Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Chicago Half Marathon

Pre-race wandering in the dark
As a slow runner often the race isn't between me and the other runners but me against the sag wagon.  Maybe that's just in my head but going into the Chicago Half Marathon on Sunday I was seriously concerned about my ability to hold a 13 minute mile pace for the entire race.  Keep in mind my PR going into this race was 3:23:44 which I did in Vegas last year.  My plan of action was to get into an earlier corral to give me a little cushion on the timing.  Luckily when I picked up my bib I didn't have a corral assignment, allowing me to chose where I wanted to start.

With the Mendez sisters
Eric, Jennifer and I

The night before the race I had an amazing carbo-loading dinner with some friends and talked about running.  We shared stories about how we started, what our goals are and the struggle of trying to get our parents to stay active with us.  I left there feeling full and energized.  The fear of not being able to finish the race on my own terms was finally starting to dissipate. When I woke up the next morning I felt like I was on a mission.  I wouldn't let the sag wagon beat me, this was my race.  I took the shuttle down to Jackson Park giving me plenty of time to wander around in the dark trying to find my friends.  As the sun started to rise a bit I was able to find my fellow Midwest Vikings, Jennifer and Eric. We took a few pictures then I quickly dropped by stuff at gear check before heading to the starting line.

Corral F pre-race huddle
Some of my teammates from the Midwest Vikings were in Corral F so that seemed like a good place for Sam and I to jump in.  We were far enough back to not get in the way of faster runners but also far enough up to give us a good lead before the final runners would be crossing the starting line.  The goal was to start off at a sub 13 pace then take a break once we got to the turnaround.  As we approached the 1 mile marker we clocked in at 11:43.  Things were looking good.  We passed friends who all cheered us on and the energy was high.  Up until mile 4 we were staying under the 13 min/mile pace.

Yayyyy I love to runnnnnn!!!
Once we hit Lake Shore Drive I was feeling great.  The new asphalt felt like pillows under my feet and the breeze was glorious.  For the next few miles we alternated between positive and negative splits.  As we approached the turnaround we cheered on everyone we recognized across the median heading back towards the finish.  There were so many aid stations on this course it was truly a blessing.  I've been having some hydration issues lately and had considered carrying my own for this race.  As we rounded the 31st street bridge for the turnaround there was Umber waiting to greet us.

I can't even begin to tell you what a relief it was to look over the median and see plenty of runners with no sag wagon in sight.  Sam started having some pretty bad side cramps so we started to slow down quite a bit.  I wasn't worried though, I knew we were well out of the danger zone.  The closer we got to the exit the antsier I got.  I kept looking at the clock and considering gunning it the last 3 miles for the chance to hit a sub 3 hour half.  I considered all my options and realized that there would always be time to work towards that and I'd rather take it easy as not to risk injury before the marathon.  Sam and I just kept plugging along happy as clams that we were doing so well.

Post -race with Sam and Angela
After we got off Lake Shore it wasn't long before we approached the final stretch before the finish line.  Ideally I would have liked to finish side by side with Sam but my legs were getting twitchy and I just had to push it to the end.  She wasn't far behind me as I basked in the glory of what I knew would be a new PR.  It wasn't until later that I realized how big of an improvement it had been.  I finished in 3:10:39 for a 13+min PR and 17 minute improvement from the Women's Half the week before.  Apparently I thrive under pressure because the fear of being forced off the course really motivated me to keep my time down.

Freddie and I, blinged out
The Chicago Runners superheroes
Midwest Vikings, showboating
Post race I only had 2 things in mind.  Pizza and medals.  I brought along my medals from the Spring Half and Michelob Half (the first 2 races in the 39.3 series challenge) so that I could flaunt all of my hard earned bling.  I wasn't the only one as Freddie and many of the other Chicago Runners did the same.  We took more pictures than I can count and I floated around, still high on the rush of crushing that course.  Now that I've had some time to reflect on it I'm positive that the elusive sub 3 half is in my future.  I still had plenty of gas left in the tank on Sunday and given the right conditions I could definitely shave some more time off.  This was my 10th half marathon since I started running almost 2 years ago and the last long race before the Detroit Marathon next month.  To say that I'm still excited and giddy would be an understatement!

10th Half Marathon has been crushed!
Wooo I love medals!!!

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