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Race Report: Hot Chocolate 15K - November 5, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

After not posting a race report for the 10K I ran back in August, I figured that I both owed you guys a blog, and owed myself an accurate representation of my year in running. I know I'm going to regret not posting my 10K report. This blog is like a scrapbook for me of my journey here and I've been away for far too long!

My prep for this race was much like my prep for all my other races - except this time I started "carb loading" a couple of days in advance. I stayed within my calorie range, but ate more whole grains, pasta and bread than I usually do to beef up my stores a bit. I knew that I didn't want to fade out at mile 7 or 8, so I was going to need the extra energy. And I am also a runner that still runs without any assistance from gels or even water on the course. So I stock up early and often to make sure I am ready to hit the GO button when it's time to race.

The Friday night before the race I had planned to stay with Nikhil at his place since he lives right beside Grant park - an easy 5 minute walk to the start line - glorious! I had a very busy Friday, waking early in the morning for Day 2 of a conference I was attending downtown, then over to meet my boy for lunch, a walk to Union Station to pick up my race packet, back to my house to pack for the weekend, a visit at work quickly to cut some checks for staff, then back on the train downtown for the night. Whew! My bus card got a serious workout that day. By the time I made it back to his apartment, I was tired. I had a nice, big chicken ranch salad and a cheese twist from Dunkin Donuts (definitely a pre-race treat) and awaited him to get home from his Friday night class.

When he arrived home he was a bit irritated with me that I had eaten dinner already (we had never really decided if we were eating together that night or not, so I decided to go ahead and eat early). I brushed it off as he made himself dinner and plowed through about 6 Rice Krispie Treats. Odd behaviour I thought, but I was too much in my own head to really worry about him at that moment. After all - he wasn't even running in the morning - so I had to think about me and what I needed that night.

We watched a bit of TV and chatted for a bit. I asked him where he was planning to be on the race route so I could look for him. I told him that I'd love to see him at mile 8.5 - the intersection of Jackson & State where we rounded the corner into the final stretch. He said he wasn't sure where he'd be yet, but that sounded ok. I asked him if he'd hold my stuff for me instead of me putting it in gear check. He said no. Umm, ok - I'll check my gear. No big. But I was really starting to wonder what the heck his problem was. Probably just upset with me because I had been teasing him for a couple of months about being a wuss for not running the race with me. He's a multi-race Half Marathoner after all - what's a 15K to him? But whatever. My race, not his. I readied myself for bed.

When he turned in with me at 10:15pm I thought there might actually be a chance that he was coming down with something. Great. Just what I needed. He's usually up until all hours even if I sleep early.

I didn't sleep very well. It wasn't MY bed and I heard his roommate get up to leave for work at 4:30am (she's a nurse). Plus - I was nervous. 15K (9.3 miles) is a LONG race. And even though I had done the distance before, a number of times, I still doubt myself on race morning. What on earth am I going to be like the morning I run the marathon? Ha! The alarm went off at 6:15am and I was up. I had brought my own breakfast because I know his place isn't stocked all that well for a.m. eating. I made overnight oatmeal with flax seed and sunflower seeds and coconut and chocolate chips. Aw yeah. Washed that down with a cup of chocolate almond milk and a cup of coconut water and a big mug of tea. Perfect race breakfast.

No sooner had the microwave beeped and I see Nikhil out of bed and trotting to the bathroom. What the heck? I thought he was sleeping until 10am?? I sit on the couch to eat my breakfast and out he comes with the biggest smirk on his face.

HIM: "So you know how I've been talking about a surprise that I had for you?"
ME: "Uh, yeah"
HIM: *running into the office to get his race packet* "Guess who's running the race with you today?"
ME: "You SH*T - This explains everything!"

So all the weird behaviour - the eating, the going to bed early, the not being able to hold my stuff - all because he knew he was running! And apparently so did everyone else. HAHA! I was completely oblivious to it. Can you blame me though? I had to have my own race-face on.

By now it was time to get dressed and get to the start line. I was really, really nervous, but somehow walking there with him, checking my gear and then having him hold my hand in the start corral made it all better. By the time the crowd surged forward to start the race, I felt great. One big breath, a kiss and a "Have a great race, Babe" and we were off running.

Already I was enjoying the 15K distance much better than any race I have run before. The pace of everyone starting out is much slower, so I didn't feel like I was tripping over anyone or they were tripping over me. It's such an exhilarating feeling running up Columbus Ave and hitting the first underpass. Everyone whoops and hollers and cheers and the echo of excited runners bounces off all the walls of the tunnel. Here we go - and this is gonna be FUN!

I was feeling really great rounding on to Grand and then onto LaSalle. I was disappointed not to run down State because I love running by the Chicago Theater, but running down LaSalle was equally as cool because you can see the Stock Exchange in the distance before looping around to Madison. My first 5K came in at 35 minutes. Perfect pace. I gave myself permission to run the second 5K a little slower. In fact, my mantra for the run was "Slow Down" since my goal for this one wasn't time, but just to finish and to finish feeling strong.

Once we got to Madison it was time to settle in. I knew this was the long stretch and we were going to be here for a few miles. All the way out to Damen past the United Center where the Hawks play! I just enjoyed the scenery, the people out on their doorsteps cheering us on, and watching the funny race gimmicks that happen along the way. One guy turned around and started running backwards...just cause. A lot of other people started shedding articles of clothing at this point, which I always find funny. One couple were taking turns exchanging an iPhone and taking pics of each other running without stopping!

My mind was on my music and where Nikhil was on the course. I had left him in my dust early on, so I knew he was behind me, but still waiting for him to maybe come up behind me at some point kept me going. To his credit, he isn't in his same Half Marathon shape right now and the longest distance he'd run to train for this race was 6.5 miles. So I was really proud of him for getting out there with me and risking sore knees for a week just to be with me.

We finally reached the United Center and I grinned. The turnaround point was coming soon and I still felt really good. We were almost to 10K. Another round of the bend and BAM! there was the Sears Tower calling to us - "Common back home kids!" I almost cried. The day was so utterly beautiful and the sun in the sky behind that gorgeous building is just a breathtaking and powerful sight. And I knew once I reached it I was 2 miles to the end. I ran towards it like I wanted it - and I did want it. I trained my eye on it and just lost myself for a bit in the feeling and all of a sudden I couldn't feel my legs, or my lungs or anything else. The runner's high kicked in and I felt like I was flying. So awesome. The 10K marker came and went and I remember saying to myself that I was officially in new territory. As 10K was the last race distance I had run, from here on out was my chance to make THIS race really wonderful.

As the mile markers ticked by I knew I was within my goal. I was running about 11-12 minute miles consistently even though I kept telling myself to slow down. By mile 7 I was starting to feel the race in my legs, but my lungs were still happy and strong and my breathing wasn't at all laboured or painful, so I just kept the pace that was working for me. Mile Marker 8 felt like it would never come. After we passed the Sears Tower I started looking for it - and when you look for it, it's never where you want it to be. I finally found and passed it under the EL Tracks running back towards the city on Jackson. Michigan Ave was coming closer and closer, I could finally see it and as we made the turn onto the Magnificent Mile the crowds started cheering fiercely. At this point I was thankful for RAM Racing's decision to start the 5K race first since by this time, they were all finished and there were tons of people lining the streets to cheer us on as we finished.

As my legs ran themselves down Michigan at this point (I think I clocked a 9.5 minute mile for the last 1.3 miles) I was scanning the crowd for my friends who had run the 5K and saw a couple of hilarious signs that I loved: "GO TOTAL STRANGER! GO!" "You Have Stamina, I Like That, Call Me! (and a phone number)" and my personal favorite "You're Almost Done - DON'T POOP!" Hahahaha! Love that group of people who were all positioned right before the dreaded hill. Gave me a nice laugh and a good frame of mind for that final challenge.

"The Hill" - that horrid stretch between the 8.8 miles that you've just run and the Finish Line. Oh Lord, it sucks. But I powered through and did it anyway. I had run ALL this way, I wasn't slowing down now. Not ever. And so that's where THIS face comes from:

They HAD to go putting the race photographers at the top of the dang hill. Of course they did. So when I saw them, that prompted THIS picture:

Oh - I'm a funny girl. But in all seriousness, this photo sums up the race for me:

Calm. Even keeled. And with a smile on my face. I AM DOING THIS. 3 Perfect 35 minute 5Ks back to back.

The thing about going UP hill is that at some point, you have to come back down. And thankfully, this route ends on a downhill grade for the last .2 miles to the Finish. So you can BURN IT. Seriously. Which I did. This is me right before letting out my Finish Line "WOO-HOO!"

I booked it to the water station as soon as I crossed, grabbed two bottles and backtracked to wait for Nikhil to cross the line. 7 minutes later he finished as well - tired, but happy that his time came in under 2 hours. We stretched for a bit, then headed to the Finisher Photo area to snap a couple official shots:

Haha - this was so the photographer could get his race number which was on his back

By now it was time for CHOCOLATE. I mean, this is what this race is all about - right? I snapped a quick photo of my Garmin and another of me and the skyline to match this one taken a year ago with my girls Kathy & Jen:

Quite the difference huh?

In under 1:45! (Which was the "soft" goal of the race, even though the real goal was just to finish)

A couple of photographers caught us on the way to the Hot Chocolate and even though Nikhil looks funny, I like this pic of me :)

Me with the Chocolate Truck:

After some sweet treats with my sweet man, we headed back to his place, jumped into our swim suits and headed up to the roof to the hot tub for a nice long soak. Yeah. I'm spoiled. And let me tell you - after a leg massage from my honey (I gave him one too - hehe) and an afternoon nap, I felt better than I have ever felt after running. Especially that distance.

It is without a doubt that I will run 13.1 miles before the "close" of this race season. Whether that is at the Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half Marathon on the 26th of November or whether it's just on my own one of these days, that's the next goal. I know I can do it. And I will.

And then I will officially be half way to the big goal: Chicago 2012 Marathon. And with only a little less than a year to train.

A moment to reflect on how far I have come in one year. One year ago I posted my very first Race Report ever:

I had lost 60 pounds at that point and running a 5K was the biggest challenge that I had ever thought to undertake. I did it. It was hard. But I made a promise to myself then to keep going and keep trying and that next year, I would run the 15K distance.

Well - guess what? I fulfilled my promise to myself. I have now lost 125 pounds, and I just ran my best race yet. My future in running is bright - and if this race has anything to do with it - full of a little sweetness!
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