What Went Well
Got a PR – Knocked off 2 minutes 30 seconds off my previous marathon PR (also ran on flat course too, but on a 55 degree day). Would have knocked off more had the heat not gotten to me.
Was prepared to ditch my shirt – I had sunscreen all over me and didn’t have my bib attached to my shirt.
My ankle held up - After flaring up right before taper, it did not hurt at all. Didn't need my sample pack of Biofreeze. Yay.
No quad muscle failure – This is a hugely huge thing that went well. In my first 2 marathons, I started getting twinges of soreness between mile 8-12 and then painful soreness by mile 14. That never happened this time around. Yes, I got kinda sore by mile 21, but it was bearable. All those squats paid off.
Felt strong at mile 20 - I actually picked up the pace a little bit in the 5K split around mile 20. Mile 21, well, that was another story.
Crowd support - Amazing. That is all.
Stayed positive the whole time - This makes the difference between a good race and a bad one. Even after I knew I wasn't going to reach my goal, I figured I'd enjoy the race as much as I could. No need to dwell on what wasn't going well. At least my quads were OK and my feet didn't hurt. I never wanted to give up. I never thought I wouldn't finish. That's a victory.
Post-race recovery – Usually it takes a few days for my legs to get back on speaking terms with me. They never stopped speaking to me this time around. No problems going up and down stairs either. I did a decent amount of walking after the marathon (in the finish area and to the post-race area, then a mile back to my hotel, then a mile and a half in the evening, then several miles the following day). It helped. A lot. While my legs got sore, the soreness was nowhere near as bad as before. Good stuff.
Bank of America Customer Upgrade Area – This was nice. There were snacks, water, Gatorade, a tent and grassy area with picnic tables, extra port-a-potties, and an aluminum water bottle for BoA customers. I went there pre- and post-race. It was quiet and less crowded than other areas pre-race, louder but also less crowded than other areas post-race.
What Went Poorly
The weather – Really, there isn’t anything you can do about the weather. It could have been worse. I think the temperature was about 5 degrees hotter than I thought it was, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the humidity was higher than I thought as well. Small things like that can make a difference. Even still, I trained in weather worse than the marathon. I just didn’t train at my marathon pace.
Went out too fast? - This is questionable but probable. I trained to run BQ pace and I have held BQ pace in a half marathon in worse weather. I held BQ pace for the first half on the nose. And then the heat got to me. Badly.
My official splits. You can clearly see where I decided to slow down after the halfway point. Major side eye to that 10:42 split. That was just dumb on my part, although I'm pretty sure that's where the heat was the worst.
Positive splits - Also known as crash and burn. Running fast to bank time in the first half and then hoping you can hold on for the second half is not the way to run a marathon. Mardi Gras was the closest I've come to even splits where there was a difference of 2 minutes 15 seconds between my first half and second half. I've never managed to run negative splits in a marathon. Maybe next time with the right weather.
The weather, again - Chicago has a history of being hot. I knew this and decided to register anyway. While it wasn't as bad as years past, it was enough to significantly affect performance. It really didn’t feel that bad. I never overheated. I just think it was deceptively warm and deceptively humid.
Ended dehydrated - I drank water at every stop til mile 3 and then Gatorade and water at every water stop after mile 3, AND I had a Fuelbelt with my own supply of water and Gatorade. And yet I still ended up dehydrated at the finish line. If I really think about it, I was showing signs of dehydration from about mile 6 ... I’m not exactly sure. At least I recognized that I recognized that and knew I needed not just water but electrolytes as well. I was trying to walk the fine line between overhydration and underhydration. In the end, I didn't walk that line the right way.
Immediate post-finish - I felt OK for the first 10 minutes but then felt nauseous. For me, nausea is a classic dehydration sign. I have enough running experience that I have ran to the point of bad dehydration before (I don’t recommend it because it feels miserable). I knew what was happening almost immediately. Sat down on a curb. Tried to stand up. Oh hell no. Sat back down again as my stomach decided it did not want what I was trying to put in it. But then I felt better. I’ve had this happen before, usually in the summer or when it is hot or very humid. I knew it would pass. I stayed put for another few minutes, successfully stood up, and made my way out of the runners only area. I felt better once I got water and food back into my stomach.
What Just Was
GPS devices - If you are using a Garmin in Chicago, I’d suggest using it for time not pace. My distance was off from the very beginning, due to underpasses, tall buildings, and the large amounts of runners interfering with satellite connections. My distance was off by over half a mile by the end of the race. I knew this was going to be problem running through a city. So I went off time (which meant I needed to calculate approximate mile splits in my head ... that’s a good way to keep your mind occupied) and not the pace on the Garmin.
Now that I am a little more removed, I'd still run Chicago again. It is not perfect, and you need to be aware of what you're going into. You need to know it is a very large race and it could be hot. I think the positive aspects outweigh the negative ones. Expect to be greeted well by thousands of volunteers and over a million spectators as you run through the streets of Chicago.