Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon - Post Race Report

The Inaugural Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half-Marathon
Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

The alarm goes off way too ()#$#(* early ... it's 2am. I've gone to SLEEP at 2am, but never woke up at 2am. This is insane.

I groggily make my way to the bathroom to take a shower. Yes, I realize I will be running in a half-marathon in a few hours, but I'm one of those people that can't leave the house without showering first.

My darling daughter has left me a surprise in the bathroom ...

She's such a doll!

After my shower, I get dressed in my new running outfit - carefully picked out at 8:49pm the night before, with 11 minutes til the sports store closed. For whatever reason, at 8:31pm the night before, I decided I simply MUST have a new outfit to run in.

As I head out into the living room, I spy a surprise that my son has left for me ...

He's a sweetheart! I have the BEST kids in the world!

I'm out the door by 2:35am, having already packed my gear in the car a mere 3 hours earlier. Who would be crazy enough to get only 3 hours of sleep before their first half-marathon? Me.

Oh-dark-thirty (aka 2:35am)
Driving to Rosemont, IL

I had originally intended to leave at 3am, but was worried about construction on nearly 60% of my drive to Chicago. I'm glad I left early - the onramp to 894 from 94 is CLOSED. I have to drive all the way into Milwaukee to take 43 back around to 94. This is ridiculous.

It's basically smooth sailing for the next hour or so, thank heavens for the person who created cruise control, and thank heavens I figured out how to use my cruise control just 4 days earlier (after having my car for just over a year).

Oh-dark-thirty (aka 3:30am)
Lost somewhere in Rosemont, IL

Okay seriously - Mapquest tells me to take I90 then exit 1B River Road. Um, ok, I see the River Road exit, but there is no way for me to get from the overpass down onto the exit unless my car can fly. I start to freak out, and take the first exit I can see, and stop at a Holiday Inn. The clerk tells me how to get where I need to go, so it's back in the car.

You've got to be kidding me ... the bottom of the exit/hill says it's exit 78B, but as I drive past, the sign at the end of the exit/top of the hill is exit 1B - River Road. Three tolls later, I'm finally on River Road and call my friend. She and her hubby are walking out of their hotel towards the road I'm on. I nearly pick up the wrong couple (what are the odds of another couple wearing running gear are on the same street, just a half-block from my friends?)

Good, we're all set, and I point the car towards Chicago and we're on our way.

Oh-dark-thirty (aka 4:30am)
Driving to downtown Chicago

I have no trouble getting downtown, and don't bother with trying to find parking. I pull into the Chicago Hilton - it's $30 to park, but it's the closest hotel to the start/finish and I have a feeling I won't want to walk very far after the run is done.

There are very few people out - we quickly drop off my friend's hubby at the Volunteer Check-in. They embrace - he's volunteering at the finish line and the next time they see each other, he'll be putting the snazzy finishers medal over her head.

About 5am ish
Hanging around the corner of Balbo and Congress Pkwy

My friend and I wander around, not quite sure what to do with ourselves. There really aren't any runners around yet. We walk along, looking at the various tents getting set up. Nervousness makes me have to pee, so we walk along until we find portapotty city ...

I have never seen that many portapotties in one place in my life. Thankfully, at this early in the morning, they're clean (but I still don't look down) LOL We walk to our corral for lack of anything better to do.

Before I know it, in what seems like the blink of an eye, THEY'RE HERE. It's like all 18,000 runners showed up at the exact same time, and we're packed in our corral like sardines. I lose track of time and all of a sudden, people start cheering and we're moving towards the starting line!

Waiting for our turn ...

I keep getting up on my tippee toes to keep an eye on our pace team. I desperately want to keep them in sight, but there are at least 100 people between us, and as we move closer and closer to the start, they get farther and farther away.

Great. We haven't even started yet and I'm behind pace. LOL

Time speeds up again, and a blink of an eye later, we're at the start, waiting for the final countdown. The emcee guy gets us pumped up and we start doing the wave. It's hysterical.

Oh geez ... someone is seriously gassy. For pete's sake ... I grab my friend and push through people to get to clearer air.

And then, we're off!


Right off the bat, we pick an older woman as our "pace". We agree that as long as we stay ahead of her we'll be fine.

Mile 1
"Party Freak"

Mile 1 goes by FAST. Ridiculously FAST. How the heck did we do one mile already? My friend slows down and asks if we can walk for a bit. Sure, sure. No problem. She admits that was the farthest distance she's ever run. Uhh ... ooohhhhkaaaay .... and I thought I was the queen of winging it!

We come up on on the first aid station - it's right across the NBC Towers, and the street is littered with cups. I slow down to a walk, petrified I'll slip on one of the waxed cups and break something. The cups are like a carpet completely blanketing the streets. It's ridiculous. I grab a cup of Cytomax and good girl that I am, I put my cup in a garbage can.

Mile 2
"Breakers Broken"

Mile 2 goes by fast as well - we're in the city now, the buildings keeping us in shadow and the temperature is just PERFECT for running. I'm amazed how even my breathing is and how great I feel. My friend asks me if we can walk - I slow down to a jog while she walks a few paces behind me. She picks out various landmarks and alternates running/walking.

There's a cute brass trio playing some college fight songs as we jog by. I take a glance behind me - oh crap, Granny is nipping on our heels. My friend picks up her pace and we leave Granny in our dust.

We come up upon the third band - "Matt Stedman". They're really good and I clap in appreciation as I jog by. Hey - what coordination - clapping and jogging at the same time. I'm so talented!

Mile 3

I'm still feeling really good - my friend keeps walking a few paces behind me as I jog. I can't believe how even my breathing is and how steady my heartbeat is. We come up on the 2nd aid station. The street is once again littered with waxed cups, so I slow down and grab another cup of Cytomax. Yum - this stuff is good and it's ICE COLD.

We pass a Starbucks and to my disbelief, I see about 4 or 5 RUNNERS with RACE BIBS on, coming out of Starbucks with cups of hot coffee. It's hysterical!!! I point them out to my friend and we laugh out loud. What a trip!

Mile 4
"The Jesters"

Holy rusted metal Batman - the 5K mark comes and goes. What in the world? That was so FAST! Is someone messing with my kool-aid????

We start running into the sun, and it's annoying but I realize ... I'm still running. I have now run farther than I ever have. In my entire life. WOW!

My friend is starting to slow down, so I tell her to take some of her Sports Beans. I grab a few myself - ICK ICK ICK! It's disgustingly sweet, but a runner's gotta do what a runner's gotta do, right?

We come across the fifth band - the Jesters. They're REALLY good - OMGosh - there are the Starbucks ladies still sipping their coffee and dancing in the street.

I wanna hang out with them! LOL

There's another aid station right before the mile marker and I automatically slow down to grab another cup of Cytomax. This stuff is gooood ... I also grab a cup of water to try and get rid of the Sports Beans aftertaste ...

Mile 5
"Voyage/Jeff Manga"

Out of nowhere, it hits me. I'm not wearing a sportsbra. I'm wearing one of my VS bras. Oh well, can't do anything about that now! LOL Sorry girls!

The next second, I start to get a stitch in my side - it makes me gasp and I falter a bit, and see Granny right on our heels again.

This woman is relentless, and from this point forward we call her Granny Relentless. This is no time to stop, we can NOT let Granny Relentless get ahead of us, so my friend starts to run, and we pick up a good pace for the rest of this mile.

Take that, Granny!

Mile 6
"Triple Threat Band"

We pass the first aid station, and are sad to see several people being worked on. I hope they're ok ...

My friend comes to a complete stop and says she's done running. I slow down and ask her if she's okay - she says she has a shooting pain down one leg. I ask her if she wants to stop and see a medic ... she says no, she just can't run anymore. I walk with her for a bit and we don't speak for the rest of this mile.

Mile 7
"Boho Paisley"

We can start to see people doubling back along the lakeshore. Damn, they're fast :)

Mile 7 has us going through a dark service tunnel underneath McCormick Place. This is absolutely ridiculous - it's dark with no light and there are potholes in the street. EVERYONE is walking during this section. They seriously need volunteers in here with flashlights next year ...

Once we're out, we're running in the street with a few orange cones separating us with cars flying by in the opposite direction. It's a bit nervewracking, and I automatically gravitate towards the left, the farthest away I can get from the traffic.

I ask my friend if she's okay and she nods her head. She says we can pick up the pace, and I resume jogging while she walks behind me a few steps. We come across the next aid station - this one seemed to take longer to get to, and looking at the map I realize why - it's just over two miles from the last aid station. The first four aid stations are a mile to just over a mile apart. I grab my Cytomax and a cup of water.

Sweet baby Jesus ... they have wet sponges for us! I never thought I'd be so happy to see a wet sponge.

It's the little things in life that really count.

Everyone's squeezing their sponges over their heads or down their backs. Some ladies even put them in their sportsbras ...

Me? I squeeze them out over my hands because they're sticky from the Cytomax.

Me and my OCD complex about cleanliness ... sigh ...

As I jog over to a garbage can to throw my sponge away, I see her out of the corner of my eye. And then ... there she is. Granny Relentless.

My friend and I look at each other in horror, and my amazing friend starts to jog and we finish up the mile, once again letting Granny eat our dust.

Mile 8
"Sheryl and Tom (5 piece)"

I honestly don't remember much about Mile 8 other than we FINALLY got to turn around and head back towards the finish line. As I went around the turn, I did kind of a HS Musical/Troy Bolton/Soarin' thingamabob. I felt so great, until I saw the city skyline and realize how. stinking. far. away. the. finish. line. is.

Sweet Mary and Joseph

Mile 9
"Windy City Rev Ups"

Mile 9 was the breaking point for my friend. She admitted she couldn't feel her toes, and actually stopped feeling them around Mile 6. We were coming up on paramedics and I told her we need to stop. She refused and said she'll just slow down and told me to go on ahead.

Go on ahead.

Without her.

I immediately flashed back to my first 5K. A friend and I were doing it together, and we had trained together (albeit long distance) for three months. We swore up and down that we were going to do it together and finish together. Yeah well, I wound up twisting my ankle (the run was on a gravel path) and she never looked back. Not even once.

I felt like absolute crap, and I knew in an instant I wouldn't do that to my friend because I knew firsthand how crappy that felt to get left behind.

So I slowed down and we stopped to stretch. Several runners asked us if we were ok as they ran by - I was touched by their concern. We waved them on, and got back to business. My friend picked up a decent walking pace, and I jogged along a few steps ahead of her, looking over my shoulder every dozen paces or so, making sure she was ok.

The aid station was handing out Gu so I grabbed one ... UGH, it was NAAASTY ... I spit it out, and threw it away. I desperately wanted water to wash out my mouth, but wasn't about to turn around to get any. I figured I'd just get some at the next aid station. It shouldn't be that far away.

Mile 10
"Jahman Brahman"

The only great thing about Mile 10 was the band. They ROCKED!!

We kept up our pace - me jogging, my friend walking. I started cramping up - I think it was my irrational disgust with the Gu. I desperately needed water.


Mile 11

My friend is clearly in pain - her lips are pressed together so tightly, the skin around it is turning white. She keeps telling me she's fine, to keep on going. I'm worried, but I can't stop.


I know if I stop jogging, I may not be able to start again.

I'm starting to hurt. Bad. It feels like shooting pains from my heel up through my calves to my hamstrings on my right leg, and my left knee is aching like no ones business (it's also the knee I injured about 6 weeks ago).

I. Need. Water.


And then ... there she is. Granny Relentless. Nipping on our heels.

I throw my hands up in the air and concede our mini race to her. LOL My friend and I laugh hysterically about it - and Granny Relentless smiles at us and she totally blasts us with her awesomeness.

I'm glad for the brief moment of fun because it takes my mind off my aches and pains.

There's still no aid station in sight.

Lord, please keep picking my feet up, and I'll keep putting them down.

Mile 12

Every step is a struggle. Every step is pain. My friend and I aren't talking much anymore, both of us wrapped in our own battle to overcome pain and get the job done.

We FINALLY hit an aid station and I take 2 cups of Cytomax and 3 cups of water. My hands are trembling as I dribble water down my front shirt. I'm seriously going to ask the race people WHAT THE HECK WERE THEY THINKING??? There was a 3 mile stretch between aid stations!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

"Bitterson" was by far my favorite band, but it could have been simply because I was so happy to see them and the aid station ...

We are so close now, I can hear the emcee calling out finisher's names as they cross the finish line, and I start to smile ...

Mile 13
"Yard Fulla Cars"

Okay, who the h-e-double-hockey-sticks put this (#$#&& hill right at the end of the run?? Are you (#&$(#& kidding me?? Just kill me already, will you? GEEZ ....

It must be the realization that it's not much longer now, but my friend starts running and I pick up my pace. We conquer the hill and make the final turn to the finish line. I put my head down and eek out everything I have left in me.


We did it!!

Everything from my waist down is on fire. I walk straight to a volunteer handing out medals. Give me my blingage, lady. LOL

We see my friend's hubby, and they're both grinning from ear to ear. They do some disgusting lovey-dovey stuff and I grab some ice cold water bottles. I down three 16-oz water bottles, one right after the other, barely breathing between gulps of water. We walk through the finish area, and I grab another bottle of water, a bottle of Cytomax, three chocolate chip cookies, a bag of chips, 2 energy bars and a popsicle. LOL

After the run

I tell my friends I need to keep walking cuz if I stop I may not start again. We head to the after party, and we find a shaded spot on the grass to sit and stretch. Lord have mercy, it feels so good to lie down. LOL

I realize that as sore as my lower body is, my heart and breathing are just fine. I never got to the point of gasping, heaving lungs, or my heart feeling like it was going to explode. It's really cool and astounding at the same time.

The chocolate chip cookies disappear, and I down another bottle of water. I throw the energy bars and chips into my gear check bag to bring home to the kids. All I want to do right now is head home and relax.

My friends have the same idea, so we gingerly waddle our way back to the Hilton.

Heading home
On our way from downtown back to Rosemont, my friend takes off her shoes and shows me her toes. It looks like she has purple nail polish on.


That's the color of her toes. She essentially loses 4 toenails because of the half-marathon.

I feel HORRIBLE, but she takes it in stride. Who needs toenails, she says.

She's my running idol!

The drive home takes almost 4 hours ... I think I must have burned too many brain cells on the run because I get completely turned around after dropping my friends off in Rosemont and find myself on my way to Indiana. LOL

All in all, it was an amazing experience, and one I will never forget. I amazed myself at how far I ran, and how strong I felt - even when my lower body was on fire, I still felt strong. I never understood runners. When they go off about how much they love it, and blah blah blah, I think to myself, "What a big bunch of liars!" But I get it now. There's a sense of calmness that comes over me when I was running. There was something almost soothing when I ran ... it was like nothing else really mattered ... all I needed to do was breathe and keep moving forward. Simple.

Happiness is ...

  • Discovering a true friend - cuz only a true friend will run a half-marathon with you, celebrating when we make Grannies eat your dust, leaning on each other when times are tough, and sacrifice four toenails for you.
  • Aid stations perfectly distanced 1.5 miles apart
  • Cruise control for the 100 mile ride home, once you finally figure out how to get un-lost LOL
Plans for my next half-marathon

  • Review the run course before the run starts - not AFTER it's completely done.
  • Get one of those fancy schmancy running utility belts with like 4 bottles of water clipped to it in case the ##*(#$ race people decide to leave a 5K gap between aid stations.
  • Do not pick Grannies as your pace markers cuz they'll kick your butt with a sweet smile on their face as they blow you away ...
  • If the run is in Chicago either a) Buy a GPS so I don't get lost again, b) stay overnight to avoid early morning drive, and/or c) catch the train down.

So, that's about it. Not quite as exciting as my triathlon post-race report, but I hope you found it mildly entertaining. Despite the pain (which has already disappeared just 4 days after the run), I immediately signed up for another half-marathon. Next month.

I just don't know when to stop, yeah?


“So many of our dreams at first seems impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” Christopher Reeve


Marcelle said...

Don't you have the sweetest kids!!
You sure are blessed.

Wow, what an inspiration you are to have completed that run and with such a big smile on your face - well done to you!!

Fat[free]Me said...

Great report - and well done you! Lovely photos too. You are a lovely friend as well and ouch at your friend's serious case of black toenail, ugh.

Now, seriously how good was Granny Relentless? That'll be me in a few years time (eek)!

Again well done and I loved the report, for a minute then I felt as if I was there with you.

Carlos said...

so inspired right now. and you are like the best running buddy ever...

Melissa Cunningham said...

yay!! ive waited 4 days to read this and loved every minute of this post! loved hearing about your awesome kids and what an awesome friend you are for sticking by your buddy when she was hurting,and to hear about what a great friend she is by sacrificing 4 toenails!!!LOL!!!loved the story about granny relentless and about the star bucks ladies!
also it is wonderful to hear you finally can understand runners now and about how much they love to run and the calmness it can bring despite aching shins/calfs/ankles,etc etc--girl,you are such an amazing person,i am so proud of you for finishing this race and finishing feeling STRONG---welcome to the runners world chica,you have officially joined the club!!!
now come on down to IN and run the Blues 1/2 with me! LOL!!

Body By Pizza said...

Wow! That's all I can say! Congratulations on running your half marathon and for being an AWESOME friend. As someone who ran their first Couch to 5K in June, I was and am still eternally grateful that my friend jogged alongside with me. If it wasn't for her, I may not have finished and may not have signed up for the 10K I will be running in October. You are an inspiration!!!

And funny, oh my god! I loved the way you re-capped it. Thanks for sharing!

Amy said...

Very cool. Good for you for staying with your friend.

Blossom said...

Awesome! Way to go Michelle! I love your description, too. YOu are a strong lady, for sure!

Fran said...

I loved reading your report. I admire you very much: getting up at 2 am while you know you're going to run in a few hours, sticking by your friend, helping her across the finish line!

You're a true sports woman, a good friend and your kids are adorable, they must be so proud of you!

Betsy said...

I loved reading this! It makes it so less scary! I'm so proud of you and I cannot wait to run your next 1/2 marathon with you in January. Bring it!

Shelley said...

What a great review of the day! Congrats on finishing the race and almost beating Granny Relentless!

Priscilla said...

Loved reading your post race report! Good luck with your upcoming race next month. Please be kind to your girls and remember the sports bra! :)

Anonymous said...

First off - GREAT FREAKIN' JOB!!!

Secondly - After reading this, I definitely want to do the Chicago half next year!

Third - What half marathon are you doing? I'm looking for another race to do, and since I'm in the MKE area, I am hoping it's close??

Fourth - My first half was the Prairie Du Chien race this past May. FANTASTIC course, almost completely flat (only two hills b/w mile 7-8). I highly recommend it if you're looking for another ace...I personally like it becaues it's a smaller race, and when you wear your medal the rest of the day (which I of course did!), the whole town rallies behind you. :o)

Anonymous said...

First off - GREAT FREAKIN' JOB!!!

Secondly - After reading this, I definitely want to do the Chicago half next year!

Third - What half marathon are you doing? I'm looking for another race to do, and since I'm in the MKE area, I am hoping it's close??

Fourth - My first half was the Prairie Du Chien race this past May. FANTASTIC course, almost completely flat (only two hills b/w mile 7-8). I highly recommend it if you're looking for another ace...I personally like it becaues it's a smaller race, and when you wear your medal the rest of the day (which I of course did!), the whole town rallies behind you. :o)

Amy said...

Congratulations - I have tears in my eyes reading your race report because it brings back memories of my first half marathon and what an accomplishment that is and how amazing but at the same time PAINFUL it is to complete it. That moment when you finally cross the finish line... Great job!

lisah said...

How sweet are your kids!?!? And you, fabulous!

Mesha said...

WTG Michelle! I love how supportive your kids are - totally sweet! Have a great weekend - keep up the good work.

Cindy said...

I loved your race report. It brought back so many memories of my first half that I did with my daughters at Disney, I was your friend, sore feet and hip pain, I was ready to quit but they got me through. You are a true friend.

AzLinda said...

Sorry it took me so long to read this!!!

And yes, it was just as great of a review as your tri review...every bit as wonderful and entertaining.

I laughted, and got teary eyed as you crossed the finish line.

I'm so proud of you!

Friends are gifts directly from God, I believe that wholeheartedly! Your friend is lucky to have you as you are her. How great you both were able to experience and share this together :D

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.


Anonymous said...

Hi there,

All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.


Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.


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