Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Chicago Rock 'n' Roll 2016 Half Marathon Race Report

I returned to the windy city this summer for another epic race.  This time it was a repeat of Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon.  The race took place mid-July and I would be serving as a Team Chocolate Milk ambassador, something that I have been doing for the past two years.  Learn how science proves that chocolate milk can help with muscle recovery.  Chocolate milk contains the perfect ratio of carbs to protein to aid in muscle recovery after a long run or workout.
My family and I got on the road early and headed down to McCormick Place for the huge race expo.  Parking was extremely pricey for the couple of hours that we were there and we had to walk a ton from one end of the building to the expo.  But, it was fun and we enjoyed browsing the booths and tried tons of free samples.  I also picked up a magnet and a couple of running tanks. 
After the expo, we parked in one of the parking garages downtown, walked around and grabbed some lunch.  We followed that up with a walking cupcake tour of Chicago.  For 90 minutes, we visited six different bakeries and carb-loaded with cupcakes.  We always love food tours, but this is the first one that the kids had joined us on.  It was super fun and a great way to experience the city.
After a long day being tourists, we headed back up to Schaumburg where we were staying.  Hotels were extremely costly in downtown Chicago that weekend - especially for the five of us to have a comfortable space.  So, we got a cheap room for around $150 in Schaumburg.  We grabbed dinner in Schaumburg, too and headed to bed early.
The race would be starting at 6:30 am, so we had to wake the kids up early.  The alarm went off between 4:00 and 4:30 and we packed up the gang and all of our belongings and headed back down to the city.  With no traffic, it was a breeze.  We parked in the same parking garage that we used the day prior.  We racked up about $75 in parking fees over two days.  We weren't going to be able to take advantage of the hotel's continental breakfast, so I ate a PB&J while I drove.
Port-o-potty lines were long and I was rushing to the startline area, as there were only fifteen minutes until the start.  I said good-bye to my family and stood in the line.  I had flash-backs to six years earlier when I was in the port-o-potty when the National Anthem was about to be sung at the same event.  I rushed to the startline, only to wait eighteen minutes until my wave got to start.  There were close to 12,000 participants and the waives were starting a couple minutes apart.
Once we were off, we headed under bridges, through tunnels and along the flat course through the city.  Much of the route was shaded, due to all of the tall structures.  My Garmin was all over the place and reflecting that I was running 7:30 - 8 minute miles.  I figured that it was losing signal through all of the tunnels.  I felt that I was pushing it harder than my training runs.  But, I also knew that I was not fully capable of running THAT kind of pace.
Crowd support was awesome and the music and entertainment along the course was nice.  I wore my headphones, but turned down my tunes as we passed some of the acts.  Around mile five, I felt a tap on my shoulder.  It was Margaret, another Wisconsin running blogger that I had met through Running Diva Mom several years back.  I was astonished that we crossed paths during this huge event.  I didn't even know she was participating.
My family was walking around the course, grabbing coffee and some breakfast.  They were able to spot me on foot twice during the first half of the race.  After we did the first loop of the figure-eight course, I wouldn't see them again until the finish line.
I consumed some energy chews before I started and sipped on a gel at miles 5 and 10.  I carried my handheld with water and consumed sports drink along the course.  One time the volunteer handed me my sports drink and the entire cup splashed in my face, causing me to cough.  I chewed on gum throughout the race, unwrapping a new stick after each gel.
We headed out on a more industrial route for the second half.  It wasn't as scenic or lined by too many spectators.  For the middle of July, the temperatures were quite a bit cooler than normal and the skies were mostly cloudy with dark clouds off into the distance. 
We headed underneath McCormick Place and it was almost pitch black.  With chopped up blacktop, I almost tripped a few times.  At the end of the tunnel, a DJ was playing "Whoomp there it is!" and there were disco lights.  I started getting disoriented with the flashing lights and darkness during those final miles.  We ran along the lakeshore for the last mile and circled around to the park and the finish line.  I could see and hear my family to the left in the large crowd.  The finish line seems so close yet so far away in these big city races.  I picked up my pace a little, but didn't sprint across the finish line.

My chip time ended up being 2:02:00 on the nose.
Chip time:  2:02:00 (9:14 min/mile)
3,295 / 11,074 overall
151 / 924 division
1,321 / 6,497 females

This was not a PR for me by any means.  But I am getting closer and closer back to my sub two hour half marathon finishes.  Baby Diva was already seven months old and I've been feeling great with every mile logged and every pregnancy pound lost.  I could feel myself getting lighter, stronger and faster with each step. 
Even though these big city races tend to be a more expensive experience and sometimes an organizational nightmare for a small family - it is worth it in the end.  It gives us additional opportunities to see and do things, too.
After the race, we sough shelter at a hotel over-hang as those dark clouds rolled over, less than a half hour after my finish.  It was down pouring and cold.  I also went down to our vehicle to change and feed our daughter.  Once our family exited the parking garage, the rain had stopped.  We walked to the Willis Tower to explore the skydeck.  My blood sugar was getting low and I was starting to sweat and shake.  After consuming a baggie of goldfish, I felt better and was ready to head up 100+ floors to explore the city from up above.  We also walked to Lou Malnati's for some amazing post-run food.  The sun came out and we ended up walking back through Millennium Park, explored the trails near Lake Michigan, Buckingham Fountain and did a little more wandering on Michigan Avenue.

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