Tuesday, November 19, 2013

2013 Inaugural Naperville Marathon

I finished #10.
And it wasn't easy.

But then again, I didn't really think it would be.

Marathons have never been my race distance of choice, and likely never will be. I've always struggled with this distance, mostly because I'm impatient and find that the uncomfortably-comfortable pace for 26.2 miles leaves me itchy and often over-zealous too early on. I'm maybe a once-a-year kinda marathoner where the wounds of the most recent have long healed and been forgotten before even dreaming up another. Yet, I wanted to toe the line of the Inaugural Naperville Marathon anyhow. Even with all the bullshit that went on before the race where numerous runners lashed out via every single social media site possible against the planning committee regarding the race fee (where things actually got fairly nasty and I felt extremely embarrassed for several ridiculously childish adults), I wanted to be there. 

Naperville is now the town that I call home.

The trails and neighborhoods that this course was slotted to tour through are the ones that I trek through everyday. I know nearly every limestone trail, every hill, and every tree. I felt like this was my marathon, my chance to go after that behemoth of a marathon goal I've had hovering over me for some time. 

So I bit the bullet, setting those boats on fire, and dove in head first.

Mr. Chicago Runner Girl & myself at the start
When the training for this marathon started, I wasn't really sure that my 3:05 goal was reasonably within my reach but was willing to give it a go anyhow. Coming off of 2012 with a few bumps and bruises, I knew that I had to be a heck of a lot more sensible about this thing. There wasn't really a doubt in my mind that my legs had a PR in them, it was just a matter of what that PR would be come race day.

My approach for this race was entirely different than practically every marathon I had prepared for in the past.

Less mileage, more quality work, and a heck of a lot more life balance.
Running wasn't trumping my life commitments, instead life was at the sacrifice of running.

I gave myself flexibility in the ending point for a variety of reasons, reasons which I don't regret and glad I honored.

Xaarlin, Ken, Erin, and Mr. CRG keeping warm indoors before the race
Erin's pic
In the months leading up to the race, I was a workhorse with that GMP. Slowly burning that race day pace into the legs with hopes that they would work steadily like a metronome from miles 1-26.2 without any question. Knowing myself and the way I work, I knew this would be the most difficult task for me come race day. For me, there seems to be a severe disconnect between my mind and the rest of my body during marathons. Knowing that those early miles are supposed to feel pathetically slow is extremely challenging for me and my impatient spirit. My legs say "move" while the head has to repeat  "steady control" on an exhausting nonstop reel.

Some of my most favorite runners
Xaar & Kim
K's pic
The plan going out of the gate was to hold steady behind the 3:15 pacer until mile 5 and to not move any quicker than 7:30ish pace, once into the Springbrook Prairie after the mile 5 incline to begin settling into that 7:10 pace holding steady through the ups and downs, then take advantage of the downhill coming out of Greene Valley from 21-23 all the while taking fuels and fluids as needed.
Like always, no concrete race day fueling plan.

The reality played out quite differently.
And here is where mistakes #1 & 2 for the day occurred. 

As soon as the gun went off, the 3:15 pacer had quite a group with him. I snuck in behind the group running by feel and didn't peak in on my Garmin until the mile 3 marker, which was a 6:57 clip. Yikes. Way too fast for me in a marathon, so I let them go a bit where the pacer continued to let his pace vary a bit too much for my liking. But like the plan, I cruised up the limestone incline at 5 and slowly moved past the group. My plan of going out easy didn't exactly happen, but I was feeling very comfortable with my pace in the low 7's so I kept with it. Took a salt tablet around 5 for the first time in my life, which went down easy and was fine on the tummy.

Leaving the start line with a giant pocket full of fuels that I barely used
Pic via K's hubby

As we passed through mile 8, I felt like I was really on my game for the day. Relaxed, focused, and maintaining that steady control I needed for a solid finish. There was a steady flow of family and friends throughout this mile where plenty of smiles and side 5's were dished out. 

The race split just before 10, and all seemed calm and quiet on the course. This is when I knew the work was going to have to start as the course cruised up a steady and slow several mile incline and was headed into another limestone trail that would be host to a doozy of a hill. While this race was small, I never seemed to find myself entirely alone. Felt like it was just the right mix of peace and madness for my mind. Crossed the half way mark just under 1:35, right where I wanted to be and took some chews shortly before.

It was until just before heading into Greene Valley that I had my first thoughts about the swirling winds for the day and started to think about that hill at the 20ish mile. 

Photo via Kim's hubby

While this course was host to quite a few ups and downs, I hadn't really noticed them much until the miles were in the teens. 

As I was making my way through those Greene Valley miles, my head begun to feel a bit fuzzy and I became even more impatient. The fact that I wasn't sweating and my breath was entirely under control was starting to irritate me, so my impatient self begun to push the pace a bit. Still lingering in the low 7's, I just felt like I should have been working harder as this was a race. That feeling held through about mile 20 when I hit that last incline, just after catching a glimpse of these lovely ladies a few miles behind.

Then it happened.

My body just after cresting that last incline said "thanks for coming to the party, but we're done here and are going to close up shop." In the blink of an eye my comfortable pace and steady focus were replaced with tunnel vision and thoughts of calling it a day right there at 21, my body just had enough. 

I hit that damn wall.
And I hit it hard.

Thoughts became difficult to process at that point where the only thing keeping me moving was knowing a great friend of mine was waiting just after 21 for me.

Originally we talked about how she was going to push me during those last few, not letting me ease up, helping me seal the deal on a solid marathon performance for the day. But the only thought crossing my mind in the moments leading up to our meeting was this is where I pull the plug for the day. 20 good solid miles was enough for me, and I lost the desire to push through that last 10k.

But, she wasn't letting me quit.
And became the only reason I finished.

Those last 6+ miles were almost like a death march for me. My vision became more and more limited with each step and my head just couldn't process the situation. At this point my legs weren't in pain, I just have no idea how they were still moving. It felt like I was floating outside of my body where the limited vision begun to make me severely nauseous.

Honestly, if it weren't for my gal-pal I wouldn't have finished. I would have pulled out along the road and probably laid myself out on a random strangers grass until my head decided to rejoin the party. A finish became unimportant to me as my body was asking me to stop. So we slowed the pace as she cracked the whip on me telling me to keep my eyes up and screw the watch. And screw the watch I did. The pace in those last few miles slipped from low 7's to a nearly 9 minute truffle-shuffle.

Brother-in-law snapped this pic just after the 23 mile marker

We passed my husbands family around mile 23 where they hooted and hollered and I dished out a few more side 5's. At that point it was taking everything inside of me to hold it together as the 3:15 group passed and all hope of finishing sub 3:10 had been abandoned miles ago. Those last few miles seemed to go on forever where I my vision almost entirely disappeared while climbing that last bastard of a hill at 26.

Things got extremely odd there for the last few minutes of the race where I could barely make out the road and tripped in the finishers chute. Apparently there was an orange painted speed bump right there in the last 100 feet or so that I didn't see (the same speed bump K's husband took a snapshot of me cruising over on the way out). As I tried my best to not eat the pavement in those last few seconds of the race, the crowd gasped and luckily only my hands touched as I crawled there for a quick minute. But, that slip was enough to completely disorient me at that point where the second I crossed the finish line and stopped running, I entirely blacked out.

When I came to a few minutes later, I was sprawled out on a cot in the med tent with an IV in my arm. I have no idea how I got there, no idea how I got my finisher medal, how I was somehow partially disrobed, and what the clock said when I finished. Those few minutes after crossing the line feel like they didn't happen, and that's a rather scary thought for me.

24 hours later, I finally mustered up the strength to pull my results

65th out of 1,079 finishers
7th out of 445 females

Certainly not the race I trained for, or the race I thought I toed the line to run, but this was still a step in the right direction for me with a 7 minute and 24 second PR. All that lost time was in the last 10k where the race plan was abandoned and all hell broke loose for me. Kind of a dagger to my heart to look at those last 10k splits. Garmin even had me with a whopping 26.67 miles for the day. Awesome. New marathon PDR.

Apparently I'm terrible at running tangents.

The race was what it was, and I still managed to squeak in just under 3:20 when things got messy. Light years away from where I wanted to be for the day, but hey that happens and there will always be another race to give it another go. Likely not anytime soon for me though, currently in a "I hate marathons and will never run one again" state of mind. 

For a first year race, I'd say Naperville was a HUGE success. So well organized and supported by the community. This course was very challenging with all the turns, varying terrain, and the incline/declines, certainly one to work for. The competition was pretty solid as well for a local first year race, where it's pretty neat that Naperville residents won both the men's and women's races.

I'd likely do this again, but for my health and sanity's sake...
I'd probably stick with the half.


  1. Yikes, sounds like a scary last few miles! Glad you were able to finish with such a good time nonetheless.

  2. Girl, you're a fighter. I know that 6 miles is a long a** way to go feeling the way you did. The marathon is a fickle beast and your day to conquer it is coming (and if that's not for awhile, that's ok). Maybe we should sign up for the same full and push each other to a PR next year :)

  3. Wow you really put it out there. Very scary finish. Glad you're ok. Congrats on that massive PR!

  4. CONGRATS on a freakin' sub 3:20 marathon....while getting sick as a dog. So impressive.

    Listening to your description of how you felt for the last few miles of the race reminds me a lot of how I felt during the last few miles of Boston 2013. When I was in the tent, I was soooo confused and couldn't even remember how I'd gotten there and who I was with. Such an awful feeling. I hope you're feeling better now!

    1. scary isn't it? doesn't exactly make you want to toe the line of another marathon anytime soon.

  5. I am wondering if your body shutting down at mile 20 because you were dehydrated. I wanted to ask more the other night, but didn't have a chance. I am glad to have been able to see your recap. BTW we did sign up for the reindeer run in Wheaton.

    1. i definitely think it's dehydration! i had a similar incident at the oak brook half - my legs just failed me after mile 12.5 (last hill) and i just collapsed. it's scary!!

    2. possibly dehydration. i didn't take in many fuels, or water, during the race (which is actually how i trained). seems as though running races 13.1 miles or less on no fuels works for me, but a marathon does not.

  6. so many things to say here... it was wonderful to meet you in person. you are a total rock star, and I love reading your stuff here and on dailymile because it's so sincere and genuine. you always talk about the good and the ugly in training, and the honesty keeps me coming back for more. :) congrats on finishing mary #10, but holy hell, I had no idea how things played out for you. that stinks that the back 10k was just a death march; i've been there and wouldn't wish it on anyone! i really hope you're ok now and that whatever happened that day, physiologically, mentally, whatever is behind you. (I would be terrified if I woke up in the med tent after a race). girl you set your boats on fire with this race, and scorin an impressive PR, even with all this stuff you had thrown at you, is just baller status in my book. geez ow. no doubt the mary distance will welcome you back, once you welcome her back ;) congrats and again, hope you're feeling well now!! xo

  7. Congrats on the PR. Sorry to hear about your trip to the med tent, however. You'll kick the heck of the marathon soon enough. Now that it's the "off-season", I am looking forward to running shorter/faster races. I agree that the marathon slow/metronome pace can be frustrating for those of us who like to get our endorphins from running fast! :)

    1. yes, the off-season has been very anticipated on my end. love the run when you want and don't when you don't life.

  8. The marathon is an extremely tough race! I hope you don't have any regrets because you should be living life. One thing I learned from my injury was that life isn't just all about running, there' s so much more and I don't want to miss out on any of it. Congrats on the PR and I'm so glad you're okay!

  9. Wow, that is a really scary recap. Those last 6 miles sounded like death. Not sure what to think happened - maybe went out too fast? Or not enough electrolytes or fuel during the race? Regardless, you got a big PR, and if you run another marathon again you likely will get another PR if you can pace it out decently well. Great job though on the race.

    1. don't think i went out too fast. once i plugged in my garmin, all my splits were in my goal range besides that mile 3 split. maybe i could have taken the first few miles about 20 secs or so slower, but honestly don't think that would have drastically changed the outcome.

      likely it was a fueling issue for me. i prefer not to take fuels during races, which is one reason why marathoning is so tricky for me.

  10. that's awesome Britt! congrats! I agree - where the heck did those hills come from? I kept thinking, whoever called this a fast & flat race DID NOT RUN IT FIRST! They were not as bad as the oak brook hills however -- those killed me.

    1. ha! love the oak brook half course! that is one of my all time favorite races. those hills are short, but steep and i love how the course weaves through all those different paths. hope to do it again one day.

  11. Congrats on finishing after a very rough final 10k, scary ending! You look great in all your pictures, even if you weren't feeling it. That does look like a very hilly course! marathons are tough and that wall. I am still traumatized from the wall I hit in the only marathon I ever did. KILLER!

  12. Congrats on that very hard earned PR! What a race. I am so happy you had a buddy for those last scary miles, and that they took care of you after the fall in the chute. I wonder if they will start it in a different locale next year so people don't have to work with that speed bump (or go up that awful hill right before the finish).

    I am sorry the day ended up so far off from what you wanted. Now that it's been awhile, do you think it was the course, or fueling, training or just an off day that caused the tunnel vision and awful feelings? You were cruising right on track! So bizarro.

    (Remind me not to sign up for any more fulls either ;) Ultras, sure. No marathons).

  13. Glad you were able to get into the med tent immediately! Sounds like a pretty crazy experience, but at least you know you literally left it all out on the course.

  14. Those last 6 miles sounded like pure hell. Do you have any idea what might have caused it? It brings back the awful memories of my last 10 miles of FVM. I wouldn't wish those feelings on anyone. You are a rock star for finishing that beast of 26.2(plus bonus?). Hope youve been relaxing and enjoying life to the fullest with your boyz :)

  15. so i read this awhile ago when it was first posted. then in some blog stalking i realized i haven't heard an update from my fav chi runner so i'm leaving u a comment to say 1) marathons are overrated...u're a spppeeeed demon so kill the shorter distances...hehe. i say that mostly cuz i've yet to run one :P 2) HAPPY HOLIDAYS!! u best be having a wonderful time 3) i miss u. come back. update me/us :) but mostly me. lol

    1. Yes, they absolutely are. 26.2 miles is a long way to go, and history has shown me that my body doesn't like this distance. I honestly have no desire to this distance anytime soon, just not worth it for me.

      I'll be back to reading and writing soon enough. Just been soaking in life otherwise. It's amazing how much time on ones hands they have once they aren't training for a race, really quite lovely.

      Happy Holidays Cait!

  16. I'm just so excited you finally got a NEW PR in the marathon...it's been a hard road for you in that distance......great job Britt!!!
    I"m back in the blog world...still not running but found out I have hashimotos and am working on healing so I can hopefully run again this year.
    miss you.