Today was my 3rd time running the Chicago Half marathon. I first ran it in 2012 as I broke 2 hours in the half for the first time clearing the bar in my 2nd attempt. I had originally not planned to run the race this year trying to put more focus on my marathon training, but wound up snagging a deeply discounted entry during the registration blitz and decided to keep tradition alive.
I was a bit nervous all week leading up to the race. I knew my recent performance numbers were pointing towards a big PR for me, but it still seemed unfathomable that I could accomplish such a feat. I also worried that I wasn't 100% fresh which was true since I ran my first 20 mile training run last Sunday as part of a 52 mile week and still put in 41 miles this week including the race. When I got home from the race expo on Saturday I realized I was pretty fatigued which wasn't a good sign. I still managed to meet my social commitment on Saturday evening and went to my friends' wedding party. Luckily it was a low key affair that ended before 7. I was so tired that I hit the pillow at 9:30 which is unheard of for me.
Race morning I slowly gathered myself and got ready. I wasn't in any hurry and my stomach made sure that I wasn't racing out the door either. I noticed I has 4 missed texts from Jennifer letting me know she was outside and ready. I wasn't even dressed yet, oops. I threw myself together finally and out the door I went. I realized once I got to the race that I had forgot my phone. Oh well, there are worse things, but it meant social media blackout and a coordinated plan on where to meet after the race. After a picture with Natali and 2 more trips to the rest room I made my way to the start corral.
Once in the corral I started to relax and just wanted the race to start. I happened to spy my friend Allison saying her good byes to her BF before they split for the race and was soon joined by one of the Redittor track night guys who decided to start the race with me. He told me his goal was to start easy and then run down the 1:45 pace group. I agreed and said that sounded like a good idea. I didn't widely share my race goals before the race, but 1:45 was the first goal (representing a pretty big 4 minute PR) with additional goals at 1:42 and 1:39. After the national anthem we were sent off all at once rendering the corrals pretty much useless.
The first mile was slogging along. I had signed up with a 1:55 estimated pace which was a huge mistake so I was back further than I would of liked. I tried to resist the urge to weave too much since it would just burn energy that I needed later. The slow pace allowed me to slowly warm up, but I started to get anxious. The first mile was by far my slowest of the day at 8:28. During mile 2 a little bit of space opened up, but not much and so this one took my 8:07.
It wasn't until the 3rd mile when nearly to Lake Shore Drive that I started to finally get some room. It also helped that I skipped a water station that was slightly out of my way in order to take a straight shot up a ramp. I was finally starting to settle in and hit 7:58.
Miles 4-9 I was completely locked in and just running my race. I knew where I wanted to keep my effort levels and was able to stay there. I caught up to the 1:45 pace group at mile 6 and passed them at the 10K mark. I knew at that point that I was in great shape since I wasn't even pushing yet. The miles were just ticking off with consistency - 7:38, 7:33, 7:40, 7:37, 7:36, 7:37
Finally after the turnaround I decided it was time to start pushing the effort. I knew the extra slow start had cost me, but if I made up a little time I could possibly flirt with 1:40. I also made the decision not to hit any more aid stations after mile 9 1/4ish. I was going to treat the rest of the race like a 5K and just ride the discomfort to the finish. I dug in and ran miles 10 and 11 in 7:17 and 7:18 respectively. The harder pace and the rising temperatures and exposure to the sun started to wear on me a little. I fought with my heavy legs to keep up the fight and ran 12 and 13 in 7:25 and 7:23. I finished the final tenth of a mile at a 7:05 pace. Even with that struggle the final 5K of the half clocks in at 22:47 which would be my 4th fastest 5K time in a race. Final time: 1:40:54.
There was some disappointment that I didn't break 1:40, but I know I can do it and gives me something to shoot for next time. I was still completely thrilled to have improved my half PR from 1:49:03 to 1:40:54. I can only attribute that monster gain to all the miles I've done for marathon training. I've been better disciplined this year and stuck to a plan and its paying off. The next question is how well can I do for the marathon? My initial goal was just to break 4 hours. It looks like I might be able to accomplish that and so much more.