This race was not on my radar at all this year. After I ran the Chicago Marathon, I made a promise to myself (and my coach) that I was going to devote the rest of the year to recovery.
Full disclosure: I have been very diligent about my recovery. I've kept my mileage low. Two weeks ago, I started throwing a long run back into the mix, running a 10 miler. Weekly mileage has been around 20-22 miles. I've been doing yoga at least twice/week. One thing I haven't been doing is working with Becky. We were supposed to start up again 2 weeks ago, but she got sick and then Thanksgiving happened. I'm going back to see her on Thursday this week. It's been 6 weeks since I've lifted a thing.
I've started to get antsy. I've never been good at behaving myself. Knowing that this last half marathon of the year was coming up, I started to entertain the idea of running it. I've run it before, and so I knew what to expect. I started stalking the weather. On Tuesday, the forecast for the race showed 40 degrees and no rain. I decided to sign up.
Even this morning, as I prepared to head out to the race, I was having runner's remorse. What was I thinking? I had done one longish run in the last 6 weeks! I was out of Tailwind, but I decided to fuel with Clif Gel, which is what I used in the past. Since it was supposed to be cold, I knew hydration wouldn't be an issue. The night before the race, I had my usual pizza and wine. My husband, knowing that I was running in the morning asked me, "no sausage, right?"
Yep, race prep at it's finest.
As I got ready to line up for the race, I passed a familiar face. It was Pete B from The Lakefront Trail! I knew he was going to be at the race, but we had never met before, and I wasn't sure exactly if it was him. He recognized me right away, and we chatted for a few minutes. He promised to meet me at the finish, and we got ready to run.
|Pete and me prior to the race. My "new" throwaway sweatshirt, which only made it to this one race.|
The race course took us through the Busse Woods forest preserve. I've run and biked there in the past, and I was pretty familiar with the trails. Part of the preserve was under construction, so we were doing a lot of out and backs. The first out and back was right away, and I saw Pete with the front of the pack. I started out at an 8:30 pace and I could not believe how many people were passing me. I didn't let myself get caught up in the rush, though, telling myself to fall into my pace. I kept a close eye on my Garmin the entire race. My legs felt light. They felt really good. I was a little scared of that. Cautiously optimistic, I thought to myself that this could be a good race if I played my cards right.
I continued to run at this 8:30-8:40 pace for most of the race. A couple of hiccups though: at mile 3, I started to feel a little off, and stopped at the water station to take a gel and drink. This was was before I had planned on stopping to fuel, but after about a half mile, I felt much better so I knew I did the right thing. Then at mile 6 I started to get a side stitch. WTH? I've been plagued with those all year. I breathed through it, making sure to exhale on the opposite side. After about 2 miles, it finally went away. I took another gel and water at mile 8.5. It was hard to get the water down because it was so cold!
At that point, I knew I could push my pace. My legs continued to feel good. My PF was quiet. And my tummy? Nothing happening there either. This was crazy. I have never felt this good during a race. Ever. There were no thoughts of "how much longer" or "I hate this". I smiled at the few spectators along the course. High fived a few kids. Waved to the photographers.
Still cautiously optimistic, at mile 9, I picked up the pace to something about 8:00 min/mile. And felt fine. Seriously. Who am I?
I paced a couple of miles with a girl wearing shorts. Her legs were red from the cold. I chased her all the way to the finish line. There was an incline at mile 13, and I felt a little ragged, running that fast up the hill. Once I got to the top, I could see the finish line. I got my breathing under control, and flew towards the finish. I saw Pete at the finish and he had his phone up to take pictures.
|Flying to the finish line! Thanks Pete!|
|BTW, I came in 6/54 for my AG, 118/771 women|
Pete came and found me and we compared notes. He did great, winning his age group, and coming in 16th overall! We waited for him to get his award, and then we left. It was so cold.
This is one of those races that gets little attention, but really should be on everyone's radar. Since it is the last half marathon in the Chicago area, the race attracts some really fast runners, the course is mostly flat and run on paved paths, and the cost is pretty cheap. There were about 1400 runners total, but since they don't cap the number of participants, this is a race you can decide on at the last minute. Parking is a breeze, and they have shuttle buses to the starting line. This race is a favorite of mine--it probably won't be the last time I run it!
Have you ever signed up for a race at the last minute? How did it go? Ever totally surprise yourself at a race? What was your best race ever? Why?
I'm linking up with Holly and Tricia for their Weekly Wrap! I can't wait to read about everyone else's weekends!
And with Julie's Best of the Blogs linkup!