Race Report - 2004 Chicago Marathon

Posted October 11, 2004

Prelude:

For some reason I was more than a little nervous about this year's Chicago Marathon. I ran it last year (my 1st marathon) with the hope of breaking 4 hours. The heat and sun got to me and by 15 miles, I knew that it was doubtful I'd make my goal. By 20 miles I decided that I just needed to somehow make it to the finish line. Last year I finished in 4:17:30, but I made it! This year I told everyone that I was going to try for sub-4 hours again. It was more of a commitment this time. I kept telling myself to "trust the training." I knew I was ready. Now I had to prove it.

The Start:

I got to Grant Park plenty early, but I had some frantic moments getting to my proper place at the start. I tried moving up through the crowd of 10 minute milers with no luck. I managed to get to the side and finally squeezed into a spot just ahead of the 9 minute per mile group where I felt I needed to be. You need to get there early!

The energy of the runners at the start is unbelievable! There was a cheer as the elites started off, but of course, most of us were still standing still. Soon, we all started a slow shuffle forward. Faster, faster, faster, and suddenly, everyone around me naturally broke into a jog. There was a huge chorus of cheers.

When you cross the starting line chip-timing mats there is a loud cacophony of hundreds of beep, beep, beeps as the chips are detected. This is an emotional moment for me, because it means that after months of hard training, I'm finally here and officially in the race. I decided to wear my heart rate monitor for the race and I'm glad I did. It helped me keep a consistent pace and gave me some interesting data. For reference, my max HR is in the mid 160s.

The first few miles:

Mile ---- Lap --- Split - BPM
------------------------------
Mile 1 - 09:18 - 09:18 - 133
Mile 2 - 09:49 - 19:06 - 137
Mile 3 - 09:04 - 28:10 - 143

It was a slow start. I was aiming to run 8:45s so I was a bit worried as the first few mile markers went by. I kept telling myself that a slow start was good. I'd have plenty of time to make up the time. It still made me nervous.

Getting up to speed:

Mile 4 - 08:51 - 37:01 - 144
Mile 5 - 08:51 - 45:52 - 146
Mile 6 - 08:55 - 54:46 - 144

If you've never run in a mass marathon like Chicago, you can't believe how crowded it is running. You really need to concentrate on not stepping on anyone. There's no way you can easily speed up. You need to be patient and take advantage of the gaps when they happen. I was pleased that my pace was picking up, but I needed to go faster to do well.

Ahhh... This is more like it!:

Mile 7 - 08:36 - 1:03:22 - 147
Mile 8 - 08:32 - 1:11:53 - 147
Mile 9 - 08:46 - 1:20:39 - 145
Mile 10 - 08:35 - 1:29:14 - 146
Mile 11 - 08:43 - 1:37:56 - 145
Mile 12 - 08:54 - 1:46:50 - 144
Mile 13 - 08:39 - 1:55:29 - 146
Mile 14 - 08:37 - 2:04:06 - 146
Mile 15 - 08:35 - 2:12:40 - 147

Mile 7, 8, 9... the mile markers started to fly by! I was feeling great and my times were showing it. I kept checking my heart rate and tried to slow if I saw it hit 150. I was more than 3 1/2 minutes ahead of a 4 hour pace at the halfway point and still feeling good. When I hit mile 15 with a 8:35, I knew that things would be much better this year - as long as the wheels didn't fall off later! Every time I hit a mile marker and saw a lap in the 8:30s I was mentally shouting yes! yes! yes!

Gotta keep pushing!:

Mile 16 - 09:00 - 2:21:40 - 145
Mile 17 - 08:57 - 2:30:36 - 145
Mile 18 - 09:16 - 2:39:52 - 145
Mile 19 - 08:52 - 2:48:43 - 146

My pace started to slow a bit. I was still feeling good, but many of the runners around me were slowing. It was tough to move past people at times. I knew that I had already made up for my slow start, so I kept thinking "Just keep it under 9:07 per mile and you've got it made!"

Gut check time:

Mile 20 - 09:23 - 2:58:06 - 143
Mile 21 - 09:17 - 3:07:23 - 144
Mile 22 - 09:06 - 3:16:29 - 145
Mile 23 - 09:05 - 3:25:33 - 146
Mile 24 - 09:25 - 3:34:58 - 143

It was beginning to hurt, but I kept telling myself "Don't walk! Keep moving!" Just as last year, I dedicated these last 6.2 miles to my friend Helen who has MS. I kept getting a mental image of her yelling "Go Tom, go! You can do it!" Through her, I found the strength to keep going. I couldn't help but walk some during the water stops, but I tried to quickly get back running each time.

The Finish:

Mile 25 - 09:17 - 3:44:14 - 144
Mile 26 - 09:29 - 3:53:43 - 144

385 yds - 01:46 - 3:55:28 - 147

It's a wonderful feeling to hit the 25 mile mark and know that you've got your goal all but made. I could have walked the last mile and made 4 hours, but the adrenaline was kicking in. That last hill over the railroad tracks before the finish was tough, but once I got past it I broke into a finishing stride and ran the last 385 yards at an 8:10 pace. I was stoked!

Conclusion:

A 22 minute PR! Yes! What do I owe it to?

1. Pure luck - It was 10 degrees cooler this year than last. I slow a lot as the temperature moves past 60F. It was in the upper 50's for most of the race. There was a nice cooling breeze. It got a little warm at times, but the last few miles felt cool and it helped immensely. If it had been near 70F, I would have improved on last year's time, but never have broken 4 hours.

2. More luck - I didn't think so at the time, but my treadmill breaking last Spring ended up being a good thing. I was forced to do all of my training outside which is naturally tougher. My regular training routes all start with a long downhill towards the St. Joseph River. On every training run I had to climb that hill on my way home. It made me stronger.

3. Better training - No treadmill running, more hill workouts, 5 more miles a week than last year, another year of running - it all helped. Instead of running my 20 mile runs every 3 weeks, I ran them every other week, concentrating more miles in the 2 months before my taper. I did my last 20 miler 4 weeks before the marathon. Three weeks before the marathon, I ran my best 10K ever. It was a good fitness booster and gave me a lot of confidence that I could make my goal for the 26.2 miles in Chicago.

This has been an awfully long report. If you've made it this far, thanks! The words of encouragement from this group are a great training motivator. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone else's marathon reports!

Here's some of the info from the marathon web site:

THOMAS FRISZ | Bib #30564 | SOUTH BEND, IN - USA | Age 50 | M

Time Chip Time: 03:55:30 Clock: 04:03:44 Pace: 8:58 Placement Overall: 9080 Gender: 6984 Division: 390

OK, my watch time was 2 seconds fast. I'll give them that. :-)