My alarm went off at 5AM on Sunday morning. I was VERY thankful for a good night’s sleep. Our hotel room was right next to the L, so every 12 minutes, a train was going by. There were several times while we were there that I would ask Matt what that noise was, only to realize that it was the dang train. The first night, I slept terribly, so a good night’s sleep the day before the half marathon was awesome.
Unfortunately, my stomach did not have a good night’s sleep. Ugh. I get a “nervous tummy” before every single one of my races, and usually most of my long runs. But, for some reason, I could tell this one was different. I just couldn’t get my stomach to settle down. So, before we left, I grabbed a bottle of water to sip on in hopes that it would help my stomach, as well as keep me a little more hydrated before the race. Of course, NOT something I had been doing during my long runs. Mistake #1.
Matt walked me to the VIP tent where I found Ashley, Brandi, and Brandi’s mom to chat with until it was time to head to the starting line. We talked about our crazy races and their other experiences in VIP (it was my first time!), before I headed to the porta potty for one last chance to get my stomach to settle down. I kept repeating my mantra in my head all morning – YOU GOT THIS! – but I was still incredibly nervous and my stomach was just not having it.
I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to a starting corral as late as I did on Sunday. Usually I’m one of the first ones in the corral and have time to stretch before everyone starts piling in. I ended up not getting to the starting line until 6:15 and it was PACKED! I snuck my way into the middle where there was a little bit more room, and took a few selfies at the start.
Thank goodness I did, because Steffany spotted me and came and chatted with me the first few minutes before the gun went off. While we were both supposed to be in corral 4, we some how ended up in the middle of corral 3. Oops. So, Matt totally missed me at the start.
I absolutely LOVE the first half of this race! For the first 6 miles, you wind through the downtown streets of Chicago. I just love the architecture of Chicago and there is always SOMETHING to look at! And crowds EVERYWHERE! It’s such a great city for racing because you don’t have to go too far to see someone multiple times in a race, so there are always tons of people cheering. I think at one point, I decided to just start counting how many Potbelly sandwich shops I saw since we JUST got one close to our house. I think I got up to 4 in the first 6 miles… Crazy!
I felt comfortable that first half of the race, except for that dang side stitch. I knew I still had some time to speed up, but I was still about 30 seconds off from the pace I needed to keep to run a PR. I was losing my confidence and just praying that I would have something left for the end, but I was too much into my head and my mental toughness was just not there for the day.
My goal was to start speeding up at mile 8. I got there at around 1:04 and in my exhausted mental state, thought, “Oh, 5 miles in 40 (?!) minutes? I totally got this!” I could definitely keep 8-minute miles the rest of the race. Mistake #2. Had I been in the right state of mind, I would have realized that I had 30 – not 40 – minutes to hit a PR. Yeah, there was no way I was PRing, but I didn’t realize that until a bit later.
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It was also in mile 8 that I started to lose it. The side stitch was driving me crazy and I knew I was getting dehydrated. I decided that I needed something – still thinking my side stitch was most likely from not eating or drinking before the race. So, I decided to walk through a few water stops and grab some Gatorade and water. This was probably the best decision I made the entire race. The Gatorade definitely helped give me some energy that I knew I was lacking, AND my side stitch finally starting to disappear. Thank goodness!
The last 4 miles of the race were terrible for me. I finally figured out that there was NO way I was going to PR around mile 9 and I was needing to walk through every water stop. I was frustrated and disappointed, but knew that I could at least finish in a decent time, even though it wouldn’t be a PR or even faster than the GO! St. Louis half I ran back in April. My calf also started cramping around mile 11, just like it has during my training AND last year during training and the race.
Finish Time – 1:41:51
Average Pace – 7:47/mile
Like I said, not a PR and definitely not the pace I was training for. I’m definitely disappointed because I KNOW I had that PR in me. But, I know there are other races – and I also know there are things that I need to be changing in my training to better prepare myself for that PR. But, thankfully, I can say that I race almost 6 minutes faster that I ran RNR Chicago last year!
Oh, and those “side stitches” I though I was having the entire race. Turns out I had them the rest of the day. It wasn’t until I was laying in bed that I realized what I was feeling definitely wasn’t a side stitch, and I had been having a cramp in the exact same spot during a few of my runs for weeks. I ended up going to the chiropractor the next day who determined it was actually my iliopsoas muscle (also known as your hip flexor that originates off the spine and attaches to the top of the femur) that is inflamed and putting pressure on the fascia between my abs and obliques, causing that uncomfortable pressure/side stitch while I run.
Hmm, guess what I haven’t been doing since I started training? My hip circuit that I had been so diligent about doing. That had helped me get over my my pelvis issues I had been having since having miles. Oh yeah, that little thing that was keeping those injuries at bay. Yup. I have been neglecting the ONE thing I KNOW that I absolutely need to be doing in my training. I’ve done my circuit twice now, and I’ve noticed a significant difference in that pain in my side.
As a run coach, this hip circuit is something I have my runners do almost DAILY, as a way to help prevent injuries and make them stronger and faster runners. If you are dealing with injuries, or are just looking for a way to prevent injuries from happening, sign-up below and have my short, effective hip circuit sent directly to your inbox!