Tuesday, October 14, 2008

2008 Chicago Marathon & Beyond

Happy in the Heat

Wow. In my mind this was a celebration to end all celebrations. Most people running in this year's Chicago Marathon probably didn't see it that way as Mother Nature brought difficult conditions to the city of broad shoulders for the second straight year. But, in the end Sunday brought so many wonderful people together on the same stage, with an amazing city as its backdrop, I couldn't help but to be happy. (Jason is shirtless in the middle of this pack, and Verdo is on the right in the blue)

Of course, recording a personal-best time always makes it a little easier to see the bright side of things. I was hoping to crack into the 2:40's and I think if conditions had been a little cooler I would have succeeded. Instead I ran a 2:53:24, which was good for 245th overall. I can also proudly say that I've taken over 25 minutes off of my marathon time from the 2006 Chicago Marathon. It's nice to have something tangible to take from the two years straight that I've spent training since my debut race. That is, if you consider a race time to be tangible.

Race Notes
I ran a large portion of the race with Ric Nielsen. He is such an intense guy at the races. He calls out mile splits for all to hear, and does a countdown as markers approach. I owe him a huge debt, as he did a great job of urging me to stay at 6:30 pace and not to get carried away early on. He pulled away from me around mile 12 before the heat got to him a bit and I reeled him in around mile 19. He still managed a 3:01 despite blowing up a bit.

I ran mile 6.5 through 11.5 alongside Chris Woods (pictured with me after the race). This was very comforting as I consider him to be one of the smartest and smoothest runners in Chicago. One of the highlights of the race was passing the Fleet Feet aid staion around mile 10. Whoever was on the microphone at this point said, "ladies and gentlemen, let's hear it for Fleet Feet Racing and Dan McDowell" as I began to pass through. The crowds were huge here and a big roar came out and I have to admit I felt really cool. By this point the field was thinning, as many decided to pull out and avoid the heat (Chris was one of several who made this decision) so when I passed large crowds who were applauding, I felt they were all cheering for me since very few runners were around me (and I was delusional by this stage in the race).

At mile 12 my friend Mark Dolgin hopped in to join me. This was pre-planned and he delivered in a big way. He gave me gel and stayed by my side until mile 18. In this stretch I began to hurt and pulling 6:30's became a chore. The good news was that the runners around us were really starting to slow. I began to catch a lot of runners who had secured "Top 100" bibs. I recognized many of them as runners who usually beat me in area races, so this was a good boost to my confidence. Three T100 latched on to Mark and I as we passed them by. I don't want to sound sexist or crude... but they were amazing to look at. They were conversing in a language other than English, and I enjoyed the thought that perhaps I would be in their memories of Chicago as the guy they paced behind for the difficult western and southwestern parts of the course. Mark dropped off and said he'd meet me near the end. (It should be noted that Mark gave Ashley a great boost for the last two miles of her race as well. They are picture on the right later that night at Stanley's. More on Ashley's race below)

I spent the next three miles just trying to hold on to my pace until Chinatown. I slowed slightly and ran a few 6:40's. It was at this point that I knew I wouldn't make the 2:40's and I began tyring to hold on to a PR. I was still passing a lot of runners, so this was a huge boost mentally. I also saw Paul, Brent, Robert, Carolyn, Mike, Ken, Toney, Abbe, Liz, Alicia, Jenn, Joyce, Charles, Ken, and so many others. Their cheers did a lot to stir me on.

Mark rejoined me within 2 miles of the finish, and Robert also hopped in. Robert was looking spry (fresh of an incredible 2:47 in Berlin a few weeks before) and he urged me in vain to speed up. I picked it up slightly until I let out a dry heave and then I just put it on cruise control to the end. After climbing Roosevelt and turning onto Columbus I heard Mike and Brian yelling for me and I tried to give them a wave.

After the Finish
A I walked through the finishers chute a few tears began to fall. When I finish a 5k I am always filled with rage. Pushing myself for 17 minutes makes me want to punch small children. But, the endurance battle of the marathon brings on two things. The desire to throw up... and also an incredible happiness that results in tears. There was so much in those tears besides salt. I wish I could describe everything on here, but I feel like my poor writing ability wouldn't do it justice. I saw Jason and Verdo as I walked out and got the news that J had run 2:39:47 (good for 99th) and Verdo (pictured with me after the race at the CARA tent ran a 2:40 (102nd).

There were so many amazing performances by friends of mine at the race I could go on and on. But, this is a pretty self-indulgent blog (could anything be less a oxymoron?). Ashley (pictured with me before and after the race) and I found one another after the race and she brought good news. She ran a 3:20. This was a 17-minute pr. This came as no surprise to me, as I have the huge pleasure of getting to run with her pretty often. She seemed to be running well, and whenever friends told me they saw her running at other events, they always reported that she looked strong.

Team Tiara
I am proud to say that I raised $558 for Girls on the Run. But, I feel a little silly saying that. As the people who should feel proud are those that contributed. A huge thanks goes out to:

Erica Agran, Phlip Kepler, Ashley Boyle, Betsy Armstrong, Carolyn Wrobel, Michael Swisher, Christy Wessel, Dan Maurer, Chuck Aron, David Carlson, Jason Gromski, Lynn Rogers, and Jim and Brenda McDowell

Sometimes I drink a beer and eat bad Mexican Food
After the race Phlip had several of us up to his place along Michigan Ave. We had a view of the last mile as thousands and thousands of people continued to finish. We also had a chance to celebrate at Stanley's later in the evening. Here are a few additional photos. Jason and some blondes and Mike, Paul and myself hamming it up.

Autumn, second in my hearth to June... oh June!
It's hard to believe that my work at CARA is done. But, having some time away from work has allowed for some great things. I'm working on a few interesting projects (making a little more money will help my move) I may talk about later. I am also running while everyone is stuck in their offices. I ran 8.5 miles today (not bad for two days after a marathon) at 7:15 pace and took a camera with me along the way. Chicago was truly beautiful today (see pictures for visual evidence). It was the absolute perfect day to run. Leaving here will be very hard. Jason is coming with me (as far as Vegas anyway) and we'll be leaving on 11/11. But don't worry, that will allow for me to run the last two 10k's on the CARA circuit.

Here is a short video I took on my run today. This is just south of the Waveland Clock Tower, at Belmont Harbor.

My life has certainly been a blessed one so far. I have much further to go.


Nettie said...

I can't believe I didn't see you! Congratulations on your PR and hey, maybe you'll be fresh enough to accidentally PR in New York!

Looks like you had a great time this past weekend and eventually, I will blog about my take as spectator on that weekend (which was also great!).

At any rate, can you e-mail me; I need to get some gossip of sorts out of you if you have a moment! :)

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.