Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chicago Half-Marathon: In the Books

*Note: I realize it is Tuesday. I wrote this yesterday but am just getting around to posting now!

You guys! My crazy weekend has been over for a whole day... It was a whirlwind of nerves and adrenaline and now... it's Monday. I am sitting here with a glass of Pinot Noir, coconut chicken curry from my favorite Asian food restaurant, looking at my freshly pedicured toes. I am the epitome of relaxation and treating yourself and it feels great.

What you do know is I ran 13.1 miles yesterday (in a row), what you might also know is I took the comprehensive exam for my Master's on Saturday, and what you probably don't know is I won all three of my fantasy games. I was on beast mode this weekend guys, what can I say? (Patrick's commentary to the above statements is, "Yeah, yeah, yeah" as he was one of the fantasy opponents on "L" end of the spectrum, if you know what I mean)

The half-marathon was such an amazing experience, and I had so much fun with it. I began preparation a few days prior, loading carbohydrates and avoiding dairy (commonly effects runners negatively during the race), and also staying away from citrus, and spicy food which might cause indigestion. I treated myself to pesto cavatappi from Noodles and Company the night before (actually a friend treated... Thank you, Werner!), something I NEVER let myself have anymore. I remembered advice from the expert who sold me my running shoes, to begin hydrating the week before the race as many people make the mistake of only concerning themselves with intake of fluids the day of. I can definitely say I was thorough... I was in the bathroom about every half hour from Thursday-Sunday.

I attempted to go to bed around 8pm the night before, which was a long shot and turned out about how you would expect...with me watching Mad Men until 9:30. I fell asleep then, but was awoken soon after that to the sound of my next-door-neighbor playing the piano... I may have banged on the wall (sorry not sorry). I fell back asleep without issue but to my dismay, again, at 2:30am: Piano. You can imagine  I was not thrilled. There was not much sleep to be had after that and I was too nervous/excited anyway. I got out of bed about 4:10am, and started the prep process:
Essential fuel items

I had my gear laid out the night before so I got dressed, washed my face, did my hair. I had also prepared 1/2 a cup of oatmeal, and a cup of coffee for breakfast in advance, so I added blueberries and a teaspoon of honey to the oats, and cashew milk to the coffee. I ate and drank while I did some preliminary stretching on my yoga mat. I also gulped some Gatorade and water. I left my apartment around 4:45am to walk the 3 blocks to the train station where shuttles would be picking athletes up to head to Jackson Park (which is on the south side of Chicago, in the Hyde Park neighborhood where the University of Chicago is also located). The shuttle was a yellow school bus and thinking it would be packed I boarded first and chose the last row... mistake. It was so bumpy I thought I would throw my back out.

The shuttle arrived in Jackson Park around 5:45am. Due to the hydration regimen I had been strictly adhering to over the past 2-3 days, I had to pee very badly by this point, and headed straight to the port-a-potty. Something I never envisioned doing: using one of those in the dark. It was an odd experience. I suppose there could have been any number of surprises in there I am better off not having been able to see. After that I sat down under a bright light, and Patrick called to tell me he was up and at 'em. While I waited for the sun to come out, I forced a banana and a few bites of a Luna bar down though I wasn't awake enough to be hungry. I figured I had to eat right then or never, because I'd hate to eat within a half hour of the race. I also didn't want to run out of fuel. I steered clear of fluids.

I began to stretch and center at about 6:20am, checked my gear, used the restroom one more time, and squished myself into corral "K". The race officially began at 7am, but I did not cross the starting line until 7:07:51. When we originally registered we figured we would probably finish in 2 hours and 30 minutes... By the time training was finished I thought I could run faster than that, but you weren't allowed to move to a faster group.

I began the race by weaving my way around people running at a lighter pace than my adrenaline filled system would allow, and the first mile went by in the blink of an eye. Supporters were along the sidelines for the majority of the course, many of whom had signs I enjoyed reading. My favorite read, "I don't know you, but I believe in you!" Everyone was clapping and whistling and it really helped me stay motivated. Remember how I was talking about boredom while running awhile back? Well, I realized after the race how powerful the psyche really is when determination kicks in. It was like my brain refused boredom... or maybe even just blocked it out. I was telling my uncle post-race: I felt like I was in another world or like outside of my body or something. Similar to the way your brain will protect you from severe trauma... It will protect you from emptiness in times of excitement. The race flew by and it was as if time was non-existent. In retrospect, it's a blur. Pretty cool huh?

My body felt capable throughout the race, but around the halfway mark I did begin to notice some aching/stiffness in my knees. I knew I would push through and was able to relieve some of it by doing some butt kicks, and changing my stride for a few steps. I was given some advice by a marathoner, the night before in terms of fluid consumption during the race, (again, thank you, Werner). He said to make sure to take a cup of Gatorade or water at each aid station even if I wasn't feeling like I needed it, and to just take a sip or two. I did this, and dehydration was a total non-issue. Around the 7th mile marker I felt like I could use a few extra carbs to get me through and ate a gluten and dairy free chia energy gel called "Huma" (pictured above). I had tried one these before and it did not bother my stomach, and although I tend to think it may be more mind-over-matter than anything, it felt like a miracle... either that or runners high truly came through for me in the clutch.

I got an incredible burst of energy around mile 10 and was able to pick up the pace. Going into the final mile I was crusin' full speed. The last half mile I found myself running next to a man who must have had a similar burst and got it in my head that he would not cross the finish line before me. As I started to compete with his speed he caught on and pushed harder as well. It was awesome. Without having discussed it we pushed each other to the end, staying neck and neck and cross the finish line together (my foot broke through first ;)), and fist bumped as we did. He said, "Hey thanks! You really pushed me at the end." I ran the last mile in under 8 minutes.

Here are my stats:

Somehow I ran the last three miles fastest, at just over 9 minutes per mile. To be completely honest, I am not sure if that's a good time or a terrible time, but I am happy with it.

My wonderful Uncle Matt met me at the end of the race and I spent the rest of the day relaxing at his place and watching football and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". He also treated me to a(n amazing) burger, the Obama burger specifically, and rosemary fries at Good Stuff Eatery in The Loop... and not to mention, the most incredible shake (salted caramel) I have ever had in my life. I concluded the day with still more football watching as the Broncos improved their record to 3-0 against the Detroit Lions. So all and all, it was just the best day ever.

As I watched my Broncs I soaked my feet in ice water and Epsom salt, and let me tell you: a fantastic decision. My legs and feet did not feel awesome after the race as you might be able to imagine, walking was an accomplishment. The ice bath relieved the ache and this morning I felt good as new! Regardless, I am giving myself the week off from running. I will resume floor workouts on Wednesday... I am oddly excited for that. Please enjoy some shots of me looking like the hugest dork:

The most gigantic finisher medal of all time

Salty caramel shake from Good Stuff Eatery

Okay, okay enough about me... sorry about that, just such a productive weekend, couldn't help myself! I hope reading about our experience will help others train, and provide helpful tips along the way. We would both be happy to answer any questions... please feel free to comment or email me at shayla.brianne@gmail.com!

Patrick ran too!!! Here are his thoughts:

So we did it! Not exactly how we expected it to go, but we accomplished it none-the-less and I could not be more proud.

I'm sitting here writing trying to think back on my running experience yesterday. Honestly, most of it is kind of a blur, I started the race in the dark so I could run with Shay. It started out well and I felt pretty good for the first few miles as I settled into a nice pace. I felt like I was going at a good clip at times and others I felt like I was barely dragging along. However, my splits seemed to be fairly consistent, though slowing a bit toward the end.

My final time was 2:23, which I'm okay with even though I did want to get under 2:20. Oh well, next time... All in all, these past few months have been an adventure. Training has had its ups and downs but at the end of the day, sharing this experience has made Shay and I closer. Working toward a goal as a couple is something I would recommend. I could not have asked for a better training partner and definitely needed the support many times throughout the process. I can't wait for other adventures down the road. Cheers!

1 comment:

  1. Best sign I saw was at Raleigh HIM, it said "SMILE, remember you paid for this" lol