I got in 8 miles, a 35 minute strength session, and a 30 minute bike ride the week leading up to the Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon. I took Friday and Saturday as rest days. I ate a delicious pasta dish the night before the race and completed the Half in 2:03:17! This is my fastest half marathon yet!
This was the most emotional race I have ever run. My nerves were insane! As I stood in the corral with the thousands of other runners I started to feel a sense of confidence and comradery. I even managed to give my fellow runners a few smiles before we were released. I was in corral 8 and as we moved up to begin our start I felt incredible. I was actually able to "toe the line". The adrenaline that is released when the horn goes off is indescribable!
I was blaring "Pump It" by the Blackeyed Peas and then everyone became a blur. I glanced down at my watch and my pace was a very fast 7:36 so I backed it off a little. My first mile split was 8:25 and I was feeling great! The next couple of miles seemed to whiz past and my 5k time was right at a 9 minute pace. So far so good to break 2 hours!
At 3 miles I saw Gerry, Zach and Tami. I gave them a wave and a smile as I whizzed past them. I was feeling great and hoping to maintain this pace. As I rounded the corner on mile 5 and started ascending the hill I started to feel a little out of breath and the sweat was pouring off me. As I ran through the water station I grabbed a cup and poured it over my head to cool my body down a bit.
Now we were heading down the long southbound stretch on Lake Shore drive. The miles continued to whiz past. I took a GU at mile 9 hoping that would give me an extra boost for the next 4.1 miles. I grabbed an ice cold sponge right before mile 10 and squeezed it over my head. At mile 10, just as I crossed the mat that would send a text message to my Dad, Tami, and Zach I felt the dreaded fatigue starting to set in. And then I did the worst thing I could do...I thought to myself "Only 3 miles to go". Ugh! I can't believe I did that!
So I could feel my legs slowing down and getting heavier. I knew that I had to run 9 minute miles or less to break my 2 hour goal. Mile 11 came upon me and I got a second wind of sorts and sped up. I was looking for my family but they were no where in site. Mile 12: the second wind was gone. I was pushing through what people call "The Wall" at this point. In my mind I was saying, "Shoulders down, don't lean forward, head up...." The crowd was back and I was turning the corner to go up the final hill. At this point I am cursing the race directors at how unfair it is to put a hill at the end of the race. Damn them!
I turn the last corner and the crowd is going crazy. I see the finish line and at that point I know I am not going to break 2 hours but I push my legs as fast as they can go and start chanting..."Do it Dana, Do it". There it is, and just like that I'm done. I have so many emotions going through my head. My legs are completely dead. I grab a water and start weaving through the masses. I get my medal, grab an ice towel, pose for my post race picture and slowly start walking out of the runner's area.
It is at this point I realize I did not make a plan as to where to meet the family. I am so tired, I figure that they will find me....eventually. Luckily I spot Zach and he gives me the news that I ran a 2:03:17. I drop my head. Just as I am about to wallow in my own self pity he points out that I ran a faster half marathon in higher humidity and higher temperature and more hills than I did in Huntington Beach. It takes me a minute to understand what he is saying but then I realize that I just ran the fastest and most challenging race of my life.
I immediately call my dad and got a congratulations from him. I spent the rest of the day reveling in my accomplishment.
What a great day!
Now, it's back to training for the Chicago Marathon. I can't believe it is only 9 weeks away!