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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Race Recap: Chicago 13.1

Matt, me, Julie
Yesterday I ran the Chicago 13.1 Half Marathon with Team Challenge.  Running with Team Challenge is always an amazing experience and yesterday didn't disappoint.  My race weekend actually began Friday night with the Team Challenge Inspirational Pasta Party.  I was able to see Julie (@semicolongirl) and meet Matt (@matthewmelnick) which was awesome.  I met Julie (who I follow on Twitter) last December in Las Vegas because she put her twitter handle on the back of her singlet (great idea, by the way) and was thrilled to be able to see her again.

Naomi showing her team spirit!
Coaches Barbara & Kim
Mentors Jen & Naomi
At the dinner there are a few guest speakers including the grand daughter of the founders of CCFA.  We also heard Kyle, a Team Challenge Illinois Honoree, speak and receive two standing ovations.  They also named the top 10 fundraisers and the amount of money that each of these people raised is nothing short of incredible.  The top 1 and 2 fundraisers raised over $18,000 EACH!  After dinner we had a quick Team Challenge Illinois team meeting and then I headed straight to bed.  It'd been a long day and any alarm that starts with a 4:XX is never a good thing.

I had nightmares about the race all night.  I dreamt about everything from getting lost, falling/injuring myself, to completely missing the race.  I woke up with sore shins but hoped that as I walked around to get ready that the achiness would go away, and it did, mostly.  We took a few team photos in the lobby before we boarded the shuttle bus to head to the South Shore Cultural Center.

That's @JasonKVD in the black
baseball hat behind me!
When I entered the race I used my finish time from Oshkosh as my projected finish time so I was actually in the corral behind the 2:20 pacer.  I was disappointed about this but since I didn't even know there were going to be pacers at the race I figured I'd just follow my original race plan.  Remember when I said I met Julie because she had her twitter name on her singlet?  I decided to do the same and met another twitter friend!

They were releasing corrals at a pretty quick interval.  The race began at 7 am and they were sending my corral out at 7:23 am.  I didn't think this was so bad considering some of the Chicago races I've done have left me standing there for over an hour!  When we took off I couldn't even see the people from the corral in front of us and since I had lined up at the very front of my corral and I felt like I was in first place for awhile!

Passed Dan, Bob and Sheri @ Mile 3!
Mile 1:  9:17
Mile 2:  9:20
Mile 3:  9:49
Mile 4:  9:44

I saw these splits as they ticked off on my watch and knew that I needed to slow down because I don't normally run long distances at that pace.  I'd caught up to the 2:20 pacer and passed her still hoping for my 2:10 finish time.  The sun was beating down on us and I was sweating.  A lot.  I grabbed water from the aid stations when I passed and drank a little from my water bottle in between but I was still super hot.

Mile 5:  10:10
Mile 6:  10:46

At this point I found Coach Mark along the course and stopped to walk.  My legs were burning and I took some chews and more water.  We walked and talked for a little bit and I told him that my legs were hurting and he told me that I needed to take it easy if I was hurting because it was a lot warmer out than it had been while we were training.  I tried to keep that in mind as I started running again.  By the way, thanks for the pep talk Coach Mark!

I met up with Coach Kimberly shortly after that and we walked and talked a little while too.  She got me through a water station where I refilled my water bottle, used the emergency Nuun tablet I'd stashed in my fuel belt before heading to the turn around.  I really thought I was ready to run again when suddenly my left calf started to cramp up.  I practically jumped off the path and hit the grass.  Coach Bill was nearby and came to help stretch it out.  I've never had cramps like this (thank goodness) and I was happy for any help!  Thanks Coaches Bill, Kimberly and Ann (who is the Team Challenge Illinois coach for the Nashville race and came out to cheer us on) for taking care of me.

After he massaged the knot out of my calf we got back on the path.  My watch got a little messed up around this time so I don't have mile by mile splits for the rest of the race.  Bill and I started out walking and he told me that walking might be best for me to prevent the cramp from coming back.  I tried to run a little bit when I could and could sometimes manage a half mile or so.  I caught up with the 2:20 pacer again, and foolishly enough I passed her, again.

Coach Paul from Texas
Around mile 8 or 9 there was a Team Challenge cheer station and they asked me if I was doing alright and I broke down, again, because my calves hurt so bad.  They had me sit and gave me Gatorade, Goldfish crackers and a salt packet.  I stretched my calves some more before getting up to walk, again.  Then a coach from Austin, TX caught up with me and walked with me until around mile 11.  I was extremely grateful for the company and the safety of having someone else with me.  I passed Dan, Bob and Sheri around mile 10 and swapped water bottles with him since he had a full bottle of Nuun for me.  Shortly after that I met up with Coach Barbara and the coach from TX ran on.  I completely forgot to say thank you so if anyone knows the guy in this photo, please let me know how to contact him.

I explained to Coach Barbara about my legs and we tried to run but every time we tried my calves kept spasming.  I was frustrated and angry that this was happening but Coach B tried to keep my mind off of talking about other things.  We finally passed another water stop and I grabbed a couple more cups of Gatorade.  I knew I wanted to finish this race running, even if I spent so much of it walking, and I figured the extra electrolytes would help.  When we were about a half mile from the finish Coach B told me to suck it up because I needed to run.  She was absolutely right and even though it hurt I ran.  It wasn't fast but I was running.

I saw Julie again!  I saw Michael (we trained together this season) running with Coach Kimberly! Finally I saw the finish!  Coach B grabbed my hand we crossed holding hands.  I grabbed a bottle of water and drank nearly all of it immediately.  Thankfully, Coach B grabbed a medal and hung it around my neck cause I was too focused on the food/drink to worry about it!

My official finish time:  2:47:58

Obviously this wasn't even close to any of my time goals but I continue to learn things about me and my running:

  1. This is only my third half marathon and I've really only been running for a year AND
  2. I won't PR every race so I have to accept that some aren't going to go my way
  3. I need to figure out better hydration strategies because dehydration has caused me problems on two races (Las Vegas and Chicago) AND
  4. I love the support that I get on the course when wearing my Team Challenge singlet

But most importantly, Crohn's and Colitis don't give up when they get tired or have cramps or get dehydrated so I won't either.  In fact, as we left the last water stop I told Coach Barbara that the fact that I was walking meant I was absolutely doing another Team Challenge race!  The only question is where I want to run next...  Stay tuned!


  1. Jen, it was great meeting you in person after following you on Twitter! I'm sorry to read of your on-course issues, but hey, you finished under your own power - you won!! Congrats on another finish.

    1. It wasn't my best half marathon but it wasn't my worst half marathon either. It won't stop me from trying again!

      Tell me how to find you on Facebook? I'm Jen Haines McElroy

  2. You have an amazing support system! Great job getting through and not giving up! Every run has something to teach you. Keep running!

  3. Crossing the finish line is a victory! Well done!