Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Fourth Half Marathon

I thought about titling this “what else could go wrong?” but then decided that I didn’t want to focus so much on the negatives. This weekend was the long-awaited Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon. In addition to just being excited about being a member of team DetermiNation and giving back to the American Cancer Society, this race was all about showing myself what I could do and redeeming my last less than optimal race performance. The goal … a PR! My previous PR was 3:16 and I was thinking that I could beat it. I was hoping to come in under 3:15 and secretly I was dreaming of 3:11.

But before I tell you about the race … I have to tell you about the weekend first (trust me it’s worth the read for comedy sakes)!

So three days before the trip to Chicago, I find out my friend is unable to go. So, love that hubby of mine, because he worked late every night for the rest of the week so that he could get off work on Saturday to go with me.

Saturday morning we had big plans – get up early and head out to Chicago early. Ummm, we overslept and did not leave the house until 9am. We finally got to Chicago, checked into the hotel, and off to the expo we were … on a bus. Now mind you we are small city people … a lady on the bus was singing off key opera and the 1 mile bus ride took like 30 minutes! We finally arrived at the expo and had a FABULOUS time! Up and down all of the aisles looking at stuff, trying different bars and gels. Saw the Biggest Loser Team Orange again (met them in Miami 8 months ago) … and they actually remember who I was … and commented that I had lost even more weight (WINNING)!

After that back to the hotel to get on a tour guide bus … on the way back the skies opened up and it started down pouring with thunder and lightning (EPIC FAIL) so no bus ride for me. Back to the hotel to just rest and relax… I decided to get ready for dinner, and then it happened.

I was wearing capris with ties on the side… all I can tell you that all I remember is stepping wrong, getting my toe caught in the loop and falling backwards. I hit my head on the back of the bed frame, and then bounced off the side wall, and finally the back wall. Holy OUCH! I have a high pain tolerance, but I literally sat there laughing and crying at the same time. I have had a headache since that time … and I had double vision for a while that night as well. But, thankfully nothing broken (but my skull) and nothing injured (but my pride).

After the fall, it was time to head to dinner at Fogo De Chao. This was NOT a coach approved meal, but it was where my running partner wanted to eat. I have a strong stomach so I wasn’t worried. It’s a Brazilian steakhouse, so protein, protein, and more protein was on the menu. I was smart, I stopped when I even started getting full, but even still I was pretty stuffed. After a short walk to Ghirardelli’s (YUM) and a short walk back to the hotel, I finally made it to bed at about … uhh 11:30pm. Oooh but before I made it to bed I noticed a huge sign on our door that said “Rock the Windy City, Team Determination” – that made me smile! Man, 4:15am was going to come early!

**Beep** the alarm goes off and I stagger out of bed while hubby happily sleeps. I grab my stuff and head downstairs. There were other Team DetermiNation members downstairs. My running partner shows up and we walk over to the tent chatting with other members. We strike up a conversation with Jessica, a young college student from Minnesota, who was traveling alone. After arriving at the tent, we meet up with Coach Jim... who promptly grabs the 14min pacing sign. Panic starts to well up in me… I can’t do this pace. Jessica asks if she can run with us for the race, and of course say sure. Oh and Coach Jim is totally wearing a giant cheesehead hat!

The race starts, and I reach to turn on my Jeff Galloway run/walk timer (umm like the one thing I cannot live without, I have never run a race without it and only run one training run EVER without it) … and it won’t turn on. Well actually more to the point, it won’t turn off … it continuously vibrated on my shoulder for 6 miles until it finally died. I tried hard not to panic … OMG how was I going to know when to run and walk … and amazing enough it kind of just happened.

We were like a well oiled machine! Jessica would spot the mile markers ahead and call them out. Coach Jim would call out what our goal was by that mile marker and we would pick up our pace to hit those goals. At water stations he would let us keep running and he would get water and cytomax for us. We had a blast, laughing and hand slapping. People calling go “Go Cheeseheads” and asking where in Wisconsin we were from. Poor Jessica, she was an honorary Cheesehead for the day I guess (shh we won’t tell anyone in Minnesota). Oh and at the beginning of the race Jessica picked up the Team DetermiNation cowbell and carried it for the ENTIRE race. We were our own cheering section.

I knew we were doing ok, but it wasn’t until mile 10 that I realized I was almost 5 minutes ahead of my 10 mile PR… holy crap, I thought,  if I can just keep this together I am going to PR. Coach Jim hollers out “it’s just a silly 5K ladies, we can do a 5k without even trying.” Umm, I’m secretly thinking “oh man that’s another 40 minutes.”

At mile 11, Coach Jim hollers out “it’s not a matter of it you are going to PR it’s only a question of how much are you going to PR by. How bad do you want it?” Shortly after that, I just really pushed it hard … adding a long run section without walk breaks. It wasn’t long after that Coach Jim yells out to the surrounding runners “we are gonna PR … come on all aboard the PR train toot toot.” Seriously… what else could I do but laugh. We also picked up another couple of runners that were hanging with our group; one in particular really pushed me. Her friends had left her behind and she was struggling. She was less than half my size… and I was doing this and not struggling as much. At that moment while going up an incline, the song “Let's See How Far We’ve Come” by Matchbox 20 came on … I smiled, that was pretty fitting.

At mile 12 I was struggling but still pushing along. I was starting to cramp pretty badly and my hip was quite sore. But I was NOT giving this up. As we were heading down the homestretch I could see the finish line ahead. I was taking a short walk break and I saw Larry on the sideline … and I HEARD Larry scream “you and NOT walking it in” and that was all it took. I was off, as we got close Coach Jim yells out “let’s finish at the fastest pace you have ever done” and we took off – happily crossing the finish line in 3 hours 11 minutes and 56 seconds.

Yep … I got my dream! I managed to HIT my dream time! Oh and as I was starting that final sprint, the song on my IPod was the Biggest Loser Theme song “what you have done today, to make you feel proud?” I think I know the answer to that already …

More moments from the race that I want to remember …

1.      Jessica and her wonderful attitude: How amazing it was that I found her, and what a great race partner she turned out to be. At one point at mile 7ish I was struggling and bit and she grabs my hand and says “we got this; I am not crossing the finish line without you. How amazing to feel so much closeness to someone I just met.

2.      The amazing church group on the side of the road with the sign “You are anointed to finish” they cheered us all through the race.

3.      Team MGR (huge group of like 30 some people) … we don’t know who you are or anything about you, but we chased you down for the longest time. Coach Jim wanted us to pass you and I didn’t think we could… In fact I even said it once during the race “there no way we can pass them,” but slowly and surely your caller’s voice got quieter and quieter and I realized we were passing you. When we couldn’t hear you anymore, I knew we had success!

4.      Coach Jim “coaching” all of the runners at the end. Every struggler he found we just adopted into our group. He was coaching like 10 people and it was hysterically funny. There was a lady with a tutu on and she was struggling and Coach Jim yells out “come on tiny dancer you can do it” – seriously I almost choked on my water!

5.      Although Fogo de Chao was a fabulous restaurant, I would not recommend it for a pre-race meal. My running partner Larry found that out the hard way. He was well onto a PR for him… when the meal started to fight back. He gutted it out though, was within sniffing distance of a PR, he and beat Al Roker!

6.      Last but not least, how amazing it was to be a part of Team DetermiNation: I knew it was going to a good cause, but wow they made this race amazing. From the water/bananas/peanut butter in the morning, to the team picture with the beach balls, to all of the support all through the race, it was an amazing experience. Every time I turned around, there was a Team DetermiNation coach on the sidelines cheering us on and yelling “go Team DetermiNation!” Even at mile 12.5 when Coach Jim was just a few steps ahead, I must have looked like I was struggling because a coach not only cheered from the sidelines, but hopped off the curb and started running with me. The hot dog and cake at the end was the BEST food I have ever had (ok my husband had it and says it was not, but maybe food tastes better after running 13.1 miles).

Sorry for the length of the blog – and if you are still reading THANKS! I just wanted to document such an amazing experience. Next up… Fox Cities Half in 1 month (and after recovery week the famed Coach Jim marathon training plan begins)!


  1. Oh You have brought me to tears! What an amazing story and race! You are spectacular. Congrats on your PR. YOU ROCKED IT!!!!!!!!

  2. You wrote a fabulous recap! Sounds like you had so much fun and made great memories. Great race, a PR, and a hilarious coach! Amazing, and so fun to read about.

  3. I honestly think you keep me going sometimes! Thanks.

  4. Congratulations!! I'm using the Galloway method to train for my first half marathon in October and I am planing on doing the Dallas Rock 'n Roll Half in March! Now you have me thinking I need to order an extra run/walk/run timer!!