Sunday, June 9, 2013

2013 Allstate 13.1 Chicago half marathon race recap

Yesterday I ran my 8th half marathon, the Allstate 13.1 Chicago half marathon.

I was very fortunate to win an entry to this race through a giveaway hosted by Maggie via the Chicago Running Bloggers host site.  Thanks again, Maggie!!!

Today, in an effort to mix things up a bit, I'm going to emulate "the good, the bad, and the ugly" race recap style that I first saw at Amanda's blog.  But before I begin, here are some pictures:

Prerace photo, courtesy of Amanda.
From L to R: me, Eric, Chris, and Amanda

Obligatory race photo body spasm.
Photo courtesy of Xaarlin
Mixing up the race photo body spasm pose just a bit.
Photo courtesy of Xaarlin

Juggling runner (I've seen this guy before).  Must be nice to be so talented!
Notice the unobstructed view of the gorgeous Chicago skyline in the background, too.
Photo courtesy of Xaarlin
Now, without further ado - the good, the bad, and the ugly of this race.
The Good
  • Despite all of the warnings about limited parking in the vicinity, being able to find a street parking spot very close to the entrance of the South Shore Cultural Center, where the race's start line and finish line were both located.  (The race did offer free shuttles from two city locations, but given the departure times I opted to take my chances with parking.)
  • Gorgeous course along a southern chunk of the Chicago lakefront path.  Unobstructed views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan.
  • Out and back course meant that I got to see lots of my fellow running bloggers before or during the race, including Amanda, Eric, Chris, and Erica.  Also got to see Xaarlin, Luiz, and CB, who were spectating shortly after mile 6.  It was great to see everyone!
  • Adam came down to watch me near the finish line, and as usual it was so wonderful to see him.
  • Plentiful aid stations with friendly volunteers.
  • Nice weather.  Sunny with temps in the upper 60s/lower 70s.  Much better than the 80-degree temps that this race took place in last year.
  • Nice selection of food and refreshments at the post-race party, including pizza and chocolate-covered bananas.
  • Cool medal.

Photo by Adam
The Bad
  • No race-day packet pickup.
  • Packet pickup taking place only on the preceding Thursday night and Friday at a Fleet Feet location in Old Town.  This is a difficult, congested location, especially if you don't live/work in the city.
  • Slate-gray race shirt which ran small.  Last year's race shirt was a gorgeous royal blue color, so I wasn't thrilled with this year's nondescript color.  Then, when I went to exchange my shirt on race morning, I was told they were completely out of the size that I wanted to get, as well as the men's equivalent size.
  • It is difficult for spectators to get to the start/finish line.
  • The finishing chute literally went on for over a half of a mile.  It felt like it would never, ever end.
  • There was a spectator right after the 1-mile marker who was cheering that we were almost there. Are you kidding me?!?! I thought that maybe she was trying to be funny. But when I saw her up close she had a completely serious expression on her face and really seemed to be cheering in earnest. It's the thought that counts, though, right?
  • As you can see in the pictures, I wore an orange shirt, thinking that it would help me stand out amongst the crowd of runners.  Not quite.  As luck would have it, Team Challenge (supporting the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation) sent an ENORMOUS number of runners to the race - and their singlet is orange!
The Team Challenge singlet, which is the EXACT same shade of orange shirt I was wearing.  What are the odds?
The Ugly
  • Fueling problems.  Major fueling problems. 
    • This being my eighth half marathon, I thought that I had my fueling figured out.  I brought two GUs with me, which under normal circumstances is enough.  Many times I bring an extra GU, just in case - but this time I didn't, and it ended up being a big mistake.
    • I had eaten my usual breakfast of cereal and a banana.  But I started feeling hunger pains around mile 4.  Mile FOUR.
    • I had taken my first GU at about mile 2, and had been planning on taking the second one around 8 or 8.5.  I debated if it would be better to try to space out my GUs as planned, or if it would be better to take my second GU earlier than planned to ease the hunger.  But then it became pretty obvious that it would be difficult to wait that long for my second GU.  I ended up taking my second GU around 6.75.  This meant having to run nearly the entire second half with no additional fueling.  Ugh.
    • I saw some unopened Clif Shot Bloks and GU packets that other runners had dropped along the path, and seriously considered picking them up and consuming them.  But I didn't.
    • I usually only drink a cup or two of Gatorade at races, making sure not to do so at the same time that I'm taking a GU.  But this time, since I was hungry, I thought more Gatorade would help.  Not the case.  My stomach started hurting somewhere between mile 7 and mile 8.
  • By the time I hit mile 8, I was ready to be done.  It had been a long time since I'd felt so wiped out so early in a half marathon.  I began thinking, "I still have over 5 miles to go!?!?  Can I really do this?!?!?"  I was trying to keep a positive outlook but my splits kept getting slower with each passing mile.  It was tough and it got to the point where all I cared about was getting to the finish line in one piece.  Not good.
  • My official time was 2:29:59, which is my worst half marathon time out of my last four half marathons.
Closing Thoughts
In retrospect, I probably didn't eat enough the day before (I had had random leftovers for both lunch and dinner).  Plus, I had skipped my long run last weekend since I was so sore from trapeze class.  That couldn't have helped.
In general, I did not train very much for this race altogether.  After having run the Wisconsin Half Marathon with relative ease last month, admittedly I did not take this race or the distance very seriously.  However, my experience yesterday was a wake-up call to me that half marathons still and always do require adequate preparation and training. 
You live and you learn. 
And you train (!)


  1. Nice body spasm photo! Sorry to hear about the "Bad" and the "Ugly" of your 13.1 experience. Yes, a half marathon is never easy (maybe unless you run 80+ mpw!). Anyway, I agree that the single location in Old Town for packet pickup was a drawback as that area is ultra congested especially during rush hour (4 to 8) and those were the same hours of the packet pickup! Anyway, too bad I missed seeing you pre-race and during the race. Maybe I was spacing it on the path when we ran by each other? Oh well, maybe next time. :-)

    1. Xaarlin's race photos are seriously so much better pictures of me than the official race photos. Her personalized photographer touch obviously makes more of a difference than I initially realized! =) It would be great if they could do packet pickup at a few different locations throughout the week, or on race-day. I am bummed that I missed seeing you pre-race and during the race, too! I didn't see your tweet on what you were wearing until after the race, so that made it tougher to look for you. But next time, for sure!!! And we'll pick a more specific location for our prerace meetup. =)

  2. I adore your race photo body spasms. More please! Hahaha!

    Fueling and hydration are two things that I'm constantly working on. I don't know if it's the nature of running or humans or what, but once I think I've got it figured out, I get a kick in the pants. Hopefully this will just help you be more diligent for your next race!

    1. Thanks, Amy - I am glad you like the race photo body spasms. =) I am considering creating a separate tab on my blog that just features all of those pictures, LOL. I can only imagine the internet search terms that would lead to my blog from that!!!

      I am glad to hear that I'm not the only one that feels like I'm getting a kick in the pants just when I think I've got something figured out! But I guess if it were that easy, we would all be Kenyan marathoners, right? And yes, I'm definitely looking for major redemption at my next half marathon and excited to utilize this experience to help in the future!

  3. Cute photos! Ugh, sorry to hear about the fueling. It is something that you never know how it will go.

    1. Thank you, glad you like the photos! Appreciate the sympathy regarding the fueling. I think all of us runners have been there at some point or other and it sucks. Expect the unexpected, right?

  4. Ugh! Feeling hungry that early on is never a good sign! I felt like I had my nutrition all figured out and then I still bonked hard at the Illinois Marathon so it happens to all of us.

    1. Ugh, I so feel for you bonking at the Illinois Marathon. It is the absolute worst feeling, ever. Especially when you think you've got your fueling figured out and it works a couple hundred times, EXCEPT on race day. =(

      Speaking of unexpected surprises, I am anxiously awaiting your recap of this past weekend's Ragnar relay!!!

  5. I really loved seeing you pre-race and on the course. You always LOOK and ACT like you are having so much fun, even if you aren't. It makes me happy just seeing you!

    I'm sorry the race wasn't great for you. Fueling seems to be so random at times. I was carrying a banana around with me all morning, waiting to eat it at the prescribed time. If I don't eat one about 30-40 minutes pre-race then I have to start using gels earlier and that is too hard on my tummy. The banana will get me thru about an hour of running, then I use one gel (not a normal brand but the AdvoCare rehydrate gel which is thinner and easier for me to digest) a little over half way to get me thru the race. It's such a science at this point but also a lot of luck too.

    You did great, don't beat yourself up. HUGS!!

    1. Thanks, Amanda - I loved seeing you pre-race and on the course, too! At the time I saw you on the course I was still feeling pretty good at that moment - had you seen me about four miles later I am sure it would have been a much different story, LOL.

      Thanks for the sympathy regarding the fueling conundrum. I've never had tummy troubles while running prior to this race, and wow is it miserable! But definitely lesson learned for the next time. Luckily there are plenty of opportunities out there for redemption half marathons, yes? =) HUGS!!!

  6. Good analysis and pushing through! The race photos, like TooTallFritz said, just scream fun! It is great to see. I generally don't do much during halfs for energy, if it is a warmer day, I bring some gatorade and take a few oz total, but I think I read that we have enough to push through 90-105 minutes sans energy. The night before really is what does it I think, especially if you don't have a lot of time in the morning.

    You still finished and lived to run another day!
    (PS - love Charlie Brown)

    1. Thanks, Declan! Thankfully the photos were taken before the wheels started falling off the bus. I looked at the official race photos (which cover a much wider range of timeperiods) and they are not too pretty, LOL.

      Definitely big lesson learned on how day-before fueling is key. I've heard that to be really prepared, you should focus on your fueling for the entire WEEK leading up to these races. I had stopped focusing on carbo-loading for weight control purposes (I gained several pounds when I was marathon training), but it seems like it is still necessary to perform well. But yes, next time will be much better. =)

  7. Wasn't the weather just perfect for a long run on Saturday? I'm really hoping this cooler summer weather sticks around, just for the sake of better running.

    I've definitely had the fueling problem in my longer runs, but it sounds like you at least know what to do differently next time. I think it's a fine line between eating enough so you have energy and aren't hungry, and eating so much that you feel kind of dragged down by it. And even if this is your worst time for a half, it's still a good time and you still finished!

    I think the real question is, were you able to stay up to see the Hawks win on Saturday? :)

    1. =) Thanks, Anne - and you know me SO well. Yes, I definitely stayed up to see the Hawks win on Saturday night (even though I lost a couple of years there during the double-overtime periods... SO STRESSFUL.)

      The weather was GORGEOUS this past Saturday! Overall, this year's summer weather has already been so much nicer than last year's roasting pan. I am praying for good weather on June 23 for you!!!

      It is a VERY fine line between eating enough versus too much or not enough. Don't laugh, but in the future I am going to err on eating too much. I think it is better to feel dragged down than to be running on empty!!!

    2. That makes one of us :) I was so tired from my long run that I passed out on the couch well before the game even went into OT! I woke up to hear my husband cheering at the TV after the Hawks had won it!

      Yes, good weather for my half! And then it can warm up in time for our paddleboard lessons :)

      It seems really important to watch what you eat in the day or two before - I didn't realize that until the last few weeks, but I've paid a lot of attention to what/how much I eat before long runs, and it makes a difference. Being hungry during a run or workout is my nightmare, so I typically err on the side of overdoing it.

    3. What a great noise to be woken up to, eh? =D

      I am SO EXCITED for our paddleboarding classes! When I was doing the PAWS Run For Their Lives 4K this past weekend, I saw paddleboarders out on Lake Michigan and it looked so fun. I CAN'T WAIT!!!

      I saw your post about how eating red meat the day before your long runs seemed to help you. Per your success story, I am going to give that tactic a go!!! =)

    4. There's probably worse noises! And I nod off a lot during Bears games too, so I'm used to it.

      I saw them this weekend too! Class is still a month away, but I'm sure it'll be here before we know it. Can't wait! :)

      I hope I'm not steering anyone wrong with the red meat tip. I don't eat it very often (like less than once a week), so I think that's why it gave me a boost. I did a couple long runs after having pizza the night before, and was shocked that I was so hungry after such a big meal. But like everyone has told me, it's trial and error, so hopefully you find something that works for you!

    5. I very rarely eat red meat, myself, and I know that when it's around that time of the month I tend to be lower on energy. So I do think the iron in red meat could help! And like you said, it's all about trial and error - so why not have fun with it, right? =)

      Countdown to paddleboarding, I CANNOT WAIT!!!

  8. It was soooo nice to see you out on the course! When you told me "orange" shirt, I though it would be easy to spot you.. Wrong! (Reminds me of last years RnR Chicago where I told people I'd have a neon yellow shirt on... Everyone had a neon shirt on for the race!)

    I'm happy the photos I took came out :) you looked happy for those 30 seconds and I'm sorry to hear it wasn't like that the rest of the way :( fueling is a tricky beast for the longer races.

    1. Xaar, it was so, so awesome to see you, Luiz, and CB out there. It gave me such a mental boost! You have no idea. And it's a good thing you were stationed where you were because the wheels starting falling off the bus not too long afterwards. If you'd seen me a couple miles later, it would have been a much different story! =D

      Can't wait to catch up with you again!!! Let me know when you are free next to get together! (I'm not working these next two weeks so I've got lots of free time at the moment. Will tell you more details the next time we meet up. =) )

  9. Congratulations!!! You look fantastic in those race photos...body spasms and all ;) Properly fueling for races and running in general is something that I continue to struggle with to this day. I can't handle running when I'm too full but running on empty is pure misery as well. Sorry to hear about your race woes here...I feel ya! Don't be too hard on yourself though because you just ran your 8th freaking half marathon!!!


    1. Thanks so much, Irina!!! Fueling is an incredible challenge - although, obviously you are doing things right considering how you managed to knock over 30 minutes off of your half marathon time in one fell swoop!!! =) By the way - HUGE CONGRATULATIONS on your move to NYC (I'll post on your blog shortly, too). When you said you had big news and big changes to announce, I KNEW IT I KNEW IT I KNEW IT that you'd be moving to NYC!!!!! =D =D =D

  10. It was definitely perfect running weather - I'm glad you had that going for you. I ran the 5K last year, and I couldn't even imagine the half in that heat.

    Fueling is always up and down for me. I think so much factors in - the day before, sleep, etc. But man, 8 races is impressive! :)

    1. Thanks, Meghan! Oh my gosh, that heat last year was oppressive indeed. So glad that this summer has been much more forgiving on all of us runners so far!

      Someone once tried to come up with a list of all the potential factors that could affect race-day performance and it was insane - like over 25 different things. Racing definitely is about preparation but I think there's definitely a big element of luck, too, no?

  11. What?! You got to see CB TWO weekends in a row?! JELLY! :)

    Love the honesty in this recap. Writing these things out and learning is what helps us get better (if we want to, lol!). Running when you are hungry, for that long of a distance is SO tough. I totally would have picked up the unopened food! Too bad Erin was not there handing out twizzlers at the turnaround like last year!

    I LOVE your orange top. Too bad it did not make you stand out. I had planned to wear black to my race on Sunday and switched to green (to match my biker, have a raceback, and not take it too much sun with a black top) and was so happy I did - not many were wearing that color!

    I wonder if that girl at mile 1 thought she was cheering on the 5K? Even that is too early!

    The shirt was WAY too small last year too. Maybe mine would fit you?! HAHAHA

    1. Ah yes, to what do I owe the privilege of getting to see Xaarlin and CB two weekends in a row!!! =)

      Isn't running while hungry the WORST? I'd remembered that Erin was along the course last year handing out food, so I was keeping my eyes peeled for other food hander-outers again this year but no such luck. Note to self that whenever I spectate in the future, I WILL HAVE FOOD!!! =)

      I thought about you with the orange color since I know it's your favorite! Glad you were wearing a green shirt at the tri - who knew how certain colors can randomly be standouts on certain days and not others?

      And yes, I thought about the 5K versus the half with the woman at mile 1, too. If only we could tell all spectators to not say "You're almost there" unless you can literally see the finish line, right?!?!?!?

      Last year's shirt definitely ran small, too. Note to self for their future races. But at least last year I was able to exchange for the right size compared to this year. Call me an amateur racer, but I've never seen a race run out of shirt sizes at an exchange!!!

    2. I hate that races are starting to do women's sizing and the sizes seem SO off. I have resorted to asking for a size larger than I am. Then at the Ironman 70.3, they were true to size and it was too large. LOL!

  12. I'm glad you were able to do this race, but sorry for ugly parts! Hopefully your fueling goes better next time.