Monday, July 23, 2012

Race Recap: Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon - Chicago

What: Rock ' Roll Half Marathon - Chicago

Where: Downtown Chicago, IL

When: July 22nd, 2012

Weather: Mid-to-upper 70s at the start and humid, partly-cloudy

Finish Time: 1:35:55 (299 out of 14881)

As I've had time to reflect on this race, I've realized that it held a lot of 'firsts' for me. I was in Corral #1 to start a big race - never done that before. I was in a position to actually race a half marathon - never done that before. Leslie's parents came to cheer us on and there were people from DailyMile I knew cheering us on - haven't had spectators before. It was a great way to start a Sunday for sure and though I'm mildly disappointed with my time, I'm still thankful for the experience and feel that I am right on track in my training for the Chicago Marathon in 2011.

We arrived downtown at around 6:00am and by then I had already downed a pre-race breakfast of 2 bananas, a granola bar and a cup of coffee. Leslie and I met up briefly with a friend of ours and then I headed to my corral. First thing I noticed upon arriving at Corral #1 was that everybody in the corral was a serious runner. Everybody had the gear, the look, a very serious crowd. Anyway, after some pomp and circumstance and the singing of the national anthem we we off and I made a very conscious effort to hold back and not get caught up in the speed off the line. It was a wave start and I had been near the back line of Corral 1 so though I quickly fell behind the main pack, I was able to start how I wanted and quickly settled into a nice, managable groove.

Through the first couple of miles I noticed that they didn't have mile markers and because of a couple of tunnels early on, my Garmin had derailed completely and was mostly useless. I ran up alongside another guy who didn't have headphones in and asked him if he knew which mile we were, but he did not. We started talking, he sounded British but said that he was living in Chicago. We ran alongside one another for a couple of miles but after a couple of water stations I fell back and didn't feel like expending the effort to catch back up. A nice single-serving friendship to be sure, but short - and unfortunately we didn't catch up afterwards.

I was cruising through the first 6-7 miles. I passed the 10K mark at right around 45 minutes and was feeling really good. Looking back, my pace was probably a little faster than it should have been through the first half of the race, but I felt in control. At around mile 7 I saw Andrea K. from DailyMile with her "Do Epic Shit!" sign. I was starting to feel the heat and humidity at that point so seeing her and her sign was just the boost I needed. Throughout the race I had been pausing oh-so-briefly at the water stops to ensure that I got my fluids. I would grab a water, run to the end of the line and then stop and drink the cup. As the race went on, my pauses got progressively longer and I started taking both Gatorade and water. The heat and humidity were taking their toll...

Right around Mile 10 is where I really started to wear down. The final 3 miles of the race were right along the lake which was pretty, but that also meant that they were right under the beating sun. Right before the Mile 11 marker I stopped to walk for about 20 seconds - I needed a break and had picked up a water along the way that I pulled a few swigs off of. I knew that I only had a couple of miles to go, but it felt like a long way to go until I could stop...funny how your perspective on distance completely changes when you're running a race. Right around Mile 11.5 or 12 I saw another DailyMiler, Kevin G., and though he didn't recognize me, I recognized him and said something profound like, "hey Kevin!" I don't have many more clear memories of the end of the race save for a nasty little hill right before the final stretch. Once I could see the long-ish finishing chute, I had lazer focus on it and managed to kick up the pace a bit. I don't have any recollections of the people lining the final chute, I just remember wanting to get to that line so that I could stop running.

There's nothing quite like being done. It's a relief and it's a feeling of having conquered something, all at the same time. Immediately after finishing I was handed an ice-cold white towel which felt amazing. I then grabbed a water, a Gatorade and then...A POPSICLE. It was into the 80s by the time I finished and I couldn't imagine anything better than a Popsicle, it was so good. I even managed to pick out a cherry one, which happens to be my favorite flavor. I knew I had awhile until Leslie came across the line because she had decided to run with one of my former co-workers who was running her first half-marathon. I walked around for awhile, allowing my body to cool down and normalize a little bit. I sat down, stretched, went to the bathroom and then headed to the finishing chute to watch.

I watched and cheered for a good 45 minutes, just watching people come by at the 13 mile mark. I saw all shapes and sizes, people who looked like they were dying and people who were hard-charging it to the finish line. I saw a couple of pregnant women (mad respect), some older folks, a couple of people in costumes, and a lot of people who were supporting some charity or another. I really enjoyed watching - especially as people realized they only had one-tenth of a mile to go.

I really enjoyed myself in this race. Though I was a little disappointed with my time (I was hoping for something closer to 1:30), I felt that I ran a pretty consistent race and I feel that I have some good things to build on. I thought that things were EXTREMELY well organized; mad-props to the Rock 'n Roll volunteers and organizers. The water stations were plentiful and they had other things like hoses and cold sponges to help keep everyone cool. I also appreciated the way they managed the start of the race too, delaying every corral by 30 seconds to a minute so that there wasn't so much crowding out of the gate. Well done on every front.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention my lovely bride. After her half-marathon debut last March in NYC, she got all excited and signed up for this race back in April. Life has gotten in the way a little bit since which has gotten in the way of her training so up until earlier this week, she had been undecided on whether to run. Two days before the race, she decided to do it and decided that she would run with a former co-worker of mine (Julie) in her first half-marathon. Despite a pace that was much slower than Leslie would have preferred, she stuck with Julie through 12 miles before pulling ahead to the finish line. I'm very proud of my woman for stepping out and doing the race despite not really training for it. She could easily have just sat out, but she did it anyway.

I know I've been pretty lax in posting to this blog. I've been training for the Chicago Marathon for the past 2 1/2 months and this was sort of a half-way checkpoint. Considering that in February and early March I couldn't complete a one-mile run, I'd say things are going pretty well. I will try to be more vocal here in the coming months but between the running schedule I'm keeping and my job, there isn't much time left in the day. Thank you to everyone for your encouragement along the way, from DailyMile notes to other words of encouragement, I appreciate them all. Everything is on-schedule for the Oct. 7th race and I'm really looking forward to it - it's going to be quite a challenge.