Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Banco Popular Chicago Half Marathon

I'm not sure why, but I set my alarm for 3:30am. I wasn't to meet Steve until 5:30 and two hours was more than enough time to get ready for this mornings race.

After showering and getting dressed, I double checked my gear and scanned my pre-race checklist for the third time. Yep, I'm ready. What do I do for the next hour?

I laid back down and enjoyed a cat nap. With a few minutes to spare, I darted out the door and stopped at Dunkin Donuts for the pre-race drink of champions.

Steve and I met up, made a quick stop at Starbucks (never hurts to have two doses of
caffiene...) and headed to the race area.

This was Steve's first half marathon and I was impressed with how calm and prepared he was. I've done several half's before and you would have thought I was giving a public speech with as nervous as I was.

We found a decent parking spot within a half mile of the start. Before we got out of the car, the lot was filled and the parking lot was filled with runners going through their pre-race rituals.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFree Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usAfter scoping out the starting area, we run into Doug and Jenny from the Downers Grove running club. We stretch and discuss our race strategy. Before long the emcee calls the runners to the starting line. As we head over we run into Matt and Matt, also from the Downers Grove running club. We wish each other good luck and start getting into position.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usJenny and I had similar time goals so we lined up together around the 9min/mile sign which happens to be right at the intersection. It begins to get crowded and people continue to move in every direction trying to find "their" spot.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usWith no warning we begin moving forward. There are a few false starts before we're at the start line and we take off. The start line was much narrower than the road, while it made getting to the start line a bit tough, it meant things opened up once we went through.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usJenny and I settled into a rhythm and checked with each other several times if this was an ok pace. While the roads were crowded, we had no problem staying with our pace and passing (or getting passed) as we needed.

Our first mile clocked in just under 9 minutes. Perfect. We'll hold this pace.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usBefore mile 2 came the water station. I was carrying a fuel belt so we skipped this station and saved a few seconds. Even with skipping the station, mile 2 clock in at 9:54, about a full minute slower. But we felt good and running strong, but didn't want to cross the line and get out of a rhythm.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usJenny and I kept elbowing each other as we'd maneover to pass another runner. We kept telling each other "excuse me", "sorry"--and it was happening a lot. Finally we made a pact that it wasn't intentional and an apology was automatically understood. I did break this pact once after I made a full arm impact that I thought might give her a black eye.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usWe completely missed the mile 3 marker but was glad to see mile 4 whiz by with an average 9:40 pace. Not the pace we origianlly planned for, but quicker than the previous split.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usCarrying a water bottle allowed us skip every other water station. However, after reaching the half way mark we started our run/walk schedule. As we learned from training, walking doesn't always slow you down and can often lead to quicker times. But the course was now on Lake Shore Drive with no shade, and the morning sun was rising high and beating down.

We alternated Gatorade and water at the aid stops and I downed a few mocha Clif Shots along the way. It was getting hot, but we kept hydrated and maintained pace. Somewhere between around mile 8 the crowd picked up a lot and gave us a boost. I was having fun giving the crowds high-fives and trying to distract myself. It must have worked as I missed all the mile markers until 11.

At this point the course leaves Lake Shore Drive. Only 2 short miles to go, but we lose the crowd and reality sets in once again. Ok, one more walking break and then we attack the last two.

We pick up the pace just a hair and our conversation practically stops as we cross the line into the next zone. Mile 12 comes up and I tell Jenny I'll see her at the finish. I was sure I was holding her back but I had to walk just one more time. It was short, maybe 30 seconds, just enough to catch my breath.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usWe turn the corner and begin our final stretch home. I see my family cheering me on and I get the boost I need to finish. I give it everything I have left which, at this point, isn't much.

The coarse winds back and forth a bit and there was a collective subdue cheer from the runners when the finish line came into view.

Final time: 2:12

I'm always glad to have another finish under my belt. While I'm disappointed I actually ran this race 4 minutes slower than my half marathon a month ago (in which I bonked half-way through), I ran a smarter and more consistent race. Except for the first mile, every other mile was within 60 seconds of each other.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usSo...what did I learn? Running with someone can make the miles go by faster, thanks Jenny for hanging with me for 2 hours on a Sunday morning.

Everything else I knew, but I actually did it this time: (1) Stick with the same food and drink schedule you practice in training (2) Walking can actually make you go faster, but at worse, you break even.

Now it's time to rest before next weekend's 24 miler.

"The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win."
- Sir Roger Bannister

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usMe, Jenny, Doug post-race

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usCongratulations Steve on your first Half Marathon finish!

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usI've always wanted to be on a Wheaties box

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usJessica, champion cheerer-on-er

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usJillian, another champion cheerer-on-er

1 comment:

MJ said...

Congrats, Russ! Sounds like a well-executed race. I just might see you at Mile 5 of the marathon this year...not sure if I'll be volunteering or not yet.

Keep up the consistent training! I'm jealous!