As I said in my last post, I was excited for the Rock ‘n Roll Chicago Half. I was feeling pretty good about my training, the weather was looking good, and I was excited about the course and running in a large race.

Rock n Roll Chicago Half Marathon expoOn Saturday, I met my cousin downtown for the expo at McCormick Place. I’ve been to McCormick Place twice in my life – one Chicago Auto Show and one Tori Amos concert at the Airie Crown Theater. (Just a little Maggie trivia.)

Anyway, we picked up our bibs and swag (swag bag was a little drawstring backpack), walked through the vendors picking up free this and that, and then decided it was crowded and we didn’t want to spend any money so we headed back to my place for a sleepover. Just like when we were kids! Well, not totally. Dinner was carry out from Buca di Beppo. This was picked intentionally so we would have leftovers waiting for us when we got home from the race the next day. Around 9pm, we went to bed.

Rock n Roll Chicago Half MarathonRace day – alarm started going off at 4am. Oy. I didn’t sleep well the night before (does anyone?) Breakfast was toast and peanut butter with coffee and soy milk (I’m lactose intolerant).

Then we got dressed (it was semi-intentional that we both wore purple – I was planning to wear purple and she brought a few tops and decided to match me) and hit the road around 5:15am. My place is about 35 minutes from downtown Chicago (in the western burbs).

My plan was to park in a surface lot on Wabash, which is exactly what we did for $20. With all the road closures, I didn’t think the Grant Park underground garage would be doable, plus if it was open, traffic into and out of it would be crazy. Plus with where we parked we were a couple blocks from the start line.

After doing the usual pre-race stop (you know … you know) we headed to corral 19 (she was able to move up to mine so we could start together). I was fully expecting to start the race like 30 minutes after the first corral. Nope. We crossed the start line nine minutes and 34 seconds later.

We wanted to keep an easy pace. I have a Garmin, and kept it on my heart rate and kept it around 80% or so. We’re the same age, so I figured we should be targeting the same heart rates.

Rock 'n Roll Chicago via my GarminThe course was great – through the streets of Chicago. And main streets too, so it was a wide course. At the advice of another runner I follow on DailyMile.com, I turned off the auto-lap on my Garmin and manually lapped us when I passed the mile markers. I’m glad I did because with the tunnels + skyscrapers + overcast, my Garmin totalled 13.72mi at the end. I know I was all over the course at some points, for water and potties and weaving around people, but clearly as you can see, the Garmin isn’t perfect – those squiggly lines between State St and Canal St that look like I’m running through buildings? Yeah, we were actually running down Adams. (Also I need to stay off the race’s Facebook page because I cannot not respond to the posts from people who do not understand that Garmins are not 100% accurate and seem to think that this huge race, that costs tons of money, was not in fact longer than advertised.) (Although one year it was shorter – my Uncle used to run this race when it was the Chicago Distance Classic and apparently one year the official who leading the runners took a wrong turn because the course was marked wrong. He saved a clip of the article about it – I’ll have to scan it.)

Anyway. The weather was PERFECT. Temps in the 60s, overcast, and it rained (lightly) on us off and on. It couldn’t have been better. With the hot temps we were having a couple weeks ago, I was so worried this race would be hot, humid and miserable. It did not feel like the middle of August in Chicago at all this morning. Pretty sure it was cooler this morning than it was for the 2010 Chicago Marathon. (Which I spectated.)

Anyway, we kept going at my target heart rate, kicking it up a little in the last few miles. Once we hit mile 12, my cousin started speeding up, and I kept up with her. I’m glad we ran together – I don’t know if I would have run that fast for the last mile. We passed a lot of people, who reminded me of my first half marathon. With that race I started off too fast and had to walk the last few miles. This time around, I forced us to start slow.

As you can see, I forgot to hit lap at mile 4. Also between miles 4-5 we took a potty break. And our fastest two miles were the last two. Our pace for the last 0.1 was 7:15 (which is the pace one of my friends ran the entire race – crazy!).

So, I’m pretty happy with how I did today. I’m glad we kept it slow so we could run the whole distance. We had fun with it – near the end my cousin was leaping and actually knocked her elbow into my arm and it’s a little sore.

I thought the race was really well-organized. Lots of water and cytomax (which I didn’t drink – tried it at the expo and thought it was gross – had GU chomps and a GU gel instead). The bands were fun. The corrals were good and fast. The course was good – no bottle-necking. The port-a-potty lines weren’t too bad. The post-race photo lines went fast, and we got the usual – medal, water, banana, and also wet cloths, popsicles and more fruit and free samples of stuff. There was a beer tent but I didn’t want any so we didn’t even look for it. It started raining harder after we finished so we didn’t stay for the post-race concert. Brett Michaels canceled and I think a Journey cover band took their place. I heard enough Journey on the course – I think I heard “Don’t Stop Believing” three times. Do they overplay that song everywhere, or is it just a Chicago thing?

All in all, great race, great weather, and I’m proud of myself! Couldn’t ask for a better experience! 🙂