When I prepare people for races we prepare for the worst in conditions and the hardest, blood curdling type of race that you could ever experience. I had a scuba instructor who trained me to "have the best possible experience" every time I go underwater. I love scuba for the reason that I calmly know how to handle things like strong current, sharks, barracudas, whales, speed boats and whatever else you might encounter under the water. I was prepared well.
At St. Anthony's Triathlon a friend of a friend of mine died at the triathlon because her coaches did not prepare her for the "best possible experience" so I've made it a point of the 2007 season to emphasize how to max out your enjoyment whether you are racing or "just" trying to finish. Either way...you are out there L I V I N G your life and not watching others on television live it for you.
Fears about the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon, let's talk about them:
1) Blisters: regardless of a 10k without socks or a full marathon with socks - I Vaseline my feet or my shoes. In most cases, I might have a small blister but nothing that effects athletic performance or walking into the office on Monday after the race. In an Ironman and a marathon, I "lay it in there" as my dad would say - think Burt Reynolds in the movie Striptease - yeah...thick and gooey. In 2003 Ironman USA (Lake Placid) got 12" of rain in the 11 hours I raced - ended their drought on my Ironman day - so glad to help. I'll never forget leaving T2. As I was thinking, 'Just try to avoid the big puddles in the beginning...' I stepped in a mid-calf deep hole or small lake (not really sure) and felt my shoe fill with water. (@#!*, can't do anything about it now)
2) The Wall: in Chicago the 'fun part' is the first 13 miles. Literally...as you come off the bridge across the river at half way they should hand out hard hats - because the fun is over. No more Boys Town brigade, no big crowds; its time to go to work. Depending how hard you ran the opening 13.1...the wall can magically 'appear' anywhere between 14 and 23 or not at all. Another way to fight off the wall is making sure you take in gels on or about every 4 miles. This works best for a lot of folks I know - always chase them with water.
3) Crowds: Chicago is a giant marathon. You'll see all shapes/types running. My favorite are the guys with a cigarette and a large coffee 15 minutes before the start. Get to the starting area at least 90 minutes early. Relax and absorb the energy from the crowds. Exhale tension. Prepare for cold and wet. As mom said, "You can always take off the sweatshirt if you are too warm."
4) Warm ups: wear a "throw shirt" something you don't mind tossing. This year, my moth eaten Missouri sweatshirt will be tossed. The clothing gets rounded up and given to homeless folks for the winter so if you see a Missouri sweatshirt on a homeless person you know where it came from. A secondary reason for #3 above is so you can get a position in the middle of the street. Remember...runners throw warm ups to the left and right. BEWARE OF THIS! When I ran as a pacer in 2004 at Chicago I saw a spectator and a runner get clocked when some ass clown threw a half used Gatorade bottle and a bottle of urine. Nice...keep your head up. Make sure you get a little running in and some stretching as well after you start to sweat. Although the marathon is a long run you still want to warm up.
5) Aid Stations: crowded and chaos. Be prepared for people stopping right in front of you, getting cut off, having refreshments taken out of your hand by others. Anything goes...no holds barred - but a little courtesy goes a long way because you just might be running the whole way with someone you are a jerk to and if you are wearing your sponsor's name...say "please" and "thank you" to the volunteers and be courteous to the other racers as best you can. 2001 St. Croix 1/2 Ironman I ran shoulder to shoulder with Natasha Badmann on her second loop of the run and I kept telling her things like, "You go first. You're racing for money" and "Ladies first" (she liked that one). At the final aid station she grabbed my arm and pulled me in front of her, smiled and said, "Your turn!" At the turnaround where I was starting my second loop Natasha looked me right in the eye and said, "Stay strong. Whole way, yeah" in her Swiss-German accent. To this day, she probably doesn't know who I am but she remembers me as the guy she ran with in St. Croix who "was a sportsman". Lastly, pinch the cup at the top when you grab it so you can sip it in the corner of your mouth and not wear the Gatorade or water.
6) Emotions: your emotions will go up and down during the race. Understand that this is part of an endurance event. (You didn't really think this thing is that easy right?) As soon as the depression sets in it will leave. This also goes for the euphoria - so when that hits..."keep it in your pants Tiger" as I tell my racers and stay on your pace. I have a deal with all my racers, if you feel awesome at 5k to go...you can run the last 5k as hard as you want. In 10 marathons (5 in Ironmans) that has only happened ONCE for me. (Ironman Canada 2001- last 5k in 22:00 - when I arrived at mile 23 they announced that nobody in 30-34 men had crossed the finish line yet...that had me running like a man possessed. No...I didn't make Kona but I blistered (?) the last three miles passing about 75 people in that time.)
7) The Finish: Congratulations! You made it. Don't sit down...keep walking...slowly is fine. After about 10-15 minutes you can sit but make sure you can get up as you'll stiffen up quickly. Stretch while you sit and try to prop up your legs. NO BEER unless you have a designated driver or a sherpa to get you back to Lincoln Park. There will be lots of craziness on Sunday if the Cubs are playing. (GO CUBS GO!)
8) The Data: hopefully you've been training with your RS400 or other Polar running watch. Download the data and do some basic analysis that afternoon - before you nap - and write down everything you did right...and things you would change if you could rewind the clock. In consulting we call this Plus/Delta Analysis. The data and information you have will make your next race that much better.
See you at the finish!