Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Chicago Women's Half Marathon 2013: Race Recap

Half Marathon number four is complete and it was quite a race!  
A Sweaty Band and Brooks Tech T!
I signed up for the race early last month with the thought it might be the race I set a new half PR in.  After spraining my hip flexor at Soldier Field I didn't think that would be a possibility anymore.  My focus the past month has been to strengthen my core, glutes, and hips so I could run without soreness in general.  My physical therapist suggested using an SI belt to help keep my pelvis in line so I could run in the mean time.  I haven't been running much since Soldier Field, so decided to do a seven mile test run in the belt to help me decide if I could run the Women's Half.  The run went pretty well and after talking with my physical therapist he said I could run the race with a few conditions: wear the SI belt, don't expect or try for a PR, take it easy, maybe run/walk, if the pain was above a five to stop, and if I started to limp stop.  I thought I could do that so Sunday morning I got up at the crack of dawn to run the 2nd Annual Chicago Women's Half Marathon.  

This race used to the Women's 5K & 10K and it was actually the first race I did here in Chicago.  The proceeds from the race benefit the American Heart Association because heart disease is the number one killer of women.  It is also a celebration of the passing of Title IX so it takes place on that anniversary.
The weather forecast called for a hot and humid day (high 80s with 75% humidity) so the Event Alert Status was set at Red for the day with lots of warnings to pace and hydrate properly.  I made my way to the start in Grant Park around 5:45am and met up with some fellow #runChi ladies.  We chatted about the race and took some group pictures before making our way to the starting area.  
photo from Angelica

via Sara's instagram
We simply lined ourselves up according to pace.  I knew I didn't want to push myself too hard, but decided to line up with around the 2:45 pace group which was doing a run/walk for the race.  I couldn't really remember what my half PR was but I thought it was around 2:43 so I thought I could at least keep up with that.  If I didn't, no big deal, but it was my starting point.  Also, per my physical therapists recommendation I wore an SI belt (which goes around your hips) for support and to help keep my pelvis aligned.   
Starting Line
The race started in no time and everyone was off!  I probably went out bit too fast, so I tried to slow down some the second mile.  I was kind of all in my head the first few miles worrying about keeping a good pace, wondering if my hip would be ok, thinking about lots of what ifs. 
I had to talk myself out of thinking about all the negatives and tell myself to just enjoy the run and the race, that's why I was there!  Around mile four things got a bit better and I found a good groove.  I was feeling really good and keeping a great pace.  I thought I can do this, I might even be able to do better than 2:45.  

The race path had us run an out and back along the lakeshore trail heading south first and then back north.  The 2:45 pacers started to sneak up on me, so I picked up my pace a bit.  At mile six or so we started seeing the lead runners heading back the other way which gave me a boost of energy.  I somehow thought we were almost at the turnaround, but we still had a ways to go.  (Those elites are so darn speedy!)  Three miles later the turnaround appeared.  
Lovely view of the city after the turnaround.
It got warmer and warmer with each step I took.  There were only a few spots of shade on the trail and the sun mixed with the humidity made the second half of the race tough.  Thankfully there were a few fans and misters on the course which were very much appreciated.  I also grabbed extra water at the last four aid stations to just pour on my neck, arms, and face.  My plan was to take it easy and walk if I felt like I needed to.  I walked through and took water at every aid station and Gatorade at every other.  I also had a few Honey Stinger chews at miles three, six, and nine.  They handed out Clif Gel Shots around mile seven so I had that too.

Miles nine through thirteen were rough.  The heat was getting to me and I felt tired and hot.  My pace decreased and I was taking more walk breaks.  The 2:45 pace group ended up passing me which I was a bit bummed about, but I did not want to push myself too hard and not be able to continue.  I wasn't the only one the heat was getting to either.  There were at least three ambulances that had to come on the course to help people who were dehydrated or had heat exhaustion.  I saw a poor girl sobbing as she was put into the ambulance with an IV bag attached.  I can only imagine how hard it is to have to stop running when you worked so hard for something.  That mixed with the pain and tiredness has got to be overwhelming...  
Almost there - lots of walking going on.
This was me the last two miles in the heat... ugh
There was lots more walking going on as the miles passed.  I was so ready to be finished.  The final two miles were the worst of all.  They seemed to go on forever and there was no shade.  I wanted more water and cold towels and to just jump into the lake so I could cool off.  Thankfully they added an extra water station in mile twelve - it was so needed.  Because I wanted to be finished I decided to run the rest after that station.  We had to got up a hill near the end before reaching the final stretch.  I was so happy to see that finish line.  I checked my Garmin and saw that I might actually be able to finish under 2:45.  I  tried to pick up my pace some, but I didn't have much left so it wasn't my best run to the finish.  I did get in under 2:45 with a time of 2:44:25 though which I was quite proud of considering my recent injury and the heat.

After crossing the line I was handed an ice cold towel and a bottle of water which was just what I needed.   I grabbed a mini bagel to munch on as well.  A few steps later an awesome medal was placed around my neck and I made my way back over to the park.  
There was an ice cream truck that was handing out free treats for all the race participants so I grabbed a Star Bar.  It was the perfect treat after a hot summer race!  
I walked around and stretched some before I ran into Alexandria.  I saw her around mile six in the race and am glad we got to catch up post race as well.  Her friend Marion had just run her first half!  We sat on the grass and chatted awhile, before slowly getting up, saying goodbye, and heading back to the trains.  
via Alexandria
Post race my hip flexor wasn't too bad.  I didn't have any pain during the race, but thought I might have some soreness post race, which is usually when I notice it.  I was pleasantly surprised that the pain was barely noticeable.  I made sure to foam roll when I got home, but besides some usual post race muscle soreness, nothing has been super bad.  

On the ride home I checked my other race times and realized that my previous PR was 2:45:35 and that I had actually run a PR at this race!  I ran this incredibly hot race, coming back from an injury, a minute faster than my last half!  I couldn't believe it and still kind of can't!  My last half was in March of last year and it is amazing to me how much I have improved.  This certainly wasn't my best run race, but this was a tough race and I am proud of my time considering everything.  I know there is more good to come as I continue running.
I got my medal engraved - pretty cool!
Besides being a hot race, which I knew was possible (it is summer in Chicago) this race was great!  I loved the support from the other women on the course, the amazing volunteer turn out, the swag, the medal, the course.  Fleet Feet didn't disappoint!   Congrats to everyone that ran the half or 5K this weekend - it was tough race, but we did it!

How do you prepare for hot runs and races?  Ever surprise yourself during a race?  Do you like all women's race events?  

Monday, June 17, 2013

Discovering I Really Like Swimming

I grew up by the water.  I loved to be in pool and go out in the boat as a kid.  My mom was actually on the swim team growing up and is a really good swimmer.  She taught my siblings and I how to swim.  Around fourth grade my parents signed me up to join a swim team.  Seeing how I loved the water so much it should have been a good fit, right?  Ehh... not so much.  I think I only went to two practices and then begged my parents to let me quit.  I don't remember exactly why I wanted to quit, maybe because it was hard (which is a lame reason to quit) or I didn't like it...  My mom still wishes she hadn't let me, and I kind of do too, but I guess it just wasn't meant to be then.  I continued to love the pool and swim for fun though.  

As I gained weight putting on swimsuit and going to the pool was not at the top of my list of fun things to do.  Since losing a lot weight and discovering a love for physical fitness I have slowly found myself wanting to get back in the water and swim.  Putting a swimsuit on is still not something I love, but they fit much better than they used too, so things are looking up!
Swim gear on and ready to swim!
I joined a local gym this winter and it has a great indoor pool.  I finally bought a swimsuit and hit the pool mid March and have really grown to love swimming.  I am not a fast swimmer and probably don't have the best form, but it's fun.  I remember why I liked being in the water so much as a kid.  I am trying to be better about cross training and swimming has fit perfectly into my schedule.  With my recent hip flexor strain swimming is one of the activities I can do with no pain so I have been at the pool more and more.  

It took a few times in the pool for me to find a good swimming groove.  I started by just going once a week and have been going about twice a week since my sprain.  As with anything new there is a learning curve so the first sessions I felt tired and slow and like was breathing too much.  In Denver I asked my mom for a few pointers to help me with my form while swimming which has actually helped a lot.  
The pool at my gym is kind of small with five lanes and 25 yards in length.  I just make up all my swim workouts when I get there.  There is a big clock at the end that I use to time my workout.  

I usually warm up with breaststroke and then use pull drills to focus on my form.  When I first started I was pausing after almost every length, but I have built my endurance up that I barely stop in between.  I have also been trying to increase the distance of my freestyle laps.   Like I said I'm by no means a pro, but swimming is fun and I look forward tog swimming laps at the pool.  

Another motivation for me to try swimming again is that I really want to do another triathlon.  (I did a mini tri at the local YMCA a couple years ago.)  I am still trying to figure out what triathlon I'm going to do that will fit into my schedule, but I'm determined to do at least one!  There has been lots of friendly peer pressure and support from my #runchi teammates which is fun.  
Fleet Feet Chicago has also been offering lots of great seminars to get people excited and ready for triathlon season.  It is a short one here in Chicago, but that doesn't make it any less exciting.  I went to the first one which was quite informative.  I plan on going to the open water swim clinic Thursday as well.  It will be my first open water swim -eek!  If you are local and interested in tri-ing (hehe, a pun) you should check them out!  

All this is to say I didn't think I would like swimming, but I really do now.  So if there is some new activity or workout the scares you or you aren't sure about, just give it a chance because you might discover you really like it!

What is your favorite way to cross train?  Are you a swimmer?  Ever done a triathlon before?  Any suggestions for swim workouts?