This weekend was the second in a row spent in Chicago. Last weekend was about a birthday pool party, this weekend was about racing!
Somehow Christi decided that spending two weekends with yours truly was a good idea, so on Saturday morning, we hit the road together again. We were a little disappointed that her lovely Grand Cherokee had no AUX outlet, limiting my DJ abilities. But researching windmill farms and stopping at the “Best Arby’s Around” certainly made up for it.
We arrived in the Windy City around 11a CST with our first stop being the RNR expo @ McCormick Place. I do love this expo. It’s big, fun, bright and shiny. Plus we took lotsa pics and got complimentary calf massages. Win.
From there, we made a stop at The Drake, our fancy pile of bricks for the night. My brother hooked us up with a gorgeous 2 bed/ 2 bathroom suite. It was the most perfect, cozy place for us to stay. Thanks Ricky!!
After dropping off our goods, we hit up Michigan Ave for some shopping, followed by a stop at Cedar Hotel for lunch.
Later in the evening, after a long day on our feet, we cabbed over to Lincoln Park for dinner at Osteria de Pizza Metro. My parents had been there a few weeks prior and their pizza came highly recommended. Perfect for carb loading! Plus it was a tweet-up of sorts, as Christi and I met up with Michael, Mindy (& friends). Michael and I had met at last year’s RNRCHI and Mindy and I met up before our half mary in DC. It was so good to see them both!
C & I rounded up the night with some froyo and hit our individual sacks nice and early.
At 5a Sunday, our prerace rituals got underway. While Christi took her shower, I spent an unnecessary amount of time pacing around the room like a child with ADD. I had some concerns about my right foot after spending the entire previous day in flip flops (remember my plantar fasciitis attack last summer?). But what I didn’t concern myself with was fueling. Following my poor pizza consumption the night before, my morning food intake consisted of a NutriGrain bar. Because that’s an effective way to fuel through a 13.1 mile run.
The temps outside were holding steady in the mid 70’s, but it was the humidity that smacked us in the face the second we walked out the door. After a bit of searching, we eventually grabbed a cab on Michigan Ave, which took us straight down to the start line at Grant Park.
When no one was looking, I played hooky and hopped into Christi’s corral 3, which I thought was a good idea at the time. Good thing was that we saw Michael again, who fist-bumped us on to victory before taking off on his sub 1:50 journey.
At 630a on the dot, we were off. And in my opinion, way too fast. Not surprisingly. I had plans to pace myself as to not burn out hard and fast, but my mind didn’t listen. My body felt good at the start, sweat-free and legs that were fresh. So I went with it. But that Bri was long gone by about the 5k mark. The best way I can describe the feeling was just a complete lack of energy. I was struggling to find my stride. I was doubting myself with each step I took. And as Christi can attest to, I was mute. After expending every ounce of energy I had in the first couple miles, I was left with an empty tank and not much to say.
Christi, being the lovey that she is, kept asking me if I was doing okay. My answers ranged from, “fine” to “okay.” But never once did I say “good.” I kept telling her to go on ahead, but she stuck with me, taking walk breaks through each water stop. Finally, at the 10k mark, I told her that honestly she needed to go on. She was feeling better than she had in a long time, and I hated having to hold her back. With an air kiss, she was off. And finished with an amazing time of 1:56.
The rest of the race I rode the strugglebus. Without Christi next to me, everything was quiet. No music, no nothing. What wasn’t silent, however, were the thoughts running through my head. Fear. Anger. Frustration. But mostly doubt. I have never ran a race with so much negativity swirling around. It was awful.
I tried to pull positivity from the people around me, which for the most part was unsuccessful. There were a few standouts in the crowd that yelled “YOU CAN DO THIS” in my face as I walked (yes, walked) by. There was even a Team in Training coach that ran by in bright green and sunnies, shouting “You can choose to be happy or choose to be miserable. Either way, the distance is the same!” His words propelled me for a short while, but like the water/ XSport in my belly, things seemed to just slosh around inside.
Mile 9, I got a Gu. Mile 10.5, I got a sponge. Mile 11, I ran through the pitch-black McCormick Place tunnel to the tunes of Pauly D (I wish). Then at mile 12, a sweet man came up from behind and asked me how I was holding up. He said we’d been running the same pace for nearly the entire race. I was a bit sad that I hadn’t met him until the last mile, but I was grateful that he sought me out. Our stories were ironically similar too. We had both started in corrals we shouldn’t have, and both fell victim to the heat and fatigue. We decided to run the rest of the race together, heads high, shoulders down.
I pumped my fist as I crossed the finish line at 2:09:26. And as soon as I did, there was Christi waiting for me with open arms. “I’m so proud of you!” she said. We embraced, and all was lost. I hyperventilated. I cried. And all I kept saying was, “Christi, that was SO hard.”
After collecting myself and my medal (from a woman named Dolly no less), we found some ground to rest and drink our beverages (Jamba Juice, chocolate milk, and water, yum). We then hung out in the ID line for about a half hour (#fail) so we could get our free beer (#win). We participated in the post-race party festivities for as long as we could before grabbing a cab back to The Drake.
But not before a quick stop at The Bean! Christi’s first!
There were post-shower naps in our hotel robes and a rungry lunch stop at Grahamwich. And before we knew it, we were back on the road to Indy.
Overall: A humbling day. One that has opened my eyes. Hopefully for the better, as there is a LOT for me to do before my next race in Chicago this fall. There were so many times during this run that I felt like I should DNF. But in the long run, I didn’t. I finished. And though it wasn’t my best time, it was A time. You don’t always have to PR. Finishing is just as important. And misery or not, the distance is always the same.
I do know one thing though. I miss fast Bri. Uninjured Bri. The confident girl who would have a bad race but still finish under 2 hours. I know a lot has happened since those days, and I would be silly to think that I can just return to that person with a snap of the fingers. But after today, I have the drive I need to get me back to that place. A place of confidence. A place of yes. I can still get there. And I will.