Sunday, October 19, 2014

Chicago Marathon 2014

Jen Pfaff and I turned on to fame Boylston Street. It took every last bit of energy to churn my legs to cross that finish line. Two months prior, I suffered an injury which put my Boston Marathon debut performance in doubt. I was overwhelmed by the hills. Jen was physically beaten from having to drag me twenty-six miles. As pro triathletes Jenna Parker, Jake Shoemaker, and others tracked my run on this day, I had delivered an underwhelming performance. In six months I would run a stronger race at the Chicago Marathon. Having set my personal record at 3:50, I wanted to beat that time in Boston. It did not pan out, however in October, I would run a sub 3:30:00.

My triathlon season never fell into place. My highlight was the Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Camp during the first weekend in June. My swim was good. My bike was so strong, people’s eyes bugged out to see how fast I raced into T2. Less than a mile from the finish line, my friend, Dan Tun voiced his joy that I might actually cross the finish line first. A few weeks later at ITU Worlds Chicago, ITU forced me to wear ridiculous Blackout Goggles for the run portion of the sprint triathlon causing my equilibrium to be off the entire time. In July I was injured again. By the time I defended my Mideast Regional Championship in Fort Wayne, I was more confident in the swim, but my run legs still did not show up on race day. I won my division for the second consecutive year, but I was searching for the performance I knew I could deliver. At a warmup race one week before Paratriathlon USA National Championships, I took a fall bruising my ribs and arm just a few hundred meters from the finish line. The pain so hurt my ribs, I literally could not run for a week. I had to pull out preventing me from defending my USA Nationals title.

A season of heartbreaks came down to one final race. One final marathon. A sub 3:30:00 would be a perfect coda to my marathon career. Erica Alansari, one of Jen Pfaff’s friends, agreed to be one of my guides. My second guide backed out. Jen reached out to another of her friends, Wendy Jaehn, who said yes. When Wendy and Erica agreed to guide me, my goal was a sub 3:30. Yet due to my injury, that would not be a possibility. They deserved me being at my best racing my heart out during my favorite athletic discipline. I was worried that what awaited Wendy and Erica was a performance like the one Jen had to endure from me in Boston.

At race expo, I spent time with Wendy and Jen. I met the lovely Meg Sullivan. I saw friends from Newton Running, Don Reichelt and TJ Luby.

Sunday, october 12. Adding to the chill in the air was my lack of sleep heading into race day. Four o’clock. Time to awake. Five o’clock. Wendy arrived and he drove to the race. The first person we saw was Randy Egge. I enjoyed meeting many of Wendy’s friends. Wendy lead me to the Athletes With Disabilities tent where I ran into friends such as; Mike Casey, Daniel Tun, Lisa Krejcik, and Tommy Cornille. The highlight was seeing the beautiful and talented, Caroline Gaynor. I first met Caroline six years ago. She is one of the most intelligent, wonderful, and inspiring people I know. Almost time. Wendy sounded excited. We were about to go off minutes ahead of the pros.

Wendy lead me across the start line. 26.2 miles to go. She was in awe. We were leading the Chicago Marathon. How many people get to say that? Fans were loud. Six, seven, and ten deep. All for us. I promised to live in the moment. Listen to the fans, embrace other runners’ comments, and take note of how happy Wendy and Erica were. Miles one, two, and three. Here come the pros. The police escort. The helicopters. The TV trucks. Wendy had a front row seat as the pros flew by.

Mile five. Then seven and eight. We reached mile ten. We were slightly under ninety minutes. I would hold 8:40 pace then drop to nine minute pace. Just before Erica joined us, I was swept away by the fans that I ran at an eight minute pace. I pulled back. The midway point. The exchange.

Wendy moved to my right. Erica slid in on my left. It is always tough for me at this point of the race. Charity mile comes quickly and the noise is so deafening that I can never hear my guide even if she is shouting. Mile fourteen. I settled in with Erica. Mile sixteen. Ten more to go. I slowed down. I was leery of running faster. I did not want to find myself miles from the finish with nothing left. I did not want to ruin Erica’s and Wendy’s experience. Mile marker twenty. The beautiful world champion triathlete and marathoner, Hailey Danisewicz spotted me and yelled out my legs were looking sexy. Last year, I went for it at mile twenty-four. Could I do that again. Could I go sooner? I tried. I could not sustain. Only two miles remained.

The buildings were getting bigger. We were getting closer. Timing mat. Two kilometers from the finish. Erica kept me informed at the number of people we were passing throughout this backend of the race. It was time to now start sprinting by them. Wendy said I pushed significantly. Less than one mile. Fans grew louder. Erica and Wendy rejoiced. A half mile left. I kept digging. We turned for home. One final straight-away. Erica and Wendy demanded I push till I had nothing left. As we crossed the finish, the three of us lifted our arms triumphantly. I hugged both women. I was honored that two fast and beautiful women had just taken me through Chicago.

It was my third fastest time fast enough to be a Boston qualifying time for the Blind/Visually Impaired category making me a five time Boston qualifier. I owe Wendy and Erica a better performance. I hope they will guide me when I am healthy so I can show them of what I am capable. Not only do I want a sub 3:30, but now, I want to smash it.

Thank you Jen Pfaff, Wendy Jaehn, and Erica Alansari. Thank you Children’s Oncology Team One Step Camp for allowing me to fundraise to send a child with cancer to camp. Thank you to my sponsor, Pinnacle Performance Company. Thank you nutrition provider, Base Performance. Thank you Jenna Parker for coaching me and for your friendship.

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