Writing and running in Austin, TX.
[Since the length of my Chicago race report defies everything I’ve ever learned about online readability, the long-awaited report is coming to you in 3 parts. Who doesn’t love a good mini-series??]
My new colleagues thought I was crazy to return to the States just two weeks after arriving in Germany for the sole purpose of running. And not just running…running 42K. Who does that?!?
Leading up to Chicago, even I wasn’t sure why we were going back. A funny thing happens when you uproot your entire life: Your old life feels a thousand miles a way. (Because it is. More like 5,000 actually.) You would think that after 5 months of dedicated training, 5 months of revolving my entire life around a single race on a single date, I would be able to think of nothing but THE BIG DAY. Only problem – I live in Germany now. I can’t understand shopkeepers or traffic signs, and somehow learning the language/basic survival skills here seemed about a hundred times more important than some silly marathon on the other side of the Atlantic.
I know. This is blasphemy. I’m even appalling myself.
But even as I received daily updates from my dad on the predicted weather conditions for race day, the whole concept of the marathon seemed surreal, like something that wasn’t actually going to happen. It felt like that right up until Thursday night, when I tried to stuff every piece of running equipment I own into a carry-on bag.
The whole concept of traveling to a race was new and fascinating to me. With the exception of the San Antonio Marathon, every single race I’ve ever run has either been in Austin or a nearby suburb. And even San Antonio didn’t really count as travelling, as home-base was my mother’s house, and the entire trip takes an hour and a half by car.
Brussels to Chicago, on the other hand, is a 7-hour flight. If you forget something under those conditions, it’s gone. I triple-checked my shoes, shorts (the sacred pair I’d refused to wear over here lest they suffer a German washing machine incident), water bottle, watch, GUs, hat, and shirts, and agonized over what warm “throwaway” clothes to wear and discard at the start line. When we packed for this move, I had thought only “If you don’t love it, don’t bring it to Germany”, not “don’t bring it to Germany unless it’s the sweatshirt you’re going to throw away in Chicago.”
Little did I know that no throwaway clothes would be required…(dun dun DUN!)
Okay, sorry. That was cheesy.
Despite the fact that we spent a solid 12 hours in various forms of travel, despite the fact that I was back on US soil after two discombobulating weeks in a foreign land, and despite the fact that multiple family members traveled thousands of miles to be there on race day, I could think of only one thing when we arrived in Chicago: Getting to the Expo. Never mind that we landed on Friday at 1pm and the Expo was open until Saturday at 6pm, I became completely, utterly, typically, and neurotically obsessed with getting there.
How soon could I ditch everyone and find that bus to McCormick Place? How long do I have to hang out before “unspeakably rude” becomes merely “focused on the race”? And how dare Dad and K go down there without me on Friday morning?? How dare anyone be more prepared than me?!?!?
Like I said, I was getting a little crazy. Luckily, the Expo itself lived up to expectations. Or scratch that, it surpassed them. If you took the most obsessive runner’s craziest fantasy about a running heaven, the Chicago Marathon Expo would be that person’s brainchild. There were brands of shoes I’d never heard of. There were discounted tech shirts at 2 for $15. There were injury-treatment devices that I’m pretty sure wouldn’t clear airport security. (Take my nail clippers and I’ll impale you with The Stick!!!)
There was also current American record-holder Khalid Khannouchi signing autographs. (I took a fuzzy photo of him from far away.) There was Hal Higdon hawking his new book. (I was too shy to take a picture of him.) There were Volkswagens in the middle of the shoe display! (Uhh…what the??)
|Fuzzy Pic of Khalid Khannouchi|
There were also hordes of people, but the actual process of picking up my number and shirt went surprisingly smoothly. After an hour, I escaped with a number, a timing chip, a race shirt, and a race poster (for FREE!) and two tech shirts, 5 packs of GU, and a pair of New Balance 1226s (not so free). I went through all the cash I’d brought into the US and ended up bumming $15 from my dad. Some girls did this in high school with Guess jeans. I did it in my late 20s with chocolate-flavored energy gel.
We all hit that phase, I suppose.
I had a total of 3 goals for race day. The first, of course, was my time goal, which I announced as 4:45. (Okay, really it was 4:30 if God was really smiling on me, 4:45 if I could live up to my training, and 5:00 if I lost a limb. Slower than 5 hours was unacceptable.)
Goal number 2 was not to fall down. I know, I know, this sounds like a goal that is more appropriate for a toddler attempting their first trek across the living room, but if you’ve been a follower of this blog, you know that my falls are legendary. At least to myself. Besides, I was going in injured. I had a Band-Aid on my right hand from a running fall the previous week, and a Band-Aid on my left hand from a Thursday-evening incident involving a bread knife and a rock-hard loaf of “Landbrot”.
Goal number 3 was to not repeat the mistakes of San Antonio, where we ate such a large pasta dinner the night before that I spent most of the race focused on my GI tract.
Unfortunately, Chicago is not the ideal city to visit if you want to eat light. It’s kind of like the Houston of the Midwest. And since Handsome J’s family all made their first ever trip to the city for the race, I was determined to show my hometown off to its best advantage. In other words, we would eat our way through it.
Of course I can’t put all the blame of my not-quite-perfect eating on being a good hostess. On the morning of the race, with no one to entertain, I couldn’t resist supplementing my planned breakfast of an English muffin with half a stale donut I found in Dad’s fridge. I blame nerves.
And hey, free donut.
To be continued…