Friday, November 4, 2011

Chicago Monster Dash 1/2 Marathon Race Report

Saturday I ran the Chicago Monster Dash 1/2 mary for the 2nd year in a row. Walking to the race, I thought how funny it is that I now associate all holidays with a race. Thanksgiving is Turkey Trot day, Christmas is a Santa or Rudolph themed race, Halloween is the Monster and I traditionally do a solo long run on the 4th of July- it makes the cook-out food taste that much better:) And for my birthday, I run mileage that= my new age (with a decimal in b/t the two numbers, age 33=3.3 miles).

Last year, I dressed up as- what else?- a bison. This year, my cousin was using my bison suit so I went as Santa. I felt a little sheepish since I basically just used the beard, hat, and shirt that were given away at the Santa Shuffle last year, but it was actually a hit! Kids liked it, adults kept cheering 'go santa!'.... until I lost the beard 1/2 way through (too uncomfortable) and then the hat in the last 2 miles (too hot). Then I was just a woman in a funny red shirt holding a hat:)

Since I just ran the Louisville Marathon less than 2 weeks ago, my plan was to take it easy and enjoy the costumes during this race. However, that plan changed pretty early on. The start was ridiculously crowded. In fact, most of the race was uncomfortably crowded. I realize this is pretty standard for most of the big Chicago races. I try not to complain because the popularity of these races just means that more people are running, but the longer I run the more I like to run with space in front of me. I don't like to be cramped. In terms of a race review, I'd say, don't run this to PR. It's a good race, worth doing, but do it for the costumes and the festivities.

I was running alone, and after plodding through the first 3 cramped miles (9:56, 9:19, 9:38), I was getting kinda bored. I didn't like the idea of staring at the backs of the same people for 13.1 miles. I feel the same way about driving. I don't need to be driving super fast but I just don't like having people in front of me! So as tiny breaks in the pack opened up I jumped through them and found myself speeding up whenever I had the chance (8:40, 8:43, 9:04).

At about the halfway point I glanced down at my Garmin and noticed that I was on pace to get a sub-2. Now I've run sub-2 half marathons before in training and even during marathons but I've never had a formal sub-2 half marathon result. So I decided today was the day to knock that out. I figured the back half of the course would be more thinned out so if I just stayed at a comfortably hard pace, I'd be set.

The below graph shows miles on the x axis and pace on the y. It gives a good view of how much faster I was in the 2nd half than the first:

Miles 5-6 and 8-9 were a bit tight which explains the relatively slower paces.

Well, comfortably hard became uncomfortably hard a little earlier than I would like and the last 45 minutes weren't fun. The last 5K was really hard. The last mile I had to fight, fight, fight to not stop running. I kept looking at the Garmin to see if a sub-2 was still possible because the moment it was no longer possible I was going to take a walk break. Funny thing about keeping running- I stayed on pace so never allowed myself a walk break. I rolled in at 1:58:29.

This race was a good experience for me. Because the first 3 miles were so slow I had no choice but to negative split the race. So I had to run faster than was comfortable to make up for the slow miles, making the race way more painful that if I had kept a nice 9:09 pace all along. Honestly, I think keeping an 8:45-8:50 pace would have been pretty comfortable too. It was just the xx xx miles that we're pushing it a bit for me. Especially 2 weeks after a marathon.

I'm glad that I PR'd. That's always a good thing. But it was more of a formality. I'm more proud of the way I ran the race after I decided to go ahead and push it. I committed with 1 hour of running left to go for it. That's a bit early to make such decisions. But I stuck with it even though I really was darn uncomfortable. I kept telling myself running uncomfortably for an hour is excellent training for Boston. Because even when I'm optimally trained, I'm thinking my BQ run is going to be full of discomfort!

Now I have the racing bug. I want to find a less crowded 10k, 10 mile or 1/2 marathon and just run like stink. I have no idea what I'm capable of and I'd love to find out!

In terms of a review for those considering doing this race next year, a few points. Like I said above I would recommend running this for fun, not for a time (though obviously that is easier said than done for some of us..ahem). The course is nice- along the lakefront, though Lincoln park, but tight pretty much the whole way. The folks who were supposed to stop traffic near navy pier made us stop and wait for a bus to pass (2 years in a row, NOT COOL!), so there are some organizational problems that need to be fixed. Water/gatorade stops are plentiful. The post-race is well-organized. The race shirt is nice. The results were already posted by the time I got home which I LOVED. The costumes are great and it's overall a fun race. So I'd recommend doing it for fun with a friend. And don't forget to dress up!

** runnerd: a person who does not conform, often highly intelligent but socially rejected because of their obesssion with running. A runnerd will run in any condition and is either running, constantly thinking about running, or talking about running.

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