F^3 Lake Half Marathon Race Recap

I would like to put in a formal request that it is always 30 degrees when I’m scheduled to run a half marathon.

The F^3 Lake Half Marathon has a pretty hit or miss history when it comes to weather, and though I didn’t run the race last year, I do believe that it was in the high 30s/low 40s on race day. I don’t think anyone–certainly not me–expected good race day weather two years in a row, but while the East Coast got buried under a blizzard, Chicago was sittin’ pretty with moderate winter weather on Saturday.

While 30 degrees is ideal as far as I’m concerned for racing, it’s not particularly ideal for standing outside for an hour waiting for the race to start. Last year, F^3 moved down to Soldier Field, and with that move came access to the United Club.

F3LakeHalf1

Yes. Please.

Having an indoor, temperature-controlled space for gear check and on-site vendors was AWESOME. I think I’d like this for most races, to be honest, but in the winter in particular this sort of thing is clutch. I arrived about an hour before the race began, checked my gear, and wandered over to the bathrooms, where, to everyone’s great surprise, the line for the men’s bathrooms on both ends of the United Club were out the doors, while the lines to the women’s bathrooms were barely existent. I don’t think I’ve seen this anywhere before in my life, and all the other women in the bathroom commented on the odd reversal as well. ‘Bout time those boys learned what we put up with on a regular basis! :P

I ran into one of my good CARA friends and her boyfriend and chatted with them for awhile before everyone started moving outside about 10 minutes before the race officially began. I wore my warmest pullover over a short sleeve tech shirt, and while this worked perfectly for the race, I got really cold really fast standing around outside. I lined up in what I think was the 10:00 corral, and I had assumed since this was a relatively small race that we would all start at the same time. Not so! They waited about a minute in between corrals, which I’m sure helped with crowding, but man was I getting impatient to get running and warm up.

I didn’t have much of a time plan for the race, other than thinking it’d be nice to negative split if possible. I wanted to start out comfortably slow, but it took me a little while to find my groove. I had a 9:20 first mile, which I knew was WAY too fast, so I tried to slow it down to 10:00. When I hit mile two (by my watch – my watch and the mile signs weren’t lining up for most of the race, though that’s hardly a new phenomenon. I’d be much more surprised if my watch and the mile signs did match up than I am when they don’t.), I had done a 9:46. While I was hoping to hit 9:45s later on, I figured if I felt like I was holding back and doing 9:45s at that point, I’d trust that that was fine. I tucked in behind two women who, according to my watch, were running 9:45s, and figured I’d pace off them for awhile. Pretty soon, though, I decided to pass them, so I swung out to the left, ran in front of them, and then merged back right. As I was doing this (or maybe immediately after? I’m not sure.), the woman on the left side of this pair clipped my heel.

“That girl just cut me off!” the woman declared, referring, of course, to me. I ignored her, because that’s how I normally handle this sort of situation, and continued running.

“Fucker!” the woman said, referring, once again, to me.

Aw, HELL no.

I looked over my shoulder, put my hands out in the universal sign for, “What is WRONG with you?!” and said, “SERIOUSLY?! We’re on the same team!” (Which I meant in the universal, “We’re both runners doing this race” sense, not in the literal, “We signed up for this race as team members” sense.)

“You cut me off! You cut right in front of me!!” the woman said.

“WE’RE ON THE SAME TEAM!!” I reiterated, before my adrenaline kicked in and I trotted off at a nice 9:15 pace for awhile, leaving Cranky Pants in my dust.

OH, did this make me ragey. Did I get in the woman’s way? Clearly, because we had the MOST MINOR of “collisions.” Collision actually seems like a pretty strong word for what happened. Did I do it on purpose? Of course not. I did not come equipped with rearview mirrors, but, to my estimation, when I merged in front of her and her companion, I assumed I had enough space to do so. I have never, in nearly five years of running, seen anyone cut anyone else off intentionally in the middle of the pack, because DUH. Nothing we’re doing matters. Ain’t none of us going to win the race. Heck, ain’t none of us even going to place in our age group! We’re just out there for kicks! For funzies! I have never, ever in my running life seen ANY middle-of-the-pack-er taking a race so seriously that he or she would intentionally try to sabotage another person’s race by cutting them off (or doing anything else), because why on EARTH would you do that? Not to mention, in my experience (or at least in my experience prior to Saturday) runners are a pretty supportive bunch, hence: we’re on the same team.

I don’t know anything about this woman, other than that the first two numbers on her bib were 24, and she looked to be about in her 30s. Maybe she had a really bad night. Maybe she was having a really bad morning. Maybe she was really nervous about the race. Maybe she’s just a categorically shitty person. I don’t know. What I do know is that it is never a) okay or b) necessary to call someone a fucker for passing you, even if they did cut in front of you too quickly. Would I have been annoyed if the reverse had happened? Yeah, for sure. I probably would’ve muttered, “God!” or “seriously?!” under my breath, and wished ill upon the cutter-in-fronter and tried to pass them later, all of which I think are fairly acceptable courses of action. But if you want to tempt the running gods, practically begging them to give you bad running karma: be my guest. Even more so, had she not called me a fucker, had she said, “Excuse me,” or “careful” or any other socially acceptable thing to say to a stranger, I probably would’ve been QUITE inclined to apologize for my action. But you had BETTER BELIEVE I absolutely did not apologize after she acted like that.

Be nice to your fellow runners, people. Act like a grown up. Fairly simple concepts to grasp.

Anyway.

After that situation, the rest of the race was fairly uneventful. I had several miles in the 9:55-9:45 range, and my knee acted up, like it always does these days. I survived the hill at…whatever pedestrian overpass that is (I think it’s somewhere in the 40s? Probably?), and wondered when on earth we’d hit the turnaround. (In the mean time, I passed the 10K mark at 1:00:59, which, had this been a 10K race, would’ve been my third fastest 10K and my fastest since 2013. Heyo!) Within about a mile and a half of the turnaround or so the path got super crowded, since we had two-way traffic on not-the-widest part of the trail. It was manageable, but definitely a bit cozier than I anticipated for a race with less than 2,000 participants.

We had a nice, tiny breeze at our faces after the turnaround–enough to keep you cool without bothering you–and I was still feeling great. The view of the city heading north on the path was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, with the ice on the lake and a mix of sun and clouds in the sky. I don’t carry my phone on me when I race, and even if I did, I wouldn’t stop to take pictures (I’ve never understood people who do this, though I’ve seen it happen plenty of times. Don’t you know you’re being timed?? Though I suppose maybe not everyone cares about their time as much as I do.), but those were some seriously photo-worthy views, and I wish I could show them to you.

I tried to find groups to latch onto and pace with, or even just people if possible, but I was never able to stick with anyone for very long before feeling like I had enough in me to pass them. I spent a decent portion of my race doing mental math after each mile marker, trying to estimate my overall pace and likely finish time. I hit mile 10 at 1:37, so I knew that unless I ran MUCH slower than I had been running, I was on pace to break 2:10, which was my #1 goal. I also knew that unless I ran the remaining 5K faster than I had ever run that distance before, I wouldn’t get a PR (or break two hours, which is this long-standing dream I’ve had). I had it in my head that it’d be nice to break 2:05, but I wasn’t sure if the timing would work out.

When I got to mile 12, I gave it my all. I intend to stop running for the next month or so before gearing up for the Shamrock Shuffle, so I wanted to make the last of my running for awhile count. I ran an 8:36 last mile (wheee!) and crossed the finish line in 2:05:19, for what was FAR and away my second fastest half marathon.

I was SO happy with my time. I may or may not have cried happy/proud tears. I did not at all expect to have such a great race, and though I wanted to break 2:10, I had doubts about my ability to do that. Even though my half PR is 2:02:50, I had never come remotely close to touching that in the four half marathons I’ve run since (2:12 was the best I had done), and that 2:02 was starting to feel more and more like an anomaly, something I’d never achieve again, than something I could approach, or even break. I could not be more thrilled to have been only 2:29 off my PR on Saturday.

There wasn’t much to do outside (not that I had any interest in standing around outside for long anyway), so I headed back to the United Club, where I was able to pick up my race participant hat and shirt.

f3lakehalf2

I changed into dry clothes (thank you, post-marathon training brunches, for teaching me the importance of bringing a change of dry clothes to maintain post-run warmth) and then headed over to Stan’s for a celebratory donut.

stansdonuts

Delicious :)

Overall, a very successful race day. I’m glad I was able to send this mini running season out on a high note.

f3lakehalfmedal

 

10 Comments

Filed under Half Marathon Training

Thursday Things

1. My brother was in town last week for a class he’s taking, and ended up going to see Gotta Dance on Tuesday night. He invited me along, but I declined, since I have my own dance classes on Tuesdays, and I felt a bit awkward about crashing a class outing with a bunch of 19 year olds. He really liked the show, though, and while I made a big to-do about pretending like I wanted to go, I didn’t particularly care all that much if I went or not. Well, my brother, bless his heart, knew that he would have free time on Wednesday between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., so he went to the Bank of America Theatre, bought a day-of, $25 ticket on my behalf, and called me while I was commuting home to tell me he had gotten me a ticket, oh, and that it was in the front row.

gottadance

All right then!

The show is about group of senior citizens who end up being selected for a dance troupe to perform at half time during a professional basketball game. Only after auditioning do they realize the dancing they’re expected to do is hip hop. The show follows their training and rehearsing, with a few subplots (some…more useful to developing the show than others. Haha.) thrown in for good measure.

While I don’t exactly see this winning a Tony for Best Book (or, uh, anything), it was a fun show – one of those that leaves you smiling for the whole Uber ride home just because it was so enjoyable, if not perhaps particularly intellectually stimulating. And it was SUPER cool to experience it from the front row! I’ve never been in the front row for a play before, and though my view was technically “limited” (because my angle was weird), it was really awesome to be that close to the cast.

2. Last Thursday evening, I didn’t have anything to do after dinner, so I spent the better part of an hour playing on Duolingo, because I’m kind of obsessed with it. Having mentioned that I wondered how I’d do on Spanish Duolingo last week, I decided to take the placement test to see how I’d do.

duolingospanish

BOOM BABY. Eight years of Spanish and a minor were not for naught! Admittedly, this probably isn’t the best judge of my actual fluency, but I was quite proud of myself nevertheless. Dutch continues to be my primary focus on Duolingo, but I’ve done a little bit of Spanish on most days as well (mostly because the app yells at me if I don’t, telling me I’ll lose my skills. If you say so, Duolingo. I think the fact that you declared me 50% fluent after 3.5 years away from using the language at all argues against that.). And by “done a little Spanish” I mean “have tested out of basically every lesson, because I’ve already learned these things.”

I did discover, though, that apparently once you get far enough along in Duolingo, it makes you talk to it, which I thought was a good idea. Though I can only wonder what my roommates think when they hear me speaking random Spanish sentences seemingly to myself!

I know I talked a little bit about how I wondered about the pedagogy behind Duolingo last week, but as I’ve progressed in these Dutch lessons, I’ve continued to wonder even more. Dutch, like any language, has a variety of rules about how to create plurals, and Duolingo hasn’t taught me any of them. Instead, on the lessons that involve plurals, it expects me to just figure it out. It’s been a couple decades since I learned to speak English, so I don’t remember if I learned how to make plurals organically, or if someone taught me, but even native speakers have to learn lessons about the rules of their languages (Language Arts, anyone?). English doesn’t always make sense–cows is plural of cow, but mouses is not plural of mouse, for example–and some of those irregularities you learn on your own, but you still learned the rules to help you out. It’s great that I know “ons” and “onze” both mean “our” in Dutch, but I don’t have a clue when to use which one, because Duolingo hasn’t sat me down to give me a lesson in that, and I’m certainly not surrounded by people constantly speaking Dutch (ah, one can dream!) to help my ear figure out what sounds right and what sounds wrong.

3. I am too incoherent to come up with a third thing. I’ve gone to bed late the past two nights and am dog tired right now, so this is all you’re getting from me, other than a confession: I have a physical today, and I’m supposed to fast for 6-8 hours ahead of time, because they’re probably going to want to do blood work. I had dinner at 7:30 last night and my appointment is at 10:00 this morning. Chances of me oops! forgetting that I was supposed to fast are extremely high. I’m secretly hoping this will also get me out of blood work, because needles are the enemy, and lab bills after blood work are even worse.

Tell me whatever! I’m too tired to think!

4 Comments

Filed under Life

Living in Denial, or, My Half Marathon “Training”

Once upon what feels like a million, billion years ago, my sister asked if I would run the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon with her in January of 2016. This was some time last spring, well before marathon season, and I assured her that I most certainly would, provided it made it through marathon season unscathed. I did, and then proceeded to cut back substantially on my running until mid-November, when I intended to attempt to bust out an eight-week training cycle for the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon.

About one week before I intended to start training for this half marathon, I realized that my life’s circumstances had changed a bit from last spring, and I no longer knew if I’d be able to take time off work in early January to travel to Mississippi. Because my circumstances that would have prevented travel were in flux, I decided to train with the intention of running the Mississippi Blues Half, but refrain from registering and/or buying tickets to travel to Mississippi until I knew for sure that I could go.

At just about this same time, my sister told me that she had been getting migraines during her long runs, and no longer thought she could handle a half marathon. Instead, she planned to do the race’s quarter marathon. I figured I’d still train, because I didn’t know what would happen on my end anyway. I also thought that I’d eyeball the F^3 Half Marathon in Chicago, scheduled for two weeks after the Mississippi Blues Half. Worst case scenario, I could scrap the Mississippi trip and run F^3 instead.

Ultimately, that’s what happened. My sister decided she didn’t particularly want to run a quarter marathon, so I registered for F^3, crossing my fingers that, by some miracle, the weather wouldn’t be terrible on Jan. 23.

f3lakehalf1

^^ F^3 2013, when I froze my booty off volunteering and got sunburn from the snow. lulz.

So far, the forecast looks fantastic. In fact, as of my writing time, the forecast looks downright ideal for me: 32 degrees, “times of clouds and sun,” no snow. I honestly don’t know if I could dream up better conditions if I tried. That, my friends, is PR weather.

Unfortunately, I have not been training for a PR.

chitownhalf4(From that time I did train for a PR)

This has been the biggest joke of a half marathon training cycle I’ve ever undertaken. Things got off to a fairly rocky start when I came down with the plague/Ebola one week into training, which knocked me on my back for a bit. As soon as I recovered from that, it was off to Iowa for the weekend, during which time my primary activity consisted of getting in or out of the car. Then it was Thanksgiving, and then it was home for Christmas, and then it was cold….

All told, I think I only skipped one or two runs entirely, so even though I may have been all right from a quantity standpoint, I feel like the quality of my workouts, running or otherwise, was absolutely laughable during this training cycle. I intended to follow Best Body Boot Camp and call it half marathon training, but that did not work out at all. I usually got in at least one legitimate strength training session per week, but I never did any workout more than once (Best Body Boot Camp comes in four phases, with each phase lasting two weeks. In theory, you’re supposed to do the same workout twice (i.e.: the Week 1 Monday workout is the same as the Week 2 Monday workout, though Week 2 usually prescribed higher reps)), so it was very hard to feel like I made any sort of progress in the strength department, or like I was even following the plan to begin with. I spent a lot of time on the treadmill for the cardio days, which means I did get in a decent number of interval workouts this session, but from a volume standpoint, I don’t feel like I’m in good shape at all. Most of these “runs” lasted 40 minutes, including warmup and cooldown, so I was logging roughly 3.5-3.75 miles per run. While that’s probably quite fine for maintaining fitness, it didn’t feel like enough for half marathon training.

I did do weekly long runs outside, along with a whopping two weekday runs outside instead of on the treadmill. By and large, those long runs were a STRUGGLE – and I can’t say I’m surprised, given the ridiculousness of the rest of my training. I had a good eight miler the week before Christmas, and a so-so eight miler last weekend, but other than that, every single one of them was tough, both physically and mentally. And let’s not even talk about my splits, which have been more of what I expect to see in June or July than December and January (which is to say: SLOW).

And on top of ALL of that, my right knee hasn’t been quite as cooperative as I would like it to be. I don’t know exactly what’s going on. Every time I run, whether I’m on the treadmill or the road, whether I’m doing intervals or a tempo run or a slow and steady run, my right knee will start to bother me around 3.5/4 miles. It’ll last for maybe 10 minutes or so, and then usually it’ll go away and I’ll completely forget about it until the next time I run. It hasn’t bothered me when I sit at work, so I don’t think it’s patellofemoral pain syndrome quite yet, but it feels like it’s moving in that direction. I’ve tried to do my PT exercises to be proactive and prevent that, but, as always, it’s tough to find time to do them. I do a couple at work every day, and on weekends I’m (sometimes) better about doing more of them, but I just cannot seem to get into the habit of doing them. I have an okay health insurance plan right now, but its networks are weird, and my PT isn’t in my super-preferred network, which means, if I got EXTREMELY lucky and my insurance agreed to let me go to him for PT (which isn’t necessarily likely to happen – there’s some weird fine print that makes it tougher to go to places that aren’t in your super-preferred network), I’d be staring down a $105 copay/appointment. And I can only go a total of 36 times/year (which ideally would be fine, barring another Great Injury Debacle of 2014, but you never know. Also as a side note, I have to say that I think PT limits are LUDICROUS. For someone like me, sure. Does a runner likely need more than 36 PT appointments in a year? I doubt it. But what if I got in a car accident and broke a bunch of bones? I bet I’d need a bit more than 36 PT appointments to fix all of that.). All that to say I’m not super enthusiastic about going to the sports doctor (which also comes with a $75 copay. LOL I LOVE MARKETPLACE INSURANCE. *sobs uncontrollably*) to get a diagnosis and/or a script for PT when right now it’s not bothering me to the point of major concern. I just wish my PT exercises would clear it up quicker. And I wish I could convince myself to do more of them more often.

So that’s the situation. To be honest, I wish I could rewind the past 10 weeks of my life and do this whole training cycle all over again, because I really think I could stand a decent chance of PRing, at least if the forecast holds (and it’s not windy). I mean, I suppose you never know what could happen. I surprised myself big time at Jingle Bell in December, running a solid 40 seconds faster than I anticipated. At this point, there isn’t much use in whining over woulda/coulda/shoulda. I *think* I’m at least capable of finishing the race without walking. At this point, that’s my primary goal. That, and negative splitting (or at least not bonking). I’d LOVE to break 2:10, since I came within spitting distance of doing just that twice last year under humid conditions. But if I could PR (sub 2:02:50), or–pie in the sky goal–break two hours, I would be the happiest runner in all of the land. Either way, I’ll finally unlock the F^3 Badass Runner Points achievement for doing this crazy race, and I’m always happy to add another notch to that belt ;)

7 Comments

Filed under Half Marathon Training