My 2011 Chicago Marathon race recap, part 1

Never give up. Three simple words that I chose months ago as my personal mantra. Little did I know how important they really would be yesterday.

I set a lofty goal for this year’s Chicago Marathon. I wanted to run a sub 5 hour marathon. After last year’s lofty goals, I believed I could do it. I believed the whole year, up until a point yesterday. I trained hard this year, focused on strength training, ran more miles. I felt good. I felt ready.

I ate well, followed the plan. I think I hydrated well. Friday I hit the Expo early, and stayed off my feet as much as I could. Saturday I was home with the girls and laid low. I talked to Dave and Coach Jen on Saturday and felt like I was set. I was focused. Sure I was antsy, but I wasn’t scared. I was excited.

I slept great Friday night, getting ten hours of sleep! Saturday I laid low with the girls and that night I got about 6 hours or so. I woke up at 4am and was a little nervous. But nothing bad. I calmed down fairly quickly, listening to some music while I ate some oatmeal. I got ready and waited for Steve and his wife, Amy, to come pick me up. I felt focused.

We joked in the car ride into the city and got to the Congress Hotel around 5:30am. I chatted with folks, saw a few AHA runners and used the facilities before heading to the start corral. A small group of us, who ran some with the Niles CARA group, were in the corral at 7am and sat until the national anthem. It was awesome, I got goose bumps. We gathered in a circle and said a prayer. Then we started inching towards the start line. We crossed 15 minutes after the elites did.

And we were off. Steve and I had planned to run this race together. Our pace has been close enough, and Steve had slowed some to run with me at my pace. We had gone over “the talk” runners have, the one where if some one feels off, and the other feels good…the runner who might not be feeling it doesn’t hold the other back.

As we came out of the tunnel on Columbus and hit the bridge I aimed for the carpeted section, figuring it’d be easier on the feet that the grating. About half way across, about a half mile into the race I tripped. I caught my foot on the rug and went down and stories of people getting trampled at races flashed through my mind. I hit my right elbow, rolled and slid on my right shoulder. I got a little rug burn but was OK. I rolled quickly, looking back as I did, and got to my feet fast.

No time lost, no harm done. I felt lucky that I wasn’t trampled and hadn’t hurt anyone else. I felt a little embarrassment for being clumsy, as Coach Jen has joked a time or two, my nickname should be “Grace”. As we made our way down State to Jackson, I was taking in the awesomeness of this race and I felt alright. As we turned north on LaSalle Steve and I commented how warm it was getting already. And that it was humid. Around mile three I felt a little dizzy.

I did a systems check and took in some more fluid and figured I was fine. We walked the aid station by mile 3 and I felt OK. I was still dizzy, but it would come and go. It was weird. We made our way north into Lincoln Park and we saw @Phampants cheering! I gave a wave and felt a boost.

Somewhere on mile 5, I tripped again, this time tweaking my right knee. My knee cap shifted, like it went out of joint quickly and back in. I was up fairly quickly but when I put weight on my right leg, I felt pain. I hopped to the curb to gather myself. After a few seconds of walking I felt OK, so we kept moving. We hit the next aid station and saw Mark Rouse on a ladder with a mega phone! We waved and he shouted! It was cool!

We hit mile 6 up to mile 7, where it’s pretty quiet, up right along the lake before turning into Boystown. It was warm but we were moving. Up to this point we had started a little fast, but I felt we were right in our wheel house. We were settling in at a nice 11:00 pace, the plan for the day.

We hit mile 8 and I was getting dizzy again, we walked that aid station and saw my dad just past. As we started to run again I got really dizzy and started to wobble. I told Steve I thought I was going to pass out. I grabbed for him and we stepped to the side. I was shaking a little. We ran/ walked to the med tent at mile 9. I was quiet and freaking out.

We got to the med tent and an RN asked what was up…I said I felt like I was going to pass out. They staff at the tent was great. They let me to a cot, sat me down, got me an ice cold towel for my head and shoulders,some ice and fluids. They took my vitals and my heart rate was elevated, so was my BP. I told Steve to go on, and he shook it off and hit the washroom instead as I sat for a bit. He came back and I told him to go on again. After a few more minutes he decided to go. At that point I didn’t know if they’d let me go back out on the course.

They wanted me to walk around a little bit with an RN to see how I felt. I tried calling Pam and my dad to let them know what was up. I had my phone with me, but powered off. After walking a bit they checked my vitals and the doc told me I could continue but recommended I walk for a bit, perhaps to the next aid station and see how I felt.

My dad called as I walked out of the tent and I told him what was up. I got a hold of Pam and told her. She asked if I was OK. I wasn’t, I was upset and had no idea what to do. I told her I was going to try and keep going for a while. I felt lost. Honestly, at that point I wanted to quit. After spending almost a half an hour in the med tent I knew my goal was shot. I felt like I was letting everyone down.

Talking to Pam helped, she said that she would be at mile 12.5 with the girls and our friends Charlie and Myriah. I said I’d make my way to them. And then Dave called and asked what was going on. I had no idea how he knew, if my dad had tweeted it or if they had spoken on the phone. As I told Dave what was up, I started to cry. Everything felt like it was coming to a head. Dave asked if I wanted him to head downtown, find me and run with me. I told him no. He gave me a pep talk and told me I could finish. I didn’t believe him but I told him I did.

I hung up and kept moving. I hit the next aid station and grabbed some fluids. I felt OK. I tried to run again and got maybe a mile and got dizzy again. I swore…a lot. I slowed to a trot and walked a bit more. My knee was feeling tight, but it didn’t really hurt.

And then I got pissed off. I used it to push myself. I set a goal to get to where Pam, the girls and Charlie and Myriah were, by Willis Tower. I stopped and hugged them, got a Gatorade and kept moving. I decided my next goal was to get to the Charity Block Party and see my coworkers at the Viamedia/ American Heart Association tent. I ran and walked my way there. I got some high fives and kept going. I knew my dad was going to try to be there and near mile 16. When I didn’t see him at 14, I assumed he’d be on Jackson before mile 16.

Though I was moving slowly, I kept going. Pam sent a text and said they were going to mile 17, to Taylor and Halsted. And I got a call from Lauren. She was out cheering for everyone, having fun. She told me she was at 17 and was going to meet her friend Regina and run with her to mile 21. And then she’d wait there for me and run it in with me. I don’t think it fully registered but I told her I’d see her in a bit.

Sure enough I saw my dad at Jackson and Loomis. This is the pic he snapped as I got to him. I was feeling it.

We walked a few blocks, he asked how I was, if I needed anything. I told him I was bummed but moving. He looked at me and told me I was going to finish. Up until that point I wasn’t thinking of finishing. But he was right, I was going to finish. I didn’t care how long it took, I was going to cross that damn line. I stopped wallowing and finally realized that I had been doing that for the last 7 miles. I was putting all my energy into moving forward.

He said he was going to Chinatown to wait. I told I’d see him there. And I ran a mile, and got to about a block from Pam and the gang at 17. I got to them, got some high fives and more Gatorade and kept moving. Charlie shouted at me, “You’re a gazelle!”

“A wounded gazelle!” I shouted back.

Pam shouted back, “They haven’t caught you. You’re not dead yet!”

I love my wife. They told me they were headed to just before mile 20. The scary mile, you know, the one I didn’t remember last year. Thinking about that gave me the chills as I pushed on. Through a text or two I realized I was only about a mile or so behind Steve. I thought I had a chance to catch him. I tried to pick up the pace through Pilsen, but struggled.

I also realized I hadn’t gone pee or even had an inkling to go since the med tent at 9. I had been pushing fluids, but my system seemed to be backed up.

I found Pam, the girls and Charlie and Myriah and kept moving. I joked that I was going to discover a new mile! Yay! I came to a point where nothing looked familiar. Yep, I was there. I welled up a little. I knew last year they probably should have pulled me here, but they didn’t. Dave kept me going. I kept going…just as I was doing this time.

I took in more water and a banana a the mile 21 aid station and made my way to Chintown. About a block or so from the dragons I saw Lauren running in my direction. She asked how I was, and I didn’t really hold back. My feet were throbbing, my knee was sore and swelling and I was fighting being dizzy but I wasn’t going to stop. And I didn’t. We made our was past US Cellular and made the turn east. And then I saw another familiar face, Tom from the Run with Heart Team was out looking for one of our runners. He came up, gave me a hug and a pat on the back. I don’t think either of us said anything, we didn’t have to.

Mile 24, I caught up to Gregg, a cool dude who had read my recap last year and emailed Coach Jen to run this year’s marathon. We high fived and guy hugged as Lauren and I passed. Seeing Gregg was a boost.

I kept moving as we hit Michigan Avenue. About mile 25 I had to pee, yay! So I stopped by the aid station.We headed on and I saw the alley! Yes, THE alley from last year where Dave Wallach giggled like a school girl and I well…um, painted the wall.

We saw my father-in-law wandering in the street towards us with a giant bottle of Gatorade, Fruit punch and not Lemon/ Lime, hooray!!! Sorry, inside, family joke. We saw my dad at about the same time; he joined us and the four of us walked a bit together. The thumbs up was for the fruit punch flavor and the jell-o shot I had just downed a block before. At that point, I decided I was having fun, no matter what.

The last 4 miles I had fun…I had rediscovered my love for endurance running that I think I had lost for a while with everything on my plate.

One of my coworkers was at 18th and Michigan, I hugged him and kept moving. I knew where everyone else would be, right before the hill. I got to my family, my dad, father in law and Lauren peeled off and cheered. I got one last set of hugs and ran. I knew I had missed the 6:30:00 cut off, but I ran up that damn hill, hit the top, made the turn and went as hard as I could.

I sobbed as I approached the finish and did the silly airplane arms thing I’ve been doing this year as I crossed the line. I didn’t know what to feel. Hell, I still don’t fully know. I feel a lot of things. Proud I didn’t give up, angry, disappointed, happy to be done, confused. Part of me didn’t want to take a medal, I felt like I had failed.

With some time to think about it, I don’t fully know what went wrong. It was warm again but I thought I hydrated enough. I was a little fast at the start, but was settling in. I don’t know.¬† The doctor at the med tent said she thought I was dehydrated, or at least getting there. That could be part of it. I’m going to see my doctor for my physical soon¬† and will bring all these issues up. I’ll review nutrition with Beth and see if it’s something I’m missing. Coach Jen and I will talk in a day or two and we’ll go from there.

As I approached the folks with the medals, I had my head down. Before I decided to lift my head up and hold it up, I glanced at my shirt. Never give up. And there it was, the lesson for the day, for the year. I hadn’t given up. I struggled, a lot. Goal wise, I had a horrible race. But I didn’t quit. There were times I wanted to quit, but I kept moving.

My friends and family were there and helped carry me through when I struggled. I was wrong when I thought I was letting them down. I wasn’t, they were there no matter what and cheered and saw me fight through. Just over two years ago the thought of completing a marathon never entered my mind. I’ve run 2 now since then, in less than ideal weather. This year I had to overcome quite a bit. Last year I had my mentor there, by my side, and at times he literally carried me through. This year, I carried myself. Sure I leaned on my family and friends, but I did the heavy lifting.

I looked up at the young lady who draped the medal around my neck and I smiled as a tear ran down my cheek.

I made my way back towards the hotel and ran into my friends, Eric and Lynda and got more hugs. I broke down a little as the day caught up with me. I had said last week that race day was going to be filled with rainbows and unicorns. It was filled with those, but also with overcoming struggles, hugs and jell-o shots.

Physically I have some road rash on my knees and shoulder, my right elbow is bruised and I’m sore. My knee feels OK. It feels wobbly but doesn’t hurt. I made an appointment to have it checked on Friday.

Despite not hitting my goals, I have many people to thank. We’ll call that my race recap part two and I will share that tomorrow. I’ll probably also post more on the race later this week, as I continue to wrap my head around everything.

In any case, my 2011 Chicago Marathon can be summed up in three simple words. Never give up!


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  • What an amazing and awesome post. I am so happy for you. Most people would have given up, but you, you just went on. Congrulations.

  • In reply to David W. Quinn:

    Thanks, David. It was a tough and emotional day. It sort of emulates my life. I struggled early, facing some challenges, but rebounded and have never given up.

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    Huge props to you for putting all of your energy into moving forward - LOVE that. Had a tear running down MY cheek just reading this. And I vote Soul Patch! ;-)

  • In reply to Jess Withrow:

    Thanks, Jess. Writing this helped me a lot. I too, vote soul patch!

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    I had tears in my eyes as I read this. Truly truly amazing how you kept going despite the conditions you faced. You have never ceased to inspire me and keep me going and this is why. You really do not ever give up! That is my motto, it is inscribed on my road id Never Give Up. I am so happy that you finished the race and got your medal, you earned it Dan. You worked so hard, no matter what happened on race day, you trained hard for the marathon and earned the victory of crossing the finish line.
    So proud to know you.
    Thank you for sharing this post I know it must be hard to write.

  • In reply to Colleen:

    Thanks, Colleen. While I wish yesterday went better, I'm glad I didn't quit. Writing this helped a lot...

  • The only person you disappoint when you quit is yourself! The rest of us love you for even getting there.
    You made it.
    That's all that matters.
    Next year, the Anchorage Marathon:) Nice and cool.

  • In reply to David Wallach:

    Hilarious! I said the same thing on Sunday! "Dan, Alaska has a marathon, you know." :)

    And Dan, you already know my feelings about Sunday. You crossed that line. That's what matters.

  • In reply to Lauren Kaminsky:

    If I sign up for Anchorage, they'll have a 40 degree heat wave! Ha!

    In all seriousness, thank you both for the support...the last two years and on Sunday!

  • Live to fight again David ! First off maybe now would be a good time to thank you for the Shamrock Shuffle entry way back when the temp was much better for running. I'm glad for you also that you hung in there and finished. For some of us runners, just a little too hot out there to perform like we could have. Nonetheless, were proud of you for not quitting when things were at their worst. Your children will remember David, and may make a better decision one day because of your perseverance. You've got my respect !

  • In reply to keeptrying:

    Sorry Dan, I meant Dan!

  • In reply to keeptrying:

    No worries. Thank you! It was a hot one, for sure!

  • You pushed through and finished! Never give up!!!

  • Most people would have given up, but you, you just went on. Congrulations

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  • Congratulations you achieved something many couldn't even come close to. You are lucky to have such a supportive family to keep you going. And Sunday's weather was hot...

  • In reply to Yoga Mom:

    I am a lucky guy! Thank you!

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