During the days leading up to this year's Rock 'n' Roll Chicago 10k, I had a lot of mixed feelings. I was pretty unexcited about the weather forecast - upper 80s and stormy - and also wasn't feeling the race given my fitness has been a bit touch and go lately. Some days are fantastic and others the absolute worst. But I also knew that a race like RNR CHI could be just the thing to snap me out of this training funk.
Turns out I was right! Everything aligned for this race. The weather was as good as it gets for a July race in Chicago and the course was lovely. I had the most fun racing and it was a total confidence booster as I continue to increase mileage for a fall half marathon. I can honestly say this was, in my opinion, the best RNR CHI yet.
Before the Race
At most races I skip the expo. But at Rock 'n' Roll races they are a must-attend event. I ended up buying a bunch of stuff at this year's expo. My haul included four tanks, a baseball-style 3/4 sleeve t-shirt, three shoe charms, two Sparkly Soul headbands, a Rock 'n' Roll Chicago magnet, a pair of sunglasses (prize) and, of course, the race t-shirt.
After the expo, Mom and I headed over to Pizano's Pizza and Pasta for some pre-race carbs. On the way back to the hotel, Mom pointed out a little coffee shop/bakery that had a bunch of cakes and pastries in the window. Of course I was not about to walk past a bunch of desserts so we went inside. This was a total mistake. Mom and I each got a slice of Rainbow Cake. I told myself it would give me an extra boost of energy during the race. Instead I'm pretty sure it led to feeling a bit heavy/sluggish at the start. Oh well - live and learn!
So ... the race. After several days of worrying about the weather it turned out to be the best weather I've ever experienced at a RNR CHI race. It was about 69 degrees and overcast with a bit of a headwind. Although the weather was much better than expected, I decided to stick with my race plan from Coach Matt.
My corral was packed so I was excited when we were finally able to get moving. I ended up getting stuck behind people a few times during the first mile so didn't really get into a good rhythm until the 10k runners separated from the half marathoners. Once the 10k turned onto the Lakeshore Path it was all good and I was able to settle in. Nothing too crazy - more like a nice and steady pace that felt more like half marathon effort.
Since I usually think of RNR CHI as having a pancake-flat course, I was pleasantly surprised that this year's new course featured a few small hills. These were great for changing things up a bit plus I like having a few hills during a race for variety. They are also a really great opportunity for catching and passing other runners ;)
I felt really good during the miles and soaked up the race experience - I loved the on-course music and all the friendly volunteers at the water stations. There was also a band toward the end that totes made me giggle with a silly song about donuts at the finish line. If only there really were donuts at the finish!
I picked up the pace a bit during the final two miles and kicked in the final 0.2 (really 0.33 for me since I didn't run the tangents!). I haven't had a big sprint finish at the end of a race in awhile so it felt great to be able to really get after it.
Although my time ended up being a personal worst for me for the 10k distance, I still feel good about the race. I felt good enough during the miles that I know I could have kept with the pace for a few more miles which puts me on track for a nice half marathon race this fall.
After walking through the finish area and picking up my gear check bag, I headed over to the VIP section to rest up while waiting for Mom. This was my first Rock 'n' Roll VIP race experience and it surpassed my expectations.
The first thing I did was wash my hands at one of the sinks. I don't know about you but I always feel kind of grimy after finishing a race. So it felt great to wash up a bit. Then I hit the hosted bar area for a Diet Coke with extra ice. There were tons of empty tables so I made myself comfortable and sipped my soda while people watching. I noticed a massage area not too far from where I was sitting but decided to skip it even though there wasn't a line. There was also a changing area which I will definitely take advantage of next time.
After awhile I decided to get a cup of coffee and saw a bunch of people were getting food. So I decided to check it out and found an amazing spread. Eggs, breakfast potatoes, bacon, sausage, pasta salad, mini sandwiches, tons of fresh veggies & fruit, hummus, cookies and brownies were just some of the items on the tables. I loaded up a plate with bacon, veggies and fruit. It hit the spot! I definitely recommend adding on the VIP Experience if doing a RNR race.
I was sorry to have to leave the lovely VIP area but needed to get back to the finish line area to find Mom. So after eating I headed toward the finish line and then walked along the course a bit til I saw Mom running. I jumped in the race and ran with her a bit and then hopped back over to the spectator area to wait for her at the end of the finisher's chute. As you can see, she looked fantastic and finished strong!
Fun in Chicago
After the race, Mom and I enjoyed Chicago. We shopped along Michigan Avenue and indulged in several delicious eats and drinks. A few of my favorites:
Brunch at Mercadito
Dinner at Chicago Q
Deep Dish at Gino's East (with Bucky!)
Macarons from Alliance Patisserie
So that was my race weekend! I highly recommend adding Rock 'n' Roll Chicago to your 2017 race calendar. I'm already looking forward to next year's race :)
My questions for you:
- Have you raced a Rock 'n' Roll race? If so, what was your experience?
- A night-before-the-race treat - do or don't?
- Where are your favorite places to eat in Chicago?