Rock 'N Roll Half Marathon - August 2011

Sorry this is delayed, but yesterday was spent recovering/spending time with my little family! :)

So, I can say it ... I ran and finished the Chicago Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon on Sunday, August 14. I am beyond proud of myself ... and my back!

I was psyched that my dad made the trip out from Boston for the weekend. He did a great job as cheerleader/camerman/stuff holder.

On Saturday afternoon, we hit up the Expo. I really liked the organization of the Expo. You got your number in one line then went to get your t-shirt in another area then picked up the gear check bag. The best part was you could exchange your shirt for a different size before leaving the Expo. For me it was much appreciated since I continue to order sizes that are too big for me. (I forget I've lost 50 lbs :P). We didn't get to spend that much time at the Expo since I was called away for work, but it was great to do a quick walk-thru. Especially since the wife got to do some sampling. :)

We laid low on Saturday afternoon/evening. I got some more work done then made sure I had all my supplies set out. I am a tad OCD, but I also didn't want to risk leaving anything at home since the race was wicked early in the morning.

I had done at least one trial run with everything pictured except the Zensah leg sleeves (they arrived too late in the mail). But, I knew that if they didn't work on race day, I could always stop and remove the sleeve (I had planned on wearing just one on my left leg, which was left weaker from my back injury). I triple checked that everything was there and finally headed to bed.

Alarm was set for 4am Sunday. That wasn't a big deal for me since all of my training runs were done in the morning and I was routinely waking up for those at 4:45am.

The wakeup was easy. I hopped out of bed and was off. I am a person that likes to stick to a schedule so I knew I had a lot to get done so I had to keep moving. I was up at 4 and knew we had to be out of the house by 5. So I showered, put my makeup on (I know I know, I am one of those people) and suited up. Now, I am one of those people that cannot eat before a run, but I knew that the run was 2 hours away so I forced myself to eat 1/2 a banana.

We left (basically on time) and headed downtown. The train was full of runners and people coming home from the bars. An interesting mix to say the least. I was nervous the entire trip down to the starting line, but excited at the same time. It was so cool to walk down and see the Start and all the corrals set up. Once I saw everything, I wanted the race to start immediately.

Once I took my token "pre-race" photo. We checked out the rest of the layout. We needed to find my dad a map so he could point out which mile markers he would be at. We stretched and finally decided it was time to get to our corrals around 6:20 since the race was supposed to start at 6:30.

It honestly didn't feel real until I was standing in my corral, alone, just taking it all in. I was jealous of the people running with friends. I wanted a pal to be chatting with. Instead, I spent the time as photographer for all the people around me.

It took us about 12 minutes for my corral (#22, woo!) to make it to the Start. It was kind of anticlimactic. The organization kind of fell to the wayside by the time they got to our group. So rather than getting a "On your mark, get set, go." We got nothing. So I just started my Runkeeper as soon as I passed the line and was off...

I figured out rather quickly that my Runkeeper wasn't going to be able to track the run. The course was basically in the city - in between big buildings - and hidden from the satellites. I wasn't even at Mile 1 yet and the Runkeeper told me I had run about 2 miles. So from that point on, I knew I was going to have to use the Runkeeper for time and music only. I needed something to remind me to have a jelly bean every 30 minutes.

Since my GPS wasn't working, I really had to rely on the course markers to figure out where I was at. I was more wrapped up in trying to figure out my pace since I was trying for a PR than how far I had run.

I figured out after passing the 5k mark that there were sensors at certain areas during the run. Once I passed that mark, my dad got a text message with the time and distance I was at. (Wicked cool feature) So when I saw him just after the 10k mark, I asked him to text me the information. I wanted to enjoy the run, but I also wanted to keep my mind on my personal goal.

It was a gorgeous course. It was nice to take in Chicago with no distractions. No appointment to rush to. I wasn't just getting from Point A to Point B. I just took in the beauty.

I felt bad for some of the volunteers. There were a few people that were on "sprinkler" duty, but it was actually raining during some of the run  (straight up downpour during Mile 4) so they weren't the most popular stations along the course. Same with the water soaked sponges.

I was happy to have my water/jelly bean belt on me because I was able to power through every water or gu station without stopping.

I can honestly say the run didn't seem as long as the time said. I didn't feel like I was out on the path for over 2 hours. There were bands every so often and tons of people cheering on the runners. Not sure why, but I find a lot of joy in high fives. Spectators got creative with their costumes - lots of Kiss inspired outfits!

The final update from my dad came just after Mile 10. At that point, I knew I was going to get the PR I wanted. I had been keeping a consistent 10 min/mile pace and felt great. I just told myself 'C'mon, you just have a 5k left. That's easy!"

I was feeling so good during Mile 10 that I even took a picture while running ... and maybe checked some email!

The final 3.1 miles were actually almost the same from the Terrapin 5k from a couple weeks back. It was nice to be back in familiar surroundings. However, no one told me there would be two hills in the final 2 miles of the run. Who does that? But, I made sure to power up and over each of them. There was no way I was going to let them slow me down.

I think the final 1/2 mile was the longest of the whole run. Mainly because you could see the Finish Line taunting you the whole time. :) But, I powered on. My dad said "You had one determined look on your face."

I ended up knocking off 8 minutes from my previous 1/2 Marathon PR and came in at 2:12.15! Woo! :) I was PSYCHED!!

I know! Hot! Okay, it downpoured during Mile 4 AND curly hair doesn't do well with that...

I love any race that wants to give me a medal. I felt BEYOND accomplished when I picked it up. I have run a 1/2 Marathon and Full Marathon before, but those were back in 2006. I have gone throughout A LOT since then. The biggest of course being back surgery a mere 6.5 months before this run.

I am stronger than I give myself credit for! I just need to remember that.

Here are the final results:

I made sure to celebrate the best way I know how ... Dunkin Donuts! #DaniRunsOnDunkins

Medals galore: showing off the Rock 'n Roll Tune-Up 5k & The Half Marathon.

Tonight Fleet Feet Chicago offered free engraving for all Half Marathon medals. You know I had to stop by!

Overall, this experience was amazing. I feel so much better and more accomplished than the first time I did it. I think I may really miss my Monday morning runs so I may just continue the tradition. :) I need to soak up the nice mornings before Chicago turns to winter!

I hope I am proof to you all that you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it. Anything is really possible.

My next run is the PAWS Chicago 8k (5 miler) on September 25...