After an insane 24 hours at work as a result of the devastating Nice, France, attacks, I got on a plane Friday evening to head to Chicago for a 4-day weekend of races and catching up with family.
I worked a bit from the airport and couldn’t believe it when news of the attempted Turkey coup came out — I didn’t think the day could actually get any crazier, but it did.
I was tired and hot and we sat on the tarmac at Reagan for a good 40 minutes or so. Someone got orders mixed up and loaded our plane with 8,000 pounds (!!!!) more fuel than we needed, because apparently that’s a thing that can actually happen. After the pilot initially said we might take off shortly and just “fly lower at 24,000 feet” to burn off more fuel, he announced we would “defuel,” but the process would take 20 minutes or so.
The plane was super hot and I was sweating like crazy. Fantastic.
Eventually we got off the ground and ended up basically landing on time despite the delay. The ride was a bumpy one — the seatbelt sign never turned off.
I got to Midway around 7:15 local time and caught a train. It was cool to finally get to ride the L in Chicago — and my stop ended up being right by the Chicago Theater. A short Uber ride later, I was at my hotel around 8:30 or so. I got a shower and immediately went to bed, lights out at 9:30.
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL CHICAGO 5K — SATURDAY
Great news. The race didn’t start until 7:30. That meant my alarm was set for 6:30. I woke up naturally a little earlier and ate my bagel before walking to the start. Even greater news: The weather was absolutely fabulous. Low 60s with a slight breeze and low humidity. Seriously, you cannot ask for anything better in Chicago in the summer (or D.C. for that matter). I smiled the entire walk over.
I got to the start line with not a lot of time to spare — I quickly picked up my bib since I didn’t make it into town early enough Friday to hit up the expo. I did gear check for my T-shirt (all the way back on the other side of the field) then got to my corral with just a couple minutes to spare.
The 5K course this year was different from last year’s, but still along the lakefront, which is so pretty. It definitely was getting hot in the sun by the end, but I enjoyed the race. The medal for this 5K was awesome and bigger than the half marathon one!
I planned to run slower — 10:30-11:00 pace but I ended up hitting a faster clip. My watch claimed the course was a bit short but we ran a good .1-.2 under a roadway so I’m guessing the GPS messed up there.
Final Official Time: 29:46, 9:35 pace.
I didn’t hang around the finish line and immediately walked back to my hotel, grabbed some second breakfast, then it was off to the expo!
The expo is at McCormick Place, aka the farthest place away from downtown Chicago that costs some extra $$$ to Uber to because of tolls or something. Anyway, I got there a little after 9, got my bib and was done.
With the craziness of my workweek, I planned to take a nap both Saturday and Sunday after my races — I knew I needed rest. So that’s what I did — I got back to the hotel a little after 10 and took a 2-hour nap. It was amazing.
I woke up and it was time to find some lunch. I decided to walk to Navy Pier and maybe go to the pizza place down there. On the way, I ran into Steff and her crew! We chatted on the walk down and I ended up joining them for lunch and a walk after that eventually took us to the We Run Social meetup at the Bean at 4 p.m. My total active minutes per my Fitbit for Saturday because of all the walking was actually higher than Sunday!
It was so great catching up and talking to new runner friends, and I even showed them a couple cool local sites — Ohio Street Beach and the inside of the Chicago Tribune Building (seriously, that lobby).
By the time we got to the Bean, I’d been in the sun for a bit longer than I planned, and I didn’t have any sunscreen on. I was anxious to get out of the sun because of that, so I wasn’t super social. I stayed for the photo and booked it back to the hotel.
… Except my Uber driver’s app messed up and he drove super far out of the way and it was 35 minutes before I actually got back to the hotel for what should have been a 5-minute drive to save my blistered foot. Oh well!
I got a few things together at the hotel, put a blister Band-Aid on my one toe — seriously, these things are lifesavers — then made my way to dinner at the same place I ate last year before the race — Sweetwater Tavern. I was back in my room by 7:30 or 8 to set out my race day gear and chill out on the bed — I stayed at the Sheraton Grand Chicago again, partially because I LOVE their beds.
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL CHICAGO HALF MARATHON — SUNDAY
The plan: Wake up at 5 a.m., run a 2-mile warmup and then the half for 15.1 miles total for the day, my longest run ever — by .1 miles.
What actually happened…
I woke up a little before 5. I felt good. I thought, hmm, what if I did a 3-mile warmup. I can do that. I decided to wait and see how my legs felt before making a final decision, but to be honest, I’d already made up my mind to go for the 3-mile warmup.
I ran along the Chicago lakefront and it was gorgeous. There were some clouds and the sun peaking out through them gave a wonderful glow to everything. And the temperature — perfect once again. It was 65 with a light breeze and low humidity when I left my hotel.
I started running at 5:40 a.m. and got to the half marathon area about 10-15 minutes before the official start. I carried an 8-ounce water bottle with me so I would have some water before the race. I stood in a porta potty line that looked long, but actually moved pretty fast. I did my business and walked up to the start line as the gun went off for the elites. I took a quick photo then made my way to the corrals.
I hopped into corral 4 and saw Joe Harris, who I met in San Diego, and gave him a quick hug. I ran into him at the start of the 5K the day before, too!
Two seconds later, we were off.
The weather was perfect for Chicago in July — cloudy with a light breeze staying for the entire race, in addition to that low humidity. I didn’t know how fast I was going because the buildings really throw the GPS off, so when I hit the official mile 3 marker under 30 minutes, I internally said to myself, “oh, shit.” I’d gone out too fast. I focused on walking slower through the water stops and trying to slow my overall pace down.
I eventually slowed, little by little, with a more major slowdown when I stopped to take gummies around mile 9. My legs and feet began feeling tired the last 4 miles or so — including the bottom of my feet, but I figured that was to be expected for running my farthest distance ever and being on my feet for much longer than I’m used to.
The final miles really ticked by, and the music that final stretch was great. I crossed the finish line, asked someone to take my photo, grabbed some chocolate milk and heard one of the race officials say “a storm is coming.”
Final Official Time: 2:17:49, 10:31 pace.
I made my way to the VIP tent to say hi to a few folks I knew would be in there (I didn’t have access this time), and that’s when I realized the storm that was coming was probably something I should pay attention to. After a brief stop, I began walking toward the end of the park and the lightning and thunder picked up.
I finally thought to pull up my weather app. I said, out-loud this time, “oh, shit.” Two other runners were standing near me and I told them I’d just pulled up the weather map. It wasn’t pretty. I spent a few minutes trying to catch a cab. (Uber was 5 minutes away.) Then, I started running.
I thought I’d need to run nearly a mile back to the hotel, but luckily after a quarter mile I saw a cab coming down the road. I waved him down and got in. A minute later it was absolutely pouring. I got back to the hotel, which has a overhang drop-off spot, and two seconds after stepping out a huge lightning strike and clap of thunder hit nearby.
“You got here just in time, didn’t you?” one of the hotel concierge’s said. Yes, yes I did.
I grabbed a cinnamon bun and went up to my hotel room to eat, take a shower and enjoy my second nap of the trip.
The rest of my trip was highlighted by family time. I got up from my nap, ate a cheeseburger at the hotel restaurant and caught a train out to the suburbs, where I met up with my cousin and his wife. We spent some time at a local bar, then went back to their house for more partying and some pizza. Great times were had by all.
The next day, I headed over to grandma’s house, where I did a few chores to help her out. We got a family dinner that night then played some games before bedtime.
I woke up Tuesday with a sore throat, and I knew a cold was coming on. I went for a 3-mile run around grandma’s neighborhood, including two laps around the track at the high school my mom went to. On the way back, I stopped for some Zicam to try to stave off the cold, and some coffee, because coffee.
That afternoon it was time to head home. I really started to feel the cold coming on when I got back to my apartment, and I ended up needing to take Wednesday off work. So much for diving back into work and marathon training.
The rest of this week is up in the air. I know I’ll need to take another day or two off running and to scale back any runs I am able to go on late this week (when a heat wave kicks in — more fun!). But getting in those 16 miles Sunday gives me the confidence that taking a few days off running will not mean anything in the long run for running my first marathon in Chicago on Oct. 9.