Crown Point is about 50 miles southeast of Chicago. On race morning, I was in the car at 5:45 AM to make the trek. Thankfully I hit zero traffic and zero road construction enroute. I got treated to a beautiful sunrise along the way, too.
When I arrived onsite, I was thrilled to be able to park right next to the starting/finishing lines. There were zero lines at packet pickup and the portapotties, too. Smaller races rock!
A few minutes later, Erica arrived on site. She introduced me to her friends Wendy, Ryan, and Josh, who were also racing.
Wendy took this picture of Erica and me:
|You can see Wendy's shadow in the picture. ;-P|
The temps were in the upper 40s/low 50s, which was much colder than I had originally anticipated. I enjoyed being able to hang out in the warmth of my car while I was waiting for the race to start.
I was wearing capris and a short-sleeved short, and considered wearing my jacket and/or my arm warmers. I decided to ditch both - which turned out to be the right decision. Less than 10 minutes before the gun went off, I got out of my car and lined up.
Earlier, I heard someone say they thought the race was being gun-timed instead of chip-timed. I thought this couldn't possibly be the case. My bib had a timing device, and the website said it was chip-timed. Unfortunately, it turns out the person was right. There was no starting timing mat. I was dismayed when I realized this. I had lined up pretty far back, and I knew that this would cost me at least 20 seconds right off the bat.
After months of running in heat and humidity, the cool temperatures and shade were heavenly! I wanted to run by feel instead of relying on my Garmin. My goal was to run sub 2:10, which meant an average pace of 9:55 or better.
When I hit Mile 1, I was shocked to look down and see 9:13. It felt effortless. I tried to slow down a smidge. I hit Mile 2 in 9:30, and then Mile 3 in 9:50. At that point, I tried to lock in my pace.
The course ran through residential neighborhoods. It was very winding, to the point that you could never see more than two or three blocks ahead of you at any given point. This is what most of the course looked like:
There were almost-constant rolling hills, but at that point they didn't scare me. I was enjoying the very-frequent aid stations and the wonderfully friendly volunteers and spectators.
Miles 5 - 8
There were about 200 half marathoners on the course. As you can see in the above picture, the streets were very open. We headed into a subdivision which I believe was called Wingate - and at that point the hills started getting more and more pronounced.
Volunteers were handing out PowerBar Power Gels at two points along the course. Since the course was an out and back, we had four opportunities to get gels. Many thanks to the woman who, when I missed a gel handoff, actually ran back to catch up with me and made sure I got one.
|There were so many aid stations on the course. They were never more than 2 miles apart!|
Around Mile 5 I saw Erica and Wendy tearing it up on their way back. They both looked fantastic!
I was still maintaining my pace, but the hills were making me fight harder and harder to do so. I hit the halfway point on pace for a 2:09 finish. I thought to myself how great it would be to run an even split and achieve that time. At that point, I believed I could hang on.
Unfortunately, the temperature was rising and I was starting to feel too warm. I hadn't brought any salt capsules with me. With the cool temperatures, I didn't think I would need them. That was a mistake.
Miles 9 - 12
Around Mile 9 was when the hills started doing me in. One of the volunteers told me, "The hardest part is over!" but the course was still plenty challenging. Every time I turned a corner, there was another hill. At one point, I actually said out loud, "Are you kidding me?" My hamstrings were screaming bloody murder and my paces were getting slower and slower.
I hit Mile 10 in 1:40:XX and knew that I didn't have it in me to finish sub-2:10. Mentally, I gave up. I told myself, "It isn't chip-timed anyways, so whatever." I hit Mile 11 in 1:50:XX and was hurting so badly that I wasn't even sure I could beat my previous PR (2:12:40 at the Sunburst Half Marathon).
I plodded along in a fog, lamenting the pain and swearing to myself that I would never run again, ever. I stopped looking at my Garmin since I figured it would only make me feel worse. My sole focus was how closely I could run the tangents to minimize the remaining distance. Every time a car or other object obstructed the tangent, I inwardly grumbled.
One bright moment during this time were volunteers handing out cold towels near Mile 11. Again, I missed the hand-off and again, a volunteer ran back with me to make sure I got one. Much appreciated!
Around what I thought was Mile 12.5 or so, I saw Erica and Wendy. They had come back on the course to cheer me on! They both ran with me for a bit, which was awesome. I was really, really grateful for the distraction. I found out that Wendy was the Overall Women's winner, and Erica was the Master's winner and 3rd overall female. HOLY SPEED DEMONS!
They told me that the finish line was just up ahead and to the left through some grass. Was I really that close??? When spectators or volunteers tell me I'm almost there, I usually don't believe them - but I knew Erica and Wendy wouldn't lie to me. This lifted my spirits.
Erica said she would get some pictures of me at the finish line, then she and Wendy sprinted ahead. Sure enough, I turned the corner and there was the finish line. I looked down at my Garmin and realized I could still PR. I picked up the pace and was surprised how much my legs actually still had in them.
Erica got this shot of me shortly before I crossed:
|The race photo body spasm lives on.|
My final gun time was 2:12:30. Comparatively, my self-chipped (aka Garmin) time was 2:12:04. Either way, I did manage to earn a small PR on an unexpectedly very hilly course!
Had I not given up during a few of those final miles, I could have done even better. And honestly, had I known in advance how challenging the course was, I don't know if I would have tried to achieve a time goal. More lessons learned. =)
A swimming pool was right near the finish line and was open for runners to enjoy post-race. That was a fabulous perk.
Everyone just wanted to refuel, though. Erica, Wendy, Ryan, Josh, and I went for brunch at the Main Street Cafe, a cute little restaurant in downtown Crown Point.
Great food, great company! At brunch, I learned that Josh and Ryan both also placed in their age groups. Talk about a speedy group of folks, eh?
Afterwards, I hit the road back to Chicago, enjoying the beautiful day while listening to the Bears radio broadcast. Ahhh, life is good. =)
Thanks again to Erica and the race organizers and volunteers for a fantastic time at the inaugural Hub City Half Marathon! It was an amazing event!
My next race: Probably the Prairie State Half Marathon on October 10