Tuesday, August 5, 2014

ZOOMA Chicago Half Marathon race recap

This past Saturday I ran the ZOOMA Chicago Half Marathon. I had volunteered at the ZOOMA Great Lakes race series two years ago (read my recap here), but this was my first time participating as a runner.

I'll be recapping this race using the "Good, Bad, and Ugly" format.

The Good
  • I had consistently heard rave reviews on this race's swag. Sure enough, the swag was awesome. Very nice race shirt and running hat, a pair of Feetures socks, a cute little tote bag that I'll be using to carry my lunch to work, and a sparkly medal with a detachable charm.
  • For an early-August race, the weather was nice. Clear and sunny, temperatures in the upper 60s/low 70s at the start.
  • The race village was set up in Burnham Harbor, which is a unique location that afforded gorgeous views of the lakefront and skyline. The organizers also provided shuttles to the location, which was helpful.

  • The volunteers were friendly and gear check was effortless. There were a couple of guys along the course who were fantastic spectators (one offered a box of Munchkins somewhere around Mile 11).
  • The post-race party was nice. They served wine, snack boxes with sandwiches/chips, Muscle Milk, etc. They even offered post-race yoga.
  • I enjoyed seeing a bunch of friends at the festivities. This included Meghan, Amanda C., Amanda W., Zenaida, Erica, and Kelly; and I finally got to meet Maureen in person! I also met and had a great time talking to Erica's friend, Meryl. 
From L to R: Meghan, Amanda C., Zenaida, me, and Amanda W.
From L to R: Erica, me, and Amanda C.
  • Despite only doing a single training run to prepare this race (one 11-miler two weeks ago) I ambitiously thought I'd try to beat my time from the Illinois Half Marathon (2:15:21). For the first 10 miles, I was on pace to do so, and my splits were nice and even.
  • Amanda W. helped me out a lot at the end of this race (more about that below).
The Bad
  • There was no "day-of" packet pickup option.
  • I've never enjoyed seeing a race finish line but then having to run away from it. This race, which included both a half marathon and a 10K, took place on the lakefront path. Below is the course map. In summary, the 10K runners did the northbound loop before splitting off to cross the finish line. The half marathoners had to run past the finish line before starting the southbound loop. That was hard.

  • I didn't look at the course map very closely in advance, so I didn't know how far north or how far south we were headed.
  • The temperature started rising as the day progressed. The lakefront path has patches of shade, but there are many long stretches with zero shade. It starting wearing me down after awhile.
  • There were long periods in the final four miles without any hydration options. Yet, there was an aid station just prior to the 13-mile marker. Being so close to the finish line, that didn't seem like the best location.
  • The wheels started falling off for me around Mile 8, which wasn't a good sign. I somehow managed to keep up my pace through Mile 10, but it was a rising struggle.
The Ugly
  • After the Mile 10 marker, I crashed and burned, big-time. My entire body was aching. I was hating the exertion, the sun, and the winding path.
  • I decided that I no longer liked running and that I didn't want to do it anymore. Ever. (My actual thoughts were much harsher than that, but you get the idea.) I scoffed when I saw these signs:
I took these pictures from Zenaida's post
  • I took a walk break around Mile 12.5, but could not muster myself to resume running. I had every intention of walking the rest of the way. Thankfully, Amanda W was there and her cheerfulness helped buoy me. She is the only reason that I was running when I crossed the finish line.
  • I ended up missing my time goal by over 3 minutes, all of which I picked up in those last 3 miles. (My official time was 2:18:16)
  • Throughout the race, I almost got clipped by several cyclists zooming by at full speed. It was terrifying.
  • When I got home, I realized that I had some severe chafage from my sports bra. This was a very unpleasant surprise. I've worn that particular sports bra for many long runs but this was the first time I had any problems. Showering was incredibly painful. It felt like someone was holding a lit match right next to my skin.
  • I felt very worn out after this race. I had all kinds of plans to find a great fall half marathon and attempt another PR this year. But I began thinking that maybe I no longer have the motivation to undergo the requisite training.

I can't end this post on those notes, of course. So here are some shout-outs:
  • Congratulations to Amanda C, who is expecting a new addition to the family! She looks FABULOUS!
  • Congratulations to Erica for winning her division! (I told her that anytime I run a race with her, I go into the awards ceremony expecting to hear her name get called. =) )
Speaking of Erica, here's a great post-race picture that she shared:

From L to R: me, Erica, Meryl, Stacy, and Olivia

I'm ready to take a break from racing. Thankfully, the next one on my calendar could not come at a better time or location.

My next race: the Disneyland Half Marathon on August 31!


  1. NOOO!!!!!!! The dreaded sports bra chafe! Those always sneak up on you, too. You're enjoying your post race shower, letting the warm water wash the salt off your face, you breathe in a sigh of relief and start to turn ... and then ... AHHHH! OMG! RAZORS! IT BURNS! IT BURNS!

    One time I did that and jumped so hard I knocked the shower organizing rack off of the shower head.

    *sigh* The joys of running in the summer when you sweat a lot!! :-(

    Regardless, I need to see some photos of that bling! Sparkles and detachable charms??!!?!?!?!

    1. Oh my goodness, isn't that the truth! How is it possible for us to chafe so badly but not feel it until the post-race shower? The salt from your face is literally being poured into your wounds. It's like the body's built-in method of making sure you know it's there, with a vengeance! @#$%!!!!!!

      I'll post a picture of the race medal by tomorrow! Although, to be fair, the charm was tough to remove. The race organizers might have been a little creative when they suggested it was "detachable," hahaha. But it is a very clever idea!

    2. Can't wait to see the photo!

    3. Posted! The picture unfortunately doesn't really do the medal justice. It's more sparkly in person than it appears in the photo.

  2. It was so great to see you yet again, Emily! Kelly and I both commented that you truly are a ray of sunshine, and I love your attitude. Also, I couldn't agree more with your breakdown. The wheels totally fell off for me around 9-10 miles, and I really felt the sun on the path. I also think there needed to have been more aid stations. I almost felt silly stopping at the last one, but I was dying! Regardless, we did it! :)

    1. Meghan, it was so great to see you again, too! As I said, what a treat to get to see you twice in 10 days! =) Thank you so much for the kind words - you and Kelly are too sweet! You are both simply ROCKING these races after the births of Layla and Patsy. Love it love it love it!!!

      Based on everyone whose thoughts I've heard so far on the race, everyone seems to agree that there needed to be more aid stations towards the end and that the sun got progressively more and more killer. But YES - we all finished, and that is all that matters. Especially for an early-August race in Chicago. Woo hoo for all of us!!!

  3. Ouch! Sorry to hear about the bra burns. Thank goodness us guys don't have to worry too much about that! Anyway, I've had similar thoughts about running when I'm in the death throes of a hot marathon! However, I usually get the euphoric endorphins afterwards that make me forget my previous struggles in the heat! Apparently, this didn't happen for you. Summer running is a drag when it is hot and humid out so I wouldn't blame you if you took some time off. In my opinion it's the best time to take a break! By the way, the picture of the skyline from the starting area is tremendous.

    1. Pete, you have no idea how lucky you are that you don't have to worry about that. Although, from what I understand, men have their own gender-specific issues so I guess it all balances out at least somewhat!

      I think I am worn out from running so many races in such a short amount of time. I get so excited about all of them that I end up signing up for a whole bunch. Then when it comes to race day, the reality starts hitting a bit when you're, say, waking up before the sun for many consecutive weekends, you know? So yes, your thoughts on taking a break will be very well-utilized!!!!

      Thank you for the kind words on the skyline picture!

  4. Sorry you had such a crap end to the race. Take some time and think about whether you are swearing off running! It's a lot more fun in the fall when it's cooler, and when you have done more long training runs! Are you going to get some LRs in before Disney? That sounds so fun! :)

    Ugh. Bra chafing. Ouch ouch ouch. Did you have any glide on?

    Do you think you would do this race again? I am still sad they moved it to Chicago. LOL. :) I had so much fun in WI :)

    1. Appreciate the sympathy, Kim! I'm not REALLY swearing off running, but I am definitely ready to take a step back from it for awhile. YES on the fall being a much better time. It's like holiday season for runners. Cool weather AND lots of training under our belts? Ding ding ding!!!

      BTW - I am considering running Prairie State again this year. Let me know if you'd potentially be available/interested in running it again, too! No pressure either way, of course.

      I wasn't wearing any BodyGlide under the sports bra. After having my first bad experience without Glide on my thighs and under my arms, I've never forgotten to use it there. But the sports bra area is something new. Add it to the checklist from now on!

      While I enjoyed this race, I don't know that I would do it again unless I could get it for a very discounted registration fee (which is what I did this year via a Groupon deal). I wish they kept it in Wisconsin, too! Our blogger weekend in Lake Geneva was epic and I would so love to do it again sometime!

    2. Yes! Under one condition - brunch after at Wildberry. Ha! And that is the weekend after my full so I may be... a bit... hmm. Tired?

      Oh gosh! Yes@! Glide up the bra! And we will have to discuss all the other areas offline. LOL!

      Yay! I am happy you got a discount for this! I heard it was $$$$. Sigh. That meetup was the best!

    3. That is a condition that I will fully embrace. =) I love Wildberry! Oooh on the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon for you the week prior. I've heard rave reviews about it. So excited for you to go out there and be the superstar that you are!

      Ah yes, the other areas that require BodyGlide. Thankfully I've only chafed in a truly unmentionable spot once. But for sure, that's definitely a conversation to have in person. =)

  5. It was really nice to run with you during part of the first half and for part of the last mile. I was struggling too at that point. The last few miles were SO HARD! Glad I helped you to get moving again. And off by 3 mins of a half PR isn't so bad at all!! You did a great job!! I agree with a lot of the bullet points you wrote about. I haven't had a chance to write my recap yet but I'm sure I will be touching on some of the same points!

    1. Amanda! It was great running with you, too. As I mentioned to you, when we split off around Mile 8 or 9, it got tougher for me right away. Those last few miles were KILLER but you were so positive at the end. I was in a bit of a daze but I remember when you pointed out that we could see the shuttle buses. That helped a lot!

      You did such a great job, yourself, especially considering that you ran 2 miles before the race even started and you were just using this as a training run! I really admire your dedication towards your training plan. And I'm so glad that someone turned in your race belt at the end, too. =)

      Can't wait to read your recap!!!

  6. It was so nice to meet you too!

    (Not sure why my comment showed something I had written on someone else's page at first, just Blogger being a jerk I guess!)

    1. Yay for finally getting to meet in person! On a side note, I know you're a Blackhawks fan like me - and I am very, very excited for the season to start. You too? I'm not in hockey withdrawal just yet, but I am getting close. =)

  7. I've heard so many complaints about the heat and lack of water at this race. The date and location are precisely why I did not run it this year. Cannot imagine why they would have such sparse water stations on such a hot day. Take a break and let it cool down. You may reconsider your future in racing. You were the best course marshall ever in Lake Geneva!

    1. You were a ZOOMA ambassador that first year in Lake Geneva, yes? Kim and I were just discussing that we actually liked the race better when it took place in Wisconsin rather than in Chicago. Plus, our blogger weekend up there was AWESOME! Wish we could find another destination race to do something like that, again. =)

      Thanks for the kind words regarding my volunteering at ZOOMA Great Lakes!!! Being a course marshall helped me appreciate how much work goes into organizing these events!

  8. I know what it's like to run through the finish area. I had to in a 10K and a 50K - disheartening for a few minutes. It must have been fun to see so many runners that you know! Congrats on the finish!

    1. Thank you so much, Tina! Oh my goodness, I can't imagine how it would feel to run through the finish area in a 50K! It's tough enough even with the short races like 5Ks; to do so in a 50K would be absolutely killer!

  9. I was there too--I had the same thoughts about the race as you. Too expensive. And lack of water at the end was a huge problem for me. Chafing? I had lots of it. I had friends pull me to the finish. I hope they're there for me at the Chicago marathon this fall. Kind of regretting that decision right now... LOL!

    ~Wendy at Taking the Long Way Home

    1. Wendy! Congratulations and way to push through! It was a tough one out there that morning, especially those last few miles in the sun. I am so sorry to hear that you had lots of chafing, too. I still have a big ol' dark mark on my skin from the chafing over a week later. Hopefully you've healed up quickly! I'm not training for any marathons this year, but when I was training for Chicago, the month of August was where things started getting real. So I feel your pain. But I just read your weekly training recap and you are KILLING it! ROCK ON!!!

  10. Can I get on board with the pain of no race day packet pick-up? Even when a race isn't far, it's still not convenient to go ahead of time to get the packet. I'm doing a race in October that has no race day packet pick-up, and I'm already annoyed. Haha!

    2:18 might not have been your goal, but it's still a very strong finish! Heat and mental games are tough on the race course. I keep thinking that it will cool off soon, but that has yet to happen. It has to happen eventually, though!

    1. Amy! Yes, let's all jump on the initiative to get all race organizers to offer race-day packet pickup! Which race in October are you doing that doesn't offer that option? On a side note, I get really annoyed when races won't let you send a friend/family member to pick up your packet for you. WHY!?!?!?

      Thank you for the kind words on the 2:18 finish! Heat and mental games are the worst. I think this is why racing becomes so addicting, because there are so many given factors at any point that could influence a race outcome. It's all about trying to get that perfect mix going. Even though it's so rare! And YES - I don't like to look past summer - but as a runner, is it fall yet!?!?!?!?!?

  11. Awesome! I think you did amazing!! I had every intention of keeping up with you but just couldn't. Maybe Wine and Dine?