Sunday, September 12, 2010

And I didn't even taper!!!

This morning, as you may remember from my last blog entry, I ran the 2010 Chicago Half-Marathon. As you also know from my last blog entry, I didn't taper for this race because my coaches felt it unnecessary, seeing as it would just be a training run for me rather than a RACE race. However, we all know by now that I can't really "do" races as training runs, so do you really think I ran this morning's race at a leisurely pace?

Um. No. *looks guilty*

Indeed, I ran a PR by over 6 minutes, with an official time of 2:13:20. And I didn't even taper!!! Just imagine how awesomely stellar my performance could've been if I had tapered. But we'll never really know, and my coaches have to live with the knowledge that they may have prevented me from, I dunno, winning an age group award or something.

Okay, okay, you all can stop laughing now. Yes, it's true that in order to place in my age group, I would have had to run about a 1:20 race. I'm not sure any amount of taper can take nearly an hour off of someone's race time. But a girl can dream, right? The fact is, I'm really pleased with my new PR, especially since I really didn't expect to go sub-2:15 today.

So let's get down to the nitty gritty... the full race report!

The Health & Fitness Expo was at Navy Pier, which is a really neat place to visit and have a fun day. But for herds of runners who are just trying to run in and grab their race packets really quick, it was the most stressful and difficult place they could possibly choose. The traffic is madness, there are pedestrians everywhere, it's difficult to figure out where to go, and parking is a huge challenge. But we managed to navigate all those difficulties with as much patience as we could muster, and were able to pick up our race packets. The t-shirt this year was really nice - a bright kelly green long-sleeved tech tee. I love that the Chicago Half always prints runners' first names on their bibs. It's a nice personal touch. My husband experienced a bit of a glitch with his race number and even though he registered months in advance (just like me), his bib did not have his name on it. So we remedied that later by writing it on with black pen.

After getting our packets and walking around the expo to scope out the goods (I got a tank top, a t-shirt, and three new headbands - score!) we were starving, so we decided it was time to carb-load. Now, you and I both know that you don't really need to carb-load for a half-marathon. It certainly doesn't hurt, but most people aren't going to run out of muscle glycogen in 13 miles, so it's just not necessary. But any excuse to eat pasta is a good excuse, as far as I'm concerned. Fortunately there was an Italian place right there at Navy Pier (Capi's), so we were able to fill up on yummy things like spaghetti pomodoro...

...Which was very tasty. *burp*

We headed to our hotel, the Hilton Chicago (which I definitely recommend as a nice place to stay downtown), and got settled into our room. It was time to rest our feet and legs and wind down for the night. I laid out my running clothes, pinned my bib to my shirt, and set my alarm for 4:15. It was going to be an early morning!

My race garb

In the morning, I went through my standard pre-long-run routine of eating oatmeal, a banana, and a cup of tea. I got dressed and made sure I had all the necessary accouterments for my race (Garmin - check, Sharkies - check, headband - check, earbuds - check, iPhone - check). We had to catch a shuttle bus to the starting line, so we headed out onto Michigan Ave for a brisk morning walk. When I say "brisk", I mean "freaking cold". I've run the Chicago Half three times, and this morning was by far the chilliest one. I thought that was a good sign, since usually this race ends up being rather too toasty for my taste.

The shuttle service was well-organized and definitely an easier way to get to the starting line than pretty much any other method. The bus-drivers were a little crazy (one of them pulled out right in front of an ambulance that had its lights and siren on), but we survived.

Waiting in line for the shuttle bus

When we got to the starting line, it was about an hour until race start, so we did the typical pre-race routine of peeing seventeen times. Because it's better to do as much peeing as you can before a race, so that you don't need to stop to pee during the race. Peeing costs valuable race time!

Finally the time came to line up at the start. I placed myself behind the 2:10 pace marker, which I realize was a little ridiculous, but the 2:20 marker (where I probably should have seeded myself) was so much farther back! I would've had to walk like a whole block more. *whine gripe groan* If I'm about to run 13.1 miles, I think I'm allowed to be a little lazy beforehand.

The sea of people ahead of me at the race start. The actual starting line isn't even visible from here!

Soon, we were off. It took me about 10 minutes to cross the starting line, which was not bad in this race of 13,500 people. I settled into a comfortable pace, content to let people pass me. I told myself that if all went well, it was likely I would be passing a lot of those people in the later miles.

Miles 1-3 are through the park-like areas around the University of Chicago. There are lots of trees and shade and it's a very easy part of the race. I kept my pace in check because I knew I would need my energy later on in the "concrete miles", which I'll explain in a bit.

After Mile 3, the course turns to head north up Lakeshore Drive. The view of the lake is fantastic. The running is not. Oh yes, it's flat. But, and that's a huge but, there is no shade, there is very little entertainment, and the road is grooved concrete and in many places it is severely banked. These are the "concrete miles". For anyone struggling with IT band problems, this course is a nightmare. Fortunately, I don't have issues with my IT band, but my hubby does, and he definitely felt it on the course today.

Shortly after 8 miles, the course goes up an exit ramp, onto an overpass, and turns back down an exit ramp to head south down Lakeshore Drive. So the course is, except for the first three miles, an out-and-back course. In all honesty, it's kind of boring. I was glad to have my iPhone with me so I could listen to music. If I was a better multi-tasker, maybe I could've pulled out my iPhone and done some Facebooking, or gotten caught up on emails while I ran, or played a few games of solitaire. Ah well, maybe some other time.

Remember those people who passed me in the first couple of miles? I started passing them after Mile 3. And in the last three miles of the race, I was flying past other people. My effort had increased, but I wasn't gasping for air or feeling like puking or anything like that. It was, after all, just a training run. I just have a natural tendency to speed up the farther I run. It's a strange tendency, I know. But it works well for me. As I rounded the final turn, I could see the finish line ahead, so I kicked into another gear and passed dozens more people. At this point, I was gasping for air, but I still managed to give a thumbs up to some of the professional photographers. Hey, you gotta look good in your race pics, right? I crossed the finish line not really having any clue what my time was, because I really didn't keep track of my time at all during the race. I just ran what felt right. As it turns out, 2:13:20 was what felt right - a vast improvement over my previous best of 2:19:36. I collected my medal (oooo, shiny!), and post-race food (of which there was lots!), and we caught the next shuttle back to the hotel. Incidentally, my hubby also ran an awesome PR, despite his IT band issues. And don't we look so cute with our His & Hers PRs???


So to sum up... it was a well-organized race and I'm happy with how I ran it. But having experienced the long and difficult "concrete miles" three times now, I think I can safely say I've had enough of this one.

Here's my run data. My heart rate was all wonky for the first mile, not because my heart was actually wonky, but because my monitor gets wonky in cold weather - something to do with static electricity.

No race report would be complete without discussion of post-race refueling. And what kind of fuel does Chicago do best? Deep dish pizza, baby! We went to Lou Malnati's for some deep dish and I must say, it was the perfect post-race lunch. I gobbled down my personal pizza in about 5 minutes (I was that hungry and it was that good). *burp*

"The Lou": spinach, mushrooms and roma tomatoes with mozzarella, romano and cheddar.

Now, I know what you all are thinking: So, 2:13, huh? That's pretty close to 2:10. Yes indeedy. Methinks it's time for a new half-marathon goal. But I think I'll have to taper to make that goal.

Peace. Love. Train.

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