Welcome to Chicago!
The whole family traveled to Chicago to watch me participate in this years marathon. With two kids, we decided that even though it’s harder on us driving, we would drive through the night. The kids were great and slept for the most part – Parker always seems to wake up when we hit Toronto and loves watching all the big trucks pass by. We pulled into Chicago just after 10:30 a.m. local time and made our way straight to the McCormick Place Convention Center for the race expo.
Upon walking into the expo, Jen and I realized we were now at a World Marathon Major event. We’ve loved all the smaller races we have done and their expo’s, but this was absolutely huge. With so much to look at and buy, we made our way straight to the official Nike merchandise to see what I wanted to buy to commemorate the weekend. I’m not rich so I did not go crazy. I purchased one short sleeve shirt and then placed my order for the ‘Finisher’ shirt that I wanted. It arrives at the house today!
Our next stop was to find the Team Up! with Autism Speaks table and meet Alyssa, Field Development Manager and our Team Up! Coordinator for the event. All of the staff of the Chicago chapter of Team Up! were amazing to meet and talk with. They each have a passion for the charity and it is evident after speaking with them for only a few minutes. We shared stories, picked up some cheer swag for the wife and children and made final arrangements for the team dinner the following afternoon.
Afterwards, it was on to packet pickup! This is always the most exciting part of an expo for a runner because as soon as you hold that bib in your hands, it suddenly becomes very real. The check-in procedures were very straight forward, lines were short and quick and in no time at all I was at the counter receiving my bib – B 1278. I would be leaving the starting line in the second corral, a mere three minutes after the elites. To bad I wouldn’t finish three minutes after them also!
Finally, after getting all the important stops out of the way, it was time to enjoy the expo. With over 200 vendors on site, there was a lot of running gear to look at – clothes, shoes, electronics, nutrition, hydration, recovery, and of course other races to sign up for. We made our way around with the children seeing what we could and purchasing a few items from our favorites along the way. We made sure to stop by Nuun and take advantage of their crazy special picking up a couple of tubes and a free water bottle. Jen absolutely loves Sparkly Soul headbands and she made sure I purchased her a few new ones for her collection. Finally, our biggest and most expensive purchase of the day was at Garmin where we got Jen a new Vivoactive. Her new watch was a thank you for supporting me and dealing with my crazy training and long hours away from the house and the family. I hope she uses it as motivation to accomplish her first marathon in Chicago next year.
We also were sure to make our way to the Nike Running Club so I could sign up for a Nike+ Pace Team. It’s no surprise that I had big goals for this race and to prove it, I signed up for a pace team that would give me a 25+ min personal best – a 3:10. Running a 3:10 marathon means averaging a 7:15 min/mile pace which would be one minute faster per mile than my previous best time of 3:35:52. The only other time I ever used a pace group was at this years Buffalo Half Marathon where I set a new personal best by 6:34. I was hoping the pace group would prevent me from going out to fast with all the excitement and keep me where I wanted to be. Plus, a little extra motivation from random strangers with the same goal never hurts.
After long day of driving and lots of walking around the expo on little sleep with children who were becoming increasingly cranky by the minute, we decided to call it a day and head to the hotel.