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?