Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Chicago half-marathon race report (9/14/08)

Pre-race: As was the case several times before this year, my medical issues flared up the week before I was to leave and I was questionable to run up until about 4 days prior to the race. Again, I began to feel better in the 2 days before I left and felt good about my prospects for a PR race. My training PR at the time was 1:43:56 (7:56 pace per mile). Anything under 1:45 (8:00 pace) would have been acceptable but I fully expected to do better and my recent training runs indicated that on a good day, I could get close to 1:40 (7:38 pace) but a more moderate goal was a sub 1:42, which would break my 2007 time by 6 minutes or nearly 30 seconds per mile.

I left work in Montgomery, Alabama at 3 PM on Thursday and headed north on I-65, stopping between Birmingham and Huntsville for a good sit down meal. Traffic was rough around Nashville but I did make it up to the Kentucky line before bed. When I got to Indiana, I would never see the sun again and I had to deal with periods of rain all the way into Chicago. Again, traffic was slow going into Chicago and I arrived just after dark, ate my dinner at the hotel (1 beer and an overpriced burger) and settled in for bed. I wanted the day before the race to be more relaxing so I slept in as long as I wanted, ate a good breakfast, then headed to the race expo via a taxi cab. The expo was at a place called Navy Pier, which was a pretty cool shopping area with some history. I would buy the ususal Power Bar, energy gels along with a disposable rain jacket and cap that would prove to be life savers. From there, I got back to the hotel and took an unpleasant drive about 55 miles north to the Wisconsin border (my 40th state visited). I had to take a couple of detours, which turned a 1 hour trip into 3 hours, but I made it, stopped at Mc D's and got some gas. It was a smooth ride back to Chicago and I just relaxed for the rest of the day and treated myself to a good steak dinner downtown for a relatively moderate price.

Race day:

No nerve wracking traffic jam this time. I took a shuttle from my hotel to starting line and arrived in plenty of time. I felt good warming up and would try for a PR. FYI: This race was on my 28th birthday so what better way to celebrate. The forecast called for the rain to let up but it never did and the entire race was run in a steady rain. Much of the course was along Lake Michigan and through parts of the University of Chicago but I couldn't take in much of the scenery because of the rain. It was a fast course with a couple of slight inclines but nothing that would signigicantly slow your pace. The gun sounded and within a minute, I along with the 1:40-1:45 group was across the line. The plan was to go out at a comfortable 7:45-7:50 pace early then try for a negative split and a possible late run at 1:40. My first mile was a perfect 7:45 and felt free and easy then I inadvertantly increased my pace in the next mile. Okay, settle down now. I was back on target in the next mile and by the end of 5, it was clear that it was a good day but I didn't quite have my absolute best stuff. I came through mile 5 at 38:52 officially, on pace for just about 1:42-flat but I was starting to feel the effort a little sooner than I had hoped. I lost a few more seconds over the next 2 miles and came through the halfway point unofficially at 51:17. With 6 miles to go, I made my first effort to increase the pace and turned in a sub 7:40 split and felt poised for another negative split. Unfortunately, I was unable to hold it and by mile 9, I was slipping. The 10 mile split was officially 78:11, still on pace for a 1:42:30, but my previous 5 miles had been 39:19, which wasn't too bad actually (only 5.5 secs slower than the first 5). I stopped for some Gatorade and a sip of water shortly thereafter, which was necessary to avoid a meltdown but my legs became stiff and it took a while to regain my previous form. Miles 11-12 were the only ones above 8:00 and with 1 mile to go, I knew that a PR was a sure thing, sub-1:42 had slipped away but a sub-1:43 seemed likely considering that I was not yet on empty. I managed to finish pretty strong in the last mile but was fooled when the GPS measured the course at 13.20 instead of 13.11. I had to push it to the finish line but I knew I had it and raised my arms in triumph. Watch time: 1:42:53. Official time: 1:42:50. PR by 1:06.
Unoffical Splits:7:45 -7:30-7:50-7:49-7:47 -7:53- 7:48 -7:39
7:51-7:52-8:07-8:02-7:38-1:20 for last .2 (6:40 pace)/
51:17-51:33- that's probably the most even split that I've done in a race


The bag check was a nightmare because nobody stuck around after the race to eat some food and take in the atmosphere. We all wanted out of there so we could dry off. I stood still for 20 minutes waiting to get my bag and a full hour waiting for the shuttle, which was very late. I did have a good conversation with others but I shivered from the chilly rain while my already stiff knees became more painful. I washed up, called my parents, then checked out of my hotel around noon. With any luck, I could make it back to north Alabama before the end of the day. It was not to be. The rain continued and it took 3 hours, including detours, flooded roads and sitting still until I finally made it southbound on I-65 by 3:30 PM. The rain stopped and I finally saw my first peak of sun when I hit Indianapolis. The rest of the trip would be clear sailing. I spent the night in Tennessee and hit the road early Monday morning. I got back to Montgomery by lunchtime and something inside told me that I should put in a half day at work. I do not take a sick day unless I am bedridden. So I showed up wearing my gold finishers medal and told the tale to anyone who would listen.

Unfortunately, the good feeling did not last long. A few days later, I learned that I had been rejected for a job that I desperately wanted but there would be a payoff. Because I showed up for work after my ordeal, I was featured in the employee newsletter, which would make my current job a bit more tolerable and the article could be used in my favor on my next job interview, hopefully in January.

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