Friday, January 26, 2018

F^3 Lake Half Marathon: Middle of Winter Check Up

Full Disclosure: I never intended to race until the infamous season opener at March Madness this year. Obviously I caved to peer pressure, yet again.

I mean, can you blame me? #didntwannamissout

The F^3 Lake Half Marathon is held in the middle of January on the Chicago lakefront. It's everything you would expect it to be. Freezing cold with piercing winds and has potential for some serious snow covered paths. I ran this race circa 2014 and it was just that. Five degrees at the start line, nasty Chicago winter winds, and snow packed covered paths that felt more like hiking than running at times.

F^3 Lake Half Marathon 2014
Shane (nicknamed "the Sherpa") and I wore all the layers

This year, Jacqui was looking for some friends to join her. She was chosen by Chicago Athlete Magazine to help them review races in the Chicagoland area. She decided to run and was pretty consistent when it came to asking me if I'd be running with her. My answers went as follows:

"No, it's to cold."
"No, the last time I ran I had to climb snowdrifts."
"No, I retired."
"No, I need to do laundry that day."
"If this serious cold spell breaks, I'll consider it."
"Ok, if these 40+ degree temps stay I'll register by Wednesday."
"Ok I registered." 
I prayed that Ryan would tell me I needed to focus on my long run instead of racing. Instead he told me, "Well, your long run that weekend is going to be pretty intense anyways so you might as well race." Yer killin' me smallz. The weather was looking beyond amazing and RyBread had a small posse racing {Ryan, Jacqui, and Kati} so at that point I had a hard time turning down a 40+ degree race on the Chicago Lakefront in the middle of January. 

The 4 of us piled into Kati's car on Saturday morning and headed South to Soldier Field. One huge benefit to this race {that wasn't available in 2014} was the fact that we were able to stay INSIDE Soldier Field until the gun went off. You mean I don't have to stay in my car until the last minute and then sprint to the start line and risk a rolled ankle? Sign me up. 

Mark decided to come hang out and spectate at the last minute so he took the train down and met us at Soldier Field and provided some solid entertainment. We found a friend from home along with plenty of other familiar racing faces and mingled while we prepped for the race. Jacqui, Ryan, Kati and I took off for a warmup and the whole time I formulated a last minute race plan in my head (because Ryan pretty much just told me, let's see what you can do #facepalm). I wanted so badly to stay as consistent as possible. What I knew about this course: the first mile takes you around Soldier Field and then spits you out on the Lakefront path where you run straight south through mile 7 and then turn around and head straight back north. The wind was heading North so I'd have a headwind through mile 7 with a tailwind on the way back home. This could work out in your favor, if you're smart. 

Oh, hey Linus! #weneversawhim
Warmin' up with the Field Museum
We hung out inside until the last possible second, moments before the National Anthem was sung so we could stay as warm as possible. Kati and I said goodbye to Jacqui and Ryan and found our spot a little further back in the herd of people (3000+ to be exact, this wasn't exactly a "little" race). The gun went off and I made Kati promise me she'd wait for me at the finish line. 

Mile 1: 7:08 Soldier Field is bigger than I thought. It literally took almost an entire mile to run around the whole stadium. Crowds were a little heavy, but I made sure to let the speedster take off. I glanced at my watch and saw I was definitely running to fast, slowed it down a bit but still had to swallow a faster mile that I wanted for mile 1. 

Mile 2: 7:25 Much better. We hopped on the lakefront path and the winds hit us right away. Winds were never terrible, but always present. Anything over 10mph winds on Lake Michigan can always feel much worse. And today, I wanted to manage them as best as I could. 

Is that bare skin showing? Why yes, yes it is. And it's January. In Chicago. 

Mile 3: 7:31 Yes, perfect. Hang on to this pace. Stay consistent in the wind. I wasn't feeling over labored at all. I wanted to conserve so I could potentially pick up the pace at the turn around. Around mile 2.5 I heard a voice from behind me ask, "What's with the RyBread?" Oh, it's my racing team! "Oh, I just thought you were like really into Rye bread sandwiches or something." #facepalm

Mile 4: 7:29 Is it too early to be impressed with myself? I mean, come on. This consistent pace is makin' me all sorts of giddy. About mile 3.5 I took my first gel and was happy I took it when I did. Had I waited another aide station things might have gotten ugly. 

That skyline tho 😍

Mile 5: 7:31 Alright, this is getting a little creepy. But, I rolled with it. Don't let yourself go out of control before the turnaround, only 2 more miles until you can start to let go a little. This is also the same mile we had to do a little "off roading" if you will. Parts of the Lakefront path are being redone, so we had to jump ship and move from one side of the path to the other, crossing a supposed to be grassy section but happened to be 100% mud due to the amount of snow we've had lately. I two-stepped approximately 3 steps through the mud and stomped my feet clean on the path afterwards. 

Mile 6: 7:33 OK, I'm still feeling pretty good but I'm ready to ditch this wind. Chicago, I love ya with my whole heart everyday of the year, but you can keep this wind and shove it where the sun don't shine on race day. Kapeesh? This is also the same mile I started to see the leaders heading back home. Jealousy ran deep to my core as I watched Ryan head home first, then Jacqui, followed by Kati.

Mile 7: 7:32 FINALLY! The turnaround! Yes! Let's go HOME! I need a gel though, take a gel at the next aide station and let it boost you home. 

Mile 8: 7:40 Considering I damn near choked on my water and gel at this aide station I'm not upset that I dipped into the 7:40's. I spent a solid 10 second coughing up my right lung like a first timer {one day I'll figure out how to drink and run at the same time} so I ain't mad about it. Also, this wind isn't as much of a tailwind as it's supposed to be. Next mile it will be better, yes. 

Mile 9: 7:50 OK, before you freak out you need to know something. My stomach pretty much rejected that last gel I just took. This was not a cramp, or a sidestich from lack of oxygen. I legit had the worst stomach ache in the entire world and it felt like my insides were eating itself. The fact that I still managed to maintain a sub 8 minute mile right now was beyond me. OK, this will pass. Take another water at the next aide station and let it help relax you and you're back in the game. 

Mile 10: 8:06 OMG THIS IS SOME OF THE WORST PAIN IN THE WHOLE WORLD. My legs felt fantastic, in case you cared at all. But my gut, watch out. I kept hoping I'd upchuck really quick so I could rid my body of this poison that I just ingested. But of course my body doesn't operate like that. Also, I still wouldn't consider this a tailwind. 

Mile 11: 8:06 Please don't get any slower, please don't get any slower. Hopes of a PR are definitely thrown out the window at this point but I could still run under 1:40 if I could find another gear these last 2 miles. 

Good thing Kati's sunglasses are hiding the pain in my eyes

Mile 12: 8:05 So, I'm consistent while in pain. I suppose this is a good thing! One more mile. One. More. Mile. 

Mile 13: 7:55 Good. At least you were able to salvage some dignity so your last mile wasn't your slowest. One problem, the mile 13 marker was not near me at all. This course was long. Longer than 13.1. Sub 1:40 wasn't going to happen. 

Finish: 1:41:23 I found Mark at the finish and immediately started to curl into a ball while I tried to explain my misery. He found it hilarious while he had the camera in my face. Ryan and Kati were waiting for me at the end of the chute, Ryan shivering out of control. Mark immediately threw his coat on top of him while we all shuffled back into Soldier Field. At one point I thought I was going to have to carry Ryan, he limped like he had 2 broken legs. His brand new shoes caused him all the blisters on the bottom of his feet. WHAT A NEWBIE!

I was pretty happy to see this finish line

After I had time to sleep on my performance and dwell on my non-success (we won't call it a failure, just not a success), I immediately hounded Ryan for answers. Am I out of shape? Do I need to rethink 2018 goals? Was it just a bad day? Be honest with me or I find a new coach. He swore to me that I wasn't out of shape. Hell, it's only January and I just ran one of my fastest ever half marathons. (Running this close to 1:40 is something I've only ever done a handful of times. Running under 1:40 has only happened twice before.) I'm only about a month into some serious training for 2018 and recently had a pretty big curveball thrown my way. An engagement. Followed by some celebrations that made me laugh until I cried, and cried just because I was so happy. My roller coaster of emotions has been pretty alive these last 2 weeks. And the fact that my body was still able to run one of my better half marathons ever, well that's sayin' something. Stress hits the body in every way. I don't feel like this engagement has caused me any stress, but I suppose good stress is a thing too. As Ryan says, "Good stress hits the body just as hard, and you've done pretty well with it. Just next time, don't get engaged this close to a race." Ha, got it coach. I'll save my next engagement for post-race. 

Did I mention I was bleeding at some point during the race? How? #onlyme

After more and more thought, I'm in no way upset with my performance. I was just a little hopeful for more at this point in the year. (yes, 20 days in) But, these little "check ups" are good to give the body a little test to see what needs to be altered. I don't plan on another check up before March Madness. But who knows, I'm not making promises anymore.


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