Finally made it past the 1:36:00 barrier that I’ve been fighting for over a year!
1:36:08 Carmel 2012 (*previous PR)
Going into the race, I knew that the goal was to avoid racing it all out. I have three weeks until Boston and putting all of my energy into this half wasn’t the point. Just a good fitness test to see where I’m at before my goal race. I think the half is a fun distance to race (much more so than the 10k!). I was lazy Friday night and spent most of Saturday relaxing. Plus, I got a race day mani & pedi— bright red nails make you run faster, right?! They must because they seemed to work for me today. Thumbs up, nails. I wasn’t really nervous about racing. But the jitters started right when I woke up this morning when I realized it was race morning (Somehow it sneaked up on me? Not sure how that’s possible.)
I was able to get a solid 7 hours of sleep last night and felt refreshed when I woke up. Sipped my coffee, ate my granola, and drove over to the start. I assumed that the Nature Museum off of Fullerton would be open for gear check and to stay warm before and after the race (like it was for the Wacky 10k and the Bastille Day 5k) but I guess the Chi Town Half doesn’t offer that. I’m glad I overdressed with a hoodie and a puffy winter coat to stay warm because it was really cold.
Met up with Britt, Xaarlin, and Hillary for a quick warm-up before heading to the start line. I was hoping to get an easy 2 miles in but we were short on time and ran 1.6 miles, just enough to loosen up.
Dude, the course? MUCH crazier than it looks on paper—-> chi_town_half_map. Those random looptiloops, curly-qs, turns, and switchbacks were more frequent than I thought they would be for some reason. I felt like once I got into a rhythm there would be a random ‘hill’, bridge, or turn that I wasn’t prepared for. Plus, the signage would pretty minimal. The 10k started at the same time and I only saw two different signs that clearly marked the two courses—all the rest were just arrows, but didn’t mark which race the turn was for. I didn’t know this until I finished but apparently the race director had to STOP the 10k runners and redirect them, which made the the 10k course a 5-mile race. I’d be really mad if I had been running the 10k today or if they had messed up the half course. Xaarlin made a good point later on when she said that the people at the back of the 10k pack were probably fine because the director fixed it before they reached that point of the course.
I started out right on pace. Goal was to run Mile 1 in 7:15 and then stay consistent between 7:00-7:10 for the remainder of the race. This is a different strategy for me. In almost all of my previous half marathons, I start out pretty steady and then gradually speed up each mile through the finish. It was more mentally tough than anything else to run the same pace for 12+ miles (felt a lot like a long tempo run).
I knew I went out too fast by the time I got to Mile 4. I didn’t taper for the race and I knew I needed to stay conservative in the first few miles so that the last half of the race would be relatively comfortable. Couldn’t slow myself down enough to really take advantage of that strategy haha.
Took water at Mile 4.5. Dry throat. Ahhh much better.
At this point, I was deciding between staying conservative or chasing these 3 speedy girls. We likely all had the same goal because we ran together for a large portion of the course (shifted a bit with water stops and surges). I tried to hang with them as much as I could but it was tough to find that rhythm with all of the turns. It was fun to work together, though.
Took Gatorade (by accident!) at Mile 6.5. Gross. Gatorade.
Ok, halfway. Just gotta keep the legs moving and use the wind to your advantage once you reach the turnaround. The girls were still ahead and I hoped I’d catch 1-2 or two of them by the end.
Took a Gu at Mile 8.5. i.e. way too late to really make a difference.
Totally forgot to take my Gu and I was nervous that the few sips of Gatorade I took at Mile 6.5 would make me stomach hurt, combined with the Gu. Luckily that wasn’t a problem but I had to wait 1.5 miles for the next water stop.
Had to wait until Mile 10 for the next water station. Blech.
The toughest miles of the entire race were Miles 7-10 when the headwind really picked up. The wind was fairly consistent through the race, but the ENE direction made a big difference on the north sections of the course. The wind would be fine for a second and then we’d come around a bend or up a small hill and the wind would hit us. Just tried to keep my legs moving and avoid looking at the time on my watch. I knew that if I just kept my legs moving I’d PR—just didn’t know how much I’d be able to push at the end.
Once we turned back south at Mile 9, I knew it would be a bit easier. And it seemed to be. Mentally it’s so much easier to know that you have 4 miles straight to the finish, with fewer turns. I fell into pace with this one dude (who was holding his phone in his hand. how do people do that??) at Mile 11 and kept reminding myself I only had 2 miles to the finish. One of the girls that I had been chasing for the last half of the race had fallen back. I knew she was hurting, so I gave her a high-5 and told her she could do it. (Cheeseball moment: I love doing this towards the finish in races. You know you’re both struggling. You both need a pick-me-up. Helps both of you out and you know you aren’t in it alone.) She kept up with me for about a mile and fell back a bit more. Hurumph. Back by my lonesome.
Mile 12 . 1 mile to go. I can do it.
I had more of a finishing kick than I thought I would have! I felt like I was running a 7:00 min/mile pace in the finishing chute haha! When I crossed the finish line, the time read 1:33:58 and I knew that I had just PR’d by about 2 minutes. What the hell?! Struggling through my previous 3 half marathons with a consistent 1:36 was tough. At the Batavia Half last fall, I wondered why I couldn’t just break 1:36 and call it a day. I guess that’s what a little patience and hard work can do. My 10th half marathon (for real. When did that happen?!) and I’ve only got speedier times ahead of me. That feels amazing.
The girl that I had given the High-5 came up to me at the finish and said “thanks for the encouragement”. I told her I’d been chasing her the entire way and she helped me a lot. Then I asked her if she ran a PR…..and she said it was her FIRST HALF! I may or may not have let an expletive or two fly from my mouth when she said that. Amazing.
This week was the first week I’ve run 6 days in a really long time. I’m so happy that I was able to run a PR on legs that definitely were not fresh. Now I’m definitely looking forward to Boston (like I wasn’t before?). It’s so nice to know that my hard work is paying off & I can keep challenging myself. I guess I’m going to have to set my sights on an even speedier half come fall? We shall see!
We recovered from the race with boozy milkshakes. I’m thinking this is a new tradition for races in Lincoln Park!
White Russian Boozy Milkshake + several cups of coffee. = EXTREME RECOVERY
(Not to mention the challah french toast)
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