Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Chicago Half Marathon 2013 (Best Pizza Ever)

Chicago Half Marathon (13.1 miles)
2:28:04 PR!
Average Pace 11:18/mile

Sometimes when people hear me say I'm going to run a half marathon, they look at me like I'm crazy.  The first few times I got that reaction, I was so surprised... because, really, if you train in increments for a race of this distance, it's really not that hard to achieve.

But then, somewhere in the last few months ... well, summer happened, and some days I really understand those people.  Do you know how much it sucks to run in hot weather?!  Especially when doing long runs?

Plus, if I don't just get up out of bed right away in the morning and go on these summer long runs, things get even worse.  I start over thinking everything: the distance I have on the schedule for that day, the heat/humidity that is continuing to rise, how my XYZ hurts ... given enough time pre-run, I turn into a whiney mess!

And unfortunately, that's how my training was for this race overall.  Every time I had a long run on the schedule, I just started to procrastinate and whine.  Which is why my training building up to this race was pretty ... uh ... untraditional, as you can see:

Week 1 - Mon 5, Wed 5, Sun 10 - week: 20 miles
Week 2 - Tues 3, Wed 5, Sat 3, Sun 9 - week: 20 miles / accumulative: 40 miles
Week 3 - Wed 10, Sat 3 - week: 13 miles / accumulative: 53 miles
Week 4 - Wed 5, Thurs 3, Sun 7 (split) - week: 15 miles / accumulative: 68 miles
Week 5 - Tues 3, Thurs 3, Sat 3 - week: 9 miles / accumulative: 77 miles

Week 6 - Wed 5, Sun (race) 13 - week: 18 miles / accumulative: 95

Notice my sporadic long runs, and how none of them exceed 10 miles?  Yeah, I'm not a novice anymore.  I don't have any excuse for that, regardless of how much cross training I do.  The only plus in this schedule is the fact that I put in way more base miles than I have for any other race.  I guess that's a win...?

So begins my race weekend.

With a shaky long distance training program under my belt, last Friday night I hopped in the plane with my husband and flew off to Chicago.  All I could say at this point was: at least one thing in this scenario started out well - a stable atmosphere meant riding Bubba down to Chicago Executive went off without a hitch.  Zero turbulence, hooray!  (Have I mentioned we named the Cessna Bubba?  I can't remember if I covered that in the Gandy Dancer race summary.  Well, now you know!)

Despite the fact that I was excited to be in Chicago, I reigned myself in and had a very low key Friday evening followed by an early(ish) wakeup Saturday morning.  Had to be ready for packet pickup, you know?

Which means Saturday morning I woke up fresh and ready to go! 

Being such a large race in a big city, I had somewhat high hopes for this race expo.  Unfortunately, upon arrival to the expo, I was a bit let down.  There were maybe 20 exhibitors or so, but nothing all that cool was there.  Minute Rice?  Three different stands selling the same elastic glitter headbands?  The local running store selling last season's clearance?  Not impressed.  The only exciting thing was the running store sale - they were clearancing out the shoe I run in, so I did get a good deal on a new pair, which was badly needed.

With a somewhat disappointed face (due to the bummer of an expo), I picked up my shirt and bib, and home I went. 

Once home, I discovered the shirt is long sleeved - this will be nice for fall, so that's cool:

I also discovered the race bibs were f-ing HUGE!  WTH!  When I pinned it to my shirt, it looked like I was going to be a friggin' walking billboard for this race.  You can see what I mean about being a walking billboard in the photos below.  (And, I guess the fact that it fit my Lucy shirt perfectly doesn't say much for the Lucy shirt... since every other bib I've tried on it has been too small.  That's some 30+ bibs, people! )

Whatever, I put my thoughts about the expo and bib aside, and spent my afternoon enjoying the sights of Chicago with my husband - and my brother in law, who's a local and graciously put up with us all weekend, btw.  Shout out to the BIL and his GF!!

If they read this blog, they'll appreciate the inside joke of that photo. 
Perhaps while drinking tea.

Eventually, our exploring lead to us to downtown Chicago and in the general vicinity of our dinner reservations.  When we got within about 3 blocks of the restaurant, we stumbled upon a ton of stanchions and police... and I started to worry something was seriously wrong.

Instead, something was seriously right.  Mark Walberg walked by!  *Swoon*

Luckily, BIL had his camera and snagged a shot:

I think Mark even saw me in the crowd, I swear he winked at me.  *Ahem*

While it was all very exciting to see Mark, it quickly became quite annoying.  They had several blocks up and down the street stanchioned off and we couldn't even cross the street to get to dinner.  No pedestrian or car traffic allowed!! 

As we wandered the streets looking for a point where we could cross, we saw this and realized they were filming Transformers:

OK, ok - I admit, it was pretty cool to happen upon this, despite the annoyance.

Finally, we made it to our dinner reservation, where I enjoyed a wonderful dinner of bread, roasted corn soup, sweet potato/spinach/fresh herb risotto ... and Sprite.  I know, gross.  I can't even remember the last time I drank Sprite.  But I knew I was way too low on my carbs for the day, having eaten fairly light all morning, so I figured it would be good to have something in my system on race morning...  down the hatch the Sprite went (with dinner and plenty of water as well, of course)!

With a fantastic dinner in my belly, and having seen Mark just prior, I thought it was a good sign for my race.  But of course I could not leave well enough alone, and I started checking the weather report as I lay in bed:

Son of A - !!!  Shoot me now.  90% humidity, seriously?  It's like the Minneapolis Du all over again.  UGH!!!!

With the pending doom of terribly warm weather, and a somewhat tight/achy hip (that I need to see Podium Therapy for again - man, she knows how to stretch me out and make me feel like new), I fell into a restless sleep.  You know the kind - where you wake up every hour in a panic.  Yeah, I felt great for my 5am wakeup call.

Obviously my husband was feeling great, too, because as I suited up and got ready to go, his parting words of advice were "Cookie Monster ran the Chicago Half in 8 minutes, so you should run fast." 

LOL, whuuuut?!  I think he was a little out of it.

Although, now that I see this random Google image...
maybe Cookie Monster would be fast given all the cookie stealing...?

Regardless of my husband's odd pep talk, my cab driver had enough energy to make up for it.  I think he was from Africa, because he spoke with an accent when he cheerily greeted me with a "What are you doing up so early on a Sunday morning?"  I suppose it was a bit odd for a young woman to be catching a cab alone at 5:45 am. 

Of course, I mentioned the race, and he quickly asked if I was doing the 20K or the 5K.  After a short discussion, we determined a 20K was about the same as a 13 mile half marathon, after which he was genuinely impressed and asking questions.  His good nature made for great company on the cluster-f of a drive that was getting to this race.  (BTW, I wonder how many people were late to race start because of the jam up?  At least I got a cab plenty early.)

Eventually, despite the traffic jam, I made it to the park where the race started.  We'll just not talk about the cab driver's creative park job and the associated honking.  Sorry, Chicago.

As I walked into the park, I happened to walk along with a very cute and excited older woman, who chattered away at me.  I learned all sorts of good gossip about previous years races, how getting old sucks and slows your pace down, and how her training consisted of walking home every week day from downtown to the park we were in (apparently she lived nearby).  I didn't get a word in edge wise, but she was cute, so I got a kick out of it.

With the traffic jam and my unexpected walk to get to the start, there was about 5 minutes to spare when my chatterbox friend and I finally arrived.  Although I would have liked one last potty stop, once I saw the line, I was afraid there just wouldn't be time.  Besides, I figured if I really had to go, there would be porta-pots on course (which thankfully, I never had to use).  I crossed my fingers, said goodbye to my new friend, hopped in at the 2:15 pace group, and wished for the best.

After the gun went off, everything became a blur.  I remember at mile 3 feeling pretty great, and also remember still having enough energy to do some stupid poses for photographers around the 7-10 mile marks.

I also had an interesting encounter around mile 5/6, which will be discussed in a future post.  Stay tuned... (hint: there's a reason why my 5th mile was at a faster pace than miles 2-4).

In regards to the running route: although the course seemed exciting when I registered, due to the idea that the city closes down Lakeshore Drive, in actuality the course wasn't that interesting.  We were so far south that we didn't see a whole lot of quintessential Chicago landmarks.  However, I will concede that the first view of the lake after coming out of Jackson Park was pretty breathtaking - especially with the winds, because the waves were rolling in almost as if we were running along an ocean.  Here's a map so you can see where we ran:

While I'm at it, I'll throw in my splits:

Aside from a less than scenic course, there was certainly plenty of activity going on to keep me distracted.  Not only were there tons of people on course, there were also lots of spectator areas with cheer sections, various points on course with music playing, aid stations just about every mile, and tons of funny signs on course.  A few of my favorite read:

"Yeah, I run... when the ice cream truck is doing 60."

"Fast girls have good times."

And, who can forget the young boy with the "Run faster, I just farted." sign?  LOL!

Amazingly, I made it well into mile 11 before I even felt like I needed a break, thanks to my conservative pace and walking the water stops.  Even then, the only brief break I took was to walk up a very small incline (not even worth calling a hill).  Hence the 12 minute pace on my 11th mile.  Other than that, I felt great.  My knees weren't hurting, my hip was OK, and my ankles felt tired but good.

Eventually, I did start to hate life a little around mile 12, but only because it was hot, I was sweating, and I just wanted to be done.  Fortunately, that was when spectators became thick, and I REALLY didn't want to wus out at that point and walk in front of so many people.  It was also about at that time that I realized the 2:20 pace group was about 1/4 mile ahead of me, and my chances of an epic PR were in site, so I decided to just push for it.

My final push to finish backfired for me right before mile 13, though.  I had a brief moment where it felt like my lungs weren't expanding when I took a breath in, and thought I was having a first time ever asthma attack. 

Thinking I was going to die, I began contemplating the meaning of life...

Just kidding, I swore at myself a few times and started breathing like a woman in labor.  After a few seconds of making a general ass of myself, I felt fine.

And just in time, because:

 (Keep in mind I started 10 minutes after the clock started)

Whoop!  Good thing Mark Walberg and I were now fast friends!  He helped pace me to an epic PR finish. 

What??  Don't you see him in the photo?  Sheesh!  Do I have to draw it out for you?!

Ok, ok.  There was no Mark on race day.  Boo.

As soon as my foot hit the mat, I had two things in mind: find my husband/BIL&GF, and get pizza.  You can see what I was focused on first and foremost:

                  Whew!  Glad that's over.                  Do I smell Chicago deep dish pizza? 

While I was searching for the exit, a gold medal was slung around my neck, and I proceeded to be trapped in a heard of people.  (The silver medal was for the 5K racers).

Exiting the chute, I quickly proceeded to teeter on the edge of a full on melt down.  I was exhausted, I was shoulder to shoulder in a sea of 500+ sweaty people, I couldn't figure out where to meet my family, and there was no place to sit down!!  Not kidding - I was soooo close to turning into a temper tantrum throwing 2 year old.  To make matters worse, there were too many people in one place trying to use their cells, so the network was not allowing my phone calls to go through.

While trying to calm myself, I stumbled upon the results tent, where they printed out a receipt with my time.  If I really wanted to be an idiot, I could shell out $20 then and there to have my medal engraved with the info... 

Luckily, I am smart and thus $20 richer today.  However, the free print out was neat:

Finally, I found the VIP tent (which I was put on "the list" for, holla!), and I found my family.  Thank god!

What followed was easily the most delicious piece of pizza I've ever had in my life:

And what happened to my friend, you ask?  I never saw her again, but when I was surfing through the race photos, I found a few of her on course.  I discovered her name was Mariann Zoretic, she was 68, and she finished in an amazing 3:15.  I only hope that when I'm her age, I am this awesome:

And that's the story of how race bib # 35 joined my collection.  Here's to another race soon... which Facebook promptly reminded me on the shuttle ride home was 40 days away (the Mankato Half).  Ugh, I'm insane!


  1. Congrats on your PR!!! And I"m jealous you got to see Marky Mark!!! I work in downtown Chicago and have yet to see him :(

    1. I guess they only film on the weekends? Better set up camp! Aren't they wrapping soon??


    I agree with you on the race expo being a real disappointment. I had allotted an hour to shop/walk around the expo and actually ended up being in and out of it in about 15 minutes.

    It sounds like the incident you were referring to at mile 5/6 was the incident that I encountered around mile 9, yes?!?!?!?

    And yes on the deep dish pizza post-race!!! There is absolutely nothing better to refuel with than that. =D =D =D

    1. Thanks! You didn't do too bad on a time yourself!

      Like you, I really wanted an expo to shop. Sigh. Oh well.

      Yes! I'm blogging more on the "unfortunate" woman next week. Stay tuned. :-)

      Your blog about R&R discounts has me pining, btw... Aaahhh, Vegas!!!

    2. So speaking of being in each others' pictures... after hearing that you were in my group picture, I took a closer look at your pictures. It turns out I am in your picture where you are eating pizza and giving the thumbs-up sign! I'm in the purple shirt and white hat in the background! What a small, small, SMALL world. Next time we are doing the same race we will have to meet up and take a REAL picture. =D

    3. BAHAHAHA! You totally are! Well, good news - you're my facebook profile photo right now too.

      Agreed, next time, let's do an intentional photo together. :-)