stop and finally found some Gatorade and water. I heard volunteers tell each other that what they were giving out was the last of their supplies. I was worried about our friends that were behind us. My guess was that they had not had any aide at the stops as of yet.
I was right. Cheryl, Marcia and Mary didn't get any aide at the stops until mile eight or so. Way too long to go without hydrating.
Fortunately, there were people that had hoses out and were spraying runners down and /or filling their water bottles, but they were few and far between.
We made our way back in to the Loop -- saw Nat's parents and boyfriend right before the 1/2 point and then saw Hubby and Tom before we turned out from the Loop towards Greektown.
We were on pace for our 5:15 finish -- but I knew that we'd have to figure out a way to get cooler or reduce our pace.
The 1/2 way point came and went and FINALLY saw that the members of the Fire Department were out with a giant hose spraying the crowd. RELIEF!
That, plus a Clif Shot, helped us to get a bit of a second wind. Nat kept saying "Let's just get to 17; then we can get to 20 and then it's a 10k to the finish".
I could do that! I knew I could.
Crowds were still great and at about mile 15, a woman had a bag of ICE. She handed it to me and I shared it with Nat and a couple other runners.
We could hear lots of sirens but we tried very hard to keep the sounds out of our head.
Right foot, left foot; right foot, left foot.
I saw one woman lying on the side of the road. She had some folks tending to her and looked tired, but coherent.
Right foot, left foot; right foot, left foot.
Mile 16 came and went. I expected us to turn to the right to move towards the Pilsen neighborhood. At almost the 17th mile, I saw Hubby, Tom and Marty. That was a great boost.
We kept running and I was thinking -- "When do we turn? We should turn soon!" Then, a young woman runner came up to me and asked, "Is it true? Are they shutting down the course?"
I thought she meant will they shut down the course if we didn't make the 6 1/2 hour time limit. I replied, "Yes, they do shut the course down after 6 1/2 hours, but that we were on our way to make it way before then."
Then I heard someone else say that they were shutting down the race because of the heat conditions.
BOOM. That was that.
I noticed that runners had stopped running -- that spectators were out in the street with us. Many people were on cell phones, checking Blackberries and PDAs to get the final word on the race. It was true -- the race was closing down.
Nat's boyfriend was standing along the route again and found us. He walked with us back to the finish area. I used his cell phone to call Hubby to let him know to meet us back at Grant Park.
I didn't know it at the time, but Hubby said that right after we saw them at mile 17, the Course Officials came by and closed the course. There was a group of Firefighters behind the Official and they opened up all the hydrants along the course. Hubby snapped the picture to the left, which shows the scene.
When Nat and I got back to the park, we decided to run it in to the finish. The Course Officials had us head to the chute the back way -- meaning we can in to the finish from the end of the race and ran it backwards to the finish line.
Nat and I crossed the line at 4:02 -- that was our total time for about 20 miles of running.
Marcia, Cheryl and Mary all were rerouted shortly after the 1/2 -- the Officials did not have their groups cross the finish, but everyone got well deserved medals.
All of us are disappointed that we didn't get a chance to finish the course. We all know that we could have made it -- it would not have been pretty, but we did feel like we had it in us to make the distance.
Having said that, we know that the Race Officials made the right call to close the course. Over 300 runners were impacted by the heat; one man died (although the official word is that he had a heart condition that caused his death...).
The biggest issue I have with the event is the Race Officials claim that supplies at all the stops were adequate. This just was not the case.
We are all happy that we finished what we were allowed to with minimal problems. Nat and Cheryl have decided to run Des Moines Marathon -- to finish what they started. I have New York Marathon to look forward to in a few weeks. Marcia and Mary are going to concentrate their efforts on the Winter Carnival 1/2 Marathon in February... so we'll all be back on the running pony soon.
In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy these next couple of recovery days and being back at home!