Sunday, July 21, 2013

Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon Race Recap

I remember when I signed up for this race, I was super excited about it. The week leading up to the race, I kept forgetting that I was even supposed to be running it.

Packet pickup:
The Rock 'n' Roll series put on a good expo. I went on Saturday to collect my race number, etc. I wandered around the stands but didn't stay long as I was a bit hot and tired and frustrated by the crowds.

Race shirt:
Meh. Disappointed with the design. It's been relegated to the bottom drawer and probably won't come out unless it's running gear laundry day.

Gear check:
Easy. As it turned out I didn't really need anything that I checked so I could have missed the process. But when there's no hassle, why not take the extra precaution?

The race:
Pre-race meet up with the Chicago Running Bloggers. It was nice to meet a few new people. The group split up and I chatted with Eric for a while before lining up in my corral.

Before the race (stolen from here)
The corrals were less strictly maintained then I've seen in other races, including Rock 'n' Roll Nashville I did earlier this year. This was good as I could just line up where I felt comfortable without being boxed in too much. I was scheduled for corral 17 which meant there was about a 20 minute delay between the race starting and me crossing the starting mat.

As with a few other races I've done, early on in the race we went under cover and my Garmin lost satellite reception. I'm not a slave to my Garmin when I'm racing but it is frustrating to lose timing so early. Of course, it was easily fixed by using my lap setting at the first mile marker and it was pretty close to accurate for the rest of the race.

I enjoyed the course given how much I've been racing on the Lakefront Trail. It was good to have a change of scenery. The buildings provided some good shade coverage too, an added bonus on a warm day.

The first eight miles were pretty much uneventful. I amused myself listening to the conversations going on around me and taking in the on-course musical entertainment (is it just me, or did it seem a little light on?). While I didn't feel terrible, I certainly wasn't feeling strong during those miles and I'm ashamed to say that I actually, very briefly, contemplated not finishing the race. I just felt so flat that the prospect of going the whole distance was too much.

Luckily, I smacked that thought down and implemented the race mantra - I feel great, I feel strong. Otherwise known as, fake it 'til you make it.

Then, just as the mile 9 marker came into sight, the great stabbing and run-halting GI pain that I meet far too often kicked in. And, to add insult to injury, at this point I got overtaken by Doctor Dribble - the guy who runs half marathons and marathons while dribbling basketballs. It doesn't do a lot for one's ego to not be able to run faster than someone who is also just about playing basketball.

At this point I had to channel more than mantra. I recently 'adopted' Boots at an animal sanctuary back home and every time I see his picture it makes me smile. So that's the big gun I pulled out here.

He's so cute!

I struggled through a couple of uncomfortable miles, dealing with my stomach and a case light-headedness but feeling better than the people I saw throwing up on the side of the road. One woman was about to be put on stretcher and taken away in the ambulance. I took on a few cups of water, some gatorade and a gel during those miles - a plan that was going to decide things one way or the other - I would feel decidedly better or decidedly worse and know where the rest of the race was going to go. Thankfully, decidedly better won.

The last three miles were actually strong (no mantra required). Unfortunately, I did pass some more injured runners. One person receiving medical attention for the heat, I think and then a poor guy who had fallen and hit his head on the road. There was a lot of blood and he did not look to be in good shape but luckily the medic got there just as I did so he was being taken care of.

The final mile was spent picking off runners ahead of me and promising myself lots and lots of cold drinks. That last stretch on Columbus was deceptively long (the finish line just never seemed to get any closer!).

Final time - 2:23:33.

I actually ended up beating the dribbling guy across the finish line but as he started the race after me his time was still better. Boo.

Overall (in random bullet points):

  • This was a good race and I came across some terrific crowd support along the way.
  • I don't enjoy summer racing so I'm not sure if I would sign up for it again.
  • Need to work out a better fuelling regime to avoid repeats of today's stomach and head revolt
  • Little kids with sprinklers rock
  • Volunteers are awesome but some of the aide stations were very poorly managed (ie. no water!!)


  1. Oh man! Sorry about the GI Issues. The heat started sinking into me, once I felt it creep up I didn't want it to get worse. I saw people even in the first corral have to stop on the sidewalk and collect themselves from miles like 7-10.

    Was Dr. Dribble wearing a Jordan Jersey? If so, I saw him cross the finish line. Good to play the summer runs smart like you did.

    I wish I had stopped in an aide station to get a blob of vasoline. Didn't notice what they had for drinks and such.

    Hopefully catch you at the next race or outing!

    1. He was in a Boozer jersey. He's a really nice guy - he was chatting to people on the course and I had a quick hello with him after the race.

      I saw a guy on the course offering vaseline to runners so they didn't have to stop at the medical tent. But given I was a good 45 minute behind you he probably wasn't on the course when you went through.

  2. Sounds like everyone had issues for the race. Glad we made it out injury free and stayed out of the medical tent.

    1. Sorry to hear you had some problems too, but you've got it - need to focus on the positives from the day.

  3. I ran the half yesterday - It was my first. I signed up for it because I thought there would be tons of music to distract me from the actual running. I was disappointed with that and glad I had two friends chatting while they ran next to me.
    As to the man on the bridge who hit his head - thank you for posting you saw the medic get there. When I was there, there was no medic and I was very worried. I have been looking for updates to ensure he was okay but I have not found any.

    1. Congratulations on completing your first half - it's a great achievement.
      I don't know the final outcome of the injured man but he was definitely being taken care of.

  4. Wow, it sounds like you witnessed a battlefield full of casualties out on the course. Anyway, it was nice meeting you! :-)

  5. I ran the race as well and it was my first RnR Chicago. I agree that running through downtown was a nice change from the lakeshore, but I could have used the shade more towards the end of the race when it was getting hotter.

    Check out my recap!