Just…no words. Yesterday was the single proudest moment of my life up to this point, and I’m still on Cloud 9 over it all.
After my Saturday post, I headed downtown to meet up with a friend of mine from college, the crazy fool who convinced me to run this half in the first place. Running a half marathon had been on my bucket list, but in more of an “accomplish before I’m 25″ sense rather than an “accomplish before I’m 22″ sense. I can say with full confidence that without a particular Gchat session in early May, registering for this year’s Chicago Half Marathon would never have crossed my mind.
We went to Navy Pier to pick up our packets, and once we arrived, disaster struck for me. Every now and again, I get these awful bouts of stomach pain. Basically, a lot of air magically finds its way into my intestines, and I’m down for the count until it works its way out of my system. Air does not belong in your GI tract, so when it gets in there it HURTS. Usually this happens around high stress times in my life (especially if I just ate a lot of pretzels. wtf. I have the weirdest body ever), and guess who was feeling super stressed on Saturday (and had a bunch of pretzels at lunch)? Yeah. While I knew I would be fine on Sunday, this business usually lasts 4-6 hours, so I was not looking forward to the rest of my Saturday.
After getting our packets (and buying a 13.1 sticker for my nonexistent car), we headed south to our hotel. My friend’s parents came in to the city for the race and offered to let me spend the night with them in their hotel since there would be extra space. It took a lot of convincing, especially after I found out where they had booked a room.
Anyone recognize this address?
Her parents booked a room in the PALMER HOUSE. And when I say “booked a room,” I don’t mean, “found us an economy room right next to the El.” I mean, “used all their Hilton Honors points and got us a room on the Diamond Level floor.” Not only did this mean we had a bigger room, but it also meant we had access to the lounge on the 23rd floor, where they had the best brownies of my LIFE and some incredible views of the city.
Unfortunately, staying at the Palmer House also means that I think I’ve peaked in my hotel experience at the tragically young age of 21. I am 1000% percent certain that, barring a marriage to a brain surgeon, I will never stay in a hotel like the Palmer House again. I also now owe my friend’s parents 50 fruit baskets, 1000 thank you cards, and probably a singing telegram or 20 to accurately display my gratitude.
After checking into the hotel, my unofficial family for the weekend and I went to Italian Village, about two blocks west of the Palmer House on Monroe, for some pre-race carb loading.
Italian Village is actually three restaurants in one building. We had reservations at The Village, the restaurant upstairs. I’m a sucker for good atmosphere, so I instantly fell in love with The Village and its ambiance. It felt like dining on an Italian street at night (or, rather, what I imagine that might feel like, seeing as I’ve never actually been to Italy ;) ). The wait staff was hyper-attentive but not overbearing and a man who must have been either the manager or owner continually stopped by to harass me for not eating my entire plate of spaghetti (the stomach still felt awful, so I could only manage about a fourth of the huge portion I received before calling it a night). All of this feeling-like-crap business did nothing for my stress level, and I may or may not have excused myself from the table to go have a good stress-relieving cry in the bathroom during the meal.
After dinner my friend and I explored the Palmer House for a while before returning to our room around 8 to head to bed. We had a 4:45 alarm set for the next morning and both wanted to get a solid night of sleep pre-race. I can’t speak for my friend, but I barely slept at all. I was more stressed out about this race than any other race I’ve run, and if I wasn’t tossing and turning, I was dreaming that we overslept our alarm and missed the race (dreamt that twice Saturday night. Like I said: stress city).
When our alarm went off for real at 4:45, we threw on our race day clothes and headed out the door.
We had tickets to ride the Millennium Park shuttle to the race, which I would highly recommend to anyone ever planning to run the Chicago Half Marathon. We got there in plenty of time and avoided any and all stress that might have come from driving, cabbing, or (for me, at least) attempting to figure out the Metra.
We did all the normal pre-race prep and with 20 or so minutes until the start of the race went our separate ways to our corrals. The corrals ended up being structured WAY different than I anticipated, and if I had any criticism of the race, it would be the corral system. Our bibs had a letter that assigned us to a corral, but there was no indication of what pace the runners in each corral were aiming for. The 2:20 pace group ended up being in my corral, so maybe they assigned corral based on predicted finish times? I don’t know. However they did it, I didn’t really like or understand it.
After the National Anthem, I turned on my Garmin and realized almost immediately that it would be off for the duration of the race.
WHY?! I charged my Garmin Saturday afternoon and turned it all the way off immediately after charging it. I have NO clue what made prompted this sort of rebellion, but this is the second time in as many weeks that the battery has spontaneously died at the worst possible moment. I see a trip to Michigan Ave. in my future to figure out what the heck is going on here.
I had no phone and no other stop watch on me, but at that point I couldn’t do anything about it. I figured I would try-ish to maybe keep the 2:20 pace group in sight, but more or less I’d have to run the race naked. Being Miss Type A, that did not please me one bit. I’ve run exactly once sans Garmin since I bought it, and that “once” was when my Garmin acted up two weeks ago before my Wednesday run. I just really like having all my runs logged prettily on my Garmin Connect account, and I had really looked forward to uploading this race to analyze my mile-by-mile stats.
I have no idea if the race started on time or not given my lack of a timing device situation, but approximately 11:30 after the clock began, I crossed the start line. Tears may or may not have been shed as I walked from my corral up to the start line (again, see: stress case). Once we got going, though, things felt great. Turning east after the two-mile mark was a little brutal because of the rising sun, but fortunately the weather yesterday was wonderfully cool and comfortable, so the sun was just a bright nuisance rather than a killing-me-slowly nuisance.
Around mile 3.5ish, a guy started running near me who drew his motivation from exhale-singing to his iPod. You know how sometimes things just irk you and make you irrationally annoyed? Yeah, his exhale-singing turned out to be one of those things. Fortunately I lost him after an aid station, because 10 more miles of that would not have been okay.
With no Garmin stats, I can’t pinpoint when I hit my stride, but I really felt like I ran a consistent, sustainable pace throughout most of the race. Once we got on Lake Shore Drive (which, p.s., SO COOL to run Lake Shore), I felt like the miles just ticked away. My hip got a little crabby after mile four but not at all to the point where I needed to stop to stretch it out, so I kept plowing along. I grabbed water at every aid station, took fuel at miles 5 and 10, and honestly just felt awesome throughout the entire run. There was never a point where I felt like I needed to stop, never a point where I thought I wouldn’t make it: I felt solid for 13.1 miles and did not stop running once, not even to walk.
Hitting the 12 mile mark was huge for me. Not only did that give me a clear indication that I had PDR-ed (which technically happened at mile 11.51, but without my Garmin I didn’t know where that point was), but this was where everyone in the crowd kept cheering, “You’re almost there! You have less than a mile to go!” Since this training has really brought me to a place in my running career where anything seven miles or shorter sounds completely attainable, “less than a mile” seemed like nothing. I saw other runners who already had finished and came back to cheer on those of us still running, which gave me huge motivation to push it through to the end. The last mile of the race also had great signage: 3/4 of a mile to go…1/2 mile to go…1/4 mile to go. Thinking about that–three laps on a track, two laps on a track, ONLY A 400 LEFT!–pumped me up so much. In case I haven’t already established that I was a complete emotional wreck throughout this experience, once I was in tears once I passed the 1/4 mile to go sign. I didn’t exactly cry because I didn’t have the air to do it haha, but if I could’ve breathed, I would’ve been crying. That continued through the 13 mile mark, where nothing mattered anymore and I ran as hard as I could to the finish.
Crossing the finish line was, without question, the proudest moment of my life up to this point. I know myself well enough that I knew I would finish the race, but I certainly went into this race doubting my ability. Yesterday’s weather was simply perfect, but I never dreamed my first half marathon would go as well as it did. Though I don’t have mile splits to share, I do have a final official time:
Considering I expected a 2:30 and hoped AT BEST to run an 11:00 pace (I’d been training around 11:30, after all), the fact that I ran a 10:52 (and, judging by my 5 and 10 mile splits, ran that consistently throughout the whole race) kind of makes my life. I never dreamed I’d come that close to 2:20, and I could not be happier with that outcome.
Now, I don’t want anyone to walk away from this thinking that my phenomenal race changes any of my sentiments from Saturday’s post. Training for this race still sucked, and it darn near killed any interest I had in running. My passion for running was on life support for the past 12 weeks, and while there were one or two moments of promise, it definitely flat lined at times as well.
Yesterday was exactly what I needed. I’m more fired up about running than I’ve been in months. I thought a lot about the future of my running during yesterday’s race, and I absolutely would consider running another half marathon. I’d be much more likely to run an early spring or late fall half (The Chitown Half and Monster Dash could definitely happen in my future) because I Do. Not. Like. Summer. Running. Period. However. I felt really good after yesterday’s race. Almost too good, in fact. I want to do something more challenging. I want to push myself farther. Originally, I planned on dedicating 2013 to speed. I wanted to PR, and PR by a lot. Now, I’m not so sure. PR-ing is great, but I like PDRs more. I can’t say anything definitively, I definitely need to talk to some people and wait to come down from my runner’s high before I make any for-sure statements, and this does not mesh well with my hate for summer running, but…
Chicago Marathon 2013?