Half Marathon Recap

I did it! I ran the Chicago Half Marathon. But did I also meet my goal of completing the race in under 2 hours? Read on to find out!

The Half Marathon is actually the first in what I hope will be a long tradition of adventurous reunions with my college buddies. My amazing friend JM and I kicked off the tradition by ourselves this year, with the idea that each year a group of us will get organized and do something crazy together. Reason? We don't really have any more weddings to look forward to among our peeps, but we still want to hang out. JM and I happen to prefer running, but I think we could do anything, including paddling or hiking or lounging-about-a-large-rented-villa or parasailing or crepe class or whatnot. Anyway, this was a very successful Adventure Reunion Year One.

I've been training for this thing since January, so I was very excited to actually do it. It's my first destination race, and my first race over 10k (and I only ran that by mistake back in 1996 because I didn't know how long that was).

Race expo on Saturday at Navy Pier

At the hotel room, I laid out my race gear the night before like my fave running blogs said to do. Visor, heart monitor, Garmin GPS watch (plugged in to charger), Road ID bracelet, tank top, sports bra, compression socks, sport undies, Lululemon capris, gear check bag, race bib, deoderant, anti-chafe balm, sneakers, waist pack, water bottle, Clif shots & gels, breakfast, warm throwaway fleece, room key-card, race shuttle ticket, cash, cell phone (plugged in to charger).

We got up at 4 and started getting ready. I brought my breakfast all the way from Vermont because that's what I trained with: Ezekiel 4:9 english muffin with almond butter and Bonne Maman jam. Plus lots of coffee to get my system moving. (I brought instant coffee which I had in addition to the hotel room coffee.)

Before we left I checked the weather and learned it was already 73 degrees out.
I started reconsidering the knee-length purple compression socks. I figured if I was
already in doubt about being too hot in them, I should probably change them now.

Shortie ankle socks instead. Good choice! Lesson learned: Take action with any little variable, don't leave it to chance because even little things get major after 13 miles.

I also left the warm fleece behind, no need for it.

We took a cab to the shuttle site, then the shuttle to the race site. It was a there-and-back race, so the post-race party was already being set up as people milled about getting ready to start. See the rosy fingers of the dawn over the Michelob tent.

Everyone (wisely) decided to use the potty before the race. Lines!

I've never been in a big race before so couldn't even imagine how thousands of people would start at once. Turns out it's kind of a human funnel effect, where all of the people stand, then shuffle, then walk slowly forward, then gradually each starts to run and passes through the starting gates where the computer picks up your chip signal and your clock officially starts. I crossed the starting line about 8.5 minutes after the race began (there was a red clock showing the race time). So every clock that I passed after that I would subtract 8.5 minutes to figure out my actual time.

The race was... interesting! We ran about 4 miles on city streets before hitting Lakeshore Drive. First we ran up it, then we crossed an overpass and ran back down the other side. I pulled out my phone around mile 5 to snap a pic of how close we were to the lake. I don't know who that lady is.

Here's the info from my Garmin! I pressed the start button too soon so all of my splits were a little off. Also I was so excited to cross the finish that I forgot to turn the watch off for about a minute after finishing. That's why it shows .17 extra miles. But in general the mile splits are accurate pace-wise.

You may note several trends: For instance, miles 1 & 2 are slow times in the 9's because I was negotiating many many slower people that I was gradually and persistently trying to pass. I had planned to go out with 9s for at least 3 miles, so was surprised but not disturbed to get down to a high 8 by mile 3. 

Another trend that shows very well here is that I started to get tired around the halfway point. Part of this seemed to be the psychology of the out and back course. After mile 7 I kept waiting for the turnaround to come, and seeing so many people running back on the other side of the road, but the turnaround wasn't until around mile 8. I was hot. The pavement was relentless. I'd been eating my gels as planned but they weren't magically keeping me energized. The race started being a slog around mile 8, and you can see it as my paces start dropping further and further into the 9s with every subsequent mile. 

At this point the race had become a pure test of endurance for me. I wanted so much to not be doing it anymore, but I was NOT going to stop, and I would be DAMNED if I was going to miss a chance of running it in under two hours. I knew that I needed an average pace of 9:09 to do that, and with several 8s under my belt (and keeping an eye on that race clock minus 8.5 minutes), I thought I still had a chance. At the end I did somewhat let go of the 2-hour idea just because I absolutely could not give anything else than what I was already doing. The numbers looked promising, but if that was not enough, I would still know that I'd done my absolute best.

But it was enough. All those 8s that I managed to put down in the middle of the race paid off. Here's my preliminary result that I got post-race, and it matches my later, official results. I made it in under two hours, with 56 seconds left to spare! YAY!! I was really really really happy to see that 1:59.

My very first finisher's medal!! I'm so proud of this thing.

Final thoughts:
  • This race didn't go as I'd planned, but I don't think they ever do so that's OK! I'd been hoping to lay down negative splits the whole way rather than slowing down halfway along. I don't think I went out too fast. I think I was maybe just tired/too-tapered/too hot that day. And I did meet my goal, so I'm not going to complain or analyze too much.
  • If I run another half marathon, I don't think I will taper as much as I did this time. My body was used to a long run every Sunday, and when I skipped two of them maybe I got off track. I didn't really have a tapering plan, life just got in the way those two weeks so I put it down to tapering off my training. Next time I may plan to just keep training but do shorter long runs.
  • If I run another half marathon with gear check, I would like to plan ahead and check some dry socks, clean shirt, comfy shoes, maybe some wipes to mop my brow. At this race, after sweating and pouring water on myself for 13 miles, I was soaked and disgusting at the end. But since I love to travel light and avoid lines, I didn't check anything or even consider what I'd need after the finish. It worked out fine, but I might pamper myself more next time.


Amber Gabrenas said...

Congratulations!! You've come a long way from the good ol' CBC fitness room, eh? :-)

Wendy said...

Hats off to you ... to you both! I'm totally, thoroughly impressed. And thanks for the great posting with all the tid-bits a reader wants to know about.

"Prof. Kitty" said...

Thanks Amber & Wendy! It was quite an adventure, and showed me that goal-setting really can pay off!

JMM said...

Great re-cap of race day. You really captured the feel of it, from start to finish. Reading your thoughts about miles 7-8ish really took me back to that day. It did turn into a slog on grey pavement at that point. So great you were able to meet your goal!

Alice said...

Great job! I am really impressed! I loved reading about the whole thing too--even the expensive wine! I think it takes incredible mental stamina to run past the point of exhaustion just because you told yourself you'd do it! Cheers!