Race Report: AVON Half Marathon Walk

Again, let me preface this by saying the AVON Walk is not a race. There are no time clocks, no bibs, no timing chips. So this is more of an 'event report' about the second day of the 2-day AVON Walk for Breast Cancer, which raises funds to find a cure and help everyone fighting this disease to afford the medical care they need to be a survivor. If there is a 'race' involved, it is the race towards a CURE!

Sunday - The Half Marathon

I woke up at 4:30AM after having a really good sleep (I fell asleep around 9:30pm the night before). I was expecting to feel tired and still sore from the exertion of walking 26.2 the day before, but amazingly, I felt refreshed, no soreness, just some stiffness in my hips. I couldn't believe it. It had to be the combination of the post-race massage, the Advil, good post-race recovery meal/hydration, and the cheesecake I ate before falling asleep. (Okay, maybe not the cheesecake). And I am sure part of it was the result of staying true to my training program.

Whatever it was, I was very thankful! I got up, went through the usual pre-race rituals of getting dressed, etc. Before I went to bed, I did have the forethought to set everything out so that made it easier. I ate my breakfast of chocolate milk and PB&J sandwich (no banana!), and made SURE I had my water bottle with me! I went downstairs to catch the shuttle bus back to the Wellness Village where the day's Half Marathon would begin at 7:30AM.

I arrived at the Wellness Village at 6AM and found Marcia and several team members who 'tented' the night before. I also saw a cool ambulance there and the shower facilities. Pretty cool!

Everyone was pretty much getting breakfast at that time, so I went into the tent to grab a banana and milk. They had lots of good food there (AVON knows how to treat their walkers right) but I am not accustomed to eating that much food before an endurance event.

So Marcia and I decided to walk over to the starting gate for the Half, even though it wasn't starting for another 45 minutes. Emily also joined us there and we had a chance to chat and laugh, and meet other walkers who were also gathering early. We met a wonderful couple named Carolyn and Andrew. They were retired Military and are AVON Superstars. They walk in numerous AVON Walks across the country, raising funds for the cause. And they are FAST!! We also met another phenomenal woman named Patricia who is 71 years old, stands about 4'10'' and is a dynamic force of nature! And she is FAST too!

We stretched, talked, laughed a lot, and waited for the start. It was an awesome bonding moment, and I really appreciated being able to share it with the 20+ people who were waiting with me. It just got me more excited!

When the gate opened, we all started out together. Of course Carolyn and Andrew set a pretty fast pace and were quickly ahead of all of us. (In fact, they finished the Half in 3 hours so you know they have a fast walking pace!) I was walking with Marcia and Emily for a mile or so but then started to move ahead of them (I think the adrenaline was pushing me forward).

I started slowly catching up to another walker, who at one point said "Well are you going to talk with me or what?" LOL! So I caught up with her and we introduced ourselves. Her name was Brooke and she was running for her mother. Now Brooke is a fast walker but we fell into a good rhythm and after another mile, we decided that we would do the entire Walk together -- motivating and encouraging each other to cross that Finish Line. No person left behind! So off we went!

In no time, we were passing Mile 6 and thinking, "Wow! This is going by really quickly today!" I am certain the miles were flying by because of how fun it was sharing the course with Brooke. And Carolyn and Andrew? They were so far ahead of us, we couldn't even SEE them anymore!

The Walk was not without its challenges. I think there were at least three places where we weren't sure where to go because we couldn't find the orange arrows. The one I remember vividly was at Mile 7.5 when we reached the Lincoln Park Zoo. We couldn't find an arrow and we weren't sure if we were supposed to go IN the Zoo or keep walking passed it. If we made the wrong decision, we would likely not find the course again so we stopped to figure it out. We eventually decided to pass by it and were rewarded by an orange arrow about 1/3 mile down the way. Whew!

Then we quickly ran into TWO other races going on that morning! At several points along the lakefront, we were walking in the midst of other runners, trying to find OUR water stations and course markers. LOL! That was just crazy! At one point, we had to cross a 'sea of runners' and were lucky to find a 'seam' through which we could make the crossover (in the opposite direction of the oncoming runners). That was a little nerve-wracking! It took us a couple of miles before our course veered off Lake Shore Drive and we were no longer merged with those other races.

We got to the Lunch Rest Stop at Mile 10 and decided that other than refilling our water bottles, neither of us were actually hungry for food (it was only 9:30AM or so). So we didn't stop there and kept moving forward. We passed by the house of a fellow Loyola High School alumnus (I was at his house only two days before) as we walked through Division and Clark, and then we passed within sight of Brooke's apartment downtown. We passed by Second City and the NewBerry Library. We saw all kinda of cool stuff. As we walked by the Rock-n-Roll McDonalds, I thought about getting a McFlurry but decided against it. LOL

Then we passed over the Chicago River, Millenium Park, and the Cancer Survivors Garden at Mile 11.6. At this point, we were getting excited about the Finish Line. The temperature had been rising throughout the walk and by now, it had to be close to 80 degrees. I was getting a little tired. But we were on a mission!

We passed the Buckingham Fountain and saw the Cadillac folks there setting up their cheer station! We were so early, they weren't even ready for us. They were so surprised, they just handed us pink hand towels and waved. I thought it was kinda funny! The towels weren't wet (I wonder if they were supposed to be) so I just stuck it inside my water belt.

At about the time we walked under Lake Shore Drive, I was starting to slow down. We had been maintaining a 13:45-14:15/mm pace for miles and that is tough when you're walking (at least it is for me). So I slowed a bit and let Brooke take the lead. But she was not having it. She kept saying "I am not crossing that Finish Line without you!". When we reached the 39-Mile Marker, I asked her to take a photo of me next to it. YES!!

Then we rounded a tree and saw the Finish corridor in front of Solider Field! I think we both broke out into a jog and crossed that line with big smiles across our faces! We had finished 5th and 6th overall with a Finish Time of 3 hours, 20 minutes. Wow!!! As we headed to get our finisher shirts, snacks, and water, we saw Carolyn and Andrew resting underneath a shade tree. They said "Hey! You finally made it!" LOL

Brooke and I got water and talked with them for quite a while. They were getting ready to leave Chicago to go to the AVON Walk in Houston TX next! Is that amazing or what?!! Then after that, we went back to the Finish Line to cheer in everyone else. Our friend Patricia finished soon afterwards, and that was especially amazing given that she walked through the Zoo!!! Remember when we got confused there? Well, Patricia went into the Zoo for a while before realizing her mistake. And she STILL finished within the top 10! I told you she was FAST!

I wanted to cheer in my teammates and was really happy to see Marcia finish! She was 32nd I think. She looked awesome! I already had a cold bottle of water ready for her as she crossed the Finish Line. We hugged and we celebrated!

We just kept cheering people as they finished. It was amazing! There was a vendor selling Vienna hot dogs there so I totally had to go buy myself one! Any source of protein was a good thing at that point in time! I also took that pink towel I got from Cadillac and got it good and wet and kept it around my neck. Ahhhhhh!! So nice!

Unfortunately, I was unable to stay for the Closing Ceremonies. My wife was not feeling well, so when she drove to Soldier Field, I just got into the driver's seat and drove us to the house so she could rest and recover. That was the only thing I regretted, but taking care of her was the most important thing at that moment.

On the way home, I had a cooler in the backseat with PowerAde and Muscle Milk. Oh did that taste good! At home, I showered and took a 2.5 hour nap. Then it was time to celebrate my son's 14 birthday! We had BBQ ribs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, pork and beans, the works! So awesome! I figured since I had burned almost 2700 calories during the Half, what better recovery meal, right?

The AVON Walk for Breast Cancer was an amazing event, with wonderful people who are all connected by that shared vision of an eventual cure for the disease. A special heartfelt THANK YOU goes out to to Michelle, Brooke, my teammates, and EVERYONE who supported me with their donations for making this a truly special memory/event in my life!

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