I'm sure by this point you're all sick of hearing about my half marathon training and everything that comes with it. Guess what? The end is near. Yesterday was D-Day: The Chicago Half Marathon.
I think I became strangely at peace with my level of training/preparation mid-week last week, as I finished my final two training runs. (I was supposed to run 20 minutes on Saturday, but I didn't do it because I always take a rest day before my long runs). It was a strange to approach race day, knowing that I was about as prepared as I was gonna be. My parents and brothers arrived in town on Friday, and we hit up the race expo Friday afternoon to grab our packets and bibs. That's when it really started to hit me that race day was fast approaching!
|Starting to feel really real, right about now.|
My brother and dad were also running the half, and my mom and my youngest brother came along
to support us for the free vacay. We had a great day on Saturday starting with possibly my favorite brunch ever in Chicago (and that's saying something! It was at Acre in Andersonville, for the locals), going on an entertaining gangster tour of the city, drinking 238942 ounces of water, and finishing out the night with carbo-loading at a small italian joint near my apartment. We got home around 10:30pm and set alarms for 4:30am (woof). I packed up all my stuff and tried not to get annoyed that I was missing one of my favorite running socks. Set out alternative socks and all my gear, braided up my hair, and went to bed around 11:30.
I actually slept pretty well, despite my building nerves. We hopped a shuttle to the race grounds (roughly 12 miles from my apartment-- quite a hike!) and arrived about an hour before the 7am start. That left ample time for two port-a-potty trips, organizing our gear, taking pictures, and stretching. The race actually allowed runners to self-sort into corrals, which I was worried would be chaotic. My brother started with the 1:45ers while my dad and I started at 2:20.
The nerves really hit me while we were waiting for the gun to go off. What if something catastrophic happened? What if I wasn't prepared? What if I had to poop? What if my dad just left me behind and then I died on the course and someone had to scrape me off the highway like back-country roadkill? I was clearly thinking rationally.
The gun went off and the energy was electric! The announcer was awesome (I swear it's the same announcer for every Chicago race and he's so enthusiastic and great), the music was getting us amped, and 12 minutes after the gun, we made it to the start line and were off!
Feeling good and really glad to be running off some nervous energy. It was muggy, but luckily it was overcast, which was nice. My dad, who has run 5-7 half marathons, advised that we start slow. The 2:20 pace group isn't exactly slow for me at this distance (10:39 pace, roughly), but I felt comfortable and we let them run ahead of us as we set into our own pace. We basically ran in a big circle around the park where we started, which was also the course for the 5K runners.
The miles were ticking off surprisingly fast! We broke out of the park and headed for Lakeshore Drive, where the majority of the race took place. It was nice to get out on the drive where we got a great breeze off the lake. My dad commented that the headwind would feel great on our way back (the course was out-and-back), so it'd be pushing us towards the finish line after the turnaround. Dad wanted to use the bathroom, and I figured I'd take a pit stop while he stopped, but the port-a-potty lines were at least 8-deep, so we trudged along. We were hovering right below an 11:00 pace.
There were some pretty hilarious race signed, including my favorite one: "Do something every day that scare you. (CHECK)." It was then that I realized that my first race ever was almost exactly 11 months earlier; a 5K I finished in ~38 minutes last October.
I spotted a random lakeshore path outhouse with no line, so we took the fastest pee-break ever (maybe 2 minutes total). We started running again and were right next to the median, which separated us from the last portion of the course that led to the finish line. Pretty soon we heard some cheers and saw a buggy/car whiz by with flashing lights. We quickly realized that it was the first finisher rounding out the last 1.5 miles of the race. I ran as close to the median as I could and spotted a tall ginger guy booking it like he wasn't even tired! I cheered for him because it was just so incredible how effortless he looked. The 2nd place guy was at least half a mile behind him, and we passed some time watching the top finishers go by. After a ways we saw the 1:45 pacer go by, and we realized that we may even see my brother. Sure enough, we saw him on the farthest side of the road just trucking along like a champ. We cheered as loud as we could, but he had headphones on and didn't hear us.
Around this point we also heard a really loud guy near us: he was a short muscular guy who kept shouting hilarious inspirational sayings like "WHERE'S YOUR SPIRIT? THE SPIRIT LIVES INSIDE. IT'S INSIDE YOU. I'M 61 YEARS OLD AND I'M DOING THIS. CHEST OUT, SHOULDERS BACK LIKE A BOXER, YOU CAN BREATHE BETTER YOU CAN RUN BETTER." And on and on and on—loudly—for about a mile. Another guy next to my dad was visibly annoyed and muttered under his breath (but loud enough for those around him to hear), "Yeah, you could also run better if you just shut up." It was pretty hilarious.
The miles were still going by pretty quickly, and we took the exit ramp, crossed the bridge, and turned around around 8.5, still feeling pretty good. With the break, we were around a 11:15ish pace. I started to set my sights on a 2:25 finish.
We passed an 80s hair-band on the side of the road made up of rocking 50-year-olds playing ACDC. My dad played air guitar. Like, for an entire song. It was awesome.
We grabbed water after the turnaround, and I was definitely starting to feel the distance. My dad wanted to pick up the pace a hair, but I told him I needed to hold back for a little longer. We hit mile 11 and I asked if we could walk for a second. I suddenly became hyper-aware of the beating my body was taking: my quads were getting sore, I could feel a blister forming between my toes on one foot, and my sports bra was chaffing my back. And that tailwind we were expecting had shifted back into another headwind. When my dad made a comment about it, all I could muster was, "CRUEL."
I knew I could do it. I really wanted to hit 2:25. But my mind was just tired of telling my legs to keep going. After the 20-second walk-break, I knew I just needed to keep pushing because we had only about 20 minutes left. My dad grabbed me for a photo-opp that I'm sure I look deathly in. There was an incline just before mile 12, and I told myself that we'd push through the hill and keep running while a lot of others were walking. My dad's used to running hills, so I just tried to stick with him. We killed that hill and I started to feel a little surge of energy as we crossed the 12-mile marker. We were actually going to do it!
With some quick mental math, we realized that a 2:25 finish was in our crosshairs. We picked up the pace a bit and I started to focus on the mileage countdown signs: 3/4 mile left, 1/2 mile left. There was a coach in front of us chanting "Yes we can! Yes we will! Yes we can! Yes we will!" We rounded a corner, and I expected my finishing kick to be nearly non-existent. But just as we were approaching the 13-mile marker, I heard my mom, brothers, and their friend screaming like crazy for us. We were going to do it! Sprint to the end, sprint to the end! We crossed the finish line together. We were done!
|The triumphant finishers!|
As we made our way through the finish chute, I definitely felt a lot rougher than I expected to feel. I think I chugged half a water bottle too quickly, because my diaphragm cramped up really bad and it was hurting me to breathe. My dad convinced me to take a quick "official" post-race picture before we made our way out the the chute just in time for me to collapse on the ground and catch my breath. Luckily the rest of the family spotted us, and we hung out for a little while. I realized that I had only fueled half as much as I normally do (1 pack of shot bloks instead of my usual 2), so I mixed a NUUN in my water and started to feel better soon after.
OH, and my brother is a freak of nature and finished in 1:47.
A) Did I mention it was his first half marathon?
B) Did I mention he only trained for 2 months?
C) Where did his genes come from?
And wouldn't ya know? I killed my "B" goal.
To everyone who texted/messaged/commented/supported me, I am truly thankful for your support and well-wishes! And above all, I couldn't be prouder or more grateful to have done it with my dad by my side for every step of those 13.1 miles!
It may have been my first half marathon, but it won't be my last :)
|via my instagram|