I have to admit, it was SO nice getting my goal race out of the way early Saturday morning so that I could just enjoy the rest of our time in Chicago. We spent the rest of Saturday checking out the expo and then shopping – all day! Pretty much a perfect weekend, if you ask me! Doesn’t get much better than running, eating, drinking, and SHOPPING! We actually called it a night pretty early and ordered some Giordano’s to eat in the room, which was perfect!
I had absolutely NO goals for the race – just to have fun + enjoy myself. I knew I could pretty much keep 8-minute miles pretty easily for the whole time, so I was expecting to finish in 1:45, but I was going to practice my race and fueling strategy regardless, without much of an expectation of time.
We had plenty of time prior to the race, so we used bathrooms and checked our gear before splitting off to our separate corrals. I was in corral 2 and my mother in law was in corral 15 – she texted me after the start to let me know when she crossed the starting line. By the time she finally started, I was already 3 miles in. So crazy! But, it gave me a good idea of when to expect her to finish.
So, anyway, I was in my corral with about 20 minutes to spare and was able to meet-up with one of my Fitness Business Academy sisters, Bethany! Bethany is also a running coach and I have loved getting to know her over the last few months! She was running with her husband, Landon, and had a similar finish time as mine. We were able to start the race together, but I lost her about a mile into the race, so I was all on my lonesome the rest of the race.
Like I said, I have a specific race + fueling strategy that was my goal to practice during the race. I have a 3 part race strategy. I break the race into 3 different sections:
- The first HALF of the race (Miles 1-6)
- The PACE section of the race (Miles 7-11)
- And the RACE section of the race (Miles 12-13)
The first half of the race is all about staying comfortable. Find a comfortably fast pace that you can keep for the bulk of the race. It might be slightly slower than your goal pace to start, but that’s a good thing. You can’t finish fast if you start fast. Start slow and finish fast!
Since I didn’t really have a goal pace, I was just going to run at whatever pace felt comfortable. I quickly fell into sub-8 minute miles I tried to keep that pace as long as I felt comfortable.
The great thing about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago half marathon is that there is a definitely first half + second half of the race. You spend the first 6 miles weaving through the heart of the city, before turning on Michigan Avenue and heading south. And you’re going south on Michigan Avenue for a LONG time. Or at least it feels like it! So, once I got to that turn onto Michigan, I knew it was time to transition to the PACE part of the race.
The PACE part of the race is falling into your goal half marathon pace or faster. You start pushing your pace, but you are not all out at this point. But, you do want to be at your goal pace or faster, IF you’re not there already.
By this point in the race, I was already running faster than 8-minute miles, so I decided to just pick up the pace slightly. I was comfortably running right around 7:30/mile and was perfectly happy with that. If I was actually racing, I think I probably would’ve picked up the pace a little more, but I was comfortable and happy, so I was perfectly content at that 7:30 pace.
This is also the part of the race where it starts getting tougher, mentally. You HAVE to stay engaged and focused in this point in the race. You have to avoid thinking about how much you hurt – because no matter how much you have trained, it’s still going to hurt, I don’t care who you are. So, what helps me focused is picking out someone in front of me and trying to pass them by the next mile or the next waterstop. If I pass before then, I pick out someone else. I also repeat my mantra – fearless – over and over in my head, to remind myself why I do this! Ha!
The last part of the race is the RACE part of the race. Or, as Prefontaine would say, this is the time to see who has the most guts. You have nothing to lose at this point so you just let loose. This is all out, get to the finish line as fast as you possibly can. Of course, this part only works if you follow the first 2 parts of the race strategy though.
Another great thing about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago half marathon is that it is set up PERFECTLY for this part of the race strategy too. You come out of McCormick Place and you have almost exactly a 5K left. You follow a fairly narrow stretch of road and when it opens up, it’s time to MOVE.
The bad part of the last 2 miles of the race is that it is the hilliest part of the course and mostly uphill. But, because you followed the race strategy correctly, you have PLENTY left in your legs to push it those last 2 miles.
At this point in the race, I was ecstatic! It was by far the BEST I have ever felt running this half. Typically, the last 3 miles are a struggle for me. I’ve dealt with calf cramps the last 2 years and found myself walking more than running those last 3 miles.
This year was totally different. I felt AMAZING! My feet hurt, but my legs felt great! And I was really worried about those last 3 miles simply because my longest training run was only 10 miles. But I picked it up and started running sub-7:30 miles until the finish line.
OFFICIAL TIME = 1:39:42
AVERAGE PACE = 7:36/mile
This race was exactly what I needed to really see how far my training has gotten me in the last 4 months. I’ve increased my mileage, I’ve changed up my training, I have someone keeping me accountable, and it’s all paid off! In the last 4 months, I have only missed 1 workout (the day after we were in the ER with Miles) in the last 4 months, so the accountability and extra miles (I’ve been averaging 40+ miles per week, which I haven’t done since marathon training 7 years ago) have definitely paid off! Excited to see what else is in store for my training this year!