Once again a little disclaimer: this year I have been chosen as a member of the 2015 Rock’n’Blog team and as a member I receive free entry to the races I participate in. Everything else is my own cost and all opinions are my own.
So a long time ago, I not only grew up in the suburbs of Chicago (from 1 – 10 years old) but I also lived in the city (from 18 – 21) but in 1990 I moved to Portland, Oregon, which is where I spent 4 years before I came to the Netherlands. Often I have feelings of homesickness for New Mexico, where I was born and where my family lives, but sometimes I long for the big city of Chicago. It’s been probably 22 years since I was really in the city properly and obviously 25 since I moved away. I still have friends there – which, when I have a longer layover, I try to meet up with, though hanging out at the airport is not exactly the same as being in the city – and I actually opted out of Fitbloggin this year to spend some time back in Chi-town with my homies and participate in Rock ‘n’ Roll Race weekend as a bonus. Since moving back to the US is still kind of in the back of my mind, I also thought it would be a good idea to see if I still had that “feeling” for the city or if it was just something that was sweet in my mind.
I’ll not bore you with the nitty-gritty of my entire trip, but suffice it to say I HAD A BLAST! So, so great seeing my friends again and being in the city was just WOW! I must have looked like a real nutter walking around with such a huge grin on my face!
I will say that while I was there I kept active but I may or may not have eaten all the things:
I did however join a local gym for a week and went 5 times, I ran 10 miles the first Sunday after I arrived, I biked with one of my besties along the Lake Shore Trail and in the city, and of course I RAN the Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K and Half marathon, also with friends!
And J and I rode our bikes on Friday from the Expo back up to her place:
J was kind enough to go with me to the Expo at McCormick place so that’s where our bike journey actually started. Instead of biking down there and back, we took the bikes on the train. It was a really hot day and we thought this would be more realistic. Thank dog we made that decision!
Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K – Saturday
First of all. Races start so early in the US, you guys! OMG.
Because I was staying up at my friend J’s house I had about a 40 minute ride on the L. That particular weekend they were doing work on the L (of course, because it’s me and wherever I go there are transit issues). I wanted to get there particularly early so that I could first go to the hotel that me and my two friends (One from Fitbloggin and one from school) were staying at since we would all be participating in the events Sunday. I left J’s at 5am, with an overnight bag stuffed to the gills and made it down to the Congress Hotel without a hitch by 6am. I was easily able to drop of my stuff. And now… I had an hour and half before I had to be at the start, which was practically a stone’s throw from the hotel (PERFECT HOTEL LOCATION by the way). I putzed around a bit, and I think I ended up at Panera for a cinnamon roll as big as my head and a small (very large and not good for race day bladder) coffee. Around 6:50 I started walking towards the park (across the street) and over to gear check.
Once again, VERY impressed with the organisation. Gear Check was easy to find, though I hadn’t really studied my map much before the event and had to ask someone. Loads of porta-potties. Once I used the facilities a few times and dropped off my stuff it was over to the starting corrals, very near gear check.
Nobody really followed the rules for the corrals. Or at least, maybe once you were past corral 3, nobody cared anymore. I was in corral 4 but I saw people with numbers starting with 7, 9, 11… basically it was kind of a free for all. No damage done, at least not for me, I was there to have a shake out run, get a medal and then qualify for the remix medal.
It was hot, though, you guys. Honestly. 7:30 in the morning start time and I had sweat pouring off me. We started on time and there was a minute or two in between the waves so there wasn’t much congestion along the way. My 5K time: 33:56. I did stop somewhere around 3K to snap a few photos. Honestly I thought I was going to melt.
I wanted to go meet Meb but this is what the queue looked like:
To be perfectly honest, I just wanted to get something to eat and drink more coffee. I was supposed to meet-up with some other people (I thought) at 10, so I headed out to Cosi Chicago, where I had the most amazing squagel with cream cheese.
Around 9:45 I headed over to where I was supposed to meet people, looked at the invite and saw that it actually started at 9. Oops! I walked in, recognised no one, stood there like a dork for a few minutes, felt completely out of place and walked out. Weird. Yes, even I am insecure sometimes!
At that point I had more time to kill and I basically walked around a bit, drank more coffee and then finally headed out to the Expo for the 2nd time to meet Bari (my Fitbloggin friend). Getting there, of course, was a breeze since I’d been there the day before.
Bari and I found each other easily, hung out at the expo a bit and then went back together to the hotel where we were meeting my high-school friend Becky. Becky and I hadn’t seen each other since 1988 or 89! Becky was running a little late so Bari and I enjoyed a brew together and when Becky did finally arrived we immediately went to carb-load (as you do). Bari was running the 10K and Becky and I the Half.
Sadly all of my fears surrounding the Half-Marathon were going to come true one by one. I did not sleep well at all (serious insomnia and my foot was driving me nuts), I did not have a lot to eat for breakfast as the hotel breakfast was too late (or the race was just too d*^n early), it was already hot by 6 in the morning and humid to boot. I was sure this would be my most challenging race ever. Yes, even more challenging than a marathon.
So the girls and I were up and ready pretty much on auto-pilot (had only a half a cup of coffee as well) and out the door to our respective races. Bari had to go to a different start area, which was changed at the last minute (kind of a bummer) so we crossed the road from our hotel and said goodbye and good luck. Becky had to pick up her race packet at the Solutions Tent since she was unable to come to the expo on time. We also had different starting corrals, so we hung out a bit, checked in our gear, used the loos, did the obligatory selfie and said goodbye and good luck.
This was by far the hardest Half Marathon I’ve run and that pretty much because of the heat. Since it was a while ago and I don’t remember all the details by the mile, I can sum it up like this:
1) I’m going to keep repeating myself – the RnR organisation is amazing. Most people in my corral were from my corral, so it wasn’t like the 5K the day before. And good wave timing. I never felt like I was being run over by other runners or that it was too crowded. Gear check was smooth, lots of loos, etc. There were even bananas available before the start which was great since I was only able to eat a half a bagel with jam that early in the morning.
2) amazing support along the way. Chicago supporters ROCK!
3) The city itself – honestly, what a GREAT place to run (ok RnR didn’t do that, but still…). Downtown is just amazing, the architecture, the art, the statues. Even if you don’t run Chicago, you should go there (but if you go, why not RUN??)
4) Water posts – exactly where they were supposed to be. A lot of people complained that they weren’t manned well and that the gatorade, for example, wasn’t mixed well at all. I only take water at the drink posts and use my own gels, etc that I have tested during my training. Also, because it was so hot I didn’t mind at all to get my own water, plus I was able to wet down my buff to keep my head cool.
5) medical stations with ICE – I took handfulls of ice and shoved them down the front and back of my shirt. life saver.
6) The Chinese Drummers on the edge of ChinaTown – this was, next to point 7, my favourite entertainment along the way. These guys gave me goosebumps! I almost stopped completely just to listen to them.
7) The Music Mile – in a word, FABULOUS. Honestly gave me so much energy.
8) The Finish – the organisation got it right again; medals, food, drink, anything you needed was available. ICE COLD TOWELS, people! I must have walked around with that on my head for a good 10 minutes!
Sadly I was not able to take a lot of photos along the way. I was too worried about my phone getting wet so I kept it safely in my pouch until the Music Mile.
Could be improved
1) For me it would simply be that there are more bands along the way. The reason I love RnR so much is the music along the way. It keeps me going. I am sorry, but stilt walkers as entertainment don’t do it for me. There were lots of cheerleaders and that was ok, but please RnR GIVE US THE MUSIC.
2) I was not able to pick up my WORLD ROCKER medal. This was a bit of a letdown. No matter where you begin your RnR journey, if you travel to another country after that, you should be able to pick up your WR medal. The medal ladies were super sweet though, so I can’t blame them for anything.
The three of us all struggled with the heat but all made it to the finish. That’s what it’s about, really! That you do what you set out to do, no matter the struggle or ease!
To date this was my 2nd worst finish time, 2:39:46. I wasn’t going for any personal records at any point of the trip or the weekend. And even though it was my worst, I’m still grateful that I can run and proud of the achievement.
Because we all had different end times, we agreed to meet up with each other once we’d all made it across the finish line. Once I finished, I went back to the hotel to shower and change and check in with the girls. I was starving so I decided to get something to eat or I thought for sure I would pass out. Bari caught up with me at post-race meal #1 and then Becky was in and we all came together for what was MY post-race meal #2!
Sadly the weekend with B&B was coming to a close. Bari had to head up back to Michigan and Becky a bit south of Chicago. We officially checked out of our hotel, hugged and said “until next time”.
I headed back up to J’s, took a wee nap and then she treated me to that delicious looking pizza that I posted above.
Personally, this was a trip and a race weekend I’ll never forget. I don’t regret flying to the US AT ALL to participate and was so glad I could make it a bit of a reunion vacation with friends. If you still aren’t convinced to do a Rock ‘n Roll race, JUST DO IT. Honestly, you will love it!!