Tuesday, July 23, 2013

2013 Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon race recap

Half marathon #9 is in the books.

This was my second straight year running the Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon, and it is definitely one of my favorite races.  It has a great course through downtown Chicago and neighborhoods, great race support/entertainment, fantastic crowds, and plentiful swag.  The course and the crowds remind me quite a bit of the Chicago Marathon.

The biggest drawback to RnR Chicago is the fact that it always takes place smack dab in the middle of the summer when the high temperatures can be challenging. Thankfully, after a full week of 90-degree temps, we got a pretty decent respite on race day.  This year the temps were in the upper 70s.

After my fueling disaster at the Allstate Chicago 13.1 Marathon last month, I made sure to eat better the day before this race.  What a difference it made!!!  And I had forgotten how much fun it was to carb-load without abandon.  =D

On race day, Marcia was so kind to hook me up with a wristband for the VIP tent at the race.  THANKS AGAIN, Marcia!!!  Tables, chairs, food, drink, private gear check, bathrooms, and a selection of race-day essentials (e.g. sunblock, bugspray, lotion, and Band-Aids, etc.).  I can't think of a better way to start a race. Here's a picture of Marcia and me at our table (I stole this picture from her blog since her picture turned out much better than mine did):

Now onto the race itself.  I stayed at the tent as long as I could before joining my corral, but still ended up having to wait over 20 minutes before starting.  As my corral inched towards the start line, I was already starting to feel the need to use the bathroom again. I considered jumping out of my corral and trying to find another portapotty, but the crowds were so heavy that I decided against it.

About a half mile in, the course crossed a bridge over the Chicago River.  There was a runner standing along the bridge's railing.  Someone threw what looked like a small bag at him.  Unfortunately, the bag slipped through his hands, flew over his shoulder, and plummeted directly into the river below.  WHOOPS.  That's not a good way to start out a race!  I watched as three other runners ran up to him and all four of them peered down at the water, presumably watching the bag float away.  I can only imagine what belongings he must have had in that bag, too.

Mile 1: 11:02

I was needing to go to the bathroom more and more.   Unfortunately, every portapotty I saw had a long line of runners and I didn't want to wait.  However, I was blessed by the fact that my home building was right near the Mile 3 marker!  I decided that worst case scenario, I would make a quick detour at home to use the facilities.

Mile 2: 11:05

No luck yet with the portapotties.

Mile 3: 11:07

Home-field advantage, here we go (literally and figuratively)!  I veered off course and headed directly to my building's lobby, where I nearly knocked over the revolving door enroute to the lobby bathroom.  Our doorperson, Stephanie, grinned at me as I blew past and said, "You came in for the good bathroom, eh?"

I felt so much better after using the restroom!  My legs felt like they had huge weights taken off of them.  I tried to get back on course as quickly as I could.  I saw Adam as soon as I hit the street again, which was right at an aid station.  It was there that he took this picture of me:

Adam's observation: "Runners are great athletes but not great basketball players.  See all the cups on the ground?  Numerous missed shots at the garbage can from short range."

(I will admit that I usually don't even bother trying to get the cup into the garbage can.)

Mile 4: 12:26 (which obviously reflects the lost time from my bathroom detour)
Mile 5: 11:01

I saw Erin spectating along the course, holding up this sign:

Yay!!!  High-fives to Erin!

Mile 6: 11:13

We were running eastbound, directly into the sun, and it was starting to get uncomfortable.  I saw a few aid stations with bags of ice.  Based upon the suggestion of many fellow bloggers, I took a few cubes and dropped them into my sports bra.  The cubes clanked against each other as I ran, making rhythmic clicking noises.  I tried not to laugh.

Mile 7: 10:58

Believe it or not, those musical ice cubes were still going.

Mile 8: 11:27
Mile 9: 10:46

We pass a neighborhood that I used to live in, and there have been some nice improvements to the area since then.  My legs are feeling good and I am enjoying how quickly the time is passing.

Mile 10: 11:10
Mile 11: 11:00

We go through the long McCormick Place tunnel right after mile 11.  Normally this tunnel is dark, stuffy, and killer, but to my surprise they have a party set up inside with flashing lights, neon, and dancers.  Awesome!  I don't have a picture of it, but it was kind of like this:

Normally around mile 10 or mile 11 is where I start feeling the fatigue at half marathons. This time I am pleasantly surprised when the fatigue doesn't really hit until about mile 11.5.

Mile 12: 11:28

Right near the Mile 12 marker, I saw a runner passed out on the street, lying in a pool of blood, surrounded by paramedics.  Yikes.  Based on the recounts from other runners, it sounds like he was already down for quite some time before I saw him. Really scary stuff.  I hope he is okay.

At this point I can see the finish line.  It looks tantalizingly close, much closer than it really is.  I am thinking that I am nearly there, but than I look down at my Garmin and realize that based on my pace I still have a ways to go.  ARGH!!!

Mile 13: 10:43
Mile 13.1: 1:06

My official finishing time: 2:26:32.  Considering this was a summertime race, I had lost some time going to the bathroom, and I felt strong for almost the entire distance, I will take it!

This picture was actually taken pre-race, but maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophesy of the fun race to come.  =D

I am buoyed and rejuvenated by how good I felt during this race.  As I mentioned here, motivation has been tough to come by for me this year, so I want to ride this wave of energy as long as I can.  I have a nice 6-week break now before my next race (the Chicago Half Marathon on September 8) and am looking forward to resuming a more consistent training schedule over these next few weeks in preparation.

Rock on, Chicago!


  1. Congrats on half #9! I love that race as well...although I really don't understand why it's in July. RnR although steep in price really does know how to put on a good race (I loved the AZ as well).

    I loved that you were able to stop at your building to use the bathroom! That is awesome. Glad that you felt so well during the race!!!

    1. Thanks, Kayla! I completely agree with you that RnR races are pricey, but you do get a fantastic experience with plenty of swag. How did RnR AZ compare to Chicago? Is it a very similar experience?

    2. Yeah I would say it is. Big expo. Good course (although I have no idea how it compares with other Phoenix races). Very well organized. Same type of swag bag etc (although you got a long sleeve shirt in AZ). But they also had bands along the way, a concert after,good course support etc. They have a full marathon as well as a half and a mini (not sure on how long it is) and parking was a lot cheaper than chicago! :)

    3. A long sleeve shirt in AZ, eh? That's actually kind of ironic, LOL. And that is not at all surprising that parking is a lot cheaper there than in Chicago. =D I am inspired to run RnR races in some of their other locations (especially their Europe stops) to see how they compare!!! Too bad their races are so pricey.

  2. See? Glad to know I was not the only one who needed to potty by the time we crossed the start line. I think it's too much time in the corrals.
    Congrats on a strong, consistent race! It was a fun one despite the usual heat.

    1. Thanks, Marcia! Congrats to you, too, and way to push through despite not being as well trained as you would have liked!

      I was also glad to hear that you too needed to use the facilities at the start. We do spend a LOT of time in the corrals. And I am still working on my hydration strategy, but more times than not I end up having to make a stop during these races. Sigh.

  3. Way to go! Another really well run race! I almost always aim to feel strong by the end, which is what you managed to do on a long race on a hot day. High five!

    1. Thanks, Amy! It really is such a delicate balance of maintaining strength throughout the entire race versus pushing yourself for a good performance. I think that is why these races are so addicting because you always learn more about what works and what doesn't work, yes?

  4. Yay! Good job! The comfy bathroom stop must have felt great! Sorry I didn't catch you after the race!
    We should all practice carb loading more often, even without a race around the corner.

    1. Thanks, Declan! Congrats to you, too!!!

      Ahhhh, I am ALL about practicing carb loading even without a race. Let's do it. Practice makes perfect, right? =D

  5. Oh gosh that's so cool you used your own buildings bathroom! You did really well considering the heat- 70 is no where near ideal to run in. Looks like you had a blast running through the city :) congrats!!

    1. Thanks, Xaar! Congrats to you, too! I am bummed that I didn't get a chance to see you during the race, but it really looks like you, L, and T all had an amazing time!!! You are in such good shape for FV - love it!!!

  6. It was fun cheering for you guys! Thanks for featuring my sign in your race report :-)

    The sun was hot out there and I really felt for you all. Still, it sounds like you had a great race. Congrats!

    1. Thanks, Erin! It was so great to see you on the course! And I didn't realize until afterwards that you had a sore throat that morning. So sorry to hear that - but hopefully you are fully recovered by now?!?!?

  7. Great race!!! I love that you got to use your own bathroom! And that disco party sounds fun!

    Now I am super curious what was in that bag. Hmm. Hopefully just clothes? And I hope that runner is okay!

    1. Thanks, Kim!!! I think the RnR folks really listened to runner feedback about that tunnel under McCormick Place. They did a great job making one of the traditionally difficult sections of the course really fun!

      I am super curious about what was in the bag, too. My worst thought is that it might have had a camera, phone, wallet, keys in it? That is one time where gear check would have been a much better idea than trying to carry your valuables on your person!

  8. Congrats! Great pace and next time I am running with you. However, I am not planning to sign up for this race next year. I'll be a spectator. :-)

    I also saw the guy on the ground. It had just happened when I saw him and it freaked me out.

    When is your next race?

    1. Zenaida! For sure, I would love to run a half marathon with you in the future! Let's pick one out. And I am probably going to spectate RnR Chicago next year, too. I'm ready to diversify my half marathon medal collection a bit and the summer timing can be really hit or miss.

      My next race is the Chicago Half Marathon in September! Are you running it, too!?!?!?

  9. Awesome!! This was my first half, and I really enjoyed it! I'm surprised at how great I felt during and after it as well. I'm planning on running the Women Rock half in September.

    1. Jackie - HUGE CONGRATULATIONS on nailing your first half!!! So proud of you!!! And even better that you felt so great during and after (I have to say that I've been in major pain more times than not during my span of half marathons). The Women Rock Half sounds like an awesome race and that necklace they are giving is beautiful! It should be a super fun atmosphere and the temps will be perfect, much easier conditions than at RnR Chicago. You are going to rock the Women Rock!!! =D