This was the next 'big' race for me. Ever since September, this has been on the schedule and it represented a key milestone in my preparation for the Disney Half. I needed to use this race to test two things: my nutrition plan and my overall fitness/mental toughness for a long run. This race is the longest distance I have run to-date. And I will tell you that even though I felt I was ready, I was still feeling intimidated by it. I felt that if I couldn't finish this race, then my dreams for the Disney Half would be in serious jeopardy.
Why I put this race up on such a pedestal, I don't really know. Perhaps it was just what my brain decided to hang all my doubts upon. Maybe there is a part of me that still thinks running a Half Marathon is a crazy idea for a 51 year old, overweight person who only started exercising 10 months ago. Whatever the reason, it was there and I was intimidated. But there I stood with my buddy Mike, in Corral "D" at 8:30am on a chilly (mid 30s) Saturday morning in Grant Park.
I was not going to let my insecurities "psych me out". I know I had prepared and trained for this. Two wekes prior, I ran 8 miles without difficulty so how hard could 9.3 miles be, right? I had the right gear; I had the right fuel. The question would really be "Did I have the right attitude?"
The day began at 4:15am when I woke up to get dressed, eat my race breakfast of toast with almond butter, a banana, and a glass of milk. I decided to wear my W.I.S.H. Racing Team shirt today over a white long-sleeved tech shirt. And I wore my LifeTime Fitness Run Club running jacket because it was COLD! I packed the rest in the gear check bag for the race, and met the rest of the LifeTime group at the Club (Mike, Nancy, and Yvonne) at 5am. We got to Grant Park around 6:15am and first stopped at the Congress Hotel to use their bathrooms. Then we headed to the Park and proceeded to check out the area. Several race photographers took our pictures since we were looking awesome (and had our bibs showing).
At 7:20am, Mike and I jogged with Nancy and Yvonne to the starting point for the 5K race after they dropped off their stuff at Gear Check. Then we headed to our Gear Check area, and found Corral "D" where we would start our 15K from. I was really excited to finally be able to qualify for a Corral placement rather than being in the "Open" runner group.
The race started off late because a semi-truck got stuck under Lower Wacker Drive and they had to re-route the 5K runners. This pushed out the start time for our race. Oh well. But then we were walking as the wave start process began. We crossed the Start Line at 8:38 and the fun began! The first two miles were uneventful. I was excited so I was running a little faster than I had planned (at a 10:00 pace instead 10:30) but eventually I got settled into my rhythm.
At 2.5 miles, I grabbed a cup of water, only to find it was Gatorade. Oh well, I gulped it down and kept going. It was really cool running down the streets of Chicago. I passed the Cadillac Theater, where I have seen so many musicals over the years. I passed restaurants and other landmarks too, watching the Sears Tower pass by. So very cool!
At Mile 3.1, they had the first split time display up. I reached the 5K point at 30:52 -- 8 seconds slower than my fastest 5K time to-date. I was totally cool with that since I was still feeling strong. I was more interested to see what my 10K split time would be.
Soon after Mile 4, we passed the United Center, home of the Washington Bulls, and I had to stop to take a photo with my iPhone (my first photo taken during a race lol). Then I took my first GU during a real race, followed by about 8oz of water I had with me. So far, so good!
It was also around this time when I decided that I couldn't run wearing my LifeTime running jacket on any longer. It had just gotten too hot for it. So I shrugged out of it and tied it to my waist. The breeze against my body felt so good! My iPod was still in the jacket pocked so it kept tugging at my earbuds the remainer of the race. But now, my W.I.S.H. shirt (We're Inspired to Stay Healthy) was visible to the runners. I got a lot of positive comments about my racing shirt!
At Mile 5, we were headed back to Grant Park and I was passed the halfway point! I was starting to feel a little tired but the body was fine (no pain, no lactic acid burn, etc.) so I kept to my 10:30 pace. I don't know why, but I kept thinking how funny it was that I was running through all the red lights at the many intersections. Hmm.. a little civil disobediance maybe?
At Mile 6.2, the 10K split time clock showed that I was a good 3 minutes faster than my previous 10K record! Now I was very pleased about that because it meant I was running faster in my second set of 3 miles. Negative split territory! Yay! By this time, I found myself running alongside a woman who somehow became my running partner. We ended up pacing one another for almost the remainder of the race. This was very helpful because we were both running a 10:30 pace. I was tired, having run over an hour at this point, but the legs were good and I just kept focusing on my breathing.
By Mile 8, however, things started to feel differently. I was feeling winded and tired, and my brain was starting to tell me to slow down and walk for a while. But my new pacing partner was talking to me now, encouraging me to keep going... pointing out where the next marker was and that we could make it there (by this time I had taken out the earbuds).
I kept the legs moving all the way through Mile 9. But at that point, I told her to go without me because I just HAD to walk. Without checking my Polar watch, I knew my heart rate was in Zone 4 and I needed to walk so I could bring it down to Zone 3. So I walked for about 30 seconds until we made a left turn onto Columbus where the Finish Line was. Then I started my sprint to the finish, running at a 8:20 pace for about .2 miles. I was very happy that I finished in a sprint with my arms held up high!
Whew! I had actually finished this race! 15K! In the bag! And at a respectable 1:36:55 chip time! I was hoping to finish around 1 hour, 45 minutes so to finish 8 minutes faster than that was a real confidence booster! My race pace averaged 10:24 which was excellent for me. Not going to break any land speed records, but it shows a consistent pattern of speed and endurance improvements in my running over the past 5 months.
After the race, I met up with two friends from the Diocese of Chicago (Nicki and Emily) who had run the 5K, and then found Mike, who ran a good race too -- he finished 6 minutes ahead of me. We picked up our stuff from Gear Check and headed to the Post Race Party to find our LifeTime friends and to have some CHOCOLATE! Yummmm!!! Hot Chocolate with marshmellows and whipped cream, plus Chocolate Fondue over pretzels, apple slices, bananas, etc. It tasted SO GOOD!
Then we all piled into Mike's car and drove back to the land of Algonquin to eat lunch at the Golden Corral before returning to LifeTime to pick up our cars and head home. My legs felt good! No pain, a little tight but not uncomfortably so. My feet were sore but that was about it.
All in all, it was a stellar day and a confidence-building race experience! I know that I need to continue my run training through the end of the year in order to build myself up for the Disney Half. I know that I can do that, and I feel better now that I will be able to run the Disney Half in January. If I can run 9.3 miles and survive, then what's another 4 miles, right?
I can do this! I WILL do this! In 9 weeks, I am going to have a 13.1 sticker on the back of my car, baby!