The week prior to Chicago was spent in recovery mode. That meant, relieving a toenail of the pressure and watching the colour slowly dissipate. Usually, I just leave them be, but, figured I needed to address it this time to get race ready. It also reminded me that I need a pedicure; which use to be my most post race reward. Cornel had a few toenails, but, I was like that Angela Johnson stand up routine...."Beautiful Nail....just one!". It also meant replenishing lost calories and building some carbohydrate stores. I felt like Slimer from Ghost Busters, eating everything in sight and still, it wasn't enough. And finally, the DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness). And my favourite "adaptation response" which my body is still trying to recall. Remember, its how the body is suppose to restore itself to balance in response to stress. I'm pretty sure I never got out of the resistance stage.
Saturday, the day of the road trip we got a fairly early start and I had the good fortune of sleeping a good portion of the morning. We arrived in Chicago by early afternoon and had about 4 hours to explore the race expo. We required most of that time to cover all the vendors. This is one of the benefits of U.S. races, the expo's are quite large in comparison to their Canadian counterparts. There are now a few more races that have been added to my bucket list. You should have seen the race medal for Little Rock. It was literally the size of a dinner plate.
We got back to the hotel and decided that dinner was in order to ensure an early night. We were staying at the Drake which put us in the prime shopping district and close to some nice restaurants. Following dinner, we found our way to the closest drugstore so that Cornel could pick up some supplies for his toes. He was a little concerned that he would have ogre feet forever. Between Slimer and the Ogre, we could have been additions to Shrek 4. Nonetheless, we looked at the race map and devised a strategy for him to pull out should his feet give him too much aggravation. None of which he needed come race day. Following that, we jumped into bed fairly early to obtain some adequate sleep. After all the races I've competed in, I still never get a good night's sleep the night prior.
The next morning came too soon as I was awake to every siren that tore through the city during the night. Nothing that a good cup of coffee wouldn't fix. We left the hotel, knowing that we had a 3 km walk to the race start and we were 20 minutes behind already. We were able to catch some of the first wave and then as we approached the park, we were able to witness some of our coral running past us. I forgot to mention our race strategy. New Balance had partnered with Strava and was offering a pair of shoes to anyone that could produce a negative split. Knowing that our legs were not at prime coming off the Toad, we figured this would be the most attainable goal and a worthy one. This vision would force us to slow down rather than following the pack and going out to fast. We could allow ourselves to get nicely warmed up, even though the walk had already taken care of that. By the time we checked in our bag and hit the chute, we had both missed our coral and we fell in where we could. It took half an hour to advance up to the start line. At least, we had another opportunity to visit the Porto-potty. Finally! We were off and the legs felt pretty good, all things considered, rested and limber. Not the effort I thought it might be.
By the time we hit the half way point, we were ready to pick up our cadence and finish it. That
feeling may have lasted 2-3 km`s and then it became a struggle. It was difficult to break free of the group due to sheer number of runners. It really didn't open up much along the course. By, the end, we had ran an additional 3 km`s. That`s a lot of weaving. We were staying positive and we were both feeling good. We lacked any real suffering coming off the Toad, other than lack of energy and that was surprising. I thought there would be some residual. Even though the mile markers appeared to never come, we were happy to count them down. Our feet, to both our surprise were holding up, except for my left metatarsal (normal pain after 10 k), that Cornel massaged for me a few times. The hardest part was getting back on my feet afterward. The unlimited number of spectators along the course cheering you on, was exhilarating. There wasn't a section of the course that wasn't covered. There were even different organizations that came out to offer hydration and some nutrition. They had bananas, oranges and even pretzels and gummy bears individually wrapped for you to grab and go. Truly remarkable to see the support for us runners from the entire community.
The finish was within reach and we assumed the New Balance shoes were just a few km's away. Both were attainable. There had been some bad smells along he course, but, I came upon one that was particularly foul. Right about that time, Cornel was saying move to the right, move to the right. Then I understood why. You start to move and things start to move within you. Kudos to that woman for her perseverance as I don't think I could do it. She just ignored it and kept on going. We saw people with prosthetic legs. I always get emotional when I see the hurdles that other people overcome. We had a few extra walks as fatigue was setting in, but, our pace seemed to be where we needed to be. Coming up that little hill near the finish was one of those, ; we should have pushed ourselves....just like skeleton hill, but, the mental got the better of us. What a terrible spot for cameras. That's just mean. There was a slight turn and then the finish line came into view. You get this sudden jolt of energy and surge with whatever you have left in the tank. Ahhh, the finish. The glorious finish. First a bottle of water, then your medal, then nutrition, then beer, then Mylar blankets, ice, photo's. They just think of everything.
It may not have produced any PR's for me (almost 40 minutes slower), but, it was a great race and one that I look forward to racing again. Once we had wobbled over to pick up our belongings from the bag check and found a place on a bench (easier to get up again) to relax and finish our beer; it all seemed worthwhile. You recall the things that went well and what you would try differently next time. Then, all of a sudden, you are discussing the race strategy for your next one. However, I have been told that a certain someone has already surpassed his maximum running distance for the year, so the next race I may have to do alone. Horror Hill is just around the corner and it would be a shame if I had to run it solo.
We had not finished our stumbling as we had yet to make it back to the hotel which was a vast 3 km away. We had considered Uber, but, just kept walking, as unsteady as we were. On a positive note, we passed a Cheesecake Factory and knew exactly where we were having dinner later. We were in good company along the way with so many runners. Once back at the hotel, we jumped onto the computer to claim our shoes and wouldn't you guess, a mere 20 seconds behind a negative split. It certainly sounded easy at the time.
Happy Trails my Friends!