Saturday, October 1, 2016

Sweet Home Chicago.. Half Marathon

Have I ever told you how much I love to race downtown Chicago? It might be one of the biggest hassles coming from suburbia. Leaving the house at 4am on a Sunday morning just to hit gridlock traffic within a half mile of the parking garage is rough. Leaving the overcrowded race site and swiping your credit card for $20-$40 as you leave the parking garage is even more thrilling. But... there's something so empowering about running down the center line of a major city street knowing that no car can cut you off, no horn can blare in your ear, and the only time you have stop moving forward is at the finish line. And let's not forget, you're surrounded by some of the worlds most amazing architecture and a gorgeous body of water in the same swoop. And if you want to catch a Cubs game post-race, you surely can. Or snag a slice of deep dish? Have at it. Dip your toes in the water while enjoying the beach life? Yup. Check out a museum or 2? Sure. The list literally goes on and on. Very few places in the world can offer what Chicago does. And when the Chicago PD shuts down the busiest street in the city and lets me run on Lake Shore Drive while soaking in the breathtaking views.. it's just another reason to add to the list. 

Just see for yourself. The view of Lake Shore Drive looking North from a pedestrian bridge on Sunday. 

Photo by: Ali Enign
Fortunately I was able to take the hassle out of Chicago racing this time around. Lindsey and Ian live downtown and have always told me that their futon is open for me when I want. So I made sure to coordinate our schedules and even convinced Ian that he should run too! Of course, our weekend was not complete without Rob. So on Saturday afternoon, the 4 of us ventured to packet pick up at Solider Field. Fun Fact: Ian's first time at Soldier Field was not for a football game. Or for a concert. Ian's first time at Soldier Field was to pick up his race packet for the Chicago Half Marathon.

Runners ready to run!

Sunday morning came quickly. I had not seen 4am since Steelhead and frankly, I did not miss it. I sat at the kitchen table and sipped my coffee while I thought out my race in my head. If everything happened the way I was planning, I'd be setting my THIRD PR since March in the half marathon. The first one was a long time coming. The second one, I completely surprised myself.Who knows what would happen today? In the recent weeks I was running stronger than I ever have. So just maybe..?

Rob and I hopped in the back of Lindsey and Ian's car at 5:15am sharp and we hit the road. We parked without much hassle at all (and for FREE! Props to everyone in the car except me) and made our way to the starting area. Ian headed to the porta potties while I hung out with Rob and Lindsey to pin on my bib and lace up my shoes. BIG MISTAKE. I've been in the triathlon world to long. Or, I've been removed from the running world to long? Either way, I should have joined him. By the time I hit the starting line I had to pee like a racehorse. This is very common for me. However, I wasn't wearing my wetsuit this time. And I wasn't about to hop into a large body of water. I had about 15 minutes to spare so I took off for a short jog down the street hoping to find a stray porta potty that I could sneak into. Unfortunately, I was going to have to wait.

The gun went off and I came out of the gate pretty fast and almost immediately forgot that I was about to pee my pants. My first mile of a race is always faster than it should be. I try, I really do. But I get to excited sometimes. Today was no exception to the rule. Mile 1: 7:00 flat. Oops. Ok, funs over. Time to get real here. Mile 2: 7:21. Much better. We wove our way through Jackson Park and before I knew it we were being lead out onto Lake Shore Drive. Talk about a rush. The median to my left. Water to the right. Chicago's breathtaking skyline in the horizon. My legs were feelin' fantastic and even gave me a few more sub 7:15 splits.

About mile 4.5 Rob and Lindsey popped up on the course! And they had a third amigo with them - Brittany crashed their spectating party! Seeing them was a nice little surprise. Right around the same time is when the sun started to come out with a vengeance. Lake Shore Drive might provide some breathtaking views, but it also comes with little shade. I was already pretty warm and this wasn't going to help. The beads of sweat turned into drips and before the turn around at mile 8, I felt like I was back at Ironman Texas.

Snapped by Rob around mile 4.5 - I almost didn't see the group!
Unfortunately, this is where my race started to fall apart. Heading South on LSD proved a little more difficult. The wind  wasn't to strong, but it was strong enough for my tiring body to fight. My legs were slowing. My breathing was no longer fluid and steady. Alright. Take this mile nice and easy and then you can pick it up again. If only that's what my legs would have allowed. After mile 9, I started to cramp like never before. And at the same time, I was suddenly reminded of how badly I had to pee. That's a bad combination when you're on track to PR by almost 2 minutes. In fact, it proved to be enough to take away my shot at a PR for the day.

Just takin' a trip on LSD. NBD ;)
Every step I took I felt my over full bladder literally push against my terribly cramping stomach. The worst part? I had 3 miles to go. I did some quick math and knew that I was going to be pushing it if I wanted to PR. My splits were creeping a little to close to 7:45-7:50. If the finish line and my watch hit 13.1 miles at the same exact time I'd have a good shot at a PR. But we all know that's not how it works..

The final turn - spotted by Rob on his fancy Divvy bike!
As I rounded the final turn and saw the finish line I glanced at my watch and knew I was going to be short. By only a few seconds. 14 to be exact.

Free race photos are the best photos!

Racin' and makin' memories :)

My 1:38:49 wasn't going to break any records today. But I couldn't be to upset. Take away my overactive bladder and spontaneous stomach cramps and I know my legs are capable of much more. I've put in some speedy miles in the past month. And I have just over a month to add as many more speedy miles as I can before I toe the line at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 5th. Yep, that's right. I've decided to put my legs to the full running test again with an open marathon. Something I haven't done in almost 2 years. And to be honest? I'm terrified. No matter what way you look at it, a marathon is a long way. But that's not the scary part. The last time I ran a marathon without a swim and a bike before it, I decided to run on a whim and on 8 weeks of training. I finished, but it wasn't anything special. My last marathon PR was before Ironman Wisconsin in Nashville, TN in November of 2013. (Although I came close to a marathon PR during Ironman Maryland.) I've put in some serious work these last 2 years and I'm in the best shape of my life. I've learned to push myself to a level I didn't know I had in me. I have absolutely no idea what my body is capable of when it comes to running 26.2 miles anymore. The unknown. That my friends, that's some scary shit.

But I'm past the fear of the unknown. I think that spoke true of itself when I bought my first bike. And when I signed up for my first Ironman with 0 experience. Because as far as I'm concerned, there's no reason to be afraid to do what I love. I want to know how far I can take myself. I want to know how far I can push my body. And more importantly, my mind. I'm ready to get curious. Ready or not, here we go.

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