Monday, June 24, 2013

Chicago Women's Half Marathon Race Recap

Do as I say, not as I do.

Actually, you're probably safer if you don't even do what I say.

Race morning sunrise. Yes, this is not a new picture.

Fact: My training consistency leaves a lot to be desired

Fact: I do not tolerate heat well

Fact: Average weekly mileage for the past six weeks - 17 miles

Putting this together = running a half marathon during summer the day after a seven mile run to make a total of 32 miles for the week was not my smartest move.

Packet pickup:
I popped into Fleet Feet Old Town on Saturday for packet pickup. The process was easy, well organized and actually convenient as I needed to buy some sports detergent too. Afterwards I headed over to the Green City Market and treated myself to some cherries.

Race shirt:
We got a technical shirt and a headband in the race bag. I tried the headband out and it looks like the first one I've ever owned that will stay on my head for an extended period of time. WIN!

Gear check:
I didn't check anything for the race. Bonus of racing in summer - no need to bring a bag for the pre- and post-race warm gear.

The race:
Before the race, I met up with some of the other Chicago Running Bloggers. I got to meet some new people which was nice, especially as I was a little nervous about this race.

c/- Maggie (I hope it's OK that I've stolen this)
Why was I nervous? I ran seven miles Saturday morning in similar weather and came out of that run very hot and very sweaty. The idea of repeating that PLUS another six miles left me a bit concerned.

For the first time ever, I had eaten something before a race. Actually, I think it's the first time I've eaten something before a long run, period. I am trying to be a smarter runner and to train myself in more than just putting one foot in front of the other for an extended period of time. I know I won't make it through the marathon without proper fuelling, and this seemed like as good a time as any to start. I'm happy to say, my crumpet with honey was a success.

I also inadvertently drank a whole bottle of water before the race (namely, the bottle I am holding in my hand in the group photo). I had picked it up thinking I'd drink just a little and before I knew it, I had drunk it all. I was pretty sure this was going to result in me having to take a break during the race but it was too late to do anything about it by this stage.

With 10 minutes to start time, I lined up with the other half marathoners. It was pretty crowded so I just lined up toward the back of the pack.

Early on in the race, we went under cover and my Garmin lost satellite reception. According to my Garmin splits, I ran the first two miles in 6:58 and 6:52. HA HA! If only! I was aiming to maintain something in the vicinity of 11:00/mile and I was pretty successful with this for the first half of the race.

At around mile 5 (I think) I paused to stretch out my left leg. I have been neglecting my foam roller and it's beginning to show itself in very tight hamstrings and ITB (see, don't do as I do). One of the things I really liked about this race was the support from the others running it too - as I was stretching I was asked if I was OK and needed any help, lovely!

The next few miles were uneventful. I was hot and feeling tired but still felt pretty good. I took a gel at close to the half way mark (new flavour = FAIL) (And yes, I know you shouldn't try new things on race day. Again, do as I say, not as I do!).

Despite having taken water at every Aid Station to this point (plus my bottle of water before the race) I was still massively thirsty and at around mile 8 I started to feel not so great. This stretch of full sun took the wind out of my sails and I resorted to my first walk break of the race. From this point on I adopted a walk/run approach. My plan was to run to each mile marker and then walk until either the 2:30 pace group overtook me or my head no longer felt like it was going to explode - which ever came first. No matter what, I was determined that I wasn't going to finish over 2:30:00. I also started pausing at every water fountain on the path to drink some more water and put water on my face and head.

My walk/run approach worked (relatively speaking) and I made it to the finish line in 2:29:23.

I then proceeded to down a bottle of water AND a bottle of gatorade in quick succession. This gave terrible stomach cramps but it was worth it. They were also handing out towels that had been soaked in ice water at the finish line which was absolute heaven. I grabbed a chunk of ice from a cooler and wrapped it up in the towel for the bus ride home - I am sure I looked pretty strange with my icy towel on my head but I really didn't care.

While I can't say this conclusively, I am fairly certain I had some form of heat stress from the race. I developed a terrible headache plus I was pretty shaky for the rest of the day and still really hot at 8.00pm that night. I drank about a litre of Nuun once I got home and continued to drink water for the rest of day. All the sweatiness also resulted in two massive blisters on my right foot (or possibly blisters the size of Wisconsin, as I heard someone comment during the race). Given I'm running Rock n Roll Chicago in a month, I probably need to work on my hot weather running strategy (or hot weather running recovery strategy).

Despite not having a great race, there are some positives I am taking out of this run:
1. I started practicing good race fuelling
2. No GI issues
3. I ran a 20 mile weekend
4. When the going got tough, I kept going

Would I do this race again - probably not the half, maybe the 5K. It was a well organized race and a really great atmosphere but I just don't think I need to put myself through any more summer long races.


  1. I'm glad you were about to finish it especially the 20 mile weekend! Shows a lot of heart! litre of Nuun! Your body needed it for sure.issue for me with this heat is it kills my appetite after the hot runs, and I know i'm not fueling up enough for the next day.

    Glad no GI issues! nothing you can do to work through those!

    Have a great day!

  2. Oof, that's a rough day. It was so muggy out! Way to power through despite it though!

    1. Yep, it's the humidity that really gets you.

  3. Congrats! The weather was absolutely brutal on Sunday, but you powered through! And Garmins can be so annoying downtown. I live in the Loop and I don't even use it anymore until I get to the lakefront:)