Michelob ULTRA Chicago Spring 13.1 Race Recap

Alternatively titled, how to go from this:


to this:


in nine hours.

Necessary packet shot to kick things off:


Are minimalist packets a new thing? Do race organizers not want to bother with them anymore? Is this reflective of the state of racing in general (namely, that many area events aren’t getting the number of runners they hope to/have gotten in the past, and perhaps have less incentive to get people to advertise with them as a result)? Do I overthink these things? 😛

As I mentioned on Thursday, I made the arguably questionable life choice to go to my best friend’s gala the night before my half. I rolled into the gala about an hour before I normally would’ve gone to bed on that sort of night, left the gala an hour after I normally would’ve gone to bed on that sort of night, and fell asleep about five hours before I had to wake up, because I was in such a darn good mood after spending the night with my friends that I couldn’t fall asleep.

Last year when I did personal training during marathon season, I would go to bed dressed for my workout the following morning (this is a genius idea and I highly recommend it for those of you who need to get up at ungodly hours like 4:30 a.m. in order to make it to your workout on time). I did that Saturday night as well, and managed to get through all my pre-leaving-for-a-race stuff (breakfast, putting in my contacts, sunscreen, etc.) in record time. I planned to take the CTA to the race, but since I was going to have to wait 27 minutes for the next train (LOLNOPE), I decided to take a cab instead.

Lakeshore East, one of the most hidden parks in Chicago, hosts the pre- and post-race festivities for this race (formerly and still informally the Chicago Spring Half Marathon), and there were already a fair number of people there when I arrived an hour before the race started. Signage was on point, so I had no trouble finding gear check, checking my gear, and laughing at all the scrubs waiting in a line that must have been at least 30 minutes long for the portapotties while continuing on further down the line of portos where there was no people line at all. (Seriously, though. Had these people never run a race in their lives? I don’t understand why SO MANY PEOPLE were all standing in one line when there were probably 40 portapotties–and smaller lines!–just in Lakeshore East alone, never mind out by the actual start line.)


I got to the start corrals way earlier than necessary. Though the race started at 7:00 (and we all had to be in our corrals by 6:45), my corral, F (corrals were A-I), didn’t start the race until 7:18. I was in my corral by probably 6:30 or so, which was a long time to stand around.

This race sold out for the second year in a row, and even though the race organizers only sent corrals off about once every four minutes, the course was CROWDED. It was easily one of the most crowded races I’ve ever run, and honestly, I think the race has outgrown its location. With 6,000 people, I’d estimate that this is the third biggest half marathon in Chicago (with Rock ‘n’ Roll being #1 and the Chicago Half being #2). Both of those races take place, at least in part, on closed city streets, and while I don’t know if the Chicago Spring 13.1 could manage to shut down full streets, I think they definitely need at least a lane of a street…or something. With the exception of the Chicago Women’s Half, I *think* you need to have 10,000+ runners to close down streets downtown and/or Lake Shore (and, actually, I believe the Chicago Women’s Half expected to get 10,000+ last year, and then failed wildly, because karma sucks, Fleet Feet. Heh.). Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but to my knowledge, the only current events that actually do this are Shamrock, the Marathon, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Hot Chocolate, the Chicago Half, Solider Field, and the Big 10K. (The Chicago Tri does as well, and it caps at 7,000 participants, but it’s also the only major triathlon in the city, so maybe it gets an exception?). OR it could be a cost-of-permit thing: maybe you need 10,000 runners to have the financial ability to shut down major streets in Chicago, which would explain why the Tri can do it with 7,000, since it’s so much more expensive than a road race…although they also have to take up more space, and probably have astronomically higher insurance costs because of the swimming. Sorry. This is me thinking out loud about issues that probably interest no one but me.

tl;dr: the south Lakefront Trail does not have enough space for an out-and-back course with 6,000 runners.

So anyway. My goal for this race was to use it to motivate myself to build my mileage before marathon training, which I have now successfully accomplished. I knew when I registered for the race that May 17 is a total crapshoot for weather in Chicago, so I never went into this with the expectation of PRing. Though the weathermen (of course) were wrong about the fact that it would storm all day on Sunday (it’s now 6:45, and we have yet to have anything even resembling a storm. It’s sunny right now, in fact), they were not at all wrong about the fact that it’d be warm compared to most of last week and humid. OH BABY was it humid. Some people thrive in this kind of weather, but I am NOT one of those people. Heat and/or humidity usually knock down my mile pace by 1:00-1:30/mile, meaning that a PR was absolutely out of the question. I wanted to finish in 2:10-2:15 and thought about trying to break 2:10, but I told myself I’d have to wait until mile 10 to decide if I would go for that or not.

Thing actually started off shockingly well. For the first six miles (the “out” of the course), all of my miles were sub-10:00, which really surprised me. I felt like I was running much slower than that, and since 9:30-9:45 is what I typically do when it’s cool and dry, I did not at all expect to run any miles at at that speed in hot and humid. It was misting for most of this part of the race, but the mist was so light it was more obnoxious than cooling.

When we turned around for the “and back,” I lost it. Well, fine, that’s dramatic. But I started running 10:xx miles and it was a SLOG, let me tell you, even with the wind at my back. Fortunately my mental game was still there, because if I had lost my mental game, my race would’ve been shot. My legs, heart, and lungs were all SUPER done with this nonsense. I started throwing water on my face at the aid stations during this part of the course, which was a new thing for me.

By the time I got to mile 10, I knew there was absolutely no way I’d break 2:10, but it still seemed possible to break 2:15. I really wanted to step up my game for the last three miles but I just did not have it in me, so I hung on for miles 10 and 11 and then pushed it during mile 12 (and ran a 9:59 last mile). The finish for this race is a little convoluted, since you have to go north of the start line, then swing under Lake Shore Drive and go through a kind of service drive-y area, up a steep incline (WHY. I think I actually said out loud, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” when I realized that haha), and then wind a little through Lakeshore East. Despite hating that incline, I have to say that this was arguably one of the best finish line arrangements I’ve ever experienced. All the buildings surrounding Lakeshore East make the area feel fairly small to begin with, and then there were SO many people lined up on each side of the road. There was a ton of energy and excitement, and for the first time in a loooong time I actually was able to kick and finished in 2:13:23 for my second fastest half marathon to date.

My legs were SHOT after this race. My hips were sore (this has been a fun new issue for me after runs longer than 10 miles, though my soreness is always in my glute meds, which I take to mean they’re actually, you know, working now, unlike in the past when they’ve just sat there in my butt and not done their job, forcing my hip flexors to do all the work and sending me to PT) and my knee was also a little cranky, but it wasn’t anything too terrible. They had wet towels at the finish (<3) plus full bottles of Gatorade and water, both of which I happily took.

The post-race party was HOPPIN’. Goodness gracious. Normally I don’t stick around long/at all at these things, but I sure did on Sunday. Check out my complimentary (or “included in registration,” however you want to look at it) breakfast!


Pancakes ❤ . Seriously, every race should do this. This was hands down the best post-race meal I’ve ever had provided by a race (excluding Shamrock, which doesn’t count because not everyone gets access to build-your-own-oatmeal bars in the hospitality tent), and I, for one, much prefer eating pancakes at 9:30 a.m. to pizza or hot dogs. Then again, I also ❤ pancakes, soo….

They also had a “build your own” (in reality a “have a volunteer build for you”) flower station, which I appreciated. Now I have a new flower for my gardening adventures!


AND they had FREE Lexus shuttles that would take you back to the CTA, so I got to ride in a super snazzy Lexus, getting my sweaty self all over the seat. Oops.

My legs are still crazy sore as I write on Sunday evening, which is the first time in a long time I’ve felt this beat up after a half. I took an ice bath when I got home because I have another race on Saturday (womp womp), and I don’t really have a whole lot of time to recover before busting out another double digit run, so hopefully the ice bath will help speed up the recovery process. Overall, I’m pretty content with my race. I don’t think I could’ve run faster even if I had gotten more sleep the night before, given the conditions. My only complaint was the course crowding, though realistically I imagine that helped me stay on pace and not do something really ill-advised like try to run 9:15s for the first few miles. The event was wel managed, well staffed, and man, that post-race party. I could rave about that all day.


14 thoughts on “Michelob ULTRA Chicago Spring 13.1 Race Recap

  1. Pancakes AND flowers after a race?! That is awesome! I’m pretty sure I would have crashed and burned at this race if I had gone to a gala the night before so props to you for keeping it together and still running an awesome race!

  2. Wait you always find the best post-race food. Cinnamon rolls last time, pancakes this time? I need to follow you to all your races haha anyways, I guess going out the night before a race is pretty good for you if you got your second fastest time ever! That’s AWESOME and I’m happy you were surprised with yourself despite the heat/humidity.

    • Hahaha right?? Chicago knows how to take care of its runners 🙂 And let’s be real: I think like half of my motivation for running is the post-run food 😛 And yeah, I told one of my friends that from here on out, we should always have galas before I have half marathons hahaha

  3. I love that you made a potted plant at the end! That’s a first haha. What a great idea to have a nice breakfast like that at the end. You guys really did end up having good weather considering the meteorologist goons were predicting the apocalypse. Lakeshore East is truly hidden haha I’m glad you were able to find it! Great recap and great time — I’m happy you didn’t get too hurt, even though your body took a bit of a beating.

  4. Post-race pancakes?! Amazing! Might be as good as Philly soft pretzels that I love post race. I ran the Chi Marathon and explored the city for a week after so I love reading about other races there. I hate crowded races Kudos on the speedy time!

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