July 29, 2014

Chicago Rock n' Roll Half Marathon Recap


The place
In my books Chicago is a great place; it has everything I'd want in a big city if I were to move to one. This year I had a goal of doing a half marathon in under two hours. So, when I saw that there would be a Rock and Roll half marathon in the middle of summer in downtown Chicago with a course that doesn't just do a ton of laps of the same little loop, I was sold. 

Actual cycling infrastructure!

Fun parks!



The race
Starting line
The beginning of the race seemed pretty well organized. I liked that they had waves staggered by your estimated finish time. I've been in races before where you can't even get up to a full run for a few miles because of all the people going slow or even walking in front of you. Since I was going for time instead of just to complete, this was appreciated.

The course covered a large part of downtown, which included a few sections of tunnels, or at least roads under roads. Very soon I realized that I wasn't going to be able to depend on my Garmin to make sure I was pacing fast enough (or not too fast). GPS kept coming and going, but at least every mile was marked. So, I had to do math between miles (dangerous, I know) to figure out my pacing. For the first few miles I spent most of my time thinking about my pacing and I didn't even realize until we got almost half way done that I hadn't seen or heard any bands.

The sound
If I had come to this race looking for an experience with a lot of Rock and Roll I would have been really upset. There was no music for the first half of the run (even though it looks like they had planned for there to be) and I think there was only one rock band, maybe two. There was a blues band, which was representing Chicago blues quite well. Then the rest were cover bands or just DJs playing some pop/dance music. My favorite, though, was when we went through a narrow road with the building creating a nearly cavernous feel and there was a DJ playing some old school Chicago house techno.

The OMG!!!
Post-race daze
Old fashioned pacing with feedback only once a mile was pretty foreign to me. Somewhere around 10 miles I could feel myself slowing down, but I only could know for sure once per mile. When I got to the last mile I knew it was going to be close. My body was telling me that this would be a great time to pull off at that burger joint over there and relax while my mind was screaming at it to shut up and just go faster for the last few minutes! I could see the finish line far away and I had five minutes left until I'd hit two hours. Had to go faster. Two minutes left and the finish line was still pretty far away. I didn't come all the way out here and go this far just to miss this goal by a few %*$#! seconds! One minute left. I channeled my inner Jens Voigt - "SHUT UP LEGS!!" I was at full sprint, lungs burning, feet screaming. I crossed the line and clicked the "stop" button on my Garmin. 1:59:22.

The results
In a daze I walked through the finisher chute and picked up some free goodies (drinks, bananas, etc.) and made my way back to the hotel room. Later that night the official results were posted. My Garmin time was pretty close to the chip time (off by only one second).