My summer of endurance sports has come to an end and since I promised a race recap of the Chicago Half Marathon, here she is.
First I must say, that despite it is now Tuesday afternoon as I write this and I ran the race Sunday morning, I have never in my life been so sore. Yes, that includes after the triathlon two weeks ago. Hello, burning calves! I am thinking there are a number of reasons for this. The first is it was two weeks after the triathlon! The second is I have not really moved that often since the triathlon, except for a swim and running about eight miles total (and not all at once). I also hadn’t got a long run in since the time I ran the eight miles in early August, so going five extra miles further than I’d ever gone before might have done me in.
Let’s start with the beginning. I found this race to be very…inconvenient. The locations of the race and packet pickup were definitely not my favorite – with packet pick-up at Navy Pier and the race itself starting in Jackson Park on the South Side. Navy Pier isn’t terrible because at least there are plenty of public transit options to get there (and at least it is not McCormick place!), but why does it have to be all the way at the end of the Pier! Once you get there it’s a half-mile walk winding through tourists and tourist-trap shops. And I wasn’t all that impressed with the expo…it seemed so small for the hype it got.
And then for the location of the race itself – way down on the South Side. My only issue here is it is just inconvenient to get to in terms of a lack of convenient public transportation options. It was helpful the race provided a shuttle from the Belmont stop (along with two others between Belmont and downtown so you could choose the one most convenient for you), but it cost $15 for a ticket! We paid up, though – didn’t really have any other options to get down there at 5:00am.
From my complaints above about location, you’d think I hated this race. Actually, it was quite the opposite – the race was great in my opinion, other than the 4:45am wake-up call that is.
Like I said, race morning we woke up at 4:45 so we could head out the door by 5:15. Mark wasn’t racing this one but he came as a spectator/moral support giver. The last shuttle was leaving Belmont at 5:30 and we didn’t want to miss it, but also didn’t want to get to the race too early since it didn’t start until 7:00. We made it with plenty of time and soon we were off. I just wish we would have sat on the side of the bus facing the lake rather than the city so I could have watched the beautiful sunrise!
We arrived at Jackson/Hyde Park at about 6:15 as promised, a little earlier before a race starts than I like to get there, especially when you don’t have to go to gear check for any reason. But at least it was painless to get down there! Mark and I found a spot to sit down on the curb and posted up until about fifteen minutes before the race started. It was pretty chilly, so I was sad to shed my outer layers before heading to the corrals. We decided our meet-up plan for after the race (near gear check) and I said I’d probably finish somewhere between 2:20 and 2:30, so don’t expect me until then. I was under no impression I’d be able to complete this race running the entire time because I’d never ran close to the distance before and also hadn’t really done much in terms of training specifically for this.
And then we were off. I liked how in this race you started in your corrals but once the gun went off everyone could just go at once in a steady stream, without the minutes of waiting in between. At the very beginning, I was surprised how well I felt. My few runs in between the triathlon and this had not been very good and my legs felt heavy. On this particular morning I was having no trouble and started off at a pretty brisk (for me) 9:22 minute per mile pace. Maybe it was the beautiful weather and temperatures we had – starting out in the 60s and ending in the low 70s with no humidity. Very nice!
Falling into a rhythm, before I knew it I had passed the five mile mark. I had a moment of reflection after I passed it, remembering the Cinco de Miler from May and how that race was the first time I’d ever ran five miles. It seemed like so long ago! I was still feeling good at this point and wondering when the urge to walk would set in.
Soon enough I was at the turnaround point at mile 8 at the 31st Street overpass. I think this was the only hill of the entire race (heading up the ramp) and it wasn’t really that bad and I didn’t break stride. Again I had to remember when I did the Hot Chocolate Run last November (5k, not 15k) and the mini hill (incline) on Columbus at the end of the race made me stop to walk because I thought I was going to hurl. I still didn’t feel like walking.
After crossing the nine mile mark and not feeling like I needed to walk, I figured I might be able to do the entire race running. And I was going to finish 20 minutes earlier than I thought I would! Around the ten mile mark was where I saw a lot of people slowing down to walk, but my thoughts were ‘just a 5k left!’ so I powered through and still felt good. I’d come this far, why stop now?
I didn’t really feel lethargic until hitting mile 12, but by then there was only a little over a mile left to go, so stopping wasn’t an option. I slowed pace a little to closer to 9:40 but kept going. I think it was here where I decided the marathon was a crazy distance. Not sure if one of those will ever be in my future.
When I crossed the finish line in a time of 2:04:31 I couldn’t have been happier. My first half marathon almost at the two hour mark! The flat course helped, but I still couldn’t believe it. And I hadn’t walked once! I collected my medal, used a strangers phone to track down Mark and our friend David (who also ran the race, sub 1:40:00 I believe), got my pizza, skipped the beer line (woah long), was thankful I didn’t have to wait in the gear check lines (woah longer), dodged hundreds of bees while consuming the pizza, and headed back home on the shuttle. All said, it was a successful morning…and then the soreness set in…
Here are my casual observations about the race (which I put here because I couldn’t figure out where they would fit best in the above post). I’d definitely run it again:
- Course support was amazing – there was an aid station and bathrooms around almost every mile marker. I didn’t have to use the restroom, but if I did it was nice to know the next was never far away. It also was nice to not feel like you had to grab water/Gatorade from every aid station, knowing the next one was coming up soon
- South Lake Shore Drive is a lot flatter than North Lake Shore Drive – thank goodness!
- It was so nice to be able to run on a traffic free Lake Shore Drive and not have to run on the path…I feel like every race these days follows the same Lake Shore Path – south past the museums/Soldier Field/McCormick and back…it was nice to have a change (granted this race didn’t even intersect with that part of the path if we would have been on it, but it was nice to just be off the path for a race)
- It’s amazing how comforting the sounds of so many shoes are on the pavement all running in unison. I didn’t wear headphones and was scared I’d get board of silence, but turns out it wasn’t silent!
- There were sooooo many bees in the park, I didn’t realize this late in the year there were still so many out and about! It really made walking around and eating pizza afterwards less than enjoyable