2019 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon
3:05. This number has been the ultimate goal for so many years of my life. It has become an obsession, a number etched in the back of my head that I think about every race, every hard tempo, every hard work-out. My Boston Marathon qualifying time is 3 hours and 5 minutes. Which until yesterday… I thought was impossible.
My first marathon was in December of 2011, where I ran California International. My g/f now wife convinced me to sign up and in turn created a monster. I was hooked into marathon running after that. The next year I ran Portland, and then CIM again.
Then in 2013 the Boston Bombings occurred. This obviously shocked the running community and effected so many people’s lives in many different ways. For me, it fueled my desire to show terrorists that we were not afraid. In April of 2013 I was scheduled to run the Salt Lake City Marathon. Which was the Saturday after Boston. I ran for Boston that day, not to qualify, but to honor the victims, the city, and the runners effected by the horrible tragedy and to stand with them.
After the race, I told myself… I will run Boston one day.
The goal of running Boston was not an easy feat, back in 2013 I needed a time less than 3 hours and 5 minutes. That would mean shaving 40 minutes off my 2013 marathon. The time shifted to 3 hours last year, and then back to 3 hours and 5 minutes this year. So the obsession continued.
2019 has been a challenging year. I had lofty goals in the spring and was unable to get them, mostly due to injury. I did manage to get a small PR at Carmel and a negative split race despite the injury. Afterwards, I took about 4 months off of running and did a lot of rehab, PT, and got back into. As I mentioned in my last blog entry.
I was finally feeling better, stronger, and ready to roll. Coming off a gigantic PR at the Chicago Half marathon in late September my confidence was at an all time high. I knew a marathon PR should be very attainable, provided I stayed healthy.
Whether he knew it or not, my coach lit a fire behind me. A lot of the targeted pace ranges for my workouts were set and every week my personal goal was not to hit them, but go under them. And every few weeks my coach adjusted those times making them harder. And I just kept going under.
Beyond running I was also doing everything I could when not running. My gym sessions were intense multiple hour workouts where I focused on core, upper body, and legs. 3 times a week I would do PT exercises that targeted my glutes and hips. Before and after EVERY run I would do stretching routines. And almost every day I would spend 15+ minutes foam rolling with a vibrating foam roller. Beyond exercising I also got an adjustable stand up desk for work to prevent tight hip muscles. This allowed me to stand most of the work-day and practice balance.
One of the biggest changes I made was my diet. Before all key races I would generally stay way from sweets and alcohol for the month leading up to the race. I would still eat pretty normal the rest of the time. This cycle, I changed all that. I stopped eating after dinner snacks, gave up my post long-run treat of a donut, completely cut deserts and beer out. Stopped eating out during the work-week almost entirely, and focused on eating healthy things like sandwiches, soups, and salads. I weighed 178 lbs when I started running again after my rehab. Before Indianapolis I got to as low as 164. Which was the lightest I have ever weighed since high school. Running was my excuse to eat unhealthy, but this time running my reason to eat healthy.
Beyond diet and exercise I also focused on sleep. Anyone who knows my wife knows she goes to bed super early. Instead of staying up later, I decided to join her. 8 and 9pm bedtimes became the norm. And very rarely would I be awake beyond 10pm.
I guess by now you get the idea, I worked hard this cycle. Harder than I ever have in my life. So the days leading up to Indy I had some discussions with my training partner Marie and my coach Will. Marie decided to run Indy after a PR performance at Chicago. Of course I was excited, because we can run the marathon together and key off each other like we did at the Chicago Half. But based on the Chicago Half performance my coach wanted me to play it very safe.
Marathon predictor charts and data had me set for a 3:07 marathon finish time. So doing anything under that would be breaking the “statistics” of running. I worked on a pace chart and my coach gave me his okay, but advised me to adjust if I didn’t feel good after mile 5. It was a conservative chart, with a negative split approach. But most of all, I was set to break 3:05.
Pre-race routine was fairly standard. I stopped at noodles and company for lunch and had Chicken Alfredo. Got to the expo, picked up packet and left pretty quick. I had the fortune of staying at the Downtown Marriott, which was connected to the Expo. It was a perfect location… the room however was not so great (my heater was broken).
Met up with Marie and her family, Jim and his wife and Katherine and her husband as well as a few other friends of their’s for dinner at Buca Di Beppo. Ordered another round of alfredo pasta (light sauce) and no chicken this time. Had a couple bites of salad and then discussed our race plan.
Marie and Jim were set to join me in the AM at the lobby of hotel for some warm-up drills. I head back to my room and notice it’s ice cold. I go to the thermostat and see it’s set to 70 degrees, but it feels like it’s 62. I turn up the heat to 78. I then proceed to lay all my gear for tomorrow out, pop a melatonin pill hoping to catch some ZZzzz’s and turn off the lights. I end up sleeping for about 3 hours before waking up around 1 am. It’s still cold as shit in my room. I check the vents and they are spitting out luke warm air and barely any at that. I get under the covers to stay warm the rest of the night and manage to get another hour of sleep before waking up at 540am.
I head down to the lobby in search of orange juice and decide to make a complaint to the front desk about the heater. They said they would send someone up to take a look later that morning. Meanwhile, I find some orange juice after waiting for the hotel shop to open and head up-stairs to have some breakfast. My usual pre-race breakfast. 1 Banana nut muffin, half a bagel with peanut butter, and half a banana. Washed down with OJ of course.
I finish up my routine and get my race gear in order then head down to the lobby to meet up with Marie and Jim. I brought the foam roller with me so they could roll out with me. Jim could not make the warm up, so it’s just Marie and I and we do my typical warm up drills and I head back to my room to change shoes, ditch the underwear tights I had on, change to finger gloves, and grab my extra pace chart for Marie. After waiting for the elevator I meet up again with Marie and we are off to the start line.
Usually before a race we hear the national anthem budge are way to the front from the far back. This time…. we missed the national anthem and lined up with the elites… who gave us all weird looks. I told them, “don’t worry we are going back”. We pushed ourselves back to the 3:05 pace group and stop there. The plan was to keep them in sight, but not pass them until after the half-way mark. Marie reminded me to take my nutrition, but i only had time to munch down 1 honey stinger chew and a salt tab.
We are elbow to elbow with fellow runners and a weird sound goes off, I guess it was the gun, as runners proceed to push forward.
Mile 1 : 7:07
That start was nuts. We barely made it but got to where we needed with about 2 minutes to spare. The 3:05 pace group is behind us for a bit, then gets ahead about 1 minute into the mile. I tell Marie not to worry, we will catch them later. I keep them in sight for most of this mile.
Mile 2 : 6:58
We start to settle in and push along the cold streets of Indianapolis. A little bit of arm shoving and elbowing continues as we are merged with the half marathoners during the first 7 miles of the race. I also lost the 3:05 pace group. Which I thought was odd considering our pace.
Mile 3 : 6:37 (Under pass inaccuracy)
We go under the streets of Indy into a underpass and the little warmth the sun was giving goes away. Our GPS is going haywire, so we run this mile completely by feel. We pass by Monumental Circle and are greeted with spectators on either side. They are a little quiet so I raise my hands and cheer them on, sure enough they erupt in applause and cheers and Marie smiles and says “This is why I love marathons”.
Mile 4 : 7:00
Time to take my first Maurten gel. This one is easy, as all I have to do is reach into my race belt and grab it. I decided to put 1 there, 1 in my back short pocket and 2 on either side of the short pockets. The side pockets were just big enough to fit the gels. We continue to head North on our tour of the city. Looks like we are still on pace, though we both notice the mile markers are off compared to our watches. I ditch my jacket around here. Now it’s just a singlet and arm sleeves.
Mile 5 : 6:56
We take a sharp left hand turn and avoid hitting some construction cones placed on the course. I mention how the Elites must of struggled taking this turn at a 5:00 min pace. Throughout the morning, potholes and other small obstacles tripped me up, a little. I either took a salt tab here.. or around mile 6.
Mile 6 : 6:58
I call out the mile time to Marie. Every mile I announce the mile and she responds with her time, so we can try and balance out the two. She is pretty much always 2 seconds + or – what I am. I mention we only have a long run left. Nice and easy… stay relaxed…
Mile 7 : 7:04
The differences between the mile markers are our watches are becoming larger every mile. Marie says we are running around 7:10 per mile, but its hard for me to get my measurements as my pace chart seems to align with the markers. Trying to hit pace, calculate time and adjust my speed was not my ideal plan.
Mile 8 : 6:57
With the mile markers being off, I decide to pick up the pace a little. I want to try and catch my watch time at the mile markers and try to get closer and closer. We are heading north now, along the river. Time to take my next Maurten. I decide to empty out my back short pocket this time as the weight of the Maurten is causing shorts to bounce and quite frankly… fall down a bit.
Mile 9 : 7:02
Getting closer to our pace chart. A fellow runner joins us around this mile and asks what our goals are. We exclaim 3:03ish. And he says that would be great. Marie says “Chris is qualifying today”… and we push on.
Mile 10 : 7:00
Things feel relaxed, still. I am quite frankly in a bit of shock. I do a systems check from head to toe and everything seems good. Stay relaxed… quick feet.
Mile 11 : 6:59
Straight for the next few miles, I notice the wind is picking up. I draft where I can, this would play a big role later in the race. Marie and I are still feeling good. I try to enjoy being surrounded by some BIG houses and continue running north.
Mile 12 : 7:02
Time for an energy boost. I brought along two Maurten 100 Caf Gels with me. When I tested this gel in the Chicago Half I started to cough uncontrollably. And the Naperville half, the same thing happened. Both times the result was worth the coughing. But I practiced once more on a tough workout and found out if I ate half the gel initially, then ate the remaining gel over the mile, it allowed my system to adjust and not cause a cough. Best part was… it still gave me the boost. The gels contain 100 mg of caffeine, which is essentially two espressos. And I am not a coffee drinker.
I notice my left foot is starting to hurt. A similar pain I experienced last year leading up the CIM. My guess was the pace and pounding was taking it’s toll. That or i tied my laces a little off. The shoes I was wearing were suppose to alleviate this issue since they used an offset lacing pattern. I mention to Marie, and she says “it’s just weakness leaving the body”. I agree and push on.
Mile 13 : 7:01
Fully caffeinated we proceed past the halfway mark. I look at my watch and look at my pace chart, we are 5 seconds ahead of the pace chart. I mention to Marie we just have to run this again. I can tell she is working hard because there was not a response. I fiddle into my race belt to grab a salt tablet and because my fingers were so cold I dropped the bag, all remaining salt tabs were gone, minus one. I decide to save it for later and put it back into the belt. In hindsight I should of stuck to my original plan and kept them all individually bagged. I forgot how hard it was to use my fingers in the freezing cold.
Mile 14 : 6:56
The packs are dwindling at this point. I notice a guy wearing an ISU beanie and singlet. He is moving at a good clip and I get behind him. I mention to Marie to get behind me and we can take turns later, leading. We take a sharp turn south, I just about run over a guy walking across the road with a cane…oblivious to the marathoners running towards him…. =/ Either way, we are officially heading back into the city.
Mile 15: 7:00
Locked into ISU guy, I hear chants.. go ISU and yaa Waldo! Since the colors are white and red (with stripes). We are heading straight into the wind at this point and ISU guy is tired of leading, without saying a word he pulls off to the side and I take front, he gets on my tail. I turn around and see Marie is drifting, she is a few people back but still there. I announce my mile time either way, hoping she hears.
Mile 16 : 7:10
Take a normal Maurten here. But getting it out of my pocket is incredibly hard. My hands have lost all dexterity, even with my hand warmer and gloves on. I manage to push from underneath the pocket and grab it and then tear into it with my teeth.
Still leading, the wind is really pushing us back now, I decide to catch up to two runners a little ahead of us and just lock into their pace, staying behind them. We also start up a good climb. For the next few miles, it was slight uphill, with the biggest being here. Now is not the time to lead. I turn around and don’t see Marie, I turn again trying to find her and announce my mile time, one final time.
Mile 17 : 7:00
Marie has dropped back at this point. Which really… really sucked. Having run all of the Chicago Half and a ton of long runs with Marie, racing Indy with her made things go by so quickly. And it helped me stay relaxed and in control. I was really hoping she was just having a bad patch and would catch up after the hills.
Either way I knew I had to find a solid group and stick with them, as I did not want to run the rest solo. A pack of 4 of us are working together now. ISU and 2 guys in front of us. As soon as we turn off from the wind 3 of us break away and leave the “wind blocker” behind. I felt bad, but at the same time, I thought this was something really neat to see. When I run marathons i typically don’t see tactics like this come into play. At this point in race I realized I was actually racing… I was with runners who were thinking like me and acting like me.
Mile 18 : 6:57
The race is getting hard at this point. The pack of 4 is gone. ISU dropped at a water station, and the other two were dropped shortly after. At this point there is no pack to chase. It’s just me reeling in other runners who are fading. I see other runners peeling off the side to stop and walk, my brain says.. “That sounds nice, I say… no… You are not stopping!”. I miss a water stop that I really needed around here. It came right after a sharp turn… Like at the turn. And I was unable to veer off in time to grab a cup. I see a girl ahead of with a cup and say “I’ll take that water when you are done!”. She gulps it all down and says “sorry it’s gone”. No worries I respond.. and vow to carry on.
Mile 19 : 7:08
I decide to dig into my pocket a little earlier then planned. I needed some more energy and I had 1 more Caf 100 gel left. Again, it’s a struggle to get the gel out of my pocket. I try to will any warmth I have to my fingers and manage to grab it and tear it open with my teeth. We pass by the Museum of Art as I start to taste the bitter gel. A little cough ensues and I decide to hold and eat it over the mile slowly. I also turn on my music here, it helps a little to keep me from hearing nothing as conversation and crowds are non existent.
Mile 20 : 6:50
The only big downhill in the course, and I take advantage. I am still working alone, passing everyone I see at this point. Although… slowly passing. I get up to a 6:01 clip during this mile and it didn’t really tax me. I pass by a gentlemen who Marie chatted with at the start of the race. The guy started the race shirtless… Nuts for sure. He was on the side of the road catching his breath, looking quite exhausted, and still shirtless.
Mile 21 : 7:06
Back into the wind, I try to draft as much as I can. The next few miles were mostly a blur. I remember going through a park and feeling relieved that I was not running next to skyscrapers for a mile.
Mile 22 : 6:57
My stomach is not feeling great at this moment. This was a new feeling to me but it felt like I wanted to throw up. There was nothing to throw up and I was debating giving my stomach another Maurten or to just run the last few miles without it. I opted to grab the Maurten and hold it and think. My brain is essentially toast at this point. I am just focused on tracking runners down and holding my pace. I stopped looking at my watch, I stopped comparing mile splits.
Mile 23 : 7:07
The next two miles were the biggest struggle of the race, I was in a state of utter exhaustion and I knew I needed to get some energy… But can I avoid throwing up? I tear open my last Maurten gel and eat about 1/4 of it. I think a little more, and then toss it to the ground. At this point I honestly thought if I ate any more I would be throwing up on the side of the road.
Mile 24 : 7:12
We make the turn on the straight-away towards the city. And the wind is ferocious at this point. In the spring Carmel was raining sideways and had strong headwinds the whole way, I’ve trained and done speed work in 40mph winds. I can do this. I continue to pass people, 1…. 3, 8 people every quarter mile. Another runner gets ahead of me and I slap myself back into race mode.
Mile 25 : 7:03
This guy looks like he’s 18… probably in high school or a freshman in college. All bundled up. But he is booking at this point. Looking to my left I see the half marathoners walking and am so immensely thankful the race divided the courses so they would not interfere with us. An occasional half marathon would veer off into our lane, but I focused on chasing this new rabbit. I got on his tail and followed him into the city. A girl decided to join us. We are now elbowing each other because we are lock in step. One last water station, I skip it, every second counts at this point.
Mile 26 : 6:57
I look at my watch for the first time in miles. I see that it will be very close. But the mile markers are still ahead and off from what I have. I see a sign saying 1/2 half mile to go… At this point I see 3:01:40 something on my watch. I realize I have a little over 3 minutes to cover two laps on the track. I dig into another gear and just run.
Last .40 miles. : 6:32
I hear the crowds yelling go Chris!! Go!! Whoever that was… I heard you and used every ounce of energy I had left to run even faster. My legs were jello. I saw the official clock and it read 3:05:10 something. I knew I still had time… I didn’t start right at the gun. I make the final turn and me and the young guy blaze past the girl who was with us. Me and him are sprinting for the finish. But another runner is ahead and literally in the middle of the whole road blocking us both. I have to shove him with my right arm and slow down to avoid colliding with him. As the young rabbit did not move over an inch.
I cross the finish line, hit my watch and hit the ground… hard. I try to get up but can’t. This is the first marathon where my legs would not move. I gave it a few seconds and a medical volunteer comes over and helps me to my feet. He has to hold me up and i tell him to let me go because I am about to throw up. He says it’s okay do whatever you need to do. Luckily… no throw up. I get my balance back and he walks me slowly down the finish area.
I look at my watch 3:05:12 (official time 3:05:11). A wave of emotions hit me like a truck. I tend to tear up a little when I finish a marathon.. but this was a new level. It was like I just finishing watching the introduction of Pixar’s Up. I was devastated. Years of chasing this ultimate goal only to come 11 seconds short. I didn’t know what to do. I literally did everything I could. Yes I PRed… but 11 seconds away from getting a BOSTON QUALIFER?! Come on!
I started to calm down, and take things in. I actually felt okay. Legs were responsive again, just normal tiredness post race. I waited and looked for Marie, figuring she would be right behind me. But I was starting to get very cold so I decided to get back to my hotel room after a long cold walk. Of course my room is still not very warm… but it’s “warmer” than it was last night.
Pain starts to set in. My left foot hurts… a LOT. As a write this… it still hurts.. If it does not improve in the next few days an x-ray may be in order. I am surprised my body was able to shutoff the pain from the foot until after the race.
I finally have a moment to stop and think. The course was obviously longer than 26.2 miles. That was a given fact. By how much I don’t know. But it was just a gut punch to be that close. According to my watch I hit the 26.2 mile mark at 3:03:35. Remember that pace chart I posted at the start of this? My goal time was to hit 26.2 at 3:03:42. And I did. I absolutely did. Not only did I hit my goal, I got ahead of my goal by 7 seconds! And to top it off I ran a negative split. For only the second time in all my marathons! I also ran the “course distance” at a 7:00 min per mile pace. In March I ran a 3:14:09 avg pace of 7:25. Today I destroyed my PR!!! 9 MINUTES was taken off. All the work, all the sacrifice, healthy eating, speed workouts, long runs, ab workouts, sleeping, stretching, foam rolling, all of it… Paid off.
I may not have Boston Qualified. But I definitely did something quite amazing. Something I thought was always impossible. On November 9th of 2019, I realized the impossible.. is possible.
Thanks as always to my wonderful and supportive wife. She created the monster, now she has to deal with it all the time… =) Thanks to my running coach Will from runninglane for keeping things in check and challenging me to achieve my dreams. Thanks to my parents for being my sounding board and always cheering me on. Thanks to my training partners from Busse Woods and Alpine… and those who I follow on Strava…. You know who you are… Thanks to the PTs at Athletico, Chrissy and Paul, for getting me back on my feet. And finally a special thanks to Marie for running with me, it was a blast and I hope we can do it again soon!