For three years I have been trying to get into the Chicago Marathon via lottery. Frustrated, I asked the organizers to add in qualification times, which they did! The times aren’t as harsh as Boston (3:15 M / 3:45 F) so we were already in. Aside from getting another world major notch on our belt, Chicago was a must destination for us since my heritage is Polish, and this can be considered the mecca of Polish people in the USA. We decided to take a red eye flight for this, and me having my back problems (blown disc) there was no sleep to be had. We had a decent stay at a high rise airbnb right next to the convention center, and got to stay with another runner who the airbnb host was supporting.
So the must does of Chicago… we ran the Lakeside trail, a bike path that is many miles long of smooth road. I can see why triathlon is big here in the summer. After we hit up yolk, the most popular breakfast place with frittatas, stuffed crepes, and french toast, you know the deal. One of our coworkers from our days in Holland – Jennie, happened to live there, working next to the sears tower, which we also went up (1 hour wait on a slow day). We went out for one of the must haves, Lou Malnatis Deep dish pizza. This place is so popular there is a line out the door with hour wait, and then add an hour to make your pizza pie – so order ahead. It was what we expected, delicious, with decent ingredients. The salads were also amazing to counter the carb-in-ation. Health tip: Giodarnos is second top spot, but they use margarine in the pizza, might as well eat at pizza hut. Lou’s pizza:
A 2 mile warm up jog gets us to the start, just in time. We ran with the other girl staying with us, but realized time was running out quick as the entrance to the corrals was a maze, having long lines for bib check we had no time to say bye to her. Bessy ran off to gear check, and just got to her corral in time for the start. Which went like this:
“Welcome to the Chicago Marathon. Here are your elites: Eliud Kipchoge, Rita Jeptoo… etc – and they’re off!” What? No count down or gun? So in a unprepared way we run, that is as soon as they let everyone on the left side of the barrier go… the right side was already let through allowing slower runners to get in front of you causing some congestion for the first mile. Speaking of that mile, forget your GPS – tunnels, tall buildings, bridges put it out of whack. This difficult when you train depending on it.
My last 20 mi training run (10th in a row) i took some dayquil as i felt weak. Everytime this year I get flu/bronchitis having my lungs filled with phlegm. Needless to say I ran the marathon sick with 1/4th vo2 max cut out. Felt the pain in my lungs at mile 7 trying sub 3. Also since I had limited lung space, hit side stitches at mile 12… just suffered through it, kept on thinking to quit but I remembered how much I paid to do the race, and it is a world major on the belt notch. Along the course, yes I was chicked by my own wife. It gave me back some energy as she was doing well. I also saw our airbnb host cheering me on, which was cool since a marathon is boring to watch, and it wasnt something of his interest. I ended up doing 3:16 (26.36 mi) . I can look at this optimistically as a simulated high altitude run and try for some PR’s in Novemeber.
The hussle of gear check, I didnt not get the opportunity to see the sign for the pace group I wanted to follow, 3:10 (NYC-Q time) – seems like I was on my own. Regardless, there were times even I would pass certain pace groups out of my range, many happened to bonk. Normally I save my energy for the race by not doing extraneous things, but it can happen… I ran with a guy from costa rica and brazil, we discussing our goal times. In addition when I hit mile 22, I was surprised to see Roger on the course, so I gave him a big smack on the behind! He yelled “Go Bessy Go!”. This, in addition to off tangent zigzagging led to a 26.5 mile run just missing my goal, but still a PR – 3:11!
It wasnt listed whether an alphabetical lettered post run reunion zone was set, so we decided on the included free massage tent. By chance, there was barely any line, score! This was due to a policy that if you drank the free post race beer, no massage for you. We rather drink some good quality beers after the race, as typical included post race drinks are of low quality. This is the one time were we took a cab home, as it was quite cold after and we just wanted to shower.
We had an extra day to spend so we decided to test out the bike share of Chicago, “divvy”. This city has the perfect infrastructure for it, as long as your remain downtown. The 30 minute limit does make it stressful that you always look for the next bike station and are sweating to make it, even sometimes blowing through lights. The gearing is pretty poor that you can only max out at 10mph. It would be better if the time limit was 90 minutes. Regardless this let us get around and try some other things.
We visited the polish village, which the community is quite spread out, rather than centralized like my hometown of New Britain, CT. For lunch, we went to Kasia’s deli, were they had some food you can pick out salad bar style. Dessert was at the Oak Mill Bakery, with the best – poppyseed raisin cheesecake, were we read a book on polish history in Chicago. As for dinner the red apple restaurant is an all you can eat Polish buffet. You know its good when the Poles are the main customers.
Last stop was a live theater, a big culture in Chicago. Many were sold out, but we lucked out at the Steppenwolf theater. We saw the play the “Night Alive”. The story was about a lonely old man, who saves a prostitute from her abusive pimp. He becomes obsessed with her, ditching his best friend to run away with her because he falls in love, but she doesnt want that.