I’ve had a couple of days to digest and wrap my head around what happened this past weekend. Quite honestly I was disappointed once again in my performance. And just like last year, I have to blame the warmer weather to hindering my performance. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this race much more than I did last year. So let’s get started…
6am – I met up with people from my pace group at the JW Marriott. There were a couple of first time marathoners who were absolutely excited and I was very excited for. All year they had trained so well and I was excited to see how they were going to do. They are all plenty faster than me so I did not expect to stay on pace with them, but I wanted to at least run with them for a little bit at the beginning.
6:30am – We hit up the CARA compound at the Congress Hotel so that they could use the gear check and use the bathrooms. I was happy to see Molly and Granato while we were at the Congress. Just seeing familiar faces is enough for me to feel a bit at ease. Like I am not doing this alone. Of course I’m not alone with 45,000 other people, but you know what I mean. In hindsight, we probably should have just hit the designated CARA port-a-pottys by the corrals, but ah well. The lines for the bathrooms were super long at the hotel. I also luckily ran into Jayme from the American Heart Association. She told me I just missed Dan.
7:15am – After waiting entirely too long for bathroom lines we finally made our way out to the corrals. We got there just in time to hear the end of the Star Spangled Banner. We couldn’t get in because the course marshals/volunteers were saying we needed to enter all the way in the back. Probably a good 15 minutes back. Uh no thanks. Someone ended up bending back one of the fences and runners started sneaking in. In order to get to the Nike pace groups we had to show our pace tats, so we showed them and finally got in. Seemed like too much work to finally get settled.
7:30am – Race starts…we wait
7:35am – The mass starts to slowly move towards the start line
7:50am – We finally get to the start line and we are off
We all tried staying reasonably together through the first couple of miles. At the first aid station I knew that NSDRC had some volunteers helping out. I tried to look for some, but couldn’t find any right away. Sure enough as we trotted by I hear a very familiar voice call out to me “Hey Joe!” Sure enough it was Bill the NSDRC site coordinator give me the “hey slow down a bit, it’s warm out” look on his face. I decided to listen.
A couple miles pass and Sarah and Neal lose us just as I thought. It appears Jenn keeps up with them too. In my mind I wanted them to leave so they didn’t have to wait for me, so I was glad to see them disappear into the sea of people. Christin was the next to go. She had some tough training runs this year, but I knew those made her very strong. I knew she would take off eventually but wasn’t sure when. I think we lost her around mile 6. So then it was Maggie and me. She told me she was just in her head too much. I reminded her how incredible she was during training especially during our 20 mile run. She said she was tired and I told her all of the adrenaline has run low and now it was time for her training to really show her what she could do. I know she is faster than me so I kept reminding her that if she wanted to go, she could. Of course I didn’t want her to, but that wouldn’t be fair for me to hold her back.
Somewhere around mile 3-4 there was a small 8oz bottle in the middle of the road getting kicked around. I decided to kick it out of the way so I kicked it to the right side of the street, but RIGHT AT another runner! I was totally freaking out, and somehow miraculously the bottle went right between the runner’s legs like a soccer goal! It was an awesome non-running moment. Maggie was there and saw it to verify it! So far I was 1-1!
Mile 5 – Tripped over the carpeted bridge. Was slightly peeved
Mile 8 – I knew Diana and Noel would be around somewhere like they were last year. Sure enough I spotted them wearing similar colored clothes as me. I don’t know how they knew what color I was going to wear but they nailed it!
Mile 9-10 – The climate was starting to get a little warm soI decided to start slowing down, stretch, and walk a little bit. It was at this time I lost Maggie. I knew it was going to happen, but I felt like it was time. It felt like I was wounded at war and I was telling her to save herself. I had some discomfort on the left side of my chest, so naturally I got a little worried. I stopped instantly and walked. Turns out my shoulder was just a little stiff so I walked. I hit the aid station and surprisingly saw JR and George. It was good to see familiar faces along the course. I gave them some sweaty high fives and went on.
I knew at this time I was going to start seeing a bunch of my friends and family, so I started to get excited and sped up a little bit. And took some shot blocks.
At Mile 12 – I saw Mariano halfway up the hill. He totally didn’t see me running so I had to run to him. I stopped and talked to him for a moment, and felt great as I ran off. Shortly after that as I turned the corner at Adams I saw Mary Jo’s family as well as my cousin Roderick and Melissa. I was hoping I would see them at some point throughout the run. Now I was real hyped up!
Mile 13 – I saw Tony and my nephews on Adams and I felt great, a little further and I saw Jaz, Abby, Erick, and Joe were there and we did a quick change into my blue CARA tank and white hat. I had a banana and loaded my bottles with ice. And Joe and Erick ran with me for a little while. Joe even played Joe Esposito’s “You’re the best around” from Karate Kid on his iPod speakers. That’s right, he brought mini speakers!
Mile 14 – There was some kids playing basketball in an alley, so during one of my stretching stops, I asked them if I could take a shot. Got the pass, and drained a 20 footer. Must be a good sign! Yup, 2 for 2!
Mile 15-17 – SUN! There was no escaping it. Every turn I took it felt like I was going back into the sun, how is that possible? I started walking a ton and texted back and forth with the group looking for motivation. I was all too familiar about this feeling..then I sent this message to our GroupMe text group:
Mile 18 – Thank God! I finally got to Christine! She agreed to run the last 8 miles with me. I told her my feet and legs were hurting and i needed to sit for a minute to get off my feet. She brought me animal crackers. YUM!
Mile 19 – We ran into big Annie and she trotted with us for a bit. I was glad to see her, I remember she was running quite a bit this year too. There was two guys throwing a football on the sidewalk. I decided I needed to lift my spirit with an easy reception. I whistled and I caught an 8 yard pass for a first down. That’s right, 3 for 3! Sam finally caught up with me. I knew it was going to happen eventually, and he was all smiles. I gotta admit, I was pretty jealous of him, but he was definitely having a good time. So I was happy for him!
Mile 20-21 – The sun would not let up. It was just draining me. I kept thinking about how last year was worse, and I shouldn’t complain about this year. I couldn’t help but get annoyed with the fact that there was not a single cloud to save us. We lost Sam at some point while I needed to stretch. Once again I felt like my demise would help another person to finish great.
Mile 22 – I finally got to my family and friends and was defeated. I was ready to give up. I had nothing left and was ready to just stop. My friends and family were so great and they just would not let me quit.
Mile 23-24 – It finally happened. I accepted the fact that today was not my day and I just wanted to finish safely. Christine and I hadn’t had a ton of time to catch up, so I decided to enjoy a conversation with a friend on a very nice day. We walked, we laughed, and we caught up. It was like we were back at UIC again. I knew we had to finish this thing so I told her to do something for me. The last two miles, I wanted to run. So no matter what, make me run.
The last 2 miles – Time to run. Christine was great. She went ahead to get me water and ice when I didn’t have the strength to maneuver to the side of the road. When I would start to fade she would literally hold my arm and start dragging me to run. And most importantly she kept telling me “Go back to your intention”. I thought about this over and over. Why was I doing this? Why was I putting myself through such hell? I want to be able to look at my family and friends and say with confidence that you can do whatever you want to do, because I have done it. I may not have done the best runner that day, but I was the best Joey I could be. And that’s all I could ask for. I saw Joe, Abby, and Erick on the side and they asked if I needed anything like ice, and I was all good. They ended up giving some ice to another runner, but then I was off, I had to keep moving.
I knew my cousin Mylene would be around mile 25 so I just kept going and going till I saw her. She was with her husband Andy and their kids. I gave her a big hug as apparently this is one of two times I get to see her all year. No tears this year with her. But just like last year, I was ready to finish.
Michigan Ave. felt like forever but I started hearing music and the announcer. It was time. I hear someone yelling from the left and it’s my brothers, my nephews and my wife cheering for me. That was what I needed for the last push. I took off up that last hill, Christine exited on the left, and I had the last 200m left. I saw Mike and Mariano at my right while I saw Christine running along side me on the left. I took off my hat and lifted my sunglasses onto my head. I wanted to see every moment of this finish line.
I end every race the same. I remind myself that I am a better person with every step. I think about my family and friends especially Jaz. I think about how my life will only get better. And I remember my dad. I close my eyes a second before crossing the finish line and send a kiss to the sky for my dad.
…and with that, I finish my 2nd marathon.
So I am trying to be somewhat easy to track during the marathon. One great thing about being a slower runner is that you have a much better chance to see me on the course. I just wanted to list a couple of different ways to follow me along the Chicago marathon course. My bib number for the race is 30357
Text tracking: Enter my bib number to receive texts when I cross 10K, 13.1mi, and 30K – https://tadpole.textingforward.com/bacm. I have heard bad things about this way. Like getting the text messages several hours after finishing
Runkeeper – I will have my phone with me and will start off a run keeper live session so you can actually see where I am on the course. Once I start the workout, a link will be posted on both my Facebook and Twitter account. Here is my Runkeeper profile in the meantime – http://runkeeper.com/user/joejao/profile
GroupMe – This will probably be the most interactive way to track me and cheer me on. GroupMe is a mobile group text message app and I will be posting occasionally in there at a couple of water stops for updates on where I am, and my friends and family who will be watching can tell you where they have seen me. If you want to be added just send me a message on Facebook or Twitter with your cell phone number and I’ll get you in. I do suggest you download the app if you have it available on your phone, it can get messy.
So here I am again…
7 days until I run the marathon.
As I have mentioned before, I was NOT ready for the marathon last year. Not physically and more importantly not mentally. I let it become bigger than me. I talk all the time about how people can have so much potential inside of them to do whatever they want, but the fact of the matter is, I did not believe in my own message when it came to me. I still thought of myself of the overweight kid in high school or would breathing heavy after running a block. The fact is that I am not that kid anymore. I haven’t been for a long time, and I don’t plan on going back to that kid. There is no chance that you can become amazing unless you try to become amazing. If I was able to show 16 year old me what I can do, the fact is, that he would think that what I am doing is amazing. So why shouldn’t the present-day me think the same?
So what did I do? I stuck much closer to the training plan this year and I trained smarter. The pounding of running will take its toll on a larger framed person like myself. So unscheduled rest days are a must. I am not a professional, so I need to make sure I take care of my body when it is asking for it. On the same note, if I want to succeed, I need to put in the work. No one else…just me. So this year, I made sure I couldn’t make any excuses when marathon day came along. This year I want to step into the corral at the marathon and know that I did everything in my power to be successful. I believe I have fulfilled that requirement.
OK, confession time…
EVERY Sunday of this training program, I contemplated quitting. I had many great runs and I had some bad runs, but the thought of just calling it quits was on time every week. The day after my long runs on Saturday I sat back and I was in disbelief that I just ran that distance, or I could not believe I logged those miles throughout the week, or month. I fantasized with the idea of just stopping my training altogether and drown my failure in ice cream. But then Monday would come. I would transform into this robot when I put my running shoes on. And like clockwork I would get back into my groove once again. I would get through the week, get my long run done, and then say hello to the question of Sunday. It was a vicious cycle, but I knew to expect it every single week. So I’m here on a Sunday night, thinking about quitting, just like any other week.
But something is different this week. Yesterday I ran 9 miles for the last long run of the marathon training. I look back at yesterday, and I know I ran it. I look back and think, “that was easy”. I am confident about how I ran those 9 miles. I am confident I can do that again, almost 3 times in a row, next Sunday, with 45,000 other people, and millions of people cheering.
So here we are, on a Sunday, 7 days away from my second marathon, and I don’t want to quit.
I don’t know how to…
Have you ever had that moment in your life when you just knew you would succeed? I think I have finally hit that moment in training.
Let’s admit it, last year was terrible. I was severely undertrained, and didn’t have a good base to run something like a marathon. I look back at last year and I think about how naive I was. I thought the fact that it was such a “great thing” that I was training for a marathon would carry me through that day in October. I remember thinking all year that I was jumping into something crazy, but the fact that I am doing it means that I would finish. But all through last year, I never once felt good about the marathon. Of course I would worry about it everyday, but there was never a moment last year when I said to myself “I think I will do well”. So I went into the marathon, with 18 weeks of training behind me, over $2000 raised for the America Heart Association…the fact that I got to the start line, was a victory in itself. And to me, it felt like the last part of the win that day.
Here are some of the pictures where I felt like I was defeated that I haven’t really shared online (mainly because I was ashamed):
Weeks went by after the marathon, and I was sure that I would never go through that again. I know the weather was not ideal and it was not in our control, but it scarred me. It discouraged me. It almost felt like I was proven wrong. I didn’t finish like I wanted to. I wanted to finish with a genuine smile on my face, and it didn’t happen. I felt cheated. I wanted another shot, but could I be strong enough?
Here I am, 24 days till my second marathon and I had that moment. The moment I felt like I will be ready for the marathon. Throughout my training this summer, I did my best to stick to a running schedule, running 4-5 times throughout the week including the long run on the weekend. I gave my body rest when I felt I needed it. I iced and stretched constantly, and most importantly, I trained my mind by pushing my body. Remember those 95 degree days we had this summer? I ran in it because I wanted to remember how tough it was last year in the heat and find a way to finish my run. The moment came yesterday when I was running with the F^3 crew during their fun run downtown. It was a cool night and it was just supposed to be a casual run through the city. I ran with Heather, Cate, and Christine and they said they were going to do a slower pace. They ended up easing into their usual pace, but somehow I kept up reasonably well. Before I knew it, I shaved a minute off each mile running an average 10:30/mi (my usual is 11:30). I was shocked, but the fact that I did it means that I am capable! Now I am not expecting that throughout the marathon, but geez, I’ve never run that pace for that long!
But there it is, I am a runner. I will be running the Chicago Marathon in 24 days. And I will be ready for it.
So another month of training comes to an end, and I hadn’t really looked at how many miles I ran. I figured it was over 100 miles, but I really had no idea how many miles over 100 I ran. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I had logged 122 miles in August. Thanks to DailyMile I was able to compare this mileage to what I did last year while training for the marathon. To my surprise, I actually DOUBLED my mileage from last August. I know I am expecting to do more mileage this year since I am following the intermediate training, but last year, I remember missing a lot of runs. This year I get at least 4 runs in during the course of the week including the long run. I really think that has helped me so much this year. I guess we will find out for sure on October 9th to see if all of this training really help me out. But first thing’s first, I got my first 20 miler this weekend. I hope to stay around the 4hour mark. Unlike last year, I am actually somewhat looking forward to it this time around. I just need to feel what 20 miles feels like again. Then I’ll get to do it again at the Elk Grove/Busse Woods 20 miler in 2 weeks. I don’t expect September to be close to the mileage of this August or July, but I do hope to hover around 100 miles again.
One of the best feelings is accomplishing a goal that you never thought possible. Now if you are able to do that as well as help someone else achieve their goal then that is all kinds of excellent. In running there will always be difficult times for people especially training for a marathon. This past weekend I was able to return the favor to the running world that I got last year during my 15 mile run.
I was in the 12 minute pace group running along with Michele during our cutback week. I wish this group existed last year for my first marathon! Anyways, I saw a runner falling back a bit towards the latter half of the run. Now since this was a cutback run I felt pretty fresh and decided to go back and help this runner finish. Sometimes it’s just good to have someone with you finishing up some miles. You feel a sense of a team and it picks up your spirits. We ran/walked the last mile or so and talked about little things I’ve picked up through training. It was fun at the end, which sometimes I forget about while running. Running is supposed to be enjoyable.
At the end of it I felt good getting a good run in as well as help a fellow runner!
Last week my running friends (Michele and Kim) from last year’s marathon training asked if I wanted to go for a run on Saturday. I thought it was just going to be the three of us. I show up at the forest preserve we used to train at and sure enough the entire NSDRC running club is there. Oy… All of a sudden I felt the pressure of training again. We ran through the extremely familiar Old School forest preserve running trails. As the heat continued to roll in I was able to concentrate on my running form and breathing. I had to trust my training as I failed to do in the marathon last year. I had planned to do 10 miles, but I cut it to 6 miles because of the heat and lack of hydration. Sometimes you gotta make a decision.
One thing I always like is running with people. I was able to catch up on the lives of our pace group. It felt like a lifetime ago since I trained with this group. Michele and Kim even said they have been waiting for more blog entries from me, so I told them I would write one for them. Here ya go, ladies!
I thought about last year and what I needed to do to prepare myself for the marathon. I know I could have done better in training. I know I could have eaten much better. I know I could have done the little things to be better at the marathon. According to the people who run the marathon, I was not an official finisher since the cutoff was 6 hours and 30 minutes.
This year I will be an official finisher. I will be much tougher from a mental standpoint. This year I will be ready for anything. I will train harder and smarter on and off the roads and trails.
As I did with my family and friends last year, I ask you to keep me honest. Ask about my training, my eating habits, my toughness.
I look at the 18 weeks ahead of me, and I see 18 different goals. Each step just as important as the last. I have a score to settle with the Chicago Marathon. It absolutely kicked my ass last year. This year, it is MY turn.
I’ve been going back and forth between either signing up for the Chicago Marathon or not. I really wanted to do it this year again, but was I mentally ready for this battle again? Every Saturday in my summer consumed by a long run. And I knew how hard it was on Jaz last year too. Not that we do a ton on Friday night as it is, but you know those were shot too! Especially the day of the marathon. I knew it was very hard on her because she knew how much pain and agony I had been in. But in the end, I finished it. I proved it to myself and to my friends and family that if you really put your mind to it and work hard (damn hard) you are capable of so much more than you could ever imagine! But now that it was done, what can I do to top it? Well…do it all over again! But do it even smarter and hopefully faster. I still remember each mile like it was a lifetime from 10-10-10, but that’s how it should be. You should be able to look back and say what an amazing experience something was, and move on with your life. I feel like I have gotten my message out to a good amount of people last year fundraising for the American Heart Association, and I want to continue that. I want to be an example to everyone that heart disease and stroke can be fought, and it can be beat.
But I could do all that without running a marathon right? Just stick with the philanthrophy side of it and just concentrate on that. I am fortunate to be a committee member of the Start! Running Team for the American Heart Association. So I could just focus solely on that and help other runners achieve their fundraising goals and support with their training.
But I am always one who would like to lead or support right next to you, not from behind an email or a desk. So what should I do? Leave it up to fate.
A $1 coin that for some reason we’ve had on our desk at home was in front of me tonight when I was looking at the marathon website. So I said, f* it…heads (Martin Van Buren) I would run the marathon…tails (Statue of Liberty) I don’t…