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Race day – Chicago Marathon

It’s really important to carbload before a race, so on saturday we decided to have pizza. One of our host suggested that there’s an awesome pizza place near by and we should try it. They make “Detroit” style pizza , which means it’s a square one.  It is a rectangular pizza that has a thick crisp crust and toppings such as pepperoni and mushrooms. What makes Detroit-style pizza different from Chicago and New York styles is the crust, which is extra thick and very crispy on the bottom.

I tried to go to bed as early as possible, and I think I managed to fall asleep just after 9pm.

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Good night all

On race morning we got picked up by Joe, one of Shelly’s friend and we got driven to our charity hotel. I still can’t believe how friendly and helpful the people are here.

This morning was rainy , again, I’m not even surprised now. Team Paws had a massive room booked for us at the Congress Hotel. I felt so lucky to be there. It was heavily raining outside and was pretty cold. We were indoors, which was warm, and also had unlimited food and drink.

I was booked in to start from the Last Wave and Last Coral. But I really didn’t mind this. I knew I’ll be slow so there’s no point starting from the front, well even if I wanted I couldn’t do it haha.

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I really didn’t know what to expect from this race. I really wanted to do well, but after the disappointment in Berlin, I really wasn’t sure I can run a sub 6hr race here. I know it’s sounds really silly, but I felt so much pressure on me. During my training I said to everyone that I’m training for a sub 6hr race, then I failed in Berlin. That really took my motivation back, and I really wasn’t even sure that I should start this race. Who wants another failed race? Another disappointment.

But this race cost so much for me, for us, so there was no option quitting.

On race morning I decided to try out a new pacing strategy. Yeah you shouldn’t really do that, but hey ho.

I put my pace tattoo onto my arm and was hoping for the best for the race.

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Can I keep up with the 5:45 pacer?

After running a 6:22 in Berlin I knew that I won’t be able to keep up with the 5.45 pace, but I really wanted to see that how long I’ll be able to go with them.

I started to race really well. To my total surprise I was able to keep up with the 5:45 pacer, I wasn’t struggling and even was able to talk with a few other runners.

Before the race I agreed with Luke that we meet up at certain points during the race. So I had something to look forward. Our first meeting point was around the mile 8 mark.

According to the tracker in the first 5k I managed to average a 12.44mins/mile, completed the 5k in 39:35 minutes, it’s much slower than my normal 5k pace but I thought I’ll stick with it. Maybe I always start too fast and run out of energy for the later part of the race.

As I was getting further and further in the race I realised I’m totally loving this. I loved the cold and rainy weather, and the crowd support was totally awesome. Much much better than Berlin.

I knew that 26.2 miles is a long way around and knew that I’ll need to use the loos at some point. I went before we left the hotel, but that was back at 7am. Just when we got to mile 7 I looked around and seen many loos with absolutely no queue. I’ve decided to jump in. It’s really rare to have no queue.

But because of me stopping I’ve lost sight of the 5:45 pacer group. So I’ve spent the next mile chasing them up. But luckily I’ve done that.

I’ve met with hubby at mile 8. Bless him he was waiting for me for a long time, and i only said hi, gave him a kiss and got a bottle of Gatorade. I said to him I’m trying to keep up with the pacer so I have no time to talk. Agreed to meet up again just after half way.

When I was approaching Mile 8 I remembered to check out my virtual cheer cards. I still can’t believe how may of you left me a message. Thank you very much all 🙂

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I’ve reached the 10k mark, in 1:19:28, which meant I was averaging a 12:51 mins/miles.

Usually this early in I always feel great, full smiles, not pain, no worry at all. It wasn’t any different  in Chicago. It really did felt like I was flying around the course.

I was supposed to see hubby at the half way mark, but when I approached it he wasn’t there. At first I thought I missed him, so sent him a quick message on Facebook asking if he was there. Well it turns out he wasn’t . He was still on the trains. To be honest I did feel a bit disappointed, because I was so looking forward to see him. It’s always gives me so much motivation. It felt like I was back in London, in 2017 I was supposed to meet with him and Sue just after the 14 mile mark by Shadwell and they didn’t make it.

I knew that I can’t stress about it, so tried to keep my calm and concentrated in the second half of the race.

My half way point check mark was at 2:53:08.

Split Time Of Day Time Diff min/mile miles/h
05K 09:35:13AM 00:39:35 39:35 12:44 4.71
10K 10:15:06AM 01:19:28 39:54 12:51 4.67
15K 10:57:09AM 02:01:30 42:03 13:32 4.44
20K 11:38:47AM 02:43:09 41:39 13:25 4.48
HALF 11:48:47AM 02:53:08 10:00 14:40 4.09

As you can see in the  table above that I started to lose some speed by the time I’ve  got to the half way point. but have to say my pace was still really constant. compared to my other 3 marathons.

Just when we crossed the half way marker the paces I was following just stopped, put his flag on the ground and started to walk. This one really surprised me. I knew if that have a bad race the pace they do is not guaranteed, but because this was my first time ever following one I was surprised.

Luckily hubby took screenshots from the tracking app and it said that my estimated finish time is 05:46:11. So this is the reason the paces put the flag down. He realised it was over the target time, so he couldn’t pace anymore.

But if you check out the screenshots below, you can see that we started out way too fast, I think. After the 8k mark our estimated finish was 5:34:14, then at 10k it was 5:35:12, 15k was 5:41:46. So as you can see the first 10 k was almost 10 mins faster than the paced target time. Maybe he burnt out too quickly and that’s why he couldn’t keep it up.

To be honest it didn’t bother me that he put the flag down. I knew well at the beginning that I wont be a 5:45 finisher. that would have been a miracle. After that moment I knew that my race is on. I’m out there all alone, no one to follow, I really had to make sure that I pace myself well for the last 13.1 miles.

By this point I had 13 mins to spare , just to finish under the 6hr cut off. It meant that I cannot stop for any toilet breaks, cannot walk like a turtle. I knew that if I need to walk I need to speed walk. But the end was still really far away.

When I seen some famous sights, I still stopped to take a photo, took pictures of cute puppies as well. I mean it was supposed to be fun. I had to take photos.

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United Centre – home of Chicago Blackhawks

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Another Blackhawks building.

As the miles went on I’ve decided to stop by every single water stops. I didn’t feel thirsty but I felt like I need to drink , even if it’s only a small amount. So my strategy was to have a cup of Gatorade, then a few sips of water. Just to get rid of the sugary taste then pour the left over water on my head, just to keep myself cool. It wasn’t a hot day but somehow it felt like it was still cooling my down.

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I had to stop to have a photo with the cutest dog ever 🙂

I started to get closer to that magic / horrible 30k mark. In Berlin that was the point when I lost the race , I totally lost it mentally. That was the point when I decided to walk the rest of the race….

When I reached the 30k mark in Chicago, to my surprise nothing happened.  okey, to be honest something did. If you look at my average pace below, you can see that it was 14:12mins/miles. Which was 29 seconds waster than my 25k one.

25K 12:24:22PM 03:28:43 35:35 14:41 4.09
30K 01:08:28PM 04:12:50 44:07 14:12 4.23

OMG. What the heck happened? Me getting faster  in the second part of the race? OMG. I thought it has to be a mistake. I never been faster in the second half of any race! but after a quick text to my hubby, he sent me my predicted finish time, and I indeed go faster with my paces.

Yes i did get slower, compared to my predicted finish at half way around, but I still had just over 4 mins to spare.

I really wasn’t sure that running the remaining 12kms in the same pace is possible, or even slower but without loosing a massive amount of time.

But at this point i just kep thinking about that I can do this, I will do this because this is my race. I really tried not checking out my phone notifications, but it just kept buzzing. I got so many messages and comments about how well I’m running. Some of you even said I still have x amount of spare minutes, so I’ll be okey. Sue kept texting me, and kept saying that i’m doing really well, just keep going etc.

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Can you spot me?

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20 mile marker

Just before mile 21 I noticed a massive dog statue by the side of the road. It was a PAWS statue.

I had to ask a spectator to take a photo of me, I couldn’t just run passed without a photo.

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Almost at mile 21

When I last spoke with Luke he said Shelly, our host will wait for me around mile 22-23. So I tried to look out for her. When I’ve seen her it made me so happy.

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With Shelly.

After seeing her I think I’ve seen Luke at one more time briefly at mile 24. Then it was home time. Time to do the last few miles.

I have absolutely no idea what happed, but I haven’t hit the wall during this race. I just kept going, and kept reminding myself that I am totally capable to do this. I’ve trained for this many months, and I can do this.

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When I crossed the 35 and 40k timeing mat I’ve got a message from hubby saying that I’m still on track. not just simply on track, but I’ve got faster ! My average pace was at 13:57 and 14:01mins/miles. So compared that to my 30k one which was 14:12 I’ve indeed got faster. I didn’t turn to be a cheetah but I did get faster.

35K 01:51:46PM 04:56:08 43:19 13:57 4.31
40K 02:35:20PM 05:39:41 43:34 14:01 4.28

Till today I have absolutely zero idea why and what happened. I always feel tired, knackered and slow by the end of the marathons. But this day was different. Maybe because it was raining in the morning? Or because I stayed in a hotel till almost start time? I have zero clue. But I did not hit that wall.

As you can see from above my predicted finish was 05:58:19 when I passed the 40km mark. I had 1mins 41 seconds to space. Can I run just over 2 km without loosing any time? Usually I can, but this time we talking about the last 2km of a marathon. Anything can happen.

There was a really nice long stretch before we turned on to the last few hundred yards of the race.

This last 2 km was a happy and ecstatic run. it felt like I can do this, nothing can stop me at all. Whilst others were walking – nothing wrong with walking  – I ran pass them. I felt like I was at a beginning of a race when I still have loads of energy and it’s time to sprint.

Just before I turned into the Roosevelt Road, I’ve heard hubby shouting. I knew I cannot stop now, so just gave him a wave and a smile.

When I got on the top of Roosevelt road I had a look on my watch and I still had just over 2 mins to spare. So I stopped and took a photo of the finish line.

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Seeing this finish line meant a lot to me. Seeing this finish line with 2 mins to spare meant the world to me. This last few metres was a happy run, I made it. I’ve done it. I had a plan and I’ve executed it perfectly. No hiccups, no hitting the wall at 30k. Nothing at all. This was the PERFECT race.

I crossed the finish line at:

5:58:24

I’m a sub 6hr finisher!!!!!!!!

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Sub 6 hour smile :))))))

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Post race goodie bag

I knew that I had this in me, I’ve trained for it. But every time I’ve tried I mentally failed. On this day in Chicago I was stronger than my brain, I decided that I won’t give up. No matter how hard it’s going to be.

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Lovely banner at Work 🙂

The hard work just starting now. Now I know that I’m totally capable to run a sub 6 race, I need to keep this performance up. Tokyo has a really strict 7hrs ( gun time) cut off, and also Boston usually turns the clock off at 6hrs. So I’ll need to repeat this performance 2 more times. But I’m really positive about this.

Everyone who supported me, donated the charity, cheered me on, texted me on race day and after the race = THANK YOU VERY MUCH. Without you all I don’t think I’d been able to finish this well. THANK YOU.

I also wan’t to say thank you to my coach, Denise. She believed me fro day one, and the plan she wrote me worked really well. Whith her help I’ve shaved off 34 mins from my marathon time.

Now let’s finish this post with some cute medal photos with our pups and hedgie:

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Po – Po & Gizmo

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Eugene

 

Before the race many people said that this race is really flat. Well they didn’t lie. Look at that elevation map:

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Just a bit of a Garmin statistics at the end:

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Official finish times:

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I’m really proud of my pace, specially for the ones in the second half.

4 down 2 to go 

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London, New York, Berlin, Chicago

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London April 2017 06:57:31
New York November 2017 06:32:14
Berlin September 2018 06:22:52
Chicago October 2018 05:58:24

 

I also made a video about my race day, you can watch it here:

Love,

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