Lake Michigan at Sunrise

Lake Michigan at Sunrise

Monday, October 14, 2013

2013 Chicago (My First) Marathon - Recap

How to start... so much good, almost all good, but with some unexpected road bumps.  I don't think this will really qualify as a recap of the the actually course, more just of my journey through it.  We'll go chronologically. (If you just want to see the chart times, go to the end of the blog)

Bed Time Saturday Night:

This is where the adventure began. I was tired, I went to bed at 9:30pm.. I feel asleep closer to 1am. I would like to say this was just due to nerves, but nope.  The building north of us was having a party that we could hear the loudest from our bedroom. I went out back, front, other windows, and it was pretty quiet in those areas.  But in our room, it was non stop rap music and chants - go go go go yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. I imagine it was some Loyola students. I was trying to see which unit it was coming from so I could call 311.  I eventually did, and they passed me to 911 for the noise complaint.  About 45 minutes later the cops came and stopped their madness.  Unfortunately by this time, I was rather infuriated and filled with adrenaline and couldn't sleep. WOMP!

Also while I was in bed, my entire left ankle was hurting.. I was not happy! I fell asleep and had probably the scariest nightmare ever dealing with demonic haunting in my life and it felt very realistic. After I woke up from that, I had about 70 minutes of sleep left. Well at least I got a few hours of sleep!

 3ish am, Wake up! My stomach was starting to get nervous and I had trouble eating even half a bagel. I had my two cups of coffee to clear out things and got ready.

I headed out near 5am and took another couple pictures while waiting:

I met up with Erin (The Ruminator!!) at her train stop:

Then we met up with Annabelle (Fluency's Folly) at her train stop:
I dance as I walk out of trains!
We huddled into the next red line train, which ended up being rather full of Loyola students, but they offered us seats (we are obviously that awesome.. or old).

Talking about being awesome!
We made our way together to the race and here are a couple photos of our meandering to the bag check and our meetup area:

I saw one of my coworkers after entering gate up (and would see them scattered around the course as part of their job) and got a hearty hello and good luck.

After a potty break for all of us, we walked to the bag check area to meet up with the rest of the Bootleggers Running Club (BRC).

It was a tad chilly if you didn't bring a throw away later. I took some Ibuprofen around 6:45am and prayed that my big toe flexor tendon at least played nice for part of the race.

We went for one last potty break and went to our corrals. I got to meet Cheap Runner Mike in our corral, which was a totally cool cross of paths.

I ended up convincing (total jedi trick) Annabelle to let me run with her for the race until I broke down in epic fashion.  Here are a couple selfies of us waiting in the corral for the race to start:


About to change into a BRC runner!

The view behind us

The view in front of us
And then we started! Annabelle had a pace chart temporary tattoo on her arm to get us on even splits for a 3:10 finish.

I have to note here, if you were to ask me over the last 10 days if I would even be able to run the entire marathon, I would have smirked and said, I better be able to. Every day that pesky tendon would flare up. I hadn't done a decent run at even a faster easy speed 8 October without feeling that unpleasant tight flaring.  Race day though, I gotta do what I trained for all spring and summer.  I wasn't sure what the first mile or even 100 meters would feel like. I was very nervous.  Would I have to dump my speed right away and just high five everyone the entire race and try to enjoy it?

Thankfully, I have a great group of running friends and a physical therapist that believed in me more than I did.  And with Annabelle taking the lead, I knew I was in safe hands for as long I could focus.

I immediately learned proper weaving techniques, tapping on shoulders, and waving people to where I was cutting around them.  I also learned how to drink water from cups on the race by my fourth try. I pinched it,  twisted it sideways, let overflow go out, and get 2-3 sips in. Also my Clif energy shots gels worked wonderfully all race.

After the first few miles, I felt relieved, my legs were fine. I felt a little more tired than I though I should be, but who wasn't today? Annabelle kept us on pace and I trusted her pace push.

Over the last few weeks of training, I hadn't had a steady pace run that I was able to stay steady with, they were all surge runs to get my pace in line. Something I need to work on next time around (also not getting injured mid training would help).  So having a running partner was a saving grace for me. Thanks again Annabelle!

Course wise, the first 13 miles is one giant party. I'll confess, I didn't study the map beyond where I would be seeing my friends and family, so I wasn't always thinking of where I was. I saw Maggie at mile 7 and we gave a hearty wave to her!

I saw my physical therapist somewhere in the next few miles and she was true to her word and made a sign for me! I swung over and gave her a high five! (Shout out to Athletico for helping me stay in marathon shape!

I saw my my mom around boystown, jumping up and down screaming! But I missed the giant sign that her husband was holding.

Then I saw my wife and her friend around mile 10, holding a sign with a T.A.R.D.I.S on it!

I also saw Erica, LaurenJennifer, and  Emily in the first half of the race.

I felt period of fatigue a bit earlier than I thought I would, but I always felt like I bounced back and the pace felt comfortable, easy at times. Annabelle and I were able to talk without issue when we wanted to. We were hitting our times pretty closely and I was feeling confident with my run... Until...

Around  25k I was hitting my first real wave of being tired..not the wall, just time for that Cliff Shot gel. I took it and the sugar hit me fast and I felt strong again. I told Annabelle happily that I felt great! And then I got a tiny stitch, no biggie. But then something I never experienced before happened. My chest started to tighten up, I couldn't breathe normally. My immediate thought was of the new headlines of those rare times runners get a heart attack. I slowed down and told Annabelle, do what you need to do. I was hoping slowing down for a short time would help it pass. I sadly watched as my running buddy scooted away. I tried to keep her in sights and maintain my pace, but I just couldn't breathe well. I lost around 10 seconds for a few miles, then 45 seconds, then 1 minute per mile. Once I was running in fading man's land, the race got lonely.

Even in the middle of 10s of thousands of runners and people cheering for you, I was feeling isolated.  As soon as you start slowing down that late in a race, getting that pace back is very hard.  I feel my legs still had enough in them to finish better, but I just couldn't get my breathing steady. I tried to enjoy the last 10 miles as much as I could, but all I could do watch watch waves of people catch back up to me and overtake me, while at the same time watch people fading back, limping, stopping to try to work strains and tightness. I saw one guy finish with ice wrapped around his ankle.

I kept telling myself I wasn't doing too bad. I told myself, this is my first marathon. I was talking myself from even looking at that cliff of just walking when I can still jog. I reminded myself that the entire week prior to the marathon I wasn't even sure I could run at the pace I was doing now, that I should be thankful. I relaxed and just broke the last time miles into memories of morning runs. I was still going to finish with a respectable time, with lots more to work on for the next time I do this.

I saw my wife and her friend around IIT and I was super excited, a friendly face! I swung over and gave them a high five! Only a few miles left. I thought I could pull a strong 5k finish, I tried to speed up, but my lungs just weren't letting me.. damn. The crowd support was great through Pilson and Chinatown. When we were finally getting close to Roosevelt I felt relieved. The distance didn't scare me, I felt my training was strong. Just variables I couldn't control limited my experience.. that stupid strain and my lungs.

"Roosevelt Hill" came up and I slowly trotted up it. The course rounded around and the finish line was in view. I knew I could at least suck it up for 100m and sprint to the finish, I wouldn't need to breathe for that long. I ran hard, passing a good 20 people and finished. I was a little light headed (breathing duh) and wasn't sure what to think except.. I want to do better. Not in the sense that I was disappointed, but I knew I am capable of better.

After finishing I saw Pete, Annabelle, Erin, and Lindsay. There are photos to come of us. Lots of PRs today!

The running community has been so supportive, I'll be making a separate post just to those that stood out the most during my journey to 26.2.

After talking about my issues to Pete, he mentioned it sounded like it was Distance (or Exercise) Induced Asthma. He has it and takes an inhaler for the longer runs or on need. I'll be asking my doctor about this issue this fall. Next time I want to be able to keep up with my running buddies!

Now some extra photos with my family after the race:

Thank you everyone for reading and supporting me. I have more goals to come, but this is enough to fill one blog post.

And the stats:

3:17:43 Finish. Considering all the things, I'm happy.


Thank you


  1. Congrats, Declan!! I didn't see you at mile 18 but I was probably busy raking up cups or something.

    I've had the same thing happen to me breathing-wise. It's anxiety induced for me, actually. So irritating!

  2. Congratulations!!!! You did so great for it being your first marathon (and a PDR, yes?), but I totally understand the feeling of finishing and thinking you can do better. And that just means that you'll PR your next marathon :)

    I had exercise-induced asthma when I was a kid, and now get a similar anxiety-induced attack (same as what Erin mentioned). I was hyperventilating at mile 8 of my half this summer, and have had similar attacks periodically while working with my trainer. Not fun at all, so it sucks that you had to deal with that :(

  3. Congrats! That's an awesome marathon debut!

  4. Congrats on the Marathon Debut! It was exciting to see you and Annabelle go by me near the 15K Mark!

  5. Hillary @Tongue in ChicOctober 14, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    A huge congrats, friend, on your first marathon (and generally badass time). It might not have been the race you were hoping for, but that experience is something you'll carry with you for a very long time (in a positive way, not in an "old man angrily venting to strangers on park benches about what should have been" kind of way). It sounds like you have a great attitude about how it went, but in case there are some lingering "womps" floating around, take pride in knowing that you're a passionate runner with the skillz to match your heart.

  6. Congrats on an awesome first marathon! You did great! Hopefully your doctor can sort out the exercise induced asthma and you'll be better prepared to hit your time goal next marathon!

  7. Ahhhhh I had the SAME THING happen with my breathing yesterday at almost the exact same point of the course! It's scary, isn't it? I've been dealing with this ever since I started running longish distances (the first time it ever happened was when I was training for my first 10K), and I've wondered for a long time if I might have exercise induced asthma. Not fun.

    But regardless, I am so proud of you and so happy for you for finishing the marathon. You've worked really hard this summer, and you are now a marathoner! I was tracking you yesterday and once I had my head on straight enough to check my phone after the race, I was thrilled to see you had run a 3:17 (which, whether it's what you were shooting for or not, is really impressive to me). Congratulations on your race!

  8. Pete B lakefronttrail.blogspotOctober 14, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    Congrats man. Wurst first marathon, ever.

  9. Kelsey @ Fueling StrongOctober 14, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    Congrats Declan! I had the same thing with not being able to breathe well around mile 14. I literally could not even gasp. So scary, so I stopped at the medic really fast to make sure it wasn't my heart since I do have an enlarged heart. After a quick sip I realized it was all coming from a side stitch, so I just told them I'd keep running but be alert with my body. Of course I put all of my focus on this and forgot to fuel properly thus ending in dehydration. Learning experiences...

    Congrats again on your first marathon. Can't wait for many more!

  10. Congrats!! I am so happy and excited for you!! Now, will you do it again or perhaps sign up for a different one? I've done the Chicago Marathon and it is a great experience. I am thinking of signing up for it again ext year.

  11. Amazing job! You totally rocked that race! Can't wait to read what about your goals for the future!

  12. Congrats, marathoner!!! Glad you guys spotted me and I was able to snap a great pic!

  13. Dude. You killed it. Humanely, of course, but you dominated. This is but the first step of many to come in your running career. I am so incredibly proud of you and elated for you. You're a marathoner!!

  14. Once one thing goes, so many other things become at risk to break apart too!
    Just like slowing down or stopping, you know you won't get back in that full groove and things can tighten up.

    I'm super proud of your journey! I read your recap last night on my phone, I haven't gotten a chance to comment yet. That was pure heart. We'll have to get together for a run from time to time!

  15. Thanks! Gracias for the photo!
    I'll probably do it again. Not sure about next year, I have some medium term goals I want to hit!

  16. It was a good time! Being part of a community really made a huge difference in the race!

  17. Goal 1, get an inhaler, Goal 2: Take over the world!


  18. Thanks! I had in my head leading up to the race what a lot of people said, something always comes up that you didn't even think about, I kept waiting for it, and yup breathing. I couldn't muscle through it or anything, just take what you have and own it!

    Great debut for both of us!

  19. WURST Photographer ever! Thanks :) At least I have one good photo from the race! Can't wait to run with the WRCE again!

  20. ERIN!!! I owe so much of my positive journey to you and our early morning (or is it late night?) runs and chats! I'm really glad to be your friend!
    Thank you :)

  21. Congratulations! You made it and you made it well. I have been so impressed with your training, so it's awesome that you had such a strong race. And I think it really was, even though not entirely to plan.

  22. Running with a friend made a WORLD of difference to me!

    And thank you! I feel content :)

  23. Thank you!! Ego took a back seat and I am super very happy with the results!

  24. Still super impressed with your first marathon. I don't know many people that go out on #1 and pull off a 3:17. You're going to be dropping minutes like a madman in your next races. Great meeting you, best of luck in your continued training bud!

  25. Sharkie Runs Lucky 13'sOctober 15, 2013 at 8:01 PM

    GREAT JOB on your first marathon! I also love that you're a Dr. Who fan :) Can't wait to read about your next adventures!!

  26. Congrats on your first marathon and blowing the competition out of the water! Im still amazed that you havent run many races and are a fast hard working runner dude.

    Ok, so we must lower our times to BQ so CRB can go to Boston 2015. mmmmm K?

    Those neighbors suck. That happened to me the night before my first chicago too. oh and 2 days before FV this year. I hate 99.99% of people lately.

  27. Gracias! Whovian all day! I wish I could be his companion..I bet Galifrey had fun marathons..

  28. Gracias!! I love running, so training or not, i love doing more of it!

    BQ could be in reach if i don't hurt myself next time around! Winter is going to feel my training hard!

  29. Congratulations - amazing first and I am sure you will get better and better! That said, I hope you can figure out the breathing issue (and ankle) quickly. Loved seeing you guys out there!

  30. Congratulations! What a great first marathon? And your like second race ever?
    It's been a lot of fun to follow along with your journey. I'm glad you were able to get to the starting line and run (mostly without incident) after the nagging injuries you've had. Impressive!

  31. Katie @ Live Half FullOctober 17, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    Way to go Declan!!! You totally rocked it. I'm so impressed. What's next?

  32. Well done sir! You killed it!

  33. Wow. Amazing job! Your splits are great! So glad the PT was able to help you and you had a great experience! :)

  34. Totally awesome, bro. You should be very proud.

  35. You, sir, are beastly. Congrats on a fine effort and time, it sounds like a good time was had all around.

  36. Great job Declan...I'll post my recap on Tuesday and it will be a very similar story to yours, I know exactly what you went through, emotionally at least, when the body said "woah boy".
    Was cool to bump into you in the corral (how random?) and out on the course too.
    Now take some time to heal up and get back to where you want to be...but in the meantime be very proud of what you have accomplished.

  37. Thanks!! it seems I missed a few bloggers out cheering and volunteering!

    The breathing was just one of those things I didn't even had in my list of things to go wrong! Now I know! thanks again

  38. Thanks!
    Almost as good as the first time as I competed in a sausage eating contest! Yup PDR!

    Seems like that asthma thing is a lot more common than I thought!

  39. Thank you! Can't wait to read your recap!!

  40. Thanks! If i saw you sooner I would have hugged the side to get a high five!

  41. Muchas Gracias! I think over the last 3 months I had about 4 different visions of the race, the most recent one being a complete womp, so I am happy!
    I may hold onto the story for a park bench as I feed pigeons corn and anger!

    Thanks again! One of these days I'll catch you on a run and say hi!

  42. Thanks!!!! I'll be calling my doctor as soon as the government reopens and I can take a sick day again. Congrats on the PR!

  43. YEs! scary. I was like no.. no heart attack.. I don't need to finish a few minutes faster and end up on a stretcher. Then as it just kept up with the higher run speeds, I figured it was my lungs.

    Thank you! It makes me feel honored to see people tracking me, I appreciate the time you take! I'll be reading your recap very soon!

  44. totes more proud that you commenting again on my blog! Thanks! I hope you are healing up!

  45. So Wurst, I need to do it again even wurster

  46. Yes! That is an AMAZING first race! And do ask your doc why that happened. I hope they have some ideas!

    Isn't it fab to run a marathon with a friend? And to see people you know? I understand why it was so much harder when you had to say good bye to the group.

    AND UGH to the loud neighbors the night before the race. Boo on them!

  47. Thanks! Hoping to train a bit smarter next time and be patient!
    Great to meet you as well!