Thursday, July 24, 2014

CHI RNR Half Marathon Race Recap

I can finally say it: My half marathon curse is over! This has always been the most intimidating distance to me - even scarier than running a full marathon. I'm far from mastering the half marathon race distance but it feels great to finally have had a decent one.

Here's how it went down:

The night before the race I am usually in full-on running robot mode and the night before the Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon was no different. Dinner is always pasta. As plain as possible. Served with bread and a cooked vegetable, preferably spinach. Since I had a super early wake up call the following morning, dinner was at 4pm. I felt like a senior citizen! Bedtime was at 8pm and it was still light out. But, my alarm was set for 3am so early to bed it was!

Maybe I'm a complete weirdo, but I always shower before morning races. It helps me wake up, plus it loosens up my muscles a bit! After showering, it was time to get dressed and I realized a crucial packing mistake - I forgot my Oiselle Randies! This left two options: wear a different non-running-tested pair of underwear under my Distance Shorts or wear the buns I threw in my suitcase at the last minute. After a few minutes of panicking, I decided I would wear the buns (which turned out to be a fine decision - zero chafing of any type!). They look great with my Oiselle Team singlet plus they make me feel fast!

One of the best parts about CHI RNR is the number of participants. This year, there were nearly 14,000 runners in the half marathon race plus an additional 1,900+ runners doing the 5k race. Everyone is excited to be there and you kind of forget you've been up since 3am to do a race that starts at 6:30am :)

Anyhow, I waited a bit late to get into my corral and had a tough time getting through the crowd. I was a teensy bit worried I wouldn't get there in time but made it in with about 2 minutes to spare. Nothing like waiting til the last minute!

Photo from Competitor website

And soon enough, it was time to run! My plan from Coach Matt was to start the race at a conservative pace and pick things up after mile 3. The overall goal was to run 7:45-7:55 pace for the race. Although it was a humid morning, I felt really good during those first few miles. Never did I feel out of breath or as though I was working too hard.

One thing that made the early miles go by fast is there was a wheelchair participant that somehow got stuck in the middle of all the runners. He would go fast for awhile and then slow down to a crawl at any inclines. It was actually pretty dangerous because he was moving down the middle of the road and yelling to runners to get out of the way - and many couldn't hear him because they were caught up in their own race or listening to music. I was worried about getting run over at some point so when we got to a bridge, I surged for a bit and lost him.

The CHI RNR course is fantastic because you get to run through the streets of downtown Chicago with tons of spectators to cheer you on. I love it! This goes on for about the first 6 miles of the race and at that point you're pretty much halfway done!

I didn't start feeling the race until between miles 9-10. The air was getting warmer and I had to concentrate to keep my legs moving at a decent pace. I should add at this point that I didn't know my time or pace during the race. My Garmin decided to not work right before the start of the race so I was going by feel and using the clocks at the mile markers as my guide. Fortunately, I run by feel a lot and can decently estimate what type of pace I'm running.

The final 5k was when I really had to work. I knew I was on track for a PR. I didn't know by how much but knew if it was going to happen I had to keep grinding away. During rough patches in training runs, I tell myself I only have to make it to the next street light, sign, etc. and then I can slow down. I never do, but it breaks up the run a bit and gives me something to focus on other than how my legs feel. So that's what I did during the last few miles of this race. My goal was to make it to mile 12 and then pick it up to the finish. It felt so great to see the mile 12 marker ... and then the mile 13 marker. And then it was time to fly!

My results:

Time: 1:42:08 - new PR!
Pace: 7:48 min/mile
Age Group Place:30/1,481 (Top 2 percent)
Gender Place: 164/8,328 (Top 2 percent)
Overall Place: 795/13,754

This year's bling

The only part about this PR that kills me is that had I run 9 seconds faster somewhere on the course, I would have a 1:41 time. And I believe I could have done it since I know I left a bit on the course. But it's okay. I'm in the heart of marathon training right now. Maybe next year I'll do a half marathon training segment and focus on a sub 1:40 time!

My confidence in half marathon racing is restored. And I'm that much more excited for Lakefront Marathon in 10 weeks. Running, I heart you :)

My questions for you:
  • Do you shower before racing? Or, do you do any other 'weird' things before a race?
  • How do you break up a race to make the miles go by faster?
  • Where's your favorite place to eat in Chicago?

Post-race, I can't get enough of Gino's East. Deep dish. To die for!

- ST


  1. I always shower before races, I don't know why, but I did it my first race and ever since I've just continued doing that! Congratulations on your new PR and feeling good about the race; that's such a great feeling :)

    1. Thank you! I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one that showers before races. It adds extra time but I can't wake up without one :)

  2. WOW!!! You killed it!! That's a fantastic time and congrats on that PR! :)
    I think I need a pair of those buns. I'm going to need all the fast help I can get once I get running again. :)

    I've never showered before a race. Maybe I should!

    1. Thanks! I definitely recommend getting a pair of buns! More ladies should wear them at races :)

  3. I am SO happy for you!!! It's a great feeling when you have an awesome performing racing a distance that you don't consider "your thing." That is pretty scary about the man in the sounds like he woke up on the wrong side of the bed! Congrats on the PR and your placement!!! That is amazing to place that well out of all of those people. Way to go!! :) I try to break up a race by completing ignoring how far I have left to go. I just focus on either a mile at or time or do the same thing as you and pick something to ahead to focus on. I feel like you just starting talking about marathon training and now it's 10 weeks away! How exciting! I've never been to Chicago, but I need to go because I love love love pizza and especially deep dish!

    1. Thanks Hailey! If you love deep dish you must go to Chicago - plenty of places to enjoy it! I agree it's best not to look ahead too much - the only time to think about how much is left is during the last mile! :)

  4. great job! don't the shorts you wear to run in have built in undies? mine do... i can't imagine doubling up.

    that said... i've been chafing something fierce no matter what shorts i'm wearing which is deeply disappointing. i think it's the humidity.

    i never shower before any run. i figure... why bother. i break all long road runs up. training runs by bathroom breaks, but races i break up into the first 6-7 miles and then into 2-3 mile segments after that. it's easier to talk yourself into "oh, it's only..." when the pain is overwhelming. trail races are so fun i've never had to break them up or talk myself into finishing except for maybe the last mile or so...

    congrats on the PR! what a great race!

    1. Thanks Nikki! My running shorts have built in underwear but I usually still wear another pair underneath. Unless I'm wearing spandex. And then it's no underwear!

      I think you had mentioned you bought a pair of buns - if so, try them out - there's less material to chafe in this humidity :)

  5. That race looks like so much fun! I might try to do that one next year. I almost came out for the 5k but it seemed like a long trip (2 hours) for just a 5k. Love your pics!

    1. You should definitely do the race next year - I'm already planning on it :)

  6. CONGRATS SUN! What an awesome race!! You really were flying! I did this race in 2009, I think. It was a neat course! I do the same thing - make up "milestones" to get to - the next house, tree, mailbox, billboard, whatever is on the course. And that helps a ton.

    When I did the Big Ten 10k last year in Chicago, we went to Hackney's for lunch after... OMG. Gastro pub food at it's finest! Amazing burgers, greasy apps... delicious :)

    1. Thanks Alicia! I'm going to have to look that place up so I can try it out the next time I'm in Chicago - I love a good cheeseburger post-race :)

  7. I like to shower before races - it's a good way to wake up! Congrats on being in the top 2% and your PR!

    1. Thanks Tina! And I agree, especially with the early start times for some races! :)