Monday, July 23, 2018

Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon 2018 - Race Recap

Lately, I've been waiting until the week before a race to actually register for it. I have a more relaxed attitude towards racing and want to see how I feel physically and mentally before I commit to doing a race. So, even though I knew that I wanted to run the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon over a month ago, I waited until the Tuesday before the race to register. However, I learned a valuable lesson:  

Never register for the Rock n' Roll Half Marathon less than 7 days before the event.

First of all on-line registration closes seven days beforehand so if you want to run the race you have to register in person at the expo. Second you are forced to travel to the expo to register with no guarantee of spots being available. Third, you have to wait in line to register. Fourth (and the most important reason) is the price!

** Price Not including service fees!

I, unfortunately waited until the Tuesday before the race and was shut out of on-line registration.


So, on Friday after work, I took the Green Line 25 minutes and walked about 2 miles to finally get to the expo which was located far inside McCormick Place. Once I found the in-person registration booth I was faced with the decision of dropping over $175, which is about 3x of what the early-bird price would have been had I taken a leap-of-faith last year and registered early. Anyway, I really wanted to run and figured that I needed to seize the moment and hand over my credit card, price be damned. 

After sweating bullets as my card was charged the full amount plus service fees, the woman at the registration desk then asked me what my expected finish time was and I told her 1:28:00. She promptly wrote "Corral 3" on my bib. Shocked, I asked her what was Corral 1 qualifying time and she said sub 1:19:00!! I couldn't believe it, but thought maybe the race was really going to be competitive this year.

After getting my bib and shirt I started to rationalize my decision:

1) I would hardly blink if someone dropped $175 in two hours at a casino  

2) I only have a finite amount of races left in me and I get to do this. Do it now.

Time goal: I did the calculations based on my 10k last month and the result for a half marathon was somewhere around 6:38/mile or a 1:27:00. I figured with the heat/humidity I would be happy with a 1:28:00.

I woke up at 4:00. After a few swigs of coffee, and walking the dogs I packed my race bag and drove my new wheels down to Grant Park. The garage where there is usually a long lines of cars was happily line-free. I think the lines are long for the Shamrock and for the Hot Chocolate. Also, arriving an hour and a half before the race helped too.

After leaving the garage, I walked/ran about a mile into Grant Park  After that I took some pictures:

Pre-race Start Line

I used the porta-potties, then chilled near bag check. I spotted Erica and said hi. Then I ran another mile through Grant Park, doing about four strides. I could tell right away that my legs were ready for 13.1 somewhat fast miles. That's a great feeling. It was about 68 degrees and humid and I started to get hot. I decided to stop my warm-ups and just go over to the corrals and wait. Since I had been assigned to corral 3, I scanned corrals 1 and 2 and spotted a few team jerseys here and there, but not enough that warranted me being in the third wave. In fact, I think furthest I've ever started back was wave 2. So, I decided (thankfully) not to start in corral 3, but the back of corral 2. There was no corral enforcement, so I walked into corral 2. After a few minutes, I realized I should have been in corral 1. I heard people discussing how they wanted to keep a 9 minute goal pace! It was too late, I was hemmed in and it would have been too great of an effort to move forwards. The national anthem was sung, the countdown was on. Wave 1 was sent off than about one minute later, we were off!

The Race:
Miles 1 through 3:  As soon as I crossed the start line, it started to rain. It was a welcome relief and I thought to myself that this was going to be fun! However, soon thereafter I had to do a huge amount of weaving. 8 to 10 minute milers who had started ahead of me were running three of four abreast. There was even a pack of 10 runners with matching t-shirts running not faster than 12 minute miles. No corral enforcement = people all wanting and getting to start in front. I think RnR needs to have some enforcement especially for corrals 1 to 5. Wasted some energy weaving and surging over the first mile. However, on the bright side, it was raining  and it felt fantastic. My sunglasses were somewhat blurred by the rain, so it was difficult to see my watch. I decided to just run by feel. After 100+ races, I am getting more comfortable with "feel" racing!  6:42/mile

Miles 4 through 6: Running through the Loop is so much fun. As for pace, I just focused on how I was feeling and modulated my pace accordingly.  The crowds were thinner than last year, thanks to the rain. Eventually the rain seemed to taper off - unfortunately. A big band was playing. Still passed lots of people.  6:39/mile

Miles 7 through 9: Running southbound along Michigan Ave., I thought Xaarlin may be spectating in her usual spot somewhere during mile seven. I didn't see her, so I continued on down the road. Passed even more of people. We did the out-and-back down the desolate stretch of MLK Drive. At least there was a rock band playing there and I signed the devil horns at them. 6:36/mile

Miles 10 through 12: This stretch is typically the hottest on the course because it is in the direct sunlight as we run between Lake Shore Drive and the Lakefront Trail. Luckily, it was not too hot thanks to the rains we had been having. I was playing cat and mouse with a guy in no shirt as we entered the McCormick Place tunnel. We had caught up with the 10k walkers and had to weave around them since there was no lanes separating the distances. I nearly twisted my ankle in a pothole, but luckily it wasn't too deep. Once I was in the clear,  I floored it and broke free from Mr. No-Shirt. 6:44/mile

Miles 13 and 13.17  Outside the tunnel, Mr. No-Shirt tried to pass me, but I willed myself to not let that happen. We went up and down two hills to get to Columbus Drive. Once safely over the hill, I floored it for the remaining .75 miles straight down Columbus to the finish line. Passed a woman and then hit the additional timing mat that sits just before the finish line and the announcer called my name.  6:20/mile

Almost Finished!


Official Time: 1:27:14
Official Pace: 6:39/mile
Garmin Pace: 6:18/mile (bad signal)?!

Place Age Group: 1st out of 329 
Place Overall: 83 out of 8,909

Personal Analysis: 1st AG win in a Rock n Roll event! Over a minute faster than last year despite the fact that I was running higher mileage at that time. Maybe it was the rain or maybe I'm just in a better spot right now mentally and physically? I ran completely by feel and almost hit my goal dead-on.

Race Analysis:
Love this race. This is my favorite half marathon course in the world. It would be perfect except for the mile in which we do an out-and-back on MLK Drive. Oh yeah, and the pot-hole filled McCormick Place tunnel.

Post Race: 
I walked down the finishers' chute and collected my medal.

After exiting the finisher's chute it started to rain. So, I grabbed my bag at bag check, changed clothes threw on a poncho and went over to watch the race.  I went back to the course to spectate. I got a video of Wendy who was looking strong (~40 seconds into the video).

Then I went over to the beer garden had a beer and waited for the awards ceremony. It was pouring rain as I heard my name called. I picked up my sweet first place AG trophy.
Sweet Rock n Roll Guitar AG Trophy!
I stayed in the beer garden another few minutes looking for anyone I knew. However, the place was thinning out with only a few dozen people left due to the rain. So I headed back to the car.

Was it worth it?:

It's true that on paper that the race was expensive. The higher-than-expected price made me analyze how much an individual race is really worth to me. The days before are fun with all of the anticipation as I "run" the course in my mind. My diet the week before a race is very clean and I start feeling better, making me wonder why I don't eat like that year round. Then the race itself is indescribably fun and tests my limits mentally and physically. It's also a blast to run (nearly) as hard as you can for as long as you can. The post-race endorphins last at least two days and then there are the memories, which last even longer. So how much is all of that worth? To me races are a bargain considering all the other ways I could spend my money.

Up Next:
I'm tired post-race, so best to take a few days off and recover. I have no idea what my next race will be. 10% chance it will be a marathon, which is up from 0% chance last month! Stay tuned...


  1. Great to see you! congrats on the AG win! That's worth the $175 ;) #braggingrights. I didn't mind the rain. It would have been hella humid if not.

    I think they pulled your leg on the corrals. I was in 2 and I gave my 1:41 time from last year. I started with a friend in 3. The 1:35 pace group was in 3 so... strange. I had a very off day. But, it's always a fun challenge with weather, etc. and a well run event.

    Congrats again on a great day!

    1. It was great seeing you too! Thanks Erica. Yes, rain was good and helped energize me in a way. Yes, I couldn't believe the corral placement, but I did look at the sheet the woman was using for corral assignments and she placed me correctly per that sheet. Oh well, lesson learned for next year! Sorry to hear about your off day. Same thing happened to me last year.

  2. I like your analogy about spending money at a casino (which I often do--much in excess of $175 in 2 hours!!!) It's all relative and about what you consider 'entertainment' and fun ways to spend your money. Congrats on the AG and a great race!

    1. Ha, so my casino analogy is accurate! :) Anyway, yes it is my preferred form of entertainment, so I am willing to shell out my hard earned dollars for it. With my new "register late" philosophy I shouldn't expect to pay rock bottom prices! Thanks!

  3. Congrats Pete, on the AG win!! Gosh, that had to feel great. Well worth the money you spent. I can't believe they put you in corral 3. I complained last year about the lack of corral patrol. They need to fix that. Fortunately back where I was, I was with my "people". I did pass some walkers which made me wonder what was going on in the higher up corrals.

    I love that you shared the video you got of me!! Actually, I love that you videoed me coming in. I hoped I'd see you near the finish line like last year. You gave me that push I needed!

    1. Thanks Wendy! Yes, why even have corrals if they are not enforced? Great seeing you as well. Glad you liked the video and that I could help give you a "push"! :)

  4. Love your reasoning for the $175 fee. You're so right, there are a finite number of races. Congrats on your AG win. And wow, did you call it or what. Amazing that you could predict your time so exactly!

    Personally, I prefer to sign up at the earliest cheapest price and then let the "threat" of the race motivate me for the next 9 or 10 months.

    1. Thanks. Yes, those conversion tables for races are pretty darn accurate, especially for converting a 10k to a half! I like your strategy of signing up early. Plus you get the lowest price! :)

  5. Woo hoo, congrats on a great race ran by feel and your 1st AG!!! That is awesome, and hey, don't feel bad about the cost! That is what you do for entertainment. I totally think it's worth it to wait and sign up later if things are still open (that is how I like to do it when I can)!!!

    I wonder if races will ever do anything about the corrals. What a waste of energy for you!

    1. Thanks! Yes, I took a risk, but luckily was able to register. I guess paying the highest possible price is the "price" I pay for jumping into races last minute. Yes, corral situation needs to be remedied. If it isn't next year I will start near the front as well! :)

  6. I knew you’d have a great race! Your analytics are also very spot on- I aspire to be like you some day. Congrats on the AG win! I am totally for paying a premium to register for a race last minute- to know I’m feeling good, the weather is good is worth the extra $$$ for me- and would take a lot of the pressure off. I hope to execute a PR worthy half (and maybe full) next year using that mentality.

    You are amazing!

    1. Thanks! Yes, I guess I was just in a little shock of how high the last minute premium was, considering the early-bird is much less! I probably would have skipped it if the forecast was in the 80s, so I had the advantage of pretty much knowing what the temps would be before plunking down my money - something the early registrants didn't know. Yes, making sure you are in top shape and frame of mind a day or two before the race and then signing up will definitely help set you up for a PR!

  7. Wow! 1st in AG at a RNR event!! That's amazing! Congrats! And yes, it was expensive but sounds like you had a fantastic race.

    1. Thanks! Yes, it was fantastic. Still reliving it in my mind! :)

  8. Really well done, Pete! You really hit the jackpot on this race in more ways than one. I'm interested to see how much higher that 10% chance will climb... :) Way to go, again!

    1. Ha, I did hit the "jackpot" at my "casino"! Still at 10%, but you never know. Thanks! :)