Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lost and Found: My 1997 Chicago Marathon Race Report

This is a race report originally posted on the Runner's World section on Compuserve after I ran the Chicago Marathon in 1997. I am leaving it as-is, no editing. Here is a link to the 1997 race results.

Some of this would be cryptic without explanation, so here is the background info:
  • "S9" refers to "Section 9" where it was located in the "Health and Fitness" forum.
  • Saint Sandy and SPG refer to friends Sandy and Steve Guba
  • "OO" refers to the Omnipotent One, a.k.a. my wife Jennifer
  • Mariana (Schaffer) is a friend of ours
  • Zocorians refers to the drug Zocor that a good friend used - Frank Purdy. The Zocorians watched over Frank in training, dispensing pranks at opportune times. It is a little known fact the Elvis left the building in the company of the Zocorians.

******* 1997 Chicago Marathon Race Report *******

The conditions were perfect for the S9 convergence on the city of Chicago.

A pre-race pasta party catered by Saint Sandy with an assist from her sidekick SPG.

GORGEOUS raceday conditions. I guess the OO has a weak spot for us mortals. :-)

Great company, great food, a great race. It could only have been better with YOU there.

I lined up just behind the 3:20 RW pacing group, thinking that if I could keep them in sight then a Boston qualifier would be assured. The S9 angel -- Mariana -- furnished me with the pace group information. They were planning to go through the first miles a bit slower and then pick up the pace, so given the crowd at the start I thought this was a good plan.

Despite the immense mass of humanity, the start was clean and I lost minimal time to crossing the line. Still, this isn't really fair to slower runners when wave starts and shoe chips can minimize time handicaps to everyone. I passed through the first mile in 8:45, much slower than 7:49 goal pace.

In hindsight now, perhaps my critical error happened when I didn't pick up another split until mile 4, and then didn't realize I was running just fine -- 7:45 pace -- and thought I should pick it up to make up for lost time. My strategy then became to run closer to 80% or slightly more up to mile 15, slow to PMP, then pick it up again at mile 20 if possible or just hold on.

You know what they say about the best laid plans....

I was running very comfortably, some slight tightness in my calves but they didn't appear to be getting any worse. I took in water and gatorade at most aid stations, and at 9, 14, and 20 I took Relode and water. The crowds and volunteers were terrific.

A special honor also goes to Marian Enwright, S9 cheerleader extraordinaire. She knows exactly where to go to be seen, and everybody hears her. She received several gracious compliments from runners behind me, commenting on her enthusiasm and vocal range. Thank you Marian, I owe you a cOOkie!

In the late teens I started to feel a little twitch in both of my hamstrings at different times. I briefly considered stopping to stretch them but they didn't appear to be getting worse. With that Boston qualifier in my pocket I didn't want to stop so I compromised with myself and slowed down knowing I had time in the bank now.

Around mile 20 the hamstrings staged their revolt. They would cramp enough to slow me down and then ease up for their next assault. I finally stopped and stretched but every time I started getting up to speed they would riot again. Each time a bit more prolonged and sharper. Yes, Ann Trason came to mind and all I can say is she's a running goddess.

I could feel the qualifier slipping away. The outside of my right foot told me Mr. Blister was making an emergency house call. Oh boy, we're having fun now.

I closed my eyes and ran thinking I could push through the discomfort and still make the qualifier if only the leg would ease up. Except for the hamstrings I felt strong, my breathing was not labored, HR fine, but time was running out and I could run no faster, only slower and slower now after every hamstring attack.

The thing is, as much as I wanted to run Boston, I knew I still had a good time going if only I could make it to the finish line. Just after mile 25 a bad cramp forced me to a complete stop...almost a replay of Kiawah in 1991. I was bent over trying to move to the outside to get out of the way. Someone patted me on the back, knowing my predicament I'm sure.

Runners. Best people on the face of the earth.

I made it to the side and  a policeman asked “How ya doin' chief? Need a ride?"

"Oh, no, just cramps, I'll be okay...."

It was gone now. There would be no qualifier today. So I moved toward the finish, slower but not giving into time, and found warmth in a space blanket that the kind Zocorians blessed us with.

Moments later in a crowd of thousands Jennifer somehow found me. We traded race notes and she helped me back to the hotel. Yes, I was already talking about my next marathon.

Life, my friends, is good.

Savor it.


P.S. About 2 weeks after this marathon I noticed my right ankle had swollen like I had badly twisted it. That was the first real sign that something was amiss with my right foot. In looking back, and other than my initial accident, that was the beginning of this blog's journey.

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