Tag Archives: 2013

Chicago Marathon 2013 — A Look Back

Yesterday, I found out that I was successful in getting into the 2014 Chicago Marathon.  I registered with the lottery, but I still haven’t decided if I feel like going through all of the training again.

Another factor that gives me pause is motivation.  Aside from the training commitment, I have to create a new goal.  I shattered my time goal of a sub 4 hour marathon.  I did so well, in fact, that I’m not sure if I want to compete in another marathon again because I don’t know if I can do better.

Without further ado, here is the data:

Split Time Of Day Time Diff min/mile miles/h
05K 07:56:10AM 00:23:52 23:52 07:41 7.82
10K 08:19:50AM 00:47:31 23:39 07:37 7.88
15K 08:43:20AM 01:11:01 23:30 07:34 7.93
20K 09:06:43AM 01:34:25 23:24 07:32 7.97
HALF 09:11:51AM 01:39:33 05:08 07:32 7.97
25K 09:30:05AM 01:57:47 18:14 07:32 7.98
30K 09:53:50AM 02:21:31 23:44 07:39 7.85
35K 10:18:27AM 02:46:08 24:37 07:56 7.57
40K 10:44:10AM 03:11:51 25:43 08:17 7.25
Finish 10:55:59AM 03:23:40 11:49 08:40 6.93

A casual reader might look at the above table and say “Hey, you didn’t hit your goal of 7:30 per mile.”  As it turns out, I was training for 8:00 per mile.  The conditions were so good (and I guess my training was more than sufficient) that I ran ~30 seconds per mile faster than my goal pace for most of the race.

So what happened that day?  How was I able to finally overcome the obstacles from 2011 and 2010?


Around the beginning of the year, I wasn’t feeling very good health-wise.  It seemed like any thing I consumed was causing me intestinal distress.  I went and saw a nutritionist and she pointed out that my symptons sounded like FODMAP.  So I started keeping track of everything I was eating and drinking.  In addition to feeling better, I started to lose weight.  Note that the FODMAP diet is similar to the atkins diet: lots of protein and limit sugars.

Chart of my weight for 2013
Chart of my weight for 2013

I actually got a bit concerned right before the marathon that I was losing too much weight (around 163 pounds early October) and so I started to eat more carbs.  Besides, I needed to carbo-load!

I read somewhere that the force of each step during running is 2.5x body weight.  The weight loss was quite noticable in my running as the year progressed.


Aside from diet, the other big factor that was lacking from previous attempts was training.  Sure, I was doing some running before, but I didn’t have any kind of schedule.  I needed a strict plan to keep me focused.  Therefore, I signed up for the CARA Summer Marathon Training Program.  This meant that for 18 weeks, I was running 5-6 days per week.

Given that this was my first formal training since Track and X-Country in high school, I had a lot of questions.  Was I a Beginner runner?  I didn’t think so, since I technically *ran* 3 marathons.  Was I an Intermediate runner?  Probably, since Advanced sounded too much like Professional runner which I wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination.  How fast should I run?  I know that I wanted to get a sub 4 hour marathon, but that was just a primary goal.  I knew that if I did more training I should be able to do better than that.  The annoying part is that for the training to work, you have to know your goal pace because it drives all aspects of the training.  The expert thinking was that you are better off taking long runs at a slower pace (about 1+ minutes slower than race pace).  I decided my goal race pace should be 8 minutes per mile.

So for training, I chose Intermediate and 9 minutes per mile.  I started running a few weeks and everything felt super slow.  Plus, that particular pace group seemed rather unfocused.  I decided to up my game and try running 8:30 per mile.  The group dynamic was way better.  It seemed like the mental commitment of the 8:30 runners was more about the running.  The leader, Mo (short for Maureen), was an inspired coach and cheerleader.  It really made all of the difference when you had to crank out hours of a run.

Short runs were around 4-5 miles and the long runs were 14-20 miles.  I can’t stress how much time was spent warming up, running, stretching and cooling down.  The long runs were on Saturday at Montrose Beach.  I had to get up by 5:00-5:15AM, eat a snack, and then drive there so that I could meet my running group which started at 6AM.  For the long runs, that would be 2+ hours of running at 8:30 min/mile.  After water and stretching, I wasn’t back home until 9AM.


I didn’t rush to sign up for the Chicago Marathon in 2013.  In fact, I let it slip by because after 2012, I was pretty much convinced that I could never finish one successfully.  Besides, I was mentally tired in 2012 and my feet were in pain.  That being said, if I was going to do a marathon again, I wanted to make sure that I had a good start position.  The last thing you want to have to do in a race is expend extra energy to move laterally in order to pass slower runners.

So on July 21, instead of a training run, I ran the Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon in Chicago.  I finished in 1:39:13 which was good enough to qualify for Corral C.

Home Stretch
Home Stretch

I was pretty happy with the performance, but I also had a contingency plan in case the weather (or some other race performance inhibitor occurred).  On a trip to San Diego, I ran the America’s Finest City Half Marathon.  I finished in 1:36:12.  This course was more my style as it started flat to downhill.

AFC Half Marathon Elevation Chart
AFC Half Marathon Elevation Chart

This performance got me into Corral B.  I was pretty ecstatic.  I felt so good at near the end (after the gigantic uphill) that I was full-on sprinting.

Crossing the 2013 AFC Half Marathon
Crossing the 2013 AFC Half Marathon


I spent a lot of time in previous races working on my music mix.  I decided that music wasn’t really getting it done for me.  I moved to podcasts for training (excluding the long runs with CARA where I actually talked to people instead).  This made it really easy to forget about the running and keep my brain distracted with the latest news.

On race days (both halves and the full), I actually went without any ipod of any kind.  I found that the lack of music really helped me concentrate on the race itself.  I could listen to my body and soak up the atmosphere.  Depending less on music for motivation forced me to motivate myself in other ways.


So race day finally arrived.  I had a plan and I was ready to go.  About 3 weeks before, I had done the CARA Ready To Run 20 mile run and I was fast.  It wasn’t a timed event, but I ran the last 3 miles 1-2 minutes faster per mile than the practice pace.  This gave me a lot of confidence going into the marathon.

The weather was sunny and a cool 60 degrees with low humidity.  Honestly, I don’t really think weather-wise it could have been better.  Some of the CARA practice group met before-hand at the Hilton hotel.

My plan was to run run with a few of the guys who had similar time goals.  We had all qualified for Corral B.  It was going to be 8 minute miles all the way.  If we felt good, then we would pick it up at the end.

Well you know what they say about plans…

I started running at the aforementioned pace with one of the guys.  The other guys were further back in the corral.  After a mile or so, I realized that it was just too slow.  So I started to go faster and left the guy behind.  I had actually lost sight of the other guys but figured it’s my race.  Around mile 3 I ran into them.  We talked about the pace being faster than planned.  There was some disagreement about whether to go fast or stay on pace.

I decided to stick with the faster pace for a few more miles.  At that point, I figured I could re-evaluate.  That point came and I tried to slow down to see if it would make any difference.  Ryan, the lead guy, kept going at the slightly faster pace.  I did this for a mile or so and then decided to just go with the faster pace.

As I passed mile 10, I noticed that my time was right around my finish time for the Soldier Field 10 miler time of 1:14:02.  Suffice it to say that I was a little concerned.  I remember having to work pretty hard to get that time and here I am with another 16+ miles left to run.  But I thought, hey, that was in May and it’s October now.  Besides, I did well in those half marathons too.  So I kept on trucking.

Things were ok until the 12th mile.  I was running with a mix of Gatorade and GU gels.  After having some Gatorade at a hydration station, I vurped.  I felt nauseous and immediately slowed down.  It was like the wind had gone out of my sails.  I took the slower pace for the next mile.

As I approached the half way point, I started to feel better.  So, I decided to pick-up the pace.  After a bit, I could see the fast group that I had been running with before.  This was good, as they gave me a rabbit to chase.  Eventually, I caught up to them.  They were surprised to see me because really, nobody usually catches up after that type of reaction.

The next 5-6 miles went by like a blur.  I was running strong.  Then something happened.  I’m not sure what exactly.  But basically, I just didn’t feel so strong anymore.  I had to drop out of the group which at this point was just Ryan and I.  I couldn’t hack the speed.  It was frustrating as I was hoping to feel as good as I did when I did the 20 miler.  Not suprising as I ran 18+ miles significantly faster than I did in the practice run.

So I kept pushing.  I was drinking my Gatorade but I stopped the gels since I didn’t want another stomach reaction.  In hindsight, I really didn’t have nearly enough Gatorade given the heat.  Checking the GPS, I saw that I was slowly losing pace time but my average was still ok.

Things got really bad with 2-3 miles left to go.  I could barely lift my legs and my lower back was in searing agony.  All I could think was that I had to keep going in order to make the early part of the race worthwhile.  Again, it was disappointing as I thought I was going to finish strong and really push hard at the end.

Going up the Roosevelt Bridge
Going up the Roosevelt Bridge

Finally, I made the turn onto Roosevelt and lumbered up that annoyingly big hill.  The pain was excruciating.  I tried to sprint near the end but at best it was a jog.  Thankfully, I made it across the finish line without falling down.  3:23:40 in the books.

2013 Chicago Marathon Finish Line
2013 Chicago Marathon Finish Line

I’m sure those who have read my previous marathon write-ups are curious if I had to go to the Medical Tent.  Well, I tried to walk it off, but the vurping earlier and the lack of enough Gatorade yet again dehydrated my body.  After saying no to 3 different people asking if I was ok (because I probably looked like crap), I asked the 4th person to help me to the Med Tent.  Thankfully, the nurse/doctor in charge was competent and able to give me a proper IV filled with hydrating goodness.


So am I any closer to making a decision?  I don’t know, but it was good to look back on all of the events that contributed to the race day.

Finish with my medal
Finish with my medal