A variety of circumstances have kept me from running Rock ‘n’ Roll in any capacity in the past, and I really didn’t expect to ever have the opportunity to run Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago (nor did I see myself heading elsewhere to run a Rock ‘n’ Roll race). Most of those circumstances, for a variety of reasons, became irrelevant this year, so when I found myself presented with the chance to run Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago, I figured I may as well go all in and do the Remix Challenge, which, uh, challenges participants to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K on Saturday followed by the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon on Sunday.
I went to the expo on Friday with one of my coworkers who was also running the race (and offered to drive, thus saving me the headache of getting to McCormick Place via the CTA). Since I was there with my coworker, I didn’t have much opportunity to do my own wandering, but I have to say, I really liked Rock ‘n’ Roll’s expo! I’ve grown quite bored with the Shamrock Shuffle and Chicago Marathon expos, since I’ve been to…four each, I think?…and it is always the exact. same. thing. Rock ‘n’ Roll, on the other hand, has basically none of the same sponsors as Bank of America races, which meant new things to look at and try! PowerBar! Toyota! Brooks! (Oh, how I loved not seeing a Nike shrine at this expo). I actually wish I could have spent more time there!
Though our participant bags actually had nothing in them, I left with an armful of things–two bibs, two shirts (I LOVE the 5K shirt. Love, love, love it), two pin packets, and a wristband–to accommodate for my
insanity Remix Challenge participation.
Fun fact: never once, in four years + one month of running, have I ever, in any capacity, exercised the day before a race. I’ve made questionable decisions (ahem, a late night a gala before the Chicago Spring 13.1), but none of them have involved exercise, and they have especially not involved hard exercise.
Saturday morning dawned hot and sticky. Friday had been hot and sticky as well, and while I suppose it cooled off marginally overnight (i.e.: it was no longer 93), it was still FAR toastier than I like it to be–well, far toastier than I like it to be ever, but particularly that early in the morning. The sun was out and blazin’, though, which meant we were going to do this thing.
I was in corral three, though to that seemed to mean basically nothing. I’ve never seen more lax corral entrance enforcement in my life. To be honest, I’m not even entirely sure I lined up in corral three. There were plenty of people around me with bibs in the 2000s, 4000s, and even 5000s (the first number in your bib number indicated your corral assignment). I worried that this would make the start of the race a nightmare, but things actually sorted themselves out within the first half mile or so, which was a nice surprise.
The race started on the Lakefront Trail between Randolph and Monroe and first took us south on the trail to the Museum Campus, where we ran under Lake Shore Drive and did a bit of a lap around Hutchinson Field (and I got giddy thinking about two weekends from that moment when I’d be in the same place for LOLLA!). I was counting this as my speed workout for the week, and I wanted to keep myself at a tempo-esque effort: comfortably hard, or maybe slightly-uncomfortably-hard, but not killing myself. I expected that kind of effort would yield times somewhere in the 9:00-9:30 range, so I was pleasantly surprised to hit the first mile in 8:23. It has been a LONG time since I ran a mile that fast! Because the weather was lousy, I definitely wanted to run by feel more than time and expected I’d slow dramatically in the second mile, but somehow ran an 8:39. The last mile was BRUTAL. I suppose the last mile of any 5K always feels brutal, but I’m struggling to remember another last mile of a 5K that was this all-around awful. For the return to the finish line (which was right next to the start line, but on the lower Lakefront Trail rather than the ~official~ Lakefront Trail), we ran directly along the lake. The first two miles had included plenty of shade to break up short sunny stretches, but there was not ANY shade to speak of in the third mile until probably about mile 2.9 or so: just early morning sun bouncing directly off Lake Michigan and onto our poor, overheated bodies. I was BURNING UP, but being able to see the finish line made the experience the teeniest tiniest bit manageable. And, despite feeling like my skin was melting, I somehow pulled out my fastest mile of the race with an 8:20. I finished in 26:29, both officially and by my watch (that never happens!). While that’s nowhere near my 5K PR, it is MUCH faster than I expected I’d be able to run, especially given all the extenuating circumstances (the weather, my ill-timed hormones, the fact that I was up for a solid 90 minutes the night before because my brain decided we were overdue for a panic attack). I was hoping for a 28:30ish, so to run a 26:29 was a fantastic surprise.
Meb Keflezighi was this year’s elite “headliner” at Rock ‘n’ Roll, and paced the 8:00 group for the 5K (if only this had been in November, when I definitely could’ve run an 8:00 pace!). Afterwards, he was available for photos and autographs (kind of – the cards were all pre-signed, but in comparing my card to others’, it looks like he actually did sign the cards), so naturally I continued to throw caution to the wind and opted to stand in the sun for an extra 30ish minutes so I could chill with Meb.
And then I headed home to rest, recover, and gear up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half, which you can read all about tomorrow! Hope you like race recaps… Haha.