I was more than a little bit excited for this trip to Chicago - see this blog post for more. But in terms of the run, I was feeling it. I was feeling strong in my training runs. I was having a little bit of back soreness so I took the five days before the race off. All I did was my normal walking, schlepping and lifting for work.
Once we got the Chicago on the Friday, we did do a TON of walking - which was great. I had really missed just walking around the city.
But I digress...
We had a SUPER early flight out to Chicago on Friday morning. But the airline made up for that by somehow upgrading us to First Class - for no reason known to us - but we took it. :)
Friday and Saturday were reserved for hitting up our favorite eating locations and seeing as many friends as possible. Let me tell you we dominated in that department - seeing over 30 people in a 3-day span.
At the expo on Friday, I even got the FINALLY meet Dan (aka Cubicle Dad) after tons and tons of Twitter and Facebook time.
But, I called it an early night on Saturday night. Thankfully the wife got us a hotel close to the Start Line so I really didn't have to walk too far the morning of ... and it had a kick ASS view of the River.
Race morning I woke up at 5am. I had everything set up on Friday so I was ready wicked fast.
The wife was injured so she wasn't able to run herself, but she served as an AWESOME spectator/photographer. :)
We headed to the Start Line around 5:45. I like to get to a race at least 30 minutes before it starts to just stretch and hang out. Thankfully I didn't have to check a bag, but I did get to wait in the dreaded port-o-potty line. Ugh...
I was pretty psyched to be in Corral 8 since I think the year before I was back in Corral 20-something.
(Candid from the wife)
Things really changed in a year ... here is a pic from the same race in 2011 and 2012. I felt a lot stronger this year and had dropped over 15 lbs which helped as well ... and I wasn't just 6 months removed from back surgery. ;)
It was wicked exciting to be in a closer Corral as I was able to actually hear the National Anthem and see the elite runners take off. It was such a thrill. It also meant I didn't have to wait as long to Start. Another bonus.
It was finally time to Start ... I got those butterflies in my stomach ... But was too excited to really notice them.
Of course, the buildings downtown screwed up my Runkeeper almost immediately so it kept telling me I was running at like a 4:45 min/mile pace. Ummm yeah, I'm not Kenyan. So thanks for just making me feel bad. But, I know it is more the satellites than anything else so I just tried to use the overall timer/music more than the pace info.
Additionally, the wife was getting text updates with my location so I was planning on using her to really tell me how I was doing since my sole goal was to finish in UNDER 2 hours.
To keep the eye on the prize, I found a woman with a 1:50 pace sign on her back and tried to stick with her as long as I could.
Since it was 84 degrees at the start - and who knows the Real Feel since the humidity was through the roof - I wanted to go out strong so I could build a little buffer for later in the race when I knew I would be slightly slower (miles 6-10 where there would be no trees).
Thankfully the course is FULL of music and spectators, so motivation is always high during a Rock 'n' Roll race.
I really admired the P.F. Chang runners who ran the entire thing with a Chinese dragon.
I even found the wife a few times on the course and was able to get an action shot. :)
After this point, I actually texted her while running to try and figure out my pace.
Do you know how hard it is to run and text at the same time? :P
I was actually feeling strong throughout the run despite high temps and stopped at each and every water stop along to way to make sure I stayed hydrated ... and poured one over my head for good measure as well.
As I passed Mile 11, I realized the race directors had made a new addition to the course and it was AWESOME!
At Mile 12, it all hit me. As I trudged up the final incline towards the Finish Line that I was going to do it. I wasn't only going to do it - it being posting a sub 2-hour Half Marathon time - but I was going to SMASH it.
I started to cry.
Yup, I'm sure the runners around me were like "Who is this crazy chick?" but the whole thing hit me at once.
Wow, I - Dani Holmes-Kirk - was going to finish this Half Marathon in under two hours. Me - the girl who lost over 60 lbs. Me - the girl who ran a 12 min/mile pace when she started running. Me - the girl that used to have 0 faith in herself. Was going to accomplish this feat.
And it was A-freakin-mazing!!
Here are the official results:
I still cannot believe I did all this! For reference of how big this is to me, here are the times of my four-career half marathons:
February 26, 2006 -- Hyannis Half -- 2:20:18 August 14, 2011 -- Rock N Roll Chicago Half -- 2:12:15 January 28, 2012 -- F^3 Lake Half (Chicago) -- 2:05:40 July 22, 2012 -- Rock N Roll Chicago Half -- 1:51:43
I don't think the smile on my face could get any bigger!!
And the run can only get better with a racing medal...
I wore the medal for the rest of the day! I was too excited not to. It was great seeing other runners all over the city doing the same thing. I saw quite a few at Weber Grill, where we traditionally have lunch after the Rock 'n' Roll Half.
I cannot wait to run this race again next year - it will be the third time.
The moral of this race is ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. This experience reminded me that I can do anything I put my mind to if I put in the work and have the passion/desire/drive to see the results ... and you can too!
If you asked me three years ago if I would run a half marathon in under 2 hours, I would of laughed you out of Chicago. But flash forward and look what I did.
And now? Now I set my sights on the Rock 'n' Roll Savannah FULL marathon on November 3.
And I say ... BRING IT!