Where to begin.... There's nothing quite like getting together with about 45,ooo people to run the Chicago Marathon on the hottest day ever recorded in the 30 years since it's inception.
When I stepped outside my hotel on Sunday morning I couldn't believe how hot it was. At 5:30 am the temperature was already at about 70 and the dew point was around 65. Now that's humid! I had a tremendous amount of anxiety as Stef and I waited for the train to downtown Chicago. The platform soon filled with other racers with their gear check bags slung over their shoulder and race numbers pinned to their shirts. For as many people as there were, the crowd was eerily quiet. We soon boarded the CTA Blue line, toward Jackson St and the race starting area. We were lucky enough to find a seat because by the time we reached Jackson ST the train was totally packed. We arrived at our destination about 45 minutes later and headed up the stairs out of the station to the surface.
Even though I Knew there would be a lot of racers I couldn't believe my eyes. Racers were coming from all directions all heading like a pack of lemmings toward the start corrals and gear check. Stef and I checked our gear and headed toward the start corrals. She is a much faster runner than I am and wanted to start around the 3:45 pace group. Since It was still about 45 minutes till the race start I decided that I would join her for a while then move back closer to the 5:45 pace group that I thought I would be able to keep up with. About 20 minutes before the race start I said good luck to Stef and headed back toward the 5:45 pace group. Yeah, that never happened. I got back as far as the 4:30 group and got stuck. Since I couldn't go anywhere I decided I would make the best of it and start there. It was so humid that sweat was running down my back just standing still. I leaned to the guy next to me and said, "This is October right?". He said he was thinking it should have been much cooler too. I looked down at my heart rate monitor and it was at 122 bpm. I attribute this to the humidity because even though I was nervous it normally wouldn't be above 90. I guess heat does make a big difference.
The race started and I ended up making a huge mistake I went out way too hard in the first mile. My first mile was around 9-10 minutes. I normally go around 13-14 min. That is a huge difference. That's what I get for starting with the 4:30 group. It was so easy to get swept along for the ride. I started to get that tingly feeling in my face that tells me my heart rate is too high. I looked at my watch and it read 202. Holy crap!! I immediately slowed to a walk to try to get it back down. It finally came back down and I started running again.
I had this whole nutrition thing planned out pretty well because I knew that with the heat hydration would be key. I had a 20 oz bottle the was filled with Gatorade, two Nune tablets and 10 gu packets. My plan was to take in 20-40 oz Gatorade or water and 2 gu packets per hour to keep me hydrated and fueled. This was great in theory. I skipped the first aid station because I still had plenty of Gatorade to get me to aid station 2 at around the 3-mile mark, little did I know this was a big mistake. Here's where it all goes to hell. There was no aid station 2. Ok, there was a 2nd aid station but there was nothing left. Due to the heat, the runners ahead of us were taking multiple cups and dumping them on themselves to keep cool. I really can't blame them, as I would have done the same thing. There was absolutely nothing left for us. I was now with the 4:45 group so there were thousands of people still behind us. People were really pissed. Some guy said, “Their gonna need more ambulances.” No water equals no gu packets no gu packets equals no energy. This totally sucked. In the news the race director stated that they had plenty of water and supplies. Thousands of others and myself can attest to the fact that that is a load of crap! The next aid station wasn’t till mile 6 which was almost 5 miles from the first aid station. When we got there, there was water, but no Gatorade. Come on people get your act together. It was too freakin hot to keep having these kinds of logistical screw-ups. Two girls that I talked to actually ran into a store to by some bottled water. That was a great idea; too bad I didn't have any money on me. Silly me, I thought I paid a $110.00 entry fee so I wouldn't have to buy my own water. One thing I will say is that the people of Chicago really stepped up by bringing out their hoses and pitchers to help keep us going. By the time I finally got some water I was feeling really sick and had to force myself to take in a gu packet. The gu and water helped a little, but it was too little too late.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion are as follows: cold clammy skin with heavy sweating (check), Pulse rapid and weak (check) mine was 204bpm, thirst (check), weakness (check), dizziness (check). I finally decided to call it a day just after mile 8. I really didn't want to die. As I sat down in the chair at the med station a girl came running up asking for help. Some guy was vomiting blood just down the street. It was then that I felt a whole lot better about dropping out. I rode a bus back to the finish line and waited for Stef to finish. At around 12:30 they made an announcement that the race had been cancelled due to the intense heat and humidity. I think it was a good decision. One man died and about 300 people we sent to the hospital for heat related injuries. Stef did finish with an unofficial time of around 4:52 this was after they called the race and made everyone walk. Last year she ran around a 4:06. I do plan to compete in another marathon in the future, just not in one this hot. Thank you to all of you who helped me get to the starting line. You guys rock!!!