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Chicago Distance Classic report

Posted Oct 22 2008 6:15pm
You're just going to have to wait another day (or so) for the YARN, race review first!

This was my second year in a row running the Chicago Distance Classic Half Marathon, my first running it by myself. Last year I "ran" it with Petra who hadn't trained. At all. We ended up walking most of the last few miles and gained ourselves bright shiny new personal worsts, 3:18. That's more than 3 frigging HOURS to complete a lousy 13.1 miles. Normally even my training runs are faster than that. This year I told myself I'd do much better. Otherwise I'd have to change the name of this to "Walker Girl Knits." Doesn't have quite the same ring.

Packet pickup and the expo were at the Hilton Chicago again. We walked over Friday night after checking into the other Hilton, the Palmer House. More on that little fiasco later. Packet pickup was very easy and straight forward. I got my bib, chip, goody bag and shirt. This year the shirt is a tech fabric, that strange stretchy cottony feeling stuff instead of the light weight fabric of most tech shirts. Playdry? It's made by RBK (Reebok?) and a bit weird. It's gray, sized and shaped just like a man's tee shirt. I know I complain about sizing a lot, but this is way generously sized. Too generously sized. The only printing is a very restrained logo and date on the chest and two sponsors names on the back. I probably won't wear it for running but it'll be good for cross training. Shut up, I do too.

The goody bag didn't have too much in it; lots of ads for other races and running products and samples of Bear Naked granola, Gatorade Endurance Formula mix and Propel fitness water mix. The expo seemed much smaller than last year. Saturn had a big display and was giving away their red bell with the race logo (and I finally got one of their little back packs after telling them I'm one of their best repeat customers). I'm getting to have quite a red bell with race logo collection. Crocs had a big booth too, selling several of their different styles and jibbitz. Those are decorations to stick in the holes of the shoes and are pretty addictive if you wear Crocs. As I do. Bear Naked had samples of the granola with yogurt and Mars had a booth with samples of the marathon bar. There were several other booths, none of which interested me much. Of course, I'd just been to a pretty good expo a few weeks ago.

Sunday morning I left my room at 5:50 am and headed over to the race start, just a few blocks away from the hotel. There were lots of people going in the same direction so I couldn't have gotten lost if I had tried. And we all know I don't really have to try to get lost. I decided to start with a visit to the porta potties and was glad I got there when I did; the lines were getting long. My timing was perfect and I walked over to the starting area at about 6:15. There were signs posted for paces up to (I think) a 13 minute mile. The pace group leaders were there, all the way from the fast ones to my people, 2:30, 2:45, 3:00, 3:30 and 4:00. I think it's that's the first time I've seen pace groups for people that slow. I decided to line up to the side of and between the 2:45 and 3:00 groups.

I got a little worried standing there waiting since it was already warm. I had on a tank top and shorts and was feeling just a bit hot. I think it was in the mid-70's already with a bunch of humidity on top of that. Like usual I got antsy standing there waiting. Waiting waiting waiting. There were about 10,000 people (give or take a couple of thousand) waiting with me. Finally John "The Penguin" Bingham started the race and -- yeah, we just stood there. Waiting waiting waiting and finally we started inching forward. Somehow I got ahead of the pace groups since my side of the road was moving faster. I was determined not to start too quickly.

The roads were wet and in my early morning delirium for some reason I decided that Chicago must hose down their streets at night. In fact later when Petra said she heard it rain that night I told her that no, they were washing down the streets. Yeah, no. Don't ask why I thought that. Of course it had rained during the night and there were puddles, some pretty big and wide and deep, all over.

I needed to do surprisingly little dashing around people; most everybody had lined up at least semi-correctly so there weren't too many slower people in front of me. The race start is across the entire street so there's room to spread out. Also, it seemed that most of the people my pace and slower were run:walking. I decided to start with my favorite 9:1 and change to 4:1 when it got hotter. I wanted to keep the beginning of my race at about 12:30's, give or take some seconds, knowing I'd slow down as I overheated.

I had a great 10k. My splits were 12:34, 12;31, 12:25, 12:46 (I took a gel there), 12:24 and 12:34, for an average of 12:32. Totally on schedule but I felt like I was burning up inside and started running about :45 slower per minute after I passed the 10k sign. I waited until we were done with the bridges and then after 6 or so miles switched to the 4:1 hoping the extra walk breaks would let me cool off a little. Nope. Wasn't happening in that heat.

There were frequent water stops that were consistently set up with Gatorade tables first and then water tables. The way it should be. The only hitch in this was at the water stop between miles 5 and 6 which had already run out of cups. Whoopsie. They were pouring water from jugs directly into people's mouths and over their heads. C'mon, if you're running 12:30's+ in that expected heat you should be carrying a bottle. No way you should go 2 miles without fluids. I really can't feel sorry for people of that speed who don't prepare better.

Of course, cooled fluids would have been nice, especially since it had been hot in the mid-west for weeks, abnormally hot for a long time. You'd think they'd have noticed this heatwave and had enough time to do something about it.

There was intermittent shade, but not enough of it. It kept getting hotter and hotter and in the back of the pack we all got slower and slower. Actually, the back of the pack was way behind me, an hour at least. I could see those poor people coming toward me and they didn't look too happy.

I saw the same people over and over again during the race, again because everyone was run:walking and struggling with the heat. I talked with some people, shared commiserating glances with others. I drank 3 bottles of Ultima and lots of water, pouring more water over my head and body. I took a total of 4 gels, including the one at the start of the race, hoping they'd pep me up. Not really. I got worried at one point because I stopped sweating and my skin felt chilled. Uh oh, not good.

I think they changed the route from last year; I don't remember the looping back and forth at the end. You'd think you were getting closer and you'd have to go away from where the finish was located. By this time it was at least in the upper 80's, maybe hotter. And humid. I may run in the heat during training but I'm not used to the humidity.

At the last turn I mustered up a finish line sprint, finishing finally at 2:53:24. Hey, a 25 minute course PR! I was pooped and overheated. I was looking forward to the cold wet towels they had last year, but there weren't any. I was hoping for some cold fluids, but the water they had was warm (but abundant). I got my chip cut off of my shoe and got my medal. It looked the same as last year except in a different color and with the current date; very big, very nice. There were bags and bags of plain mini bagels, unripe bananas (which I don't like but some people do), and chips. I grabbed a bagel and washed it down with water, and ate a bag of chips to get some salt back in (instead of on) my body.

Petra met me a the end. I had asked her to since I knew I'd get lost walking back to the hotel. There was some sort of finish line festival but it was in the opposite direction of where we were going and I didn't feel like doing any farther than I had to. The people coming from there weren't carrying anything different from what I had so I doubt there was anything too exciting there. I was disappointed that they didn't have the cheese sticks like last year; the protein was very welcome after the race.

Walking back to the hotel we stopped at Starbucks and I treated myself to an iced raspberry mocha (nonfat, of course) (but with whipped cream to make up for it). It was wonderful having something cold.

Final thoughts of the race: mostly a great, well done race. I love running through Chicago, although running across the bridges with the grates creeps me out since I'm sure I'll trip and fall. I also don't really like running on concrete and prefer asphalt, but it was ok. You get great views of the beautiful city and then the park along the lake. I thought the organization was a little better last year but even so it still rates among the best. It would be better in different month, say September or April, but hey, then it would compete with other races. I'd like to run it again but probably won't next year; I think the next race I'll run in Chicago will be the full marathon some fall. I recommend this race!
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