Turns out, the Chicago Rock and Roll Half Marathon was a great race! But I almost didn't make it to the starting line.
I was specifically running this race to run with my friend and running partner, Lori. She trained for the Chicago full marathon with me last fall, and we started together, but she had knee pain starting at mile 3, which eventually became excrutiating, and she ended up dropping out at mile 13. She was really bummed after that race (for which she had trained well, after just starting running for the first time in on Jan 1 the same year.) We decided to do a half marathon together, so she could have another chance to finish a long race. My plan was to run the whole thing with her, and make sure she crossed the finish line.
So, I drove to Chicago yesterday, with plans to spend the day with Balancin1 and family, and meet up with my friend in the start corral this morning. We had a lovely day, going to the Museum of Science and Industry, and then Balancin1's dh cooked some great pasta for supper. Balancin1 was housesitting for a friend a couple blocks from her house, so since her cousin and her children were also staying with her, the plan was for her and her dd, and myself and my 2 youngest children who were with me, to sleep at the friend's house. She lives on the south side of Chicago, in the neighborhood I lived in during med school, so it's a familiar place. I planned to just take the bus to the start in the morning, since the 6:30 am start time was not conducive to dragging all of our kids up to get me downtown.
I got up at 4:30 am this morning, had my peanut butter toast and a lot of water, and headed for the bus stop a little after 5, armed with bus fare and my phone. At that point, everything sort of went downhill. I was watching the bus tracker on my iphone, and suddenly, it started saying there was a temporary route change - they'd rerouted the bus due to the race. Okay, so it was still supposed to stop around 6-8 blocks from the start, and I figured that would be okay, but I started to worry that I didn't have any other money with me. I decided to run back to Balancin1's friend's house and see if I could get in and get some more money - only Balancin1 didn't have her cell, and the outer gate was locked, and I didn't know the code or the right unit number to buzz to be let in. Doh. So, I ran back to the bus stop. At this point, the bus tracker had said another bus was coming in 4 minutes, but then it stopped sending new info. So, I waited. And waited. And waited. 35 minutes went by, and I was still waiting. It was now closing in on 6 am, for my 6:30 am race start. I called Balancin1's phone several times (I didn't know yet that she didn't have it with her) and basically had a good panic attack. Finally, I got the idea to run the 2 blocks to her own apartment and see if her dh or cousin would answer the door. No one answered when I buzzed, but when I called, her cousin answered and I basically begged her to loan me $20 for cab fare, and get it back from me later in the day. She graciously ran down the stairs with it, and I took back off running up the street looking for a cab. Of course, I had seen a bunch of cabs when I wasn't looking, but there were none to be seen now. And then suddenly - there was the bus! So I ran for the bus and jumped on, right at 6 am.
Phew. So now, I just need to take a 15 minute bus ride, and then run the 6-8 blocks to the start by 6:30. Meanwhile, my friend is in the start corral, calling me and wondering where the heck I am. I explain and we agree on where to meet. I'm starting to feel a little better, right up to the point where the bus doesn't turn on the detoured route, but instead the driver tries to go along his regular route until he runs in to the street closures. Now, most of the folks on the bus, who are just trying to get to work, are getting peeved, the bus driver is swearing about how nobody every tells him nothing. He continues on past the area for the race, and finally gets off Lake Shore Drive way north of the race, parks the bus, and starts making a call to figure out where to go. It's 6:20 at this point. Meanwhile, there is another runner on the bus, and we have been chatting a bit, and we decide to get off and look for a cab as the driver has no idea what route he is going to take now. We hop off and start running down the street looking for a cab. We find one and hop in and he fortunately caught the idea that we are in a rush, and zips us down to Grant Park, just a few blocks from the start (the closest we can get.)
So we hop out and start running for the start. At 2 blocks in front of the start, I can see that I'm not going to make it before the start. I call my friend and tell her I'll be walking down the side of the road and will jump in when I get to her. On the plus side, I got to see the start! Kara Goucher ran right past me. I never get to see a start, after all! Also, fortunately they were using this waved start, where one corral is released every 1 minute, so the corrals were all staying together, and I could easily see where my corral (11) was. I reached my friend after about 4 corrals had already started, and jumped in with her. My heart was pounding and I had so much adrenaline going on, it was really hard to hold back at the start!
We wanted to start with the 2:15 pace group, even though we figured that wasn't realistic for my friend for the whole race. The next pace group wasn't until 2:30, and she really wanted to try running with a pace group. So, finally we crossed the start line and were off, running with the 2:15 pace group. The first few miles were great - lots of crowds, a few bands, beautiful weather, and great camaraderie on the course. My friend was really nervous about her knee giving her trouble again, but we passed 3 miles with no problem, still with the pace group and feeling good. By 5 miles, she was thinking she really needed to hit a portapotty, and we found one at mile 6 finally. Up until then, we were hanging with the 2:15 group pretty easily, and feeling good. We were several minutes at the portapotty, but she was feeling much better when we started off again. Right after the portapotty, we were turning to go back on Lake Shore Drive, and came within a long block or so of the start/finish area. Just as we were closest, we could hear the announcer calling Kara Goucher's race as she finished first woman, and actually first overall. 1:08:05! So I got to see her start, and hear her finish first hand, which was pretty cool after all!
After the halfway point, we took a few walk breaks, but I was really proud of Lori for running almost the entire race (we usually do more walking on our long runs than we did today.) Around 9 miles, I could tell she was flagging some (our training hasn't been the best these last few months, and I have more training base to fall back on, having been running for almost 30 years now!) I ran the rest of the race a couple steps ahead of her, checking back constantly to make sure she was still with me and talking it up as much as possible.
The race course the last 6 miles or so was all on the lake, and it was absolutely gorgeous running along the lake - sunny, a little light breeze, warm, but not too terribly hot. The Chicago skyline was beautiful at the point we turning back towards downtown. There were a lot of lovely people along the course - great crowds, fun bands, and friendly fellow runners and we were really having a good time.
The last couple miles, we got a little emotional. First, I passed a Team in Training runner, who looked to be struggling a bit. She had a picture of a baby pinned to the back of her shirt, with the caption "Running in Memory of my Daughter" Well, I was feeling kind of emotional anyway and that put me over the edge. I got all choked up and worked hard to keep running while sort of gasping for air and trying not to dissolve into a sobbing mess. Then, shortly after 12 miles, it was Lori's turn to get all choked up, realizing we were so close and were actually going to finish.
The last mile we ran strong and steady, and I didn't feel so much like I was dragging her. We finished side by side, and had a brief sob fest once we were through. I'm so proud of her for finishing this race! In the last few years she's lost over 80 lbs, and become a runner! Final time, 2:23:22 - about 8 minutes slower than I was at Indy, but I felt great about getting Lori from start to finish!
The Rock and Roll was a great race - very nicely organized (Chicago public transit notwithstanding) and well run. It was a lot of fun, even with all the running about I did before hand trying to get to the start! I took a cab back to Balancin1's after, not wanting to chance the bus again, and she literally handed me scrambled eggs and waffles when I walked in the door, which was just lovely. Dingoes make great race pit teams!
My only issue was my failure to put enough body glide on, so now I have my diaper rash ointment on and I'm walking funny, but otherwise I feel pretty good. I'm supposed to run a 5K Fri night, and hopefully will feel up to it!