#rnrchi half marathon recap

My alarm went off at 4:45 AM on Sunday morning.  I woke up surprisingly well rested and ready to run.  I felt prepared to tackle 13.1 through my training and for some reason, 13.1 miles of running just didn’t seem so long.  I would eat those words a little later that morning.

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After pumping, eating a protein bar, and grabbing a cup of coffee in the hotel lobby, Matt + I walked to the start of the race.  Thankfully, it was much easier to find than the 5K start, even though we went a round about way of getting there, thanks to following a group of people who didn’t know where they were going.

I found the lines for the port-a-potties, did my business, and headed to the starting corals.  I was seeded in Coral 2, thanks to putting my PR time down instead of my actual anticipated finish time.  I stood with Matt for a little while outside of the coral, but headed in about 20 minutes before the start of the race.

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Even starting an hour earlier than the 5K, it was still hot at the 6:30 AM start.  I thankfully wasn’t sweating waiting at the start, but it certainly was not the cool temperatures I was hoping for in Chicago.  Apparently, I bring the hot weather with me since it was similar weather as it was when I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2010.

The Elite runners were the first to start, followed by Coral 1 about a minute later, and then it was our turn to start.  My goal was to find a comfortable pace and stay with it, and grab water and/or Gatorade at every other water station until an hour in, then take one at every station.

I quickly found a comfortable pace, finishing the first mile at a 7:45/mile pace.  After the first mile though my RunKeeper couldn’t find a good signal due to the large buildings, so I don’t have any of my splits.  I felt comfortable at that pace, but tried to ease up a little bit because I wanted to have some gas in the tank the last few miles of the race.

The first half of the race was run entirely through the city.  I LOVED this part of the race, first of all, because it was shaded, and second, because I knew where I was, thanks to all the walking we did on Saturday in the city.  I was wishing the race went more up toward Lincoln Park and Wrigleyville, but it was fun running through the streets, tunnels, and under the train tracks.

One of the things I was really disappointed in were the bands.  On the course map, it looks like there is a band at every mile.  That definitely didn’t seem to be the case though.  The first band I really heard was probably closer to mile 6.  Now, I may have missed some or something, but on a miserably hot day like it was, I really needed something to pump me up.  So, that was really disappointing.

Right around the half way point is where you make a turn and stay on that part of Michigan Avenue for the next 2 miles.  It was also when I started to feel pretty miserable.  I was hot.  My legs felt good, but my body was just not handling the heat well.  And on this part of the race, there wasn’t nearly as much shade as there was running through the city.  I decided to start taking water and Gatorade at every water station, and dumping some on my head as much as possible.  I just wanted to stay cool and not push myself too hard.

This work for a little while, but about mile 9, I was done.  I started walking through each water station because I knew that running would feel better after walking.  Thankfully, I was right, but each water station just seemed so far away from each other.  Mile 10 was a little bit easier since we went through the loading dock at McCormick Place and it was a mile of music.  It definitely helped pump me up a little bit, but I was still feeling miserable.

Thanks to Humana, the mile 10/11 water stop not only had water and Gatorade, but a sprinkler to go through as well!  And soon, I rounded a corner and saw the HumanaVitality Cheer Squad!  Thanks Mom for the message, even though I was too busy taking the picture to read it.

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At that point also, I got a text message from Matt asking me if I was OK.  My RunKeeper somehow got stopped and notified him that I had just completed my run 11.75 miles in.  I quickly texted him back, saying I was fine and that I was only a mile from the finish.

My goal after the last water stop was just to run the whole way without stopping.  But, unfortunately, my left calf tightened up like it did on my 12-mile training run, and I ended up having to walk a little bit.  A guy passed me and said, “Come on, we’re almost finished.”  So, I explained to him that my calf was tight and I was trying to avoid making it worse, but I ended up starting to run again, albeit really slow.  The finish line was in sight, the crowd was cheering, and I just wanted to finish.  About a quarter mile from the finish line, that same guy was hunched over puking.

I kept looking for Matt in the crowd but didn’t see him.  Thankfully, he saw me and grabbed a few shots of me finishing.  I look MUCH better than I was actually feeling.  But, I finished right around the time I was expecting, and I couldn’t have been happier to be DONE.

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Official Time = 1:47:03
Average Pace = 8:10/mile

I’m happy with my time, and thankful for the training and experience.  It was another reminder of what my body is capable of, and what my  body is really suited for.  I certainly am not a long distance runner – both mentally and physically.  I would much rather run a shorter distance and fast than run for a long time.  Although I recovered just fine (thanks to compression socks and LOTS of water), I feel so much better after a shorter distance race.  But, the experience – and the BLING – was worth it!

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Thanks to Rock ‘n’ Blog and Humana for an awesome weekend of running!  I am looking forward to another fun RnR race in St. Louis in October!

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This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of Humana.

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#rnrchi remix weekend: 5K recap + day 2

My alarm went off at 5:45 on Saturday morning so I had time to pump, get ready, grab some coffee and a protein bar, and walk to the start of the 5K.  I was so thankful to have Matt running the race with me – it actually helped calm my nerves a little.  Plus, the walk was a great warmup for him, which meant we could get to the race a little bit later.  The walk was longer than I had anticipated – closer to a mile than the half mile the website said.  But, we walked with a bunch of other runners and only got lost once when we thought the start was the opposite direction than it actually was.

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We got to the starting line with plenty of time to spare and I was able to get a short warmup jog in along the lake.  I absolutely LOVED the fact that the 5K took place on the Lakeshore Trail.  I’ve never had a chance to really check it out, let alone run on it.  We only ran about a mile of the trail, but I loved that it was right on the water!  Maybe someday I’ll do a long run along the lake.

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The race was scheduled to start at 7:30 AM, but it was already hot + humid.  I was really hoping that being on the lake would make for a nice, cool race, but not so much.  Matt + I were both in Coral 1, which were about the smallest, narrowest corals I’ve ever been in.  We lined up 15 minutes before the start of the race, and were quickly crowded by people.  I was wishing we were on the outside of the coral just so we could breathe better.  But, the cool thing was, Meb Keflezighi walked right by us to get to his place in Coral 2.  He was pacing the 8-minute milers, so my goal was just to stay in front of Meb the whole time.

The start was not the best and I spent the first half mile dodging around people and trying to avoid the cyclist riding the opposite direction on the trail.  But, eventually, the starting crowd cleared out enough and I found a good groove and tried to hold it and pass people as much as possible.  I LOVE to play rabbit and chase people down, so starting a little farther back is always helpful for me (unless I’m really trying to win a race – then it can be a bad thing because I’ll start too far back and can’t catch up).

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The first mile passed and I heard my RunKeeper tell me I ran the first mile in 6:51.  I was amazed at how comfortable I felt at sub-7s and tried to just keep that pace as much as possible.  There were a few hills and some sharp turns during the second mile, but I made it my goal to chase some girls down and pass them by the end of the second mile.

A short down hill and the band playing at mile 2 really helped pump me up for that last mile.  But, that last mile was beyond hot.  With the lake to my right, the sun hitting off it just right to make it miserable.  Thankfully, I still felt strong and was ready to finish.  There were no other girls in front of me that were passable so I just tried to stay comfortable.  I kept looking for the finish line – I mean, it was ON the trail – but I couldn’t see it, even though I could hear the announcer.  Once we passed a building on the lake, it was go time.  I tried to sprint it in, but just didn’t have that much left in me, and got out sprinted by TWO guys.  Ugh.

But, that TIME, you guys!  I am BEYOND happy with that 5K time.  My first race postpartum and I am right where I need to be.

Official Time = 21:23
Average Pace = 6:49/mile

Mile 1 = 6:51
Mile 2 = 7:00
Mile 3 = 6:46
Mile 0.1 = 5:36

8th Female Overall
1st in Age Group (30-35)

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After I finished, I posed for a few pictures (which turned out horrible because I was just so exhausted), grabbed some water and a banana, and went to wait for Matt.  Just 3 minutes after I finished, Matt came running down the finish line.  I am pleased to say we both ended up beating Meb!  Ha!

Matt grabbed some water and snacks, stretched, and then we decided we had plenty of time, so why not wait in line to meet Meb…

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Just to put it in perspective:  I am 5’4″ and Matt is 5’6″.  We are 3 very short people…

Very, very cool!  It’s not every day that you can say you met an Olympian and Boston Marathon winner!  I was a little starstruck, to say the least!

But, the 5K was not our only plans for Saturday.  We had a tour to attend!  Two tourists trying to navigate a city we’ve never been to alone was interesting.  We ended up asking the concierge what we should take (cab, bus, or train) to get to Goose Island, and he ended up leading us to the wrong location!  Thankfully, I caught his error and looked up the suggestions for the Goose Island tour on my phone, and we were able to successful find the correct station for the L train and get to the correct station for Goose Island.

There were a ton of people getting off the train at the same place we were, and upon stepping off, we were bombarded by people selling food and water.  We had no idea there was a huge music festival (Pitchfork Music Festival) happening just down the street from Goose Island!  Of course, we ended up following the crowd, which was leading us in the total opposite direction than we needed to go.

Luckily, we had left so early, we made it to the brewery an hour and a half before our tour.  Ha!  We both ended up grabbing a beer and sat at the bar while we waited.  We chatted with the bartenders about beer and Chicago, called to check on the kiddos, and before we knew it (OK, maybe it still felt like forever), it was time for our tour.

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I was beyond impressed with our tour guide!  Nick was awesome and really knew not only a lot about the beer and brewery, but history of Chicago.  It was informative and interesting – probably the best tour I’ve been on (which really isn’t many – like 4 now).  We were able to sample their Goose IPA, Matilda, and Sofie.  We also got to check out the barrel room, where they make my favorite beer of all time, Bourbon County Stout.  They also had a Coffee Ale I wanted to try, but they had just run out a few days before.  (We also missed out on BCS in the taproom the day before.  Ugh.)

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By the time our tour was finished, it was raining pretty good, and we had about a mile walk back to the train station.  We ended up seeking shelter in a doorway along the route until the rain let up a little and we could make it to the train without getting complete soaked (or struck by lightening).  We ended up having to wait it out after we got off the train in a Chick-Fil-A until it stopped raining again.

The rest of our afternoon was spent relaxing in the hotel room, watching Food Network since we didn’t have kids and don’t have cable at home, ha!  We went down to the hotel lobby at 5 for the complimentary wine hour, and both enjoyed a sangria, before we decided to walk around town while we waited for our pizza to be delivered.  We walked down to the Chicago Tribune building, where Matt had visited during the Chicago Marathon 5 years ago, but I didn’t have a chance to go to.  It was very cool to see all these rocks from other buildings and monuments around the world.

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One of the few cool places I have been.  I actually took this picture for my sister-in-law – You can see Chimney Rock from her parents’ house!

We ordered Giordano’s and had it scheduled to be delivered to our hotel at 6:30.  You just can’t go to Chicago without getting some Chicago-style pizza, right?!  I really wanted to like this more than I did, but it didn’t have enough sauce and spinach is still just not my favorite thing, especially in pizza.  But, it satisfied my craving and my need for carbs for the half marathon in the morning!

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I also really wanted ice cream, but wanted something I couldn’t get in St. Louis.  We ended up walking down the street to Dylan’s Candy Bar that we had walked through earlier.  They have an ice cream stand and cocktail bar inside.  I went for the java chip, which was perfection – especially since I am slightly obsessed with chocolate covered espresso beans right now.

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By 10PM, we were both passed out in bed.  Big partiers, right here, I tell ya!  But, we knew 4:45 was going to come quick and I needed as much rest as possible!  Half marathon recap coming up later this week!

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#rnrchi remix weekend: day 1

What. A. Weekend!  A week later and I’m still recovering from an awesome weekend in Chicago (doing it in Branson is making it a little bit easier though).  Let’s start from Day 1, shall we?

Friday was a tough day with leaving the kids.  We had originally planned to take them with us, but after figuring out we would be driving down to Branson either the same or the next day, we figured one long road trip was good enough and left them with Matt’s parents for the weekend.  We’ve left MacKenna overnight before with my parents a handful of times, but never for more than a night.  And Miles has never been apart from me for more than a work day.  So, I was definitely not looking forward to leaving either of them for that long.

Thankfully, that part went much better than planned.  MacKenna was excited to spend the weekend with Grandma and Grandpa and Miles didn’t seem to fuss too much when we left.  I was still beyond anxious leaving them, but no tears were shed.

Matt and I headed up to Chicago, but not without a quick stop in Springfield first.  Springfield is only a 2 hour drive from St. Louis, but Matt had never had a chance to visit Lincoln’s tomb or rub his lucky nose.  Plus, it was a good place to stop for some Jimmy John’s for lunch and to switch out driving duties.

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Bucket list item – check!

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The drive was pretty uneventful until we got closer to Chicago.  Then it was all traffic.  Our original plan to checkin to the hotel and then catch the train to the expo.  But, as we kept seeing our arrival time to get closer and closer to 6 PM, instead of the original 5 PM, we knew we needed to change our plan.  So, instead, we headed to the expo, found a “secret parking spot” so we didn’t have to pay to park (shhhhhhh!), and each went in separately to pick up our packets.

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It was probably a better idea to not spend a ton of time at the expo as I think I would’ve come out of there about $1,000 poorer.

Once we were squared away there, we checked in to the hotel.  I did a little research when looking for a hotel.  When we came for the marathon in 2010, we stayed with my BFF who at the time lived in the northwest suburbs (she’s my next door neighbor now!).  So, we had very little experience in the actual city.  I was looking for something close to the starting line but also not completely expensive.  After researching the RnR website, I booked us at Hotel Monaco, which is a boutique hotel in the Chicago Loop area.  It was a lot more than we would normally spend on a hotel, but when we booked it, it was actually our cheapest option without having to drive and park at the race or take a CTA train or bus.  It was within walking distance to the start of both races, plus close to the trains, restaurants, and shops around town.

I pumped (ugh, the worst part about leaving the baby for the weekend) while Matt went to ask the concierge a good place for food and a drink.  We ended up at Emerald Loop Bar + Grill, directly across from the hotel.  We both ordered a beer – a Revolution Bottom Up Wit for me and an Affligem Blond for Matt – and dinner.  I ended up ordering the fish and chips and was not disappointed.  Probably one of the better fish and chips I’ve ever had.  Matt had a burger with a fried egg on top, which he said was absolutely delicious as well.

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After dinner, we walked around the block to check out the neighborhood, then headed up to the hotel to get some much needed rest.  We had a race to run in the morning!

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