I’m a destination runner with a goal of running 50 marathons in 50 states. I love traveling and exploring new cities. My life has been pretty hectic lately and I didn’t get a chance to write up a detailed race report within a week of completing the race. So, this post is not just about the Chicago Marathon, it’s about the journey getting to Chicago, as well as the trip.
When I registered to run the Chicago Marathon through Team Ronald McDonald House Charities (Team RMHC), I had set out to reach some major goals.
1) I wanted to surpass my minimum fundraising goal for Team RMHC. I’ve volunteered and cooked meals for the families staying in our local Ronald McDonald House and have witnessed the amazing work in keeping families together while their children are receiving care and treatment at the hospital.
2) I wanted to be serious about training to get a new personal record on race day.
I reached my fundraising goal fairly quick so now I just needed to focus on my training to set a new PR. But, I guess you can’t get everything you want, right?
Who knew a freaking gum tree ball could take you out of the running game for so long?! At the start of my training, I was feeling confident and determined. I had supportive runners who willingly agreed to join me on my Tuesday and Thursday morning workouts - from fartleks, to Yassos, to tempos, to track workouts, and weekend long runs. Everyone was game! I was so determined that I even bought a training journal to start logging my mileage and workouts. I focused on my diet to make sure I was taking in enough protein at the right time - within the critical 30-45 minute window after my workouts, so my muscles could properly recover. I was on a roll and feeling invincible! I was nailing paces on my tempo runs that I didn’t even think were possible for me.
NO ONE COULD STOP ME FROM KICKING SO MUCH ASS!!!
Until that dreadful day I stepped on that damn gumtree ball. We were running fartleks in Ardsley Park and I rolled my ankle as I stepped on one. It didn’t hurt at the time, but after a few more training runs, my left foot started killing me. I couldn’t put much weight on it and started running with a limp. Then, I couldn’t even run at all. This injury put me out of the running game for the whole month of July into the end of August. My marathon was in October. WHYYYYY? I was on such a good roll! I saw my physician and took some x-rays and they didn’t see any fractures - which was a huge relief! I went to Ledesma Sports Medicine and was treated using K-Laser and graston treatments. I tried running a few times on the Alter-G treadmill, but it wasn’t the same. I was depressed and sad reading my run group’s texts on what mileage and workouts they were doing. I just wanted to get out there and run with everyone!
After weeks of rest and several attempts to run without injury, it was recommended that I change up shoes. I went to Fleet Feet and switched from my favorite Adidas Boosts to Asics Gel Nimbus because I needed more stability and support. I even changed my socks to a higher compression length. This helped and I was happy if I could even run more than 3 miles without any pain. It was as if I was a newbie to running again. My lungs ached on my runs and I felt miserable and tired. I wanted to keep up with everyone. I felt so defeated. I was also terrified that I had a marathon coming up! Would my foot hold up? Would I have enough endurance to even get through a marathon? I had to take it easy and my goal now for the Chicago Marathon was to just finish without any injury. I was hoping and praying that my foot would be okay. Turns out, my injury was just another minor bump in the road within my journey to get to the Chicago Marathon.
Hurricane freaking Matthew was about to throw my trip in total chaos! The week leading into race weekend was so intense. My head hurt so bad just trying to work out the logistics. On top of that, I was in the middle of rehearsals for The Bay Street Theatre’s annual production of Rocky Horror Live. I was dead tired. Exhausted. Cecilia need sleep.
I was obsessed with the Weather Channel. The news and social media outlets were flooded with posts regarding impending doom as Hurricane Matthew might possibly take a direct hit to Savannah. Oh man...Should I go on this trip? Can I even go? What do I do about the flights and the hotel? What about my kids? If I go, will I look like a horrible mom? Can I make this work?
Stop. Take a deep breath.
This now became a “if I can make it work, I will make it work” situation. I talked to my mother-in-law and asked what her evacuation plans would be and if my kids could tag along - which was an obvious YES. They turned the evacuation into a trip to visit my sister-in-law and her family in Williamsburg, VA. Meanwhile, Michael and I got in contact with our friends, the Luskeys, who were also running Chicago. With airport closures predicted, they changed their flights from Charleston to Atlanta and we ended up ours from departing from Savannah to an Atlanta departure. After several group texts and quick decisions, we decided to carpool up to Atlanta.
We were going to make this work!
I didn’t feel at ease until our plane landed in Chicago and I had finally step foot onto Chicago’s soil. We finally made it. Everyone was accounted for and safe. However, I was still glued to the Weather Channel and my phone looking at pictures of downed trees and powerlines coming from folks who stayed and braved the storm. But, now that we were in Chicago…..
I fell in love with the city - the tall buildings, various architectural boat tours and kayakers constantly gliding along the river, the music blaring from all the trendy and chic restaurants and bars, and the variety of food everywhere. It had the big city excitement like that of New York, but with a midwestern charm. Once we checked into Hotel Chicago, we made our way to some deep-dish pizza at Lou Minalti’s. It was delicious and a great recommendation. This deep-dish pizza was just right for my carbo-load! After lunch, we took the subway over to the expo. On our walk, we passed by a sticker someone stuck on one of the bridges and I stopped to take a picture of it. It said “Be Optimistic” and it was just what I need to see with all the worrying about the hurricane and the marathon. At the expo, I picked up my race packet and checked in with my Team RMHC to pick up our wristbands to enjoy the race tent on marathon day. I had already pre-ordered my Nike marathon gear online so we avoided all the long lines at checkout and walked around and enjoyed visiting all the vendors.
The next morning Michael and I woke up bright and early and made our way to the start line of the inaugural Chicago International 5K. The announcer mentioned that the start of the 5K was once the original marathon start location. It was a nice sight to see everyone in different race bibs representing their countries. I even got to take a peek at the marathon’s start and finish lines - which gave me all the nervous jitters again. After the race, we walked past the Bean and of course, we took our obligatory pictures. We met the Luskeys later that afternoon and went on an architectural boat tour and finished the evening with a nice dinner at a wonderful authentic Italian restaurant. It was so good! Round 2 of carbo-loading! Once we got back to the hotel, I was so exhausted. I set aside my marathon race gear and hit the sheets. It was going to be an early morning.
The next morning, I got dressed and met the Luskeys downstairs. The great thing about the Chicago Marathon is that our hotel was conveniently located to the start/finish so we followed all the other runners and walked to the race start. I broke off from the group and met my fellow Team RMHC runners at our tent. They had a wonderful breakfast spread and our own private gear check. I waited there, listening to the DJ getting us pumped up for the marathon, until it was time for me to head out to my corral. Once I made it to the start line, I remembered thinking, “Breathe. You’ll be fine. Take it easy. Please, foot, don’t fail me now. Enjoy the sights. This is your 10th marathon/state! Oh, and find Elvis (an inside joke - which by the way, I did find).” And before I knew it, I was crossing the start line. My friends who ran it last year had already warned me that my Garmin wouldn’t be accurate during the race and it was true. My watch was all over the place, but since I wasn’t worried about time, it didn’t bother me at all. My goal was to finish and enjoy the experience (and hopefully not end with any injury). We ran through neighborhoods that reminded me of Ardsley Park, Chinatown, and my favorite area was Boys Town. The drag queens were performing on stage and I enjoyed running past the male cheerleaders and twirlers. They had such lively music blaring and all their cheers put such a big smile on my face. I was having a blast.
The miles were going by easily. I felt great listening to the crowd cheering and reading all of the funny signs (my favorite - “Run before Trump grabs you by the p--sy”). My foot didn’t give me any trouble, but it started to ache a little towards to the end, but not enough to stop. Before I knew it, I had crossed the finish line and a volunteer was handing me my medal. I had completed my 10th marathon/state. YES!!! I ached. My body felt the same as when I ran my first marathon. I slowly trekked back over to the Team RMHC tent (which felt like forever) and met up with Michael. He prepared me a plate from the buffet and I got myself a free massage. We walked back to the hotel and I couldn’t wait to jump into a hot shower and take a nice nap. Later that evening, we met up with the Luskeys again and had a nice dinner at a trendy ramen restaurant and ended the evening at a piano bar. It wasn’t a long night. I was still exhausted and needed sleep. This trip was a whirlwind of nerves and excitement and my body was slowly shutting down on me.
So folks, the lesson here is - There will always be obstacles that may prevent you from getting to a specific goal, but you can’t let it stop you or get you down. Continue moving forward and everything will work out!
Sorry - I've been slacking in the blogging department! I ran Colfax back in May and am now just posting up my race report. Slacker!!
Yes, I know I am nuts for running two marathons within two weeks, but I’ve got 50 states to cover and the Colfax Marathon in Denver, Colorado was a great opportunity that just couldn’t be passed up. My dad approached me some time last year about running for his ex-seminarian charity group called Team Joy & Hope. It’s a group of his brothers (or ex-brothers I should say) who were once in the seminary together when they lived in Vietnam and now they raise money to help the poor and sick in local communities, as well as in Vietnam. Of course I would run for this great cause! Team Joy & Hope consisted of me from Georgia, my aunt from Tennessee, and a Denver local who ran the marathon, as well as a married couple and their brother from Kentucky who ran the half. We spent a weekend getting to know one another and spent most of the time feeding our faces with ALL THE VIETNAMESE FOOD, which I don’t get much of anymore ever since my mom passed, so I was relishing in all of its yumminess.
Since I ran the Eugene Marathon two weeks before, my intention going into this race was to have fun and enjoy this 26.2-mile jaunt around the city. No pressure, no nervous pre-race jitters, right? Who am I kidding? I felt the pressure and had all kinds of pre-race jitters which weren’t caused by time or pace. It was the thinness of the air and running in these unknown conditions. Also - Where was I going to park in the morning? Why didn’t I pack enough for different race temps? Was I going to conk out way early? The games your mind plays. Sheesh!
We went to the race expo on Saturday at the Sports Authority at Mile High Stadium - home of the Super Bowl champs, the Denver Broncos. The expo was great with lots of samples and awesome sales! I snagged a pretty groovy tee from Denver’s local running store, Runner’s Roost, as well as some arm warmers and gloves (I never learn my lesson of packing for all weather conditions). I checked the weather (which happened to change daily) and now the start of the race was going to be in the low 40s (but would feel like the high 30s) and it was going to be cloudy in the high 50s when the race was done. My long-sleeve throwaway that I thankfully packed was going to be part of my running gear for a couple of miles. Since I’m one of the Ambassadors representing the Southeast, I made sure to stop by the Skirt Sports booth to say hello to the volunteers and made sure we took a group pic! I was bummed that I wasn’t staying longer since Monday would be the grand opening of their first retail store in Boulder. While at the expo, I caught a glimpse of some of the marathon course since I knew we’d be running through the stadium. Painted on the stadium wall is a saying that goes, “As the air gets thinner, Denver’s hearts get thicker” or something like that. It was just another reminder that I CAN’T BREATHE! Hahaha! This was going to be an interesting marathon for sure!
This was the first race where I was accompanied by my dad. He’s a proud one. He loves to boast about all his children’s accomplishments and then some. I know he’s proud of me running all these marathons. Seeing me raise money and run on behalf of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and just recently the Ronald McDonald House Charities, it was his idea to lead the charge for the Team Joy & Hope initiative. I overheard someone say that my dad raised $7,000. Way to go dad! This was going to be the first time I’d have family cheering me on at the finish line - besides my husband. And this would be the first time my dad would experience me running through the finish line (which he jumped into the corral at the last couple of meters to help me run in strong). It was quite an experience!
On race morning, my aunt and I scored a sweet parking spot close to the Start/Finish line. It was freezing! The marathon and half marathon start were at different times. As we got into our corrals, I started my Garmin 235 and the freaking low battery alert popped up. Really?! I assumed it was fully charged so didn’t bother to put it on the charger the night before (lesson learned). Oh well, I wasn’t planning on racing this marathon so this wasn’t going to be an issue. However, I hated every bit of it. I kept thinking I was a mile ahead every time and at mile 24, when you think you’re about to hit mile 25, it BLOWS!! Hahaha! Even with that said, it felt great not worrying about time and pace. I was just cruising along and enjoying the sights. I will say I didn’t particularly care for the 10-milers and marathon relay runners running full speed past me at certain parts of the race. “How are these people flying past me so fast? Oh wait, they’re not running a marathon. Calm down!” Once again, head games. I also managed to get some air jumping for one of the photographers inside the stadium at around mile 20. I regretted it afterwards because I spent so much energy doing it and should’ve conserved it for the last stretch of the race - especially at mile 23 where there’s a brutal hill/incline!
Colfax Marathon is on the list of best marathons to run according to Runner’s World. It really is an awesome course - although I’d like to say it’s not a fast and flat course as advertised. I know this - I live in Savannah, where it’s truly flat! It’s a gorgeous course especially running down Colfax Boulevard with all the beautiful art and graffiti on the walls. We also ran past an amusement park, alongside a river and stream, really quaint neighborhoods that reminded me of Savannah’s Ardsley Park area, and of course through the Broncos stadium (except the jumbotron was not working)! As I finally made my way to the finish chute, I heard my fellow teammates cheering me on and saw my dad jump into the corral to run me in. That was the best feeling ever! I made it! I ran the mile high city in 4:09:21 and survived!
Next up is marathon #10 in my 50 marathons in 50 states quest - Chicago Marathon !
If you look up the idiom "on-the-run", it means to constantly travel or moving from place to place. Welcome to my life! I get asked the question - "Do you ever sleep?" at least once a week. The truth is - I am always on the run. My weeks are filled with work, training runs, dropping kids off to school and extra curricular activities, traveling out-of-town for races and soccer games, theatre rehearsals, civic duties - you name it. In addition to being an avid runner, I'm a happily married wife, mother of two, an actress, singer, a Fleet Feet CREW coach, and work full time as the Marketing Manager for Thomas & Hutton Engineering Co. I love being on the run!