Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Michelob Ultra Chicago 13.1 Half Marathon race recap

This past Saturday, I ran the Michelob Ultra Chicago 13.1 Half Marathon. This was my third consecutive year running this race (in the past two years, it had a different sponsor presenting it).

I had no plans going into this race other than to have fun and enjoy the Lou Malnati's pizza at the finish line party. I hadn't done any focused training for the past few weeks, instead choosing to be more consistent with my physical therapy exercises and cross-training. I also had a lot of family events taking place this past weekend. This race was something I was squeezing into the schedule.

On Friday afternoon, Xaarlin told me that Adele (who I had met before at a Nike Training Club event) was running the race as her first half marathon ever. She mentioned that Adele was looking for a running buddy to keep her company, would I be up for it?

But of course!!!

The next morning, I was up bright and early to drive to the South Shore Cultural Center on the city's south side. I found street parking on 72nd Street, wolfed down a peanut butter sandwich and a banana, then walked over to the race site.

I saw Erica on the way in and said hi. After making a quick stop at the portapotties near the beach (no lines!) I met up with Zenaida. Then we found Adele and her friend Amy, who was in town from Minnesota for the weekend. A few minutes later, Pete came by. We all chatted for a bit. (Pete was telling us how his legs were trashed from playing softball earlier in the week, but that he was still ready to run. Wow!)

Here's a picture of us pre-race. (Sorry for the blurriness.)

From L to R: Pete, Zenaida, Adele, Amy, and me

Pete headed off to his corral, and then the rest of us lined up together in Adele's corral. There was a lot of energy in the air and the time went by quickly as we were waiting to start.

Adele had been battling some IT band pain in the weeks leading up to the race, so we all made sure that she was feeling okay. The first few miles flew by as we chatted about our families, training, etc. We all enjoyed the beautiful Jackson Park scenery.

Adele and I maintained a steady pace. Around Mile 3, Amy began speeding up and we told her we'd see her at the finish line. Unfortunately Zenaida wasn't feeling great, so she was taking periodic walk breaks.

There were a number of patches along the course where we saw oncoming runners. I unexpectedly saw Amanda early on and shouted a quick hello to her. Later I looked for Pete and Erica, but unfortunately didn't see either of them.

The temperature was in the upper 60s/low 70s and it was bright and sunny. There were a lot of aid stations with plentiful, enthusiastic volunteers. We walked through each station and got drinks at every one. One aid station handed out Clif Shot gels, which was new this year and very appreciated by me. We enjoyed the course entertainment (bagpipe players, a drill team, taiko drummers, lots of live bands). We also made a quick bathroom stop at the colorfully painted outhouse around Mile 5. It felt so luxurious to wash our hands using cold running water!

An artistically painted bathroom!

We knew that Xaarlin would be spectating near the course turnaround, which we thought was before Mile 7 (it was actually closer to 7.5). We were really looking forward to seeing her and talked about it for several miles in advance. Having friends along the course is the best!

Xaarlin took some pictures of us in action:

Adele looking victorious and me doing an obligatory race photo body spasm with the Chicago skyline behind us.

Xaarlin jumped onto the course and ran with us for a mile or two. She even got this fabulous selfie of the three of us near the Mile 8 aid station. Add this to my collection of best race pictures, ever!

We all got the memo to wear pink!

As much as we wanted Xaarlin to stay with us for the rest of the course, she had left her bike near one of the aid stations and eventually had to go back.

Adele and I kept going. She was staying remarkably consistent and upbeat. She was also talking easily, which was another testament to how well she was doing. (Heaven knows that when I'm dying out on the course, intelligible/audible words are really hard for me to string together.) As the miles ticked by, she mentioned that she couldn't believe that we were really doing this. She was doing so awesome and I kept truthfully telling her how great she looked!!!

Adele told me that she had trained up to 11 miles. As we approached that point, she was starting to feel some fatigue and was working hard to keep going. I knew that going beyond the peak training distance was potentially challenging from a mental standpoint, as well. I tried to distract her by having us count the number of folks that we passed in the final two miles. It was a good motivator.

We didn't want to make it too obvious what we were doing, though, of course. So with each person we passed, we tried to act nonchalant as we whispered the counts to each other. As the number rose, we giggled a few times while joking about getting our count to the legal drinking age, hitting the big 3-0, etc. We lost track of the exact total number in the end, but it was somewhere around 50!

I put forth lots of focus on running the course tangents, especially in the final stretch. We saw Amy and Zenaida as we went through the finishing chute and they cheered us on. Zenaida took this picture:

You'd never guess this was taken at Mile 13, eh?

Then, we crossed the finish line - and Adele put the finishing touches on completing her first half marathon!!! Done and DUSTED.

The medals!!!

HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to Adele! I was so happy for her! And I was seriously blown away by how strong and composed she stayed the entire time - even during those tough final miles and especially while battling knee pain. Way to go, Adele, and way to push through!!!

I think Adele is going to get hooked on half marathons now. =D

As for me? I had a BLAST. It was so much fun running with Adele and everyone, plus getting to see so many friends at the festivities. And did I achieve my goal of finally enjoying the Lou Malnati's pizza at the finish line?

A resounding YES.

You better believe it!

I'll see you (and that pizza) at 13.1 Chicago again!

My next race: The LaDainian Tomlinson 5K on June 14.


  1. Nice job on the half! And that was you that yelled to me during that short out and back near the park in the first half right?? (Right??). lol.

    1. Thanks Amanda! YES, that was me! I wasn't sure if you'd recognize me given we crossed so quickly, plus I was wearing a hat/sunglasses and had my hair pulled back. =D I'll update my entry to note that I saw you!!!

    2. Oh you don't have to update it. I just knew I knew you and told my friend...ahhh, I know her! I couldn't remember. It actually took me a couple miles and then I thought "she from out and about". It took me until mile 9 to remember your name! hahaha! Running... It was great "seeing" you!!

    3. I'll still update it. =) It was great seeing you, too, even if it was only for that split second in passing!

  2. Great recap - looks and sounds like you and Adele had a fantastic time. I love the way you guys "secretly" counted the number of runners you passed. Three guys passed me during the race, which slightly annoyed me, but I hunted them down and left him in my dust at the end! Ha! Also very cool that the race had free pizza (and beer) at the finish. It was nice seeing you pre-race! :)

    1. GO PETE!!! Way to punk those guys in the end! I haven't had a chance yet to comment on your recap, but congrats on running a 1:34 that day despite having sore legs! I looked for you along the course but didn't see you amidst all the weird out-and-back turns. But it was awesome seeing you pre-race, too. =)

    2. Yes, I kept an eye out for you too, but unfortunately was unable to spot you. You are correct that there were some weird turns at certain points where you couldn't see runners going the opposite direction. I did spot Amanda, however!

    3. I saw Amanda, too! It was a very quick passing (I was around Mile 2 and she was around Mile 4) and completely unexpected. Glad you saw Erica and Lynton that day, as well!

  3. What a fun race! Having a buddy is the best and the scenery looks fabulous. I especially like the body spasm photo with the skyline in the background. Frame-worthy!

    1. Thanks, Amy! Yes, having a buddy makes a HUGE difference - both when someone is pacing you, as well as when you are pacing someone else! This was my first time getting to help someone else out on a race (normally I am the one receiving the help, LOL). And thank you for the kind words on my body spasms, as always! =)

  4. Aww, so fun that you got to be Adele's partner on her first HM! If she was still talking and coherent, that is a great sign! LOL! Congrats to you both! And I am happy to hear you kept the counting to yourself. LOL. No one would want to know they were being counted as they got passed when they were probably struggling.

    I wondered what that colorful building was! Now I know! Woo hoo!

    So cool that xaar came out! And even ran a bit! :)

    1. Thanks, Kim! The experience made me think about how you must have felt when you paced me at the Chicago Half Marathon and Prairie State. =) It's a whole new perspective!

      And yes, the last thing I wanted was for anyone to know that they were being counted as they were being passed. This is especially ironic given that I am usually the one being passed by hundreds, LOL. Incidentally, have you ever read Hungry Runner Girl's blog? The top cover says, "It's rude to count people as you pass them. Out loud." So I was thinking about that while we were doing it!!! So bad.

    2. Aww! Yes! Pacing/being that cheering partner, is so fun :)

      I have noticed that at the top of Janae's blog. Ha ha. Truthfully, it's always kind of rubbed me the wrong way! But that is probably just cause I am not competitive in running :)

    3. I hope that my mention of this in my blog post didn't rub you the wrong way! Believe me, when we were doing it, it was purely a distraction tactic to keep us focused on finishing strong!

    4. No, it totally didn't. And it's really my personal issue - like I don't find it amusing when Ragnar people count their "kills" either. I think I am just being... sensitive ;)

    5. I hear you on the Ragnar "kills." I've heard that some folks make big spectacles of them, too. I don't really like the use of that name, either. It doesn't seem very sportsmanly to me, you know?

  5. It was so nice to see you and run a bit with you Saturday! And I'm soooo happy you and Adele worked out for running together.

    It was such a lovely day I wish I could have spent more time with you gals. So happy that the second half went well and that you finished with smiles on your faces :)

    1. Xaar - it was AWESOME to see you on the course and to have you join for a few miles! Thanks again for being out there, it was so uplifting! I wish we could have run together longer, too. We'll have to find another race that we can all run together. =D =D =D

  6. So glad you had a great race! And happy I got to see you and run part of the race with you. Hopefully next time I'll have a better race experience. :-)

    1. Zenaida! It was great catching up with you during the festivities. What a bummer that you weren't feeling well that day. =( You WILL have a better race experience next time! Mucho!

      Let's find time to go check out the Butcher and the Burger soon!!!

  7. How did I not know about the Lou's at the finish? I definitely would have signed up! :)

    That's awesome that Adele ran her first half - sounds like she had a great running buddy!

    And that bathroom mural? My cousin is the artist!

    1. Meghan! You and me both! =) I've gotten to the point now where I select races based on the quality of the medal, schwag, and post-race party - with deep dish pizza being a BIG selling point! So bad, I know!

      Thank you for the kind words on Adele's running buddy. ;-)

      Holy cow, your cousin was the artist on that mural? SO AWESOME.Your cousin is super talented! I admire the mural every time I pass by it, whether on the lakefront path or while driving down LSD. What an amazing way for your cousin to put an individual touch on the Chicago landscape!!!