Monday, September 14, 2015

2015 Magnificent Mile Chicago Women's Half Marathon Recap

I finally did it! I completed a half marathon! I ran the Magnificent Mile Chicago Women's Half Marathon. It was both amazing and terrible, and I kind of want to run another one. 

Traditional pre race selfie.
On Sunday, September 6, my alarm went off at 4am, but I didn't need to wake up because I was already awake. I had spent a sleepless night just staring at the ceiling waiting for it to be time to get ready for the race, so I was thrilled when the alarm finally went off and allowed me to start getting ready and start freaking out so much.

Hannah was not as thrilled about the alarm going off.
I  had laid out everything before getting into bed, so my clothes and gear check bag were ready to go. I took a quick shower, got dressed, ate the first half of my breakfast (a mini bagel with 1 tablespoon of almond butter), threw a banana into my bag for later, fed Hannah, and made my way to the train. I actually ended up on the first brown line train of the day.

I normally like an empty train platform, but it is a little creepy first thing in the morning.
As my train got closer to downtown, more runners joined me. Before I knew it, I was walking around downtown Chicago before the sun was even up. The only other people I saw wandering around were other runners.

Hello, Chicago.
I made my way to the race site and quickly found the port-o-potties. Sorry, but I have a nervous bladder, so I always have to pee a million times before a race starts, so this was the first of many pit stops. The magical thing was that it was a brand new fresh bathroom - no terrible smell, fresh toilet paper, no wet or sticky floor. I was the first to use it that day, and it was amazing.

Next, I made note of where all the other important stuff was - starting line, corrals, finish line, etc. As I've come to expect from Fleet Feet races, everything was well laid out, well labeled, and easy to find. I made note of the various tents (Athletico, Class Pass, etc.), planning to make the rounds after the race. I then made my way over to the Chicago Endurance Sports tent, checked in, and began my final preparation for the day ahead.

One of the many nice things about training with Chicago Endurance Sports is that you get access to their tent at the goal race for the program. Private gear check, our own CES port-o-potties, food, cold beverages, foam rollers...basically everything you could want or need is made available to you. They even have extras of often forgotten items like safety pins, sun screen, body glide, etc.

I ate my banana while I pinned on my bib number and applied some SPF 75 (I don't mess around when it comes to the sun). I chatted with the awesome ladies that I had spent the summer running with and we discussed race strategy and nerves. I was super nervous! Everyone else seemed so calm and collected, but I was seriously freaking out about the race. I don't do well in the heat, and it was looking like it was going to be a hot and humid day. The alert system was already at yellow before the race even started!
I couldn't run without my CES temporary tattoo, now could I?
Once the sun was finally up and the start of the race was getting closer, Lauren Fleshman (yes, that Lauren Fleshman) led some warm ups and gave some words of encouragement to all of the runners.

Warming up!
When the announcement came that it was time to make our way to the corrals, my CES peeps and I started to follow the rest of the pack. The corrals were not preassigned at the race, so runners were asked to select their own start positions based on estimated pace. The different pace signs were easy to see, as were the signs for the different pace groups, so it wasn't hard to find the best place based on the pace I was planning to run.

Ready and waiting to start.
Once the race started, I was feeling pretty good. I was surrounded by friends from Chicago Endurance Sports, and my pace felt good and should have been one I could maintain. I started out with one of the pace groups because I know I often start out too fast and lose momentum early. I planned to stick with the 11:30 per mile pace group (2:30 finish time) for as long as I could, and that seemed like a great plan. Until it didn't.

The course was pretty easy to follow: we went up Michigan Avenue, did a U-turn at Superior, and then made our way down Randolph until we hit the lakefront path, and the rest of the race was along the path (first heading south, then making another U-turn to return north to the finish line). There weren't a ton of spectators, but the ones that were out were great!

I felt great for the first chunk of the race. I even remember thinking around the 10k mark that I was feeling much better than expected, considering the heat. That changed pretty quickly, however. By mile 8, I felt terrible and was really starting to struggle. I had to stop and walk and ended up losing the pace group and my friends. I was hot and tired and was having trouble breathing (my asthma inhaler made an appearance shortly after mile 9). I kept going, though.

Around mile 9, I stopped to use the restroom. I shouldn't have stopped (I could have held it until I made it across the finish line), because I had a lot of trouble getting going again. I was really, really struggling. I started to wonder if I was actually going to be able to finish the race. By this time, the alert system had gone up to red due to the rising temperatures. Prepared for the hot weather, the aide stations were very well stocked and had water, gatorade, and, best of all, ice and ice cold towels. There were also a few misting stations along the course. Even with all of this, I was still suffering.

Meghan, one of the Chicago Endurance Sports coaches that I had trained with, saw me on the course and realized how much I was struggling so she started running with me. My pace had slowed down considerably, and I wasn't very good company because I was frustrated and in pain (my legs started cramping up with only two miles left to go), but she stuck with me to the end. I honestly don't know if I would have finished the race had it not been for Meghan cheering me on for those last several miles.

I was miserable, until I saw the finish line. I finished my first half marathon in 2:42:47. It wasn't pretty, but I'm glad I didn't quit. I ran a half marathon!

I was handed my finisher's necklace, a cold can of water, and a cold towel.

My finisher's necklace. I clearly got a little sun, and yes, I wore my necklace all week after the race.
Various people tried to also hand me food (I think there were apples and also some frozen chocolate covered bananas, but I'm not sure). I was feeling awful (elated, but awful) and knew that I needed to cool off before I tried to eat anything if I wanted the food to stay down.

I made my way back to the CES tent, was handed more stuff (a rose, a Saucony towel, a picture frame, and a 13.1 finisher's pin), and then found a place to sit in the shade.

I wasn't kidding about the rose.
I was seriously feeling terrible, and I guess I looked as bad as I felt because everyone kept checking in with me. I think they were worried that I was going to pass out, which, I will admit, seemed like a real possibility. I felt queasy and light headed. I knew I needed to eat, but I also knew that I wouldn't be able to keep anything down, so I stuck to water and Gatorade until my stomach settled down. Someone brought me an ice cold bottle of water to put on the back of my neck. It took a while, but I eventually started to feel better. Not good, but better. I was able to eat a little, which helped a lot.

I probably should have stretched and foam rolled, but I wasn't feeling up to it. I never made the rounds of the various tents, I missed a lot of photo opportunities with my friends, pacers, and coaches, and I probably missed out on a lot of fun because I just couldn't bring myself to walk any more than necessary. I headed home as soon as I was sure that I could move around without falling over. After a shower, a real meal, and a good nap, I felt normal again.

My goals were to finish the race and have fun. Well, I definitely finished. And I did have a lot of fun before the race and during the first half of the race - basically up until the point that everything started to hurt - so I'm going to say that I was successful.

I'm really happy that I ran the Magnificent Mile Chicago Women's Half Marathon. Although the course was primarily on the lakefront path, it was on part of the path that I rarely visit, I did enjoy the first mile being on Michigan Ave. I thought everything was well organized, with plenty of communication leading up to the race and plenty of information available on race day. There were lots of fun events leading up to the race - yoga on Friday night, a shake out run Saturday morning, and the market/expo. And, of course, the volunteers were really amazing and helped lift my spirits when I was really struggling at the end.

All that being said, however, I don't know if I'll run this race again. I have never fared well in the heat, and this race was no exception. I think I may need to stick to short distances in the summer and save my longer races for cooler weather.

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