Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chicago Half

Not too long ago I wrote a blog about running. My friend Ruth had just signed on for her first half-marathon and asked me to come to Houston to cheer her on in January. She did great, meeting her goal, and seemed to really love the experience. A few months later, she asked me if I wanted to sign up for a half-marathon with her. I told her I would see how I felt, because I'd recently hurt my hip running like a rookie. I did what Chris calls "Google therapy." I didn't want to shell out the money for physical therapy, so I Google'd exercises. After a few weeks I felt I was good enough and decided to sign up for this half-marathon in Chicago on September 11th with Ruth. 

I looked into the Nike+ training program for the half-marathon, and it seemed to be similar to the others out there, so I decided to go with it. I chose beginner, and tried to work up to the expected 15 miles/week that it said I should be doing. Twelve weeks before 9/11/2010, I started the training schedule.

When I got to eight miles I ran out of places to go in my neighborhood. I was already getting lost (imagine that!), so I just doubled my four-mile loop and my short run was now my long one. I learned that my Nike+ sensor was not very accurate, and had to make sure I had followed my course and not what my iPod was telling me I had done. To its credit, I didn't calibrate the new sensor, so I'll have to try that and see if it helps.

The training was was a great lesson in self-discipline. We didn't think about it when we signed up, but a half in September meant training during the horrible Texas summer. Coincidentally, Austin has busted its record for number of 100-degree days this year and it's not finished at 86 (as of 9/25). To beat the heat, you have to beat the sun, so my runs had to be started well before sunrise.

I had a few hiccups during my training, but all in all, I felt I was ready by the time my training was winding down.

Me @ 5:00 AM on race day

When it came to race-time, I wasn't as nervous as I was worried I would be. (How's that for a compulsive worrier?) I got there in plenty of time, then Ruth and Becca showed up, and we hung out, stretched, and waited. We were in corral H or something like that, so we didn't start for about 15 minutes until after the official start time. It was a gradual ramp-up, and then we were jogging past the start clock. The weather was cool and expected to get warm, so there was a flag system in place in case of extreme heat. To midwesterners, that's above 85 degrees F.

It did get too warm for some, as we saw several people unconscious and attended by paramedics along the middle and end of the course. The ambulance zoomed by once or twice. Hopefully everyone was fine. I'm glad I trained in the heat.

The race itself was tough but not bad. Ruth and I stuck together. I had assumed that because this was her second half and she'd had a goal for her first, that she would be leaving me in the dust to beat her goal for her second -- but she'd planned to stick with me, which was great.

That's us (for free, thanks to Chris)!

There were lots of cheerers and entertainment areas (a one-man band, some drummers, miscellaneous spots with fun, loud pop music) to keep us motivated. The most awesome guy was all alone, yelling constant encouragement to everyone like he was our very own coach who'd known each of us for our entire lives and couldn't contain his pride and excitement. The high school kids handing out water were hilarious. I know they were bored and tired of holding out water cups, because they were yelling as we went by, "Hey Christy! Doing amazing! This water has your name on it!" (Our bibs included our names, in case that seems freaky.)

Since the course looped back on itself, we saw the fastest people at their mile 11 (I think) when we were on our mile 6 (maybe). It was Ruth's favorite moment when the entire crowd of normal people cheered on the first ones finishing their race and then a few minutes later the first-place woman got lots of cheers from us slow-pokes as well. Man did those guys & gals have no body fat. I hope they got two slices of deep dish at the end. Apparently Apolo Ohno was running this half as well, but I didn't see him whiz by.

By mile nine, the sun was out in full force and we were getting fatigued, so it was time for a walk break. Ruth had been doing her runs at 5:00 AM (woah!) as opposed to me at 6:00, so I think the heat bothered her a little more than me (which is a shocker, I'm sure, to you who know how pale I am).  I had been battling some crazy anemia during my training (and I'm talking almost no iron in my blood despite the ridiculous supplement my hematologist had me on for the past few years), which I think kept me from building as much muscle as I could have. A bonus, though, since I'd quadrupled my iron over the past two months and was much improved, this seemed easier than my runs a month before, just...longer. My legs were hating me though, as were my feet.

Just a side note on my shoes at this point: I've been running with Nike Free shoes for the past year or two (one pair of 5.0's and one pair of 3.2s). The 3.2s have less padding, which is supposedly going to give you a more natural stride. When you're running 13.1 miles, though, it is also apparently going to give my bony feet a lot of grief on pavement (not the weird rubber-rock roads I'm used to). More about that later, though, in a post about shoes (because I now have two new pair of running shoes).

We took several water breaks during the last few miles, but for the very last, we kicked it into gear and ran it. With at time of 2h28min, we did a triumphant hand-holding/fist-pumping victory run across the finish line for the cameras. Those pictures turned out to be something like $50 each (with a $30 credit for some picture-printing website). Seriously? A $50 digital picture!?

Anyway -- finishing was a bit emotional (but I did not cry). As people who know me well know I've had some issues in the past that made me wonder if I would be able to even get through the training for this distance. I was, after all, once told that I would never run again (even a little). Running this race was about overcoming that prediction. I love to run, and it's something I'll appreciate for as long as I can. There was even a cheering spectator with a sign that read (and she yelled it challengingly), "There will be a day when you can no longer do this. Today is NOT that day!" How very true that is, and I'm joyfully thankful when I run that I can.

I'm also thankful for the encouragement of my many wonderful friends, especially Ruth, of course! In asking me to do this with her she pushed me to think that I could. And she was a great coach along the way.

Hottt hotties!

So that was that. I got my medal, which I toootally want to collect more of, stretched, forced down a banana, and we were done.

It was a bit anti-climactic to finish somewhere in the midst of a crowd of 11,000 other people. It seemed like not such a big deal at the time. Everyone had a medal. But when you're back home and find yourself driving somewhere that's 13 miles until the next turn and thinking, "Man this is a long way," then realize, "I ran this far!" it's pretty awesome.

1 comment:

  1. Great read! Hope to join you guys for the Austin half in Feb '13 (leaning toward yes right now). I've got my first half coming up here in Atlanta 10/7.