Sunday, May 13, 2012

Chicago Spring Half Marathon Race Report

Yesterday, Adam and I ran the Chicago Spring Half Marathon. The start and finish of the race are literally steps from our apartment so it's super convenient for us! In past years, the race fell on the same day as the Rockford Marathon/Half so we've not been able to run it. Too many races, too little time!

The race headquarters is in the Lakeshore East park which is this hidden gem of a park in our neighborhood. Here's the view of it from our side window:

There's a playground, waterfalls, a dog park, tons of trees and flowers. There's a coffee-shop, grocery store, steak house and brand new brunch place. Despite being steps from Navy Pier and Millennium Park, it is mostly locals in this quiet, well-kept park. I almost don't want to post about it because the secret might get out but I assume (hope) most of my readers are the kinds of folks who will keep our park nice:)

The race started on a good foot (pun intended). Mild breeze, 60 degree temps. The southern sky looked mighty threatening but we all discussed how surely the weather would stay south of us and we'd be just fine. Ah, runners' eternal optimism. My goal was to PR. I generally try not to have super ambitious goals on race day because I psych myself out too easily, but seeing as a PR for me would be "simply" running all sub-9 minute miles, I thought it was perfectly realistic and shouldn't cause undue stress.

Here's a picture of the park through my Sunday happy
hour wine glass;) I love the refection of the buildings in my
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
I say "simply" only because at my last half marathon, the Chicago Monster Dash in October 2011, I ran my first (official) sub-2 half with negative splits and overall 9:03 pace and was less well trained than I am now. Running a half-marathon is never "simple". I just knew that my goal was doable if I worked hard.

The first 2 miles were great (8:22, 8:23). I was flying and felt good. I knew that I probably was running faster than I should be, but I'm of the mind that for a marathoner, a half-marathon is a "short" race so I shouldn't worry about crashing and burning, I should just RUN! My natural tendency is to leave way too much left in the tank anyway, so holding back in "short" races just doesn't make sense. Despite the run being on the lakefront path, it wasn't too crowded.

I started breathing a bit more heavily than I'd like around mile 3 so I slowed the pace to catch my breath. Miles three and four went okay (8:50, 8:34) but I wouldn't say I was enjoying myself. Too many miles still ahead. Around mile four Adam caught up to me which was both a nice distraction and a bit demoralizing since he was just using this as a long run rather than a race since he hasn't been training. Adam holds the Nelson Lilly family record in the half marathon which he set at the Illinois Half Marathon in 2011 (1:54:14!!) which I'll freely admit, I'd LOVE to beat! I'm not very competitive in my daily life but for some reason I want to be the faster runner in our marriage. Silly, but true!

I trudged along until the turn-around at 6.5 (8:25, 8:59). Since it was an out-and-back we got to watch the winners. The male leader was cruising, looking great, even smiling a bit. The female leader looked good as well. She had an amazingly short stride. I'm definitely a believer in the short stride, fast turnover physiologic philosophy of running.

It started raining around mile 4 which was okay. I welcomed the distraction. Thunder and lightning? All the better! Until we turned around and headed north at 6.5. Then, the rain water which hitherto had been nice and cooling, became painful. Yes, physically painful. It wasn't hail, exactly, but the drops of water were so sharp and the wind so fierce that it hurt my eyes and face as it hit me. I resorted to keeping one eye open at at time because the water literally stung my eyeballs.

Miles 7 to 11 were ho-hum (8:47, 9:28, 8:57, 9:24, 9:17). I wasn't totally dying. I wasn't totally miserable. But I wasn't enjoying myself and there was no race day magic. Could I have run faster? Probably. Could I have run slower? Definitely.   Did I have multiple moments where I thought I should phone it in? For sure. But I figured I'd be just as wet and miserable if I ran slowly....actually more so because it would take that much longer to get to the finish.

I did come up with a new mantra, though. At the 8 mile mark I became very confused by the race clock. It said 1:10 so I couldn't figure out for the life of me how I had been running so hard for so long but still didn't have a comfortable time cushion to ensure I'd get a sub-2 hour marathon. Spend some time in my water logged brain:

 "5 miles left......10 minute miles.....5 x 10 is 50 minutes. But what about that 0.1 mile at the end? Why don't I have a cushion? Oh, wait, I'm not supposed to run 10 minute miles anymore, I'm supposed to run faster....Why do I have to run faster? Cuz I'm a better runner than I used to be?.....I don't feel like a better runner. I feel wet and semi-blinded by the rain. And I sure can't do math that involves numbers more complicated than 10. Like 9:30 minute miles x 5 miles. What's that?....Oh forget it. No math, just run."

And no math, just run is what I did. I did what I could and I ended up with a respectable 1:56:44 (final miles: 9:11, 8:58). A PR. Sub-9 minute miles! (8:54.27 min/miles).

I still have a ways to go to beat that Adam, though:)

The post race was quite respectable with hot pancakes, eggs and potatoes in addition the usual gatorade, water and fruit. I'd recommend this race. I'm not sure how many runners there ended up being but it was definitely less crowded than the other Chicago 1/2's I've done in the past (Monster, Rock and Roll, Chicago Half).

All in all a good day, and merely steps from our front door:)


  1. You mention being confused at the 8 mile mark... I was confused at the 7 mile mark.

    At the halfway turnaround I was still something like 48:35, which would translate to a 1:38 or so, but at the 7 mile mark I was suddenly only 2 minutes ahead of an 8 min/mile pace. It's like I lost almost 2 minutes somehow.

    It's not like I was losing it. When I saw that time at 7 miles, I sped up and still got a PR, but nothing like 1:38.

    I know there was wind and rain coming back, but at the 7 mile mark it had not yet had much if any effect.

    I can see there being a little difference but many people lost 15-20 seconds a mile on their mile splits. That's a big slowdown, even with this weather. Seems like we had misplaced mile marker(s) somewhere along the way.

    1. I think the first few miles were short by .05 to .1 mile then a few of the middle miles were long. Congrats on your race!