Running Fiesta

Writing and running in Austin, TX.

Chicago 2013: Bad Dreams and Good Racing

The night before the Chicago Marathon, I had multiple nightmares.

There was of course the “I have a calculus final and I don’t know calculus” one that I have at least once a week.

Then there was the one where I had run the race, but I had no idea how it had gone because I couldn’t remember a single step of it. In the dream, I actually debated whether I had somehow been blackout drunk and still run a marathon. (And of course, did I say anything I’ll seriously regret???)

THEN I had a modified version of that dream, where I remembered the first three hours of the race, but not the last one, and I was trying to BS my way through a Flotrack interview about how the race went. (Because Flotrack always interviews us 4+ hour types, you know.)

The interviewer asked me if I had achieved my goal, and suddenly my boss from Rogue was standing there gjving me the “you better not eff this up” glare, and I was trying to sneak a look at my Garmin to see where I had finished.

(4:21. Whew.)

I woke up from this last one literally in a cold sweat. Which, BTW, is disgustingly uncomfortable.

I then lay awake for an hour pondering whether this dream was a good sign or a bad sign. Did dreaming that I would finish in 4:21 mean the marathon gods intended for me to succeed?

Or if I DID finish in 4:21, would that mean I was somehow psychic and would always finish in the time I dreamed of the night before?? What if I dreamed an 85-minute 5K?!?

Needless to say, if a marathon can make a normal person anxious, it can make an already anxious person nearly have a breakdown.


We arrived early Friday to find that my Evil Stepmother, as she prefers to be called, had once again printed out a banner, pens, and coffee mugs emblazoned with Team MacLeod pictures.

I got 99 problems and vanity is definitely one.

I got 99 problems and vanity is definitely one.

Dad and I headed out almost immediately to meet my cousin at the expo, which as usual was a highlight of the race experience. Everyone’s in a good mood at the expo, because no one has had their race go to crap yet, and I’ve never seen a bigger one than Chicago!


If you look closely, you can see me writing, “GO ROGUE ATX!”

The three of us made like college kids and had a little competition over who could collect the most free food samples. This worked well until we all got simultaneously derailed by free wine samples, which I’d never seen at a race before but really…BRILLIANCE!


Me and my lovely cousin Kate. Here I’m demonstrating the appropriate way to carbo-load for a marathon. (It was her first!!! I don’t know what she would have done without me.)

A couple other expo highlights were the following exchanges:

LÄRABAR Girl: “Would you like to try an Über bar? It’s sweet and salty.”

Me: “Oh sure! So what’s special about the Über line?”

LÄRABAR Girl: “It’s sweet and salty.”

Me: * blink, blink *


Austin Marathon Girl: “Are you from Austin?”

Me: “Yep, I’m already signed up!”

Austin Marathon Girl: “Oh awesome! So, do you have a goal for tomorrow?”

Me: “Yeah, I’m hoping for 4:22.”

Her: “Ohhhh…” (loaded silence)

Me: “Yeah, I’m no speedster.” (awkward laugh)

Her: “Well no, no. That’s still good…”

Me (later, to Dad): “Yeah, I’m pretty much the only person working in the running industry who didn’t AT LEAST go to state in cross country.”



Did I mention we got free wine?


Saturday morning I headed down to the new South Loop Fleet Feet location for a shakeout run hosted by Runner’s World/Bart Yasso and Hoka One One. When I registered for the event, I had visions of being a networking superstar, taking lots of pictures, and getting a fantastic blog post out of the deal. (And maybe some free shoes.)

In reality, the store was farther away than I thought, I ran almost 2.5 miles just to get there (plus the 2 for the actual run, plus another .5 to make it back to our Chicago Architecture Tour on time…5 mile shakeout, oops), missed the welcome entirely, and talked to maybe three people – one of whom kindly asked me if I was looking for the Couch to 5K group. Humph.

On the plus side, we did get an entertaining speech from Bart Yasso and free bagels.


Pic of Bart Yasso from that creepy, back of the room angle.

I also achieved my “business goal” of surreptitiously photographing the store to see if we could glean any merchandising tips from them.


Alas, turns out they also have far more product than racks, leading to the 4-5 “cute outfits” near the front and everything else jumbled together wherever it will fit.

I WAS Freudianly (that’s a word, right?) happy to watch the same girl rehang socks three times. I think sock manufacturers have formed a union with the sole purpose of making flimsy packaging that must be balanced like a basketball on your pinky to avoid littering the floor with expensive, wicking, non-blister-causing fabric.

Saturday had two other notable events:

  1. I didn’t have any wine at dinner. You go to dinner with my family and try to accomplish such a feat. Not so easy now, is it?
  2. For the first time in my life, I laid out my outfit the night before a race. I even put my shirt on to pin on my race bib. (If you’re looking for a good way to kill 30 minutes, watch someone with OCD try to find a satisfactory orientation for their race number. Why yes, I DID neatly fold back and tape down my beer ticket.)

    I also poked myself three times in the endeavour. And if you’re wondering, yes, it did occur to me that I could take this opportunity for some “exposure” to running with a crooked number, but a marathon PR is more important than acting like a normal person. Obviously.


Having recently read a blog post about how boring minute-by-minute race reports are, I’ll try to keep myself to just the highlights here.

The Start:

It was cold. And crowded. Welcome to Chicago.

Also, the mic kept cutting out during the national anthem, so all 45,000 runners carried the song whenever the singer’s voice disappeared. I’m not usually very patriotic, but it was a pretty amazing experience – one of those that gives you the warm fuzzies about the running community.

The anthem concluded with a flyover by a Korean War era bomber, which was surprisingly inspiring, and made me wonder what it felt like to be alive when we went to war for better reasons than the price of oil. (Although I watched enough M*A*S*H as a kid to know that Korea was also a giant cluster, so let’s just agree that war is never good and move on?)

Mile 1:

Thank God my race plan involved starting slow, because the crowds of runners were worse than ever. Perhaps I should have been tipped off by the fact that my ENTIRE CORRAL was people with predicted finishing times between 4:30 and 4:30.59 (Side note: Do you think someone actually put down 4:30.59?)

One bummer: Now that we’re in the post-Boston era of major marathons, there were lots of “enhanced security measures”, which included not allowing spectators up on the downtown bridges. It was both weird and sad to run down into the Columbus tunnel without screaming fans and cowbells counteracting the meeping of confused GPS watches.

Mile 2:

Best spectator sign of the day: “You’re running better than the government!”

Mile 3:

First spotting of Handsome J and his parents. THEY had a cowbell.

Mile 5:

Try not to tear up waving at the seniors lining the windows of their assisted living facility.

Also resist the urge to purposely trip obnoxious 20-year-old who yells at us all to “wave at the old people.”

Mile 6:

Worst spectator sign EVER: “Run Easy. You’re not going to win this thing.”

Umm, you’re not funny; you’re just an a-hole.

Mile 7ish:

Panic and freak out.

After holding 10-minute pace for about 3 miles – which, in order to account for my less than perfect running of the tangents, always had to be slightly under 10:00 by Garmin’s pace calculations – the sheer terror of holding pace for another 20 miles descended. I had a nice little conversation with myself about how this was just my head trying to get in the way, and tried to focus on taking shorter, faster steps. (Because that always feels easier to me.)

I also tried to convince myself I was running down a hill, even though I know the course is pancake flat unless you’re going over a bridge.

Mile 8.5:

Get bored with panicking and continue on. Whew.

Mile 10:

Miss the Gatorade table at the aid station, thus throwing off my rhythm of alternating Gatorade and water at each stop. Try to convince myself this is not life-ending.

Mile 14:

Start to get bored.

Mile 18:

Second best spectator sign: “You can’t quit. You’re not the pope!”

Mile 20:

Slip on a banana peel.

Can’t wait to tell Handsome J about this. Days earlier, he had been mocking what a cliché it is for people to slip on banana peels in cartoons. (This is what passes for dinnertime conversation in our house.)

Mile 21:

Decide I’m feeling physically good – and mentally tired of doing math at every mile marker – so I’m going to stop obsessively checking Garmin and just push the rest of the way.

Mile 25:

Note that I hit the mile marker at 4:09. Begin panicked sprint in fear of fulfilling my 4:21 dream prophecy.

400 Meters to Go:

Give serious thought to throwing an elbow at people walking three abreast up Roosevelt hill. Settle for yelling, “Excuse me!” in a rude tone of voice.


Watch reads 4:20.30. Official time was 4:20.32. In complete disbelief at PR!

Try not to vomit when someone offers me more Gatorade. I’ve had a gallon already, thank you.

I’m a 4:20 marathoner!

Two Hours Post-Finish:

Handsome J asks where he’s heard the number 4:20 before. Realize I have a pot PR.

Later that same day:

Post the following Facebook message:


Because you can’t say it better than you did on race day.
Please excuse my sad attempts at privacy protection.

Monday Morning:

Fly home. Wonder how long it will take me to whittle my way down to 4 hours even…

2 comments on “Chicago 2013: Bad Dreams and Good Racing

  1. Kate
    October 15, 2013

    Congrats again! And thanks for all the coaching, even when you clarify the wrong ways to do things. Wine before a race has to be beneficial somehow, if only to calm nerves. After this year, I’m definitely hooked and luckily have lots of room for improvement. So looking forward to next year already- though I’m still not really walking well. Team MacLeod!

    • RunFiestaGal
      October 16, 2013

      Congrats to you, too! I am so beyond excited for you!!! Marathons never get old, but you can never beat the pure accomplishment of getting through your first one. Don’t worry though, I’ll do everything in my power to keep you hooked! 😉

      PS – Did you know there’s a Napa Valley Marathon that ends at a winery? Just saying…

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This entry was posted on October 15, 2013 by in Chicago, marathon, PR, races, travel and tagged , , , , .
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