Running this year's Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon was as much fun as I've had since the 2013 Chicago Marathon. The course, the celebrity sighting, and hanging out with friends made this race special.
This was my fourth time running the race. It is one of the largest half marathons in Chicago and it's my favorite half marathon course in the world. The one drawback is that it usually takes place on one of the hottest days of the year, but at least it starts at 6:30 am, so the first 45 minutes of the race is usually in the shade. This year the forecast for the first two hours of the race called for high humidity, but lower than normal temps (upper 60s to low 70s).
Time goal: I ran the Indianapolis Mini Marathon back in May, and I was close to breaking 1:29, so I wanted to go sub 1:29 at the RnR Half. However, the Rock 'n Roll Half would be at least 10 degrees warmer than Indianapolis, so I needed to factor that in. So:
I woke up at 3:30 am. After breakfast, I packed my race bag and drove four houses down to pick up my neighbor Stacey then drove two more houses down to pick up my neighbor Tad. We all drove down in my car and parked in the usual $14 lot about 1/2 mile from Grant Park. I used the ample facilities, got a start line picture...
My "A" goal was go sub-1:29.
My "B" goal would be to go sub 1:30 (especially if the conditions on race day weren't favorable)
Age Group goal: I noticed that a sub-1:30 would have gotten me at least a top 4 AG placement in last year's RnR Half, so I thought that if things played out like last year, I might have a shot at at least a top 10 AG placement.
|Pre Race Photo near the RnR Start line|
...and then checked my bag. I milled around for awhile looking for familiar faces. As the race start time got nearer, I needed to go to the facilities once again. So I used the bank of porta potties on the north end of Grant Park and worked my way in front of the start line where I got a glimpse of olympic bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan doing her pre-race strides up and down Columbus drive. It was kind of a goose bumpy moment watching her warm-up and knowing that I was going to run the same race as the best marathoner in the U.S.! Anyway, I ducked under the corral fence about three rows from the start line. After the national anthem, Shalane ducked under the rope and stood about 10 feet in front of me. How cool! I made a last minute decision that I would try and bolt out with her for the first 100m just to say I ran a bit with her! The gun sounded and we were off!
|Start of the race (I'm at the tip of the red arrow).|
Miles 1 through 3: Well, my decision to start fast with Shalane ended about 2 meters into the race as she completely blasted out of the gates and left me there as if I were standing still. You can see the gap she opened up on me in the first 100m:
|Shalane (green arrow) hauling and Me crawling (red arrow)|
Despite seeing her disappear quickly over the horizon, I was running too fast for the first few hundred meters until I spotted Ken. So I made my way up to him to say "hi". We chatted about goals for about 30 seconds. Since he is a much faster runner than me, I said goodbye to him and he took off ahead of me. At about mile two there were some people dressed like clowns standing on stilts, yelling encouragement to us! Where were the rock bands? Anyway we ran down State Street, over the river then west on Randolph. 6:51/mile
|Under the L tracks (still have my water bottle)|
Miles 4 through 6: This was the western-most portion of the race down Madison, over the bridge a couple of blocks there and back. More people and clowns on stilts cheered us on as we ran down Madison St. Still no rock bands. I took the last sip of my water bottle and threw it to the sidewalk. We made our way down Harrison where I saw Xaarlin and Vicky who cheered me on. I guess my GPS was a little off because of the tall buildings. 6:24/mile
|Running through the Loop|
|Out on the course|
Miles 13 and 13.40 I did some mental calculations and realized that I could not afford to relax at all, as I would have to cover the last 1.1 miles at about a 6:52/pace to score a sub-1:30. Just before Soldier Field we had to run up a time slowing exit ramp, then run down it and then go up another one. I could tell that my pace had slowed to about 7:10/mile on the ramps, so I would have to really, really haul through Grant Park where the course flattens out again.
After cresting the last hill, finally in Grant Park, I could see the finish line straight ahead, way in the distance. Once in Grant Park, there was the awful aroma of fresh cow manure in the air, and I had to stop from gagging as I sucked in desperately for some clean air. Luckily about a quarter mile from the finish, like a breath of fresh air there was Xaarlin and Vicky (again!) shouting encouragement (and taking pictures - see below).
|Running up one of the two ramps|
in front of Soldier Field
|During the last quarter mile sprint through Grant Park. (Credit Xaarlin)|
|About to pass three guys all gunning for sub 1:30s|
(guy in white shirt is off camera to the left)
|Making my move to go through the middle (time is ticking, hurry!)|
|Making my pass just a few yards from the finish.|
I was starting to really hurt (5:01/mile pace)
The mini "track meet" was over and I crossed the finish line with 13 seconds to spare! 6:31/mile
Official Time: 1:29:46 ("B" Goal accomplished!)
Official Pace: 6:51/mile
Garmin Pace: 6:41/mile
Place Age Group: 6th out of 542 (AG Goal accomplished!)
Place Overall: 191 out of 13,754
Analysis: My splits were somewhat uneven and I probably did not run perfect tangents. I blame the fast start on Shalane! Just kidding. It was worth it just to try and keep up with her for 2 meters. It was muggy during the last half of the race. If it had been a little less humid, I probably could have gone sub-1:29. In any case, I reached my "B" time goal and accomplished my age group goal!
After catching my breath for about 30 seconds, I slowly walked down the finishers' chute and collected my medal. I spotted Ken who had finished a few minutes in front of me and we got a pic:
|Ken and Me reppin' the "BRC"|
I left Ken and walked to gear check, got my bag, changed my clothes, then headed back to watch my neighbor Stacey finish. Then I went over to meet Ken at the finish line beer garden:
|Ken and me enjoying the post-race party|
We also saw Eric and I chatted with him briefly before he went to yet another beer expo!
That morning, I sent out a tweet which got favorited by Shalane Flanagan. It was something about the spine tingling start with her 3 rows ahead of me. Xaarlin also got a couple tweets favorited by Shalane. How cool is that?
Now it's time to really kick my Chicago Marathon training into high gear. I need to up my miles and learn to hold a fast pace for about 16 miles before I will feel confident I can set a course PR in October. So, it's getting serious folks, but it was great to have a little bit of racing fun yesterday.
So, Grant Park starting line: I'll see you again in October!