When I ran this one 3 years ago, it was a gloomy, rainy, 40 degree day. Not so this year. The sun was shining and it was 45 degrees at race time. There was a brisk northeast wind off Lake Michigan, and we were all pretty chilled while we waited for the starting gun to go off. The national anthem was sung beautifully, and unlike my last race, no one talked through it. After that, we were off!
We first headed north on the lakefront path towards Foster Beach. I ran gingerly, as I was so afraid of the return of that big toe pain that plagued me earlier in the week. I almost didn't run this one, because I feared that I would suffer a serious injury to that toe. I consulted with the sports medicine doctor at work, who agreed with me that it was a flare of arthritis. He prescribed Volaren gel, which is an NSAID, much like ibuprofen. I started using it, but didn't really notice much of a difference. Later in the week, I worked with Becky at my weekly crossfit session, and she kinesio taped my foot, hoping to promote lymphatic drainage from the toe. Heck, I would have tried voodoo at that point. I took it easy the rest of the week and hoped to run my race. I've never DNS'd or DNF'd and I didn't want to start now. Although there is a first time for everything, right?
Fortunately, today was not that day. Initially, I found myself running gingerly for quite a while. I was very conscious of my feet placement the entire race. I watched the ground for anything that might throw me off. I cautiously ran the tangents, not to strain the inside of my left foot. As the race progressed, my confidence grew. I felt myself letting go as the miles passed.
One of the "highlights" of the race included some random hill after mile 3. It was either a garbage hill or a dirt pile covered with grass. It was weird, because we ran off the path, through a field, and up this very steep hill, and back down to the path. Worried about my foot, this "trail run" made me nervous. Chicago is really flat, so the course planners must have had a little fun with this one. Once we were back on terra firma, I felt better. We circled around again and finally headed south towards Lincoln Park. As we passed the Peggy Notebaert nature museum, just north of the Lincoln Park Zoo, around mile 6, I stopped to gel. I had no trouble ripping open the package, which I had forgotten to cut prior to the race. But as it was cold out, the gel was really thick and I had some issues choking it down. When I took sips of water, the gel solidified in my mouth, and it was not a pleasant sensation. I finally got it down and began to run again, but cursed myself for wasting most likely 2 minutes with this process. I have to learn to gel!
|Source: chicago park district website|
We headed back north along the lakefront path and through Diversey Harbor. Although there were very few boats in in the harbor, there were 2 guys rowing skiffs and a guy in a wet suit on a standup paddleboard! Getting a head start on the season, I suppose. As I ran through this beautiful part of the city, I reflected on how lucky I am to live near such a great city. While I had these thoughts, my legs felt lighter than ever, and I began passing people! The gel must have kicked in and I was glad I took the time to choke it down. I passed the people I had been running behind prior to stopping to gel, and kept going. At mile 9, I kicked it into high gear, and flew to the finish line. I don't know where that came from, because in all the years I have been racing, that has never happened to me before! I saw the clock at the finish line, which read 1:29:30 and pushed even harder. I crossed the finish line triumphantly with a huge smile on my face.
My chip time? 1:28:38. Good enough for 8/61 place in my age group, 166/743 of all women, and 507/1531 overall. I could not be happier!
The post race party was great with food from Noodles and other suppliers, but for me the highlight was the post race beer, which was Lagunitas IPA. Yep at 930am, too! I rarely take advantage of the post race beer because it is usually something crappy like Michelob Ultra or Miler 64. Really, why bother? The Lagunitas was fantastic. There is a tasting room in the works for Chicago, and I plan on visiting it very soon.
Final reflections on this race and in general: This is one of the few races I have done more than once. The course wasn't bad, my only complaints were that weird hill in the middle of no where, and some crazy looping around. Once we were running south towards Fullerton, it felt like I could really let loose. The lakefront path is beautiful, but a little dicey at spots where the pavement is broken up. There is a limestone section which is great on the feet. The views of the lake and the Chicago skyline never fail to mesmerize me, even after all these years!
And from a personal perspective, I feel so lucky that I was able to run this race yesterday. Whether it was my new shoes, the kinesio taping job by Becky, the Voltaren gel from the sports med doc at work--I'm so grateful that I could get it done and have a finish time I'm proud of!