After the Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K on Saturday, I posted a photo to my marathon training group’s Facebook page, letting everyone know how I had done and saying that my time goal for the half the following day was “just don’t die.” I am happy to report I met this goal :)
When I woke up at 4:15 (*sobs*) Sunday morning, the Real Feel was already 80, so I knew I was in for a doozy of a race. I decided to throw caution to the wind and break the cardinal rule of running (nothing new on race day) in as many ways as possible, including:
– Wearing a shirt I had never worn before (kind of. I had worn the shirt twice: once at Spring Awakening and for the 5K the day before [don’t worry: Saturday was laundry day ;) ]. I had never worn the shirt for anything longer than 3.1 miles, though, and all sorts of new things can happen with 10 additional miles.).
– Taking new medicine the morning of the race (mostly. Mother Nature really had it in for me this weekend in both the weather and, ahem, biology department. I normally require a fairly steady ibuprofen regimen on my period to be able to function in any capacity, which means sometimes I take ibuprofen before running, because whoever said exercise eases cramps clearly did not have my lady parts. With a forecast as bad as Rock ‘n’ Roll’s, however, I was genuinely concerned about my kidneys and dehydration. I only took one ibuprofen [which still made me nervous] and one Tylenol in hopes that that would keep me from curling up in a ball of pain, cursing Eve, in the middle of State Street mid-race. You’re welcome for all that information you never wanted to know :P ).
– Wearing my FuelBelt with my new shirt for the first time ever (not knowing how the FuelBelt would sit/rub against the shirt. Spoiler: not as comfortably as I had hoped.)
I ended up getting to the race site way earlier than necessary, so I wandered around for awhile, sunscreened up, and tried to keep both my nerves (see: new things on race day) and sweating (see: Real Feel) under control. I was way back in no-man’s land (aka Corral 20 of 36), so I didn’t even cross the start line until almost 30 minutes after the race officially began.
By the time I was half a mile into the race, two things were very apparent: that it would be a sweaty, sweaty mess, and that my watch would be more or less useless. While I do like my Polar M400, its ability to hang onto a GPS signal is dismal, and that was never clearer than during Rock ‘n’ Roll. I’m sure I didn’t run the tangents of the race perfectly, but according to my watch, I ran 13.8 miles. I’ve never, not even during the Chicago Marathon, run a race so poorly that I added an extra THREE QUARTERS OF A MILE (just about) to the race. It also said a ran a 9:03 third mile, which I can tell you beyond a SHADOW of a doubt is 100% false. I thought it would bother me that my watch kept beeping miles progressively earlier before each actual mile, but I learned to ignore it pretty quickly. Besides, I wanted to run this race entirely by feel, so knowing my watch had heat stroke kept me from obsessing over my time.
YIKES. I don’t even want to think about what my watch is going to do during the marathon :/ Although I do find it odd that mile 12 seemed to match on my watch and the actual course map o.O
I actually felt pretty lousy for the first four miles of the race. My stomach was a bit out of sorts, and I was legitimately worried I’d throw up. Add to that the heat, humidity and sweat, and I was a hot (literally) mess. Around mile three, there were bags of ice on the side of the road, so I swung over and grabbed a handful, part of which I stuffed in my bra (I expected this to be far colder than it was. I actually barely noticed it.), and part of which I stuffed under my hat (which was GLORIOUS. I normally wear a visor when it’s beastly hot so my head isn’t fully covered, but holy smokes. Ice under my hat is my new go-to if I ever find myself in a situation like Sunday again.). The ice in my hat in particular helped me feel a bit better. I was taking water at every aid station and also sipping from my FuelBelt whenever I felt it was needed.
Speaking of aid stations. Oh boy. I don’t want to hate on the volunteers too much, because that’s just mean, but the aid stations were an absolute cluster (with the exception of the ones staffed by Kingdom Runners and Humana, which seemed to be the only groups that had their ish together). I know I was relatively far back in the race, but I was not at the very back by ANY means. Regardless, most of the aid stations had run out of filled cups of water by the time I arrived, meaning volunteers were scrambling to fill cups as runners came through, and it was just a disaster. Obviously the weather was really, really terrible, and I know finding volunteers can be tough, but it made the whole situation seem HORRIBLY disorganized and unprofessional, especially compared to other big races (i.e.: the Shuffle and the Chicago Marathon). There also didn’t seem to be much/any consistency as to which water stations offered Gatorade, which ones only offered water, and what cups you could find what liquid in. From top to bottom, the aid stations were a mess, and Sunday really was not a good day to have those things effed up.
After winding around downtown for six miles or so, we headed south on Michigan. To my surprise, I was actually feeling pretty good, all things considered. I had taken a couple of very brief walking breaks (one at an aid station because stopping was the only way I was going to get water there, since none was ready for me, and once at mile five when I fueled, though I didn’t really feel like I needed a break at that point, necessarily), but my energy–and, far more importantly, my attitude–was still pretty high. There was an AWESOME lady right before the Kingdom Runners aid station who was doing a killer job of cheering and motivating, and she brought a huge smile to my face.
I continued on down Michigan still taking my sweet time. None of my mile splits on my watch are accurate to the actual miles I was in, but according to my watch, in this stretch I was doing something like 11:30s. That’s way, way slower than I normally run, but my speed was so unimportant to me on Sunday that I didn’t care at all (or even notice, since I was ignoring my watch). We ran south on the part of Michigan where we run north during the very last miles of the Chicago Marathon, so I took in the scenery, since normally I pay no attention to that whatsoever, as I have eyes only for Roosevelt when running up Michigan during the marathon.
One of the things I did really enjoy about Rock ‘n’ Roll was that the course, though it followed some of the same streets as other races I’ve run in the city, took me around areas I’ve never run before, like Bronzeville around miles 8-10ish. I think some of that burnout I mentioned on Monday also has to do with the fact that, quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of the Lakefront Trail. I’ve run the same sections day after day after day for three years, and it’s just not exciting. Even the races I run, most of which also are on the Lakefront Trail, are the same thing, over and over and over again. Rock ‘n’ Roll, being new to me, offered new views and new neighborhoods, and I enjoyed that a lot.
After Bronzeville, we made a turn north on the road that runs parallel to the east of Lake Shore Drive right by McCormick Place. The on-course entertainment here was a DJ, and OH MAN was my EDM-loving heart pleased. Right as I turned onto that road, he dropped a dubstep remix of I Want it That Way: a remix I never knew I needed until that moment. Hahaha. IT WAS AWESOME. I was feeling super energized, super happy, and honestly was one of very few people on that part of the course at that point who seemed to not be hating life. I was feeling SO GOOD (also so hot), and I can’t even begin to tell you how pleased I am at that.
I would also like to request that all races that force me to run under McCormick Place light it up like a club and play EDM while I’m in there, please and thank you. Best moment of my running career. Is there an EDM half marathon I can run somewhere? I would be so down.
Anyway. The tunnel inside McCormick Place was like a furnace, but after we got out of it we had less than two miles to go. I was still feeling stellar through all of this. When I hit mile 12, I looked at my watch and thought I may be able to squeak by without personal worsting, so I cranked it up into high gear. Nearly everyone around me at this point was walking, especially as we ascended hills, but I kept plowing through (my watch said I ran my last full mile [by its inaccurate measurement] at a 10:07, compared to the 11:30s I had been doing). I saw Roosevelt and figured I was super close to the end, so I started to kick, but as it turns out the absolute worst thing about Rock ‘n’ Roll is not the disorganized aid stations, but the fact that the finish line, though on Columbus like it is for the Shuffle and marathon, is MUCH farther down Columbus than the marathon/Shuffle finish line. That was a lousy surprise :P
I finished in 2:25:48, which is a personal worst for me, but SO much better than I expected. I anticipated running 2:30 or slower, so I’m incredibly pleased with a 2:25:48. What I’m more pleased with, however, is how positive I remained throughout the entire run, and even more so how well I conserved my energy. This race was MUCH slower than both the Spring 13.1 and Soldier Field, but mentally and physically I felt WORLDS better than I felt at either one of those races. I never bonked like I did in both of those events. After the first four miles, I felt like I was in a really good head space, and, aside from that early nausea, it’s been a long time since I physically felt that fine during a long race. Though my time doesn’t *really* show it, I suppose, at least in comparison to the other times I’ve run, this race made me feel like the hard training I’ve done so far this marathon cycle in terms of strength training, HIIT work, and speed training has paid off in spades. I have another half in September and the marathon, of course, in October, and though there are no guarantees, theoretically the weather at that time of year should be more conducive to fast times for me. I hope that I can continue my dedication to hard training, and if I do, I’m excited to see what kind of results it will (hopefully) produce later this year.