This year's expo was NOT at McCormick Place (shouts of joy!). It was held at the Hyatt in downtown so I could slip on by during my lunch break. As per the norm, lines were super short and I was able to grab my bib and goodie bag pretty quickly. Unfortunately, the clear bag for gear check was not included in our goodie bag and was missed by many runners (lots of credit, though, to the poor volunteer who stood in the middle of the floor trying to catch everyone on their way out!).
I was skeptical of their promise for free chocolate as Ram Racing/Hot Chocolate failed to deliver at a fun run hosted the week before. What happened at that fun run, you ask?
RAM: "Come out to a fun run where hot chocolate, fondue, and goodies will be provided!"
(I show up to the run)
RAM: "Oh, by the way, we don't have hot chocolate or fondue..."
(... ... ..disgruntled runners)
But FYI, they did have hot chocolate samples at the expo along with marshmallows and fondue. And I'm really a fan of the jacket design this year. And the buff...!
I was fortunate to have a qualifying time this year so I could start in Wave 1. Earlier start, earlier finish! I didn't have a race day plan in mind; I've been bouncing back and forth on my goals, especially since I am working back towards continuous running (marathon training was run/walk). Race? Have fun? I left it to be a last minute decision.
Things were marked very clearly but due to the size of the race, things were very far apart. There were tons of Wave 2 runners standing around which made it difficult for Wave 1 participants to move to the front. But things worked out and I eventually found my way to corral F.
Though I was in a qualifying corral, my time wasn't fast by any means. But boy, some folks in my corral sped off! We all joined in the chase; it was exhilarating for about 30 seconds until someone finally broke the silence and said "okay guys, that was fun, now for the real pace". Thank you to the gal on my right for being the voice of reason.
I knew my GPS would go nuts in downtown with the buildings and tunnels but I forgot to turn off the auto lap feature and honestly didn't want to mess with it. I didn't even want to look at my watch. The timer at Mile 1 confirmed that I was running too fast for me (10:30ish) so I pulled back some to conserve energy.
Wait, we're on Michigan Ave? When did that happen? I haven't done much continuous running since training for the marathon and I feel great! Let's keep going!
Oh Michigan Avenue. You with the blue marathon line. For this race, we were running south on the same road that led me north to the finish line for the marathon. I looked at the blue line and laughed aloud, replaying moments from those two final miles of the marathon. Was that really just a month ago?
I decided to make a point of walking through the aid stations so I wouldn't have to worry about spilling things left and right. It was also here that I saw a pacer and tried to "hang" as long as I could. As for the course, we were greeted with strawberry marshmallows, M&Ms, and fun entertainment!
Okay, can't run with that pacer anymore. Good try, though. Minus walking through the two aid stations, I've been running the entire time! The course finally started heading back to downtown; we had a few more funky turns (designed to make up mileage) and even had some HILLS tossed in there. I was a bit zealous over the last few miles and though I still felt pretty good, knew that I was slowing down. I tried to focus on climbing the "hill". And the next hill.
And about four hills later, I recognized the final underpass and knew that Columbus was just around the corner. I pushed through the final hill and set my eyes on the finish line. 1:43:07 for an average pace of 11:04 per mile! A PR by leaps and bounds!
After grabbing my gear and checking in on Carolyn (who, despite having a nasty fall, had an amazing race), I met up with Stacey and wanted to devour my finisher's mug. Hot chocolate, banana, chocolate fondue and other goodies after a 9.3 mile run? Yes please!
After Michele successfully finished her race, the four of us headed over to State and Lake Tavern for a recovery brunch, aka burgers and fries. Mmmmm.
I was very surprised at how well this race turned out and couldn't have asked for a better time. It was nice being able to revisit some parts of the Chicago Marathon course. Even more, it was really great to know that even after tapering for nearly a month, my fitness didn't disappear and if anything, my race time improved. #trusttheprocess
Now on to Winter Warriors!