My goals going into the race:
- Goal A: Beat my best half marathon time from last year, which was 2:22:53 at the 2012 Chicago Half Marathon.
- Goal B: Break 2:20:00.
Kim very graciously offered to pace me for this race. She had paced me at the Chicago Half Marathon last year, so I knew that I was in good hands with her and that she would push me in a good way.
I felt pretty prepared going into this race. The course ran along the Des Plaines River Trail. I'd heard many folks praise the trail's crushed gravel surface for being more friendly on a runner's joints than the usual asphalt or concrete. This was reassuring as I've been dealing with some IT band flare-ups in the past few weeks (and resulting in many evening dates with my foam roller).
Unfortunately I spent way, way too much time and consideration debating which pair of running shoes to wear for the race. I've said many times that my Asics Gel Cumulus shoes are my workhorse shoes for longer distances. However, I have one pair with over 250 miles on them, which is a little too close to retirement for my liking, and another pair with only 11 miles on them which was a little too new. I considered wearing my Mizuno Wave Riders, which have appropriate mileage but I've had major blister issues with them in the past. In the end I went with the older pair of Asics. I figured that the softer trail surface would help cushion any old-shoe issues (literally and figuratively).
Getting to the race site ended up being much more hectic and stressful than anticipated due to road construction issues. I was thankful that Adam was driving because it allowed me to get out of the car enroute and book it to the starting line without having to wait for parking. After picking up my packet and using the portapotty, I met up with Kim and Chris at the starting line with only a few minutes to spare. They both got to witness me frantically smearing on Bodyglide, while simultaneously scarfing down a banana and trying to get my hat on straight mere moments before the starting airhorn went off. (This is much harder to do than you would think.)
Before I knew it, we were off! Adam took this picture of me at the starting line (I'm the one waving), with Kim and Chris to the right of me.
The course was peaceful and the trail wound through wooded areas with ample shade. There were some uneven patches of gravel covered with some fallen leaves and some acorns interspersed here and there, so I was trying to watch my footing. Speaking of multitasking, I was also trying to focus on running tangents where I could, keeping up my pace without relying too much on my Garmin, and trying to hold a conversation with Kim. It was actually a bit more challenging than expected and my conversational skills took a bit of a hit (sorry, Kim!)
Given the remoteness of much of the trail, there were only a handful of spectators along most of the path. Anytime we did see spectators, it was very welcoming. The course was an out-and-back and we did see a group of enthusiastic spectators at the turnaround point, including my mom! Here is a picture that Kim took of me interacting with some of the spectators somewhere along the way:
I took my first GU around mile 6, which was later than I should have taken it. This meant that I had a mile or two where I started getting tired and was regretting not taking the GU earlier. After the GU kicked in, though, I felt a lot better. However, I started getting mentally tired around mile 8. The patches of the course that were unshaded started feeling uncomfortable. The rolling hills that had initially felt like no big deal also started to feel tougher and tougher. My left piriformis was tight and I was wishing that I had a foam roller handy.
Since the runners were fairly spaced out and there were minimal spectators, it was around this time that I was especially glad to have company. It really helped keep me going. Kim and I caught up with Chris on the course and we took some pictures:
|Kim and me|
|Chris and me|
|Me getting ready to take a salt capsule. Chris agrees that a little bit of salt goes a long way!|
Around mile 9 I took another GU, plus the salt capsule that you see in the above picture.
Miles 10 and 11 are traditionally my toughest miles, and this race was no exception. There were a couple of hills around this time which seemed like they would never, ever end. On the first one, I slowed down to a walk about 75% of the way up. On the second one, Kim told me to think about how good it would feel to run up the entire hill without stopping. Not wanting to disappoint, I did manage to run the entire second hill (although I am sure ants and turtles were catching up to me).
At Mile 12 there was a big loop along the course. In my state of fatigue I contemplated cutting the loop, even though it would meant having to climb a fence twice. I didn't, of course, but I started shouting to Kim that I really wanted to run those tangents. I was fighting to maintain my pace, but Kim was encouraging me to kick it up. She told me that she knew that I had a kick in me after running the Chicago Half Marathon with me last year. All I could say in response was, "NOOOOOO!!!!!"
As we approached the mile 13 marker, I could see the finish line but once again there was another outward loop before reaching it. I screamed, "This is cruel and unusual!" but I did manage to pick up the pace a little bit during the last tenth of a mile.
Here is a picture of Kim and me crossing the finish line.
(By the way - the photo is from the official race photographer, hence the "Proof" watermark on it. But isn't it funny to think that the "Proof" could also refer to the photo being visual documentation that we finished the race? LOL)
My official time was 2:19:16. Goals achieved!
After the finish, we met up with Erica, who had run a killer race and took first place in her age group. Congrats, Erica!
|From L to R: Erica, me, and Kim|
All in all, this was a fun, laidback race. The groomed trail was a nice change of scenery from the usual cityscapes that I am accustomed to at most of my races. The race's mid-size count of participants was nice, too, considering that most of the races I run are the enormous races with tens of thousands of participants.
From a goal perspective, I was happy to have broken the 2:20 mark in a half marathon. A year and a half ago I was struggling to break 2:30, so it feels good to see the progress. My all-time PR of 2:16 and change is within shouting distance now, and I am looking forward to finally breaking that mark. Hopefully soon!
Many thanks to Kim for being such a great pacer again, and to both Kim and Chris for keeping me company during those tough miles. Congrats to Chris on her strong race, too! (Oh and by the way, did I mention that Kim ran two miles prior to the race to get there on time, AND ran a 5K race later that afternoon? The woman is a powerhouse.) And as always, many thanks also go out to Adam and to my mom for coming out to spectate!
My next race: the Carrera de los Muertos 5K on November 2.