Now that you've all seen the pictures and read the story of how my sub-3 in Chicago came to be, I guess it's time to close the book on this epic marathon. After all, New York is coming up in a little over a week and I need to get my head back in the "Empire State of Mind", if you know what I mean. But before I (finally) leave Chicago behind, I'd like to take this opportunity to assess my physical and mental approach to this race as a whole and point out five major reasons why I think this race worked out well for me.
1. Effort-Based Pacing - Unlike any of my previous attempts at sub-3, I lined up at the start of this marathon not knowing EXACTLY what my pace plan should be. Because of a minor flu I'd been dealing with all week and the volatile weather that were expected on race day, I didn't know what my body was capable of on race morning. As a result, I made myself a pact not to calculate paces or projected finishing times except at major checkpoints (ex. 10 miles, half marathon, 20 miles). My plan was not to use an arbitrary time as a gauge of whether to speed up or slow down in every mile. Rather, I was going to rely one my own self-perceived effort as a guide to how I ought to be running every mile. Even in the last 10K, when I knew I was closing in on 3 hours, I did not dare look down at my watch. Instead, I told myself just to sprint and run to the best of my ability. I felt that if I could do that and give every ounce of energy I had left out on the course, then I could really be happy and proud knowing there would be no regrets, regardless of my final time.
2. 20 Mile Run 10K Race - Even as I was running well and feeling good for somuch of this race, I kept reminding myself that the first 20 miles is just the appetizer to the entree, the preface to the story, the prelude to the race. Although I felt I controlled my pace well through the first 20 miles and only allowed myself to "race" the last 10K, it wasn't until I compared my splits in this race to the ones from my last sub-3 attempt in 2009 NYCM did I realize how applicable the pace/race metaphor would be. If you performed a side-by-side comparison of the 5k split times between the two races, you'd see that I was only 7 seconds faster at the half and only 6 seconds faster at the 30K split in Chicago! This means that all the speed and fitness gains I experienced this summer compared to last year did not make any difference in the first 18.6 miles but resulted in a tremendous difference in the last 12.2K. This was a bit shocking to me because I assumed and convinced myself that I was running so much faster this year especially in the early going as compared to last year. Boy was I wrong!
3. Hydration - As many have said, this was a very warm marathon. We knew this was going to be the case all race weekend. Some chose to "freak out" and just ignore the sun. Others had a contingency plan to drop out or slow down when it got too hot. I told myself on race morning to realistic about my chances and just run as fast as I could without burning out. One thing that was nonnegotiable though was a self-imposed decree to drink 3 cups of fluids at every single water station, regardless of how I felt. This impromptu hydration plan not only kept me out of trouble for most of the race, I was so well hydrated that I was able to skip the last 2 water stops as I sprinted toward the finish line. That has never happened to me before.
4. Blessings in Disguise - Remember the guy that bumped into me at mile 23...causing my body to stop running and my right leg to seize? At the time, I thought it was an absolute disaster. For a few seconds, I thought my race was over. But after making sure I wasn't seriously hurt, I got angry at him and at the world and sprinted harder to the finish than I've ever previously done in a marathon. Now looking back, I doubt I would've sprinted so fast without his "intervention". What I thought at the time was the worst thing that could happen to me turned out to be exactly what I needed to nailed down the sub-3. Go figure.
5. Friends - Last but certainly not least, I had the fortune of having so many friends around for this race. From my friend MT who came to town just to see me race to Redhead Morgan who spectated at mile 22 to the Saucony Hurricanes who introduced themselves to me over dinner to all the NY Flyers who came and cheered, and took pictures and kept me entertained the whole 26.2, I never felt more supported and motivated to run fast than I did that day. To everyone in whatever capacity you played, big or small, including my twitter, FB, and DM friends, to make my dream a reality, thank you so very much for the support and inspiration. I appreciate every kind word, every encouragement you've sent, and every supportive comment you've left my way. Chicago Marathon, 10-10-10, will always be memorable and special to me. ALWAYS.