In exactly five days, I will have completed the Chicago Marathon, hopefully in less than 3 hours and 35 minutes! E will have also just crossed the finish line, where I hopefully watched him crush his PR by 20-30 minutes. Visualizing this makes me incredibly excited – it’s been a long time since I have raced such a major marathon, with the support of both my parents and E, and I can’t wait.

However, right now, I’m a mess! I have mountains of school work to do this week, as well as a midterm and several assignments immediately after the race, and I can’t focus on any of it. I thought I could distract myself by concentrating on school, but I’m completely useless. Every time I attempt to be productive, I obsessively check the weather (which is looking increasingly chilly…), revise my pre-race menu, search for Chicago marathon news, freak out over phantom leg pains or watch videos of the course (for whatever reason, this one really scared me – what’s with the music?! I was practically crying by the end!). This taper is driving me INSANE.

My taper started on my 31st birthday, which capped off five days of celebrating and decadent eating. I had a great time and thankfully my last long run slightly offset my indulgences, but I’ve watched my racing weight slip away since then, which isn’t good because that of course equates to precious speed lost. With my reduced mileage and carbo loading beginning on Thursday, I guess I just need to concentrate on not doing any more damage. Funny how quickly your body can go from toned to squishy! I’m sure part of that is the usual taper crazies – i.e. thinking your muscles are wasting away, legs not working, imagined pain etc. We’re only talking a few pounds at most. E and I have been trying to keep each other on track – here’s a note I found in the fridge (I have a weakness for almond butter):

I haven’t felt this nervous prior to a race since I ran NYC. I know I just need to take a deep breath and remind myself that I’ve trained to the best of my abilities and am ready to kick butt on Sunday. I can’t wait to see my parents, see Chicago, experience the energy of the crowds and celebrate yet another marathon victory with E. I believe that I can achieve my goal – at the very least I can certainly PR – but I’m still terrified. I vividly remember how hard Portland was for me – how I fought (unsuccessfully) to maintain pace and how I practically collapsed at that finish line. But I also remember how troubled my training was before that race, especially how I only reached 18M once. I had just completed an intensive RRCA weekend and felt mentally fatigued. With three 17-18 milers, one 19 miler and two 20 milers under my belt, I am WAY more prepared for Chicago than I was for Portland! Okay, maybe school is causing an equal amount of mental fatigue, but still – I got this!

There are three main obstacles that could stand in my way:

1. The weather, which is out of my control so I will just have to roll with whatever happens. Freezing temperatures aren’t ideal but I suppose I prefer that to high 80’s! So much for my running skirt…time to bust out my compression tights and arm sleeves!

2. GI issues, which will always be my greatest paranoia. That is somewhat in my control, but still you never know. I just stick to a specific menu three days before the race and pray that I will never again suffer through what I experienced in Paris. Never. Again. (PLEASE!) My stomach has remained strong in my last two marathons so I just hope everything goes well this time too!

3. Myself – it’s so tough in the second half of a marathon to keep negative thoughts at bay, particularly if you are struggling to stay on pace. I just hope I have enough mental strength and faith in myself to not let failure be an option! That is how I BQ’d in NYC, and that is how I will BQ in Chicago. I know I can push my body further than I think it will ever go because I have done it before – and I will do it again. I’m eager to find out what I can accomplish!

As impatient as I am right now, my body needs this time off to recover from so many months of hard training. I incorporated more long runs into my overall plan, which is a first for me, and squeezed in a few challenging speed/strength circuit workouts after the Bronx 10 miler. My hip isn’t 100% but I hope it will remain okay for the race. As for marathon pace, my attempts have been somewhat hit or miss lately. I think when the time comes, I will have a general sense of where I need to be (8:10/11) and will try my best to remain on pace until mile 20. I must run my own race and not get overly excited at the start, given I am way up in corral B. I have started out slightly too fast in every marathon so far and have certainly paid the price (especially in Portland). I created my own pace bands with Races2remember as I usually do, so that should help!

The decreased mileage is making me feel sluggish, but that is normal – by Sunday I will feel revved up and ready to go. The nerves come in waves – my stomach is churning as I write – and I am trying to let them wash over me. Now it’s time to relax, do one last short MP run (tomorrow) and focus on the task at hand. Oh yes, and maybe do some school work so I don’t fail my classes.

I’ll try to say hello from Chicago – but in case I don’t get the chance and you’d like to track my progress, my bib number is 3824 and I am in the first wave at 7:30am. Good luck to everyone racing this weekend!

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