Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Get Lucky Chicago 2015: The One Where I Continue To (Slowly) Chip Away At My PR

March 14, 2015 was a great day for running in Chicagoland. And run I did, at the Get Lucky Half Marathon! Read on for all the details!

Goals For the Race

I signed up for this race when I was reviewing my training plan for the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon, since it fell on one of the weekends when I was scheduled to do a 12-mile race pace run. During my buildup to the Chicago marathon, I subbed out half-marathons for these pretty frequently, and it ended up working out well. The way I look at it, I have about a 1000% greater chance of hitting my marathon race pace in a race environment than on a neighborhood road by myself. 

In a couple of weeks, I'm going to run a half-marathon in this fashion, and I am going to attempt to actually hold back and run the race as a training run. For the Get Lucky and for some other races in the past, however, I have used my marathon race pace as a base not to fall below, and have treated it like a glorified tempo run with a medal at the end. My philosophy: If the race is a success, perhaps my eventual marathon race pace will be faster!

Bling for a workout? Yes, please! Image found here.
As race day grew nearer, I knew that I was making progress in my training, but this progress was unlikely to result in a substantial PR from my indoor half marathon in January -- especially considering the fact that January's race was, you know, in a perfectly 50-degree environment devoid of any wind or precipitation. Because I figured that January's PR may have been inflated above my fitness as it existed at that time, I vowed not to beat myself up if a PR didn't result, and be happy if I was in the ballpark of that number.

Pre-Race Shananigans 

Races are always more fun with friends, especially when one does not relish city driving. After I signed up for the race, one of my best running friends, Wendy of Taking the Long Way Home, decided to sign up as well. As a bonus, she also offered to drive the two of us to the race! We carpooled to a race together last summer and it was tons of fun, so I jumped at the chance for another road trip with her.

There was a wee bit of uncertainty in the weeks prior to the race, since we found out through the grapevine (and later by e-mail) that the race start was being moved from Jackson Park (on the south side of the city near Hyde Park) to Soldier Field. I had pre-paid for a parking space near the old start line, so that was a bit of a bummer, but luckily the race allowed us to pre-pay for spot in the Soldier Field garage, as well. One of my least favorite aspects of races is parking-spot jockeying, and the ability to reserve would allow us to sleep in a tiny bit later!

Even with the reserved parking, I was at Wendy's house at 6:30 for the drive down to the race. I was fairly confident in my decision to wear a tank and shorts for the race, but staying warm prior to the race was a potential challenge. Just in case, I brought my Yellow Tote Bag of Warm Weather Accessories (stored in my car at all times for last-minute layering), and wore some throwaway sweatpants and a zip-up jacket.

The tank top was neon green, you'll just have to take my word for it!
The drive into the city was full of fun and laughter, as I expected, and we sailed into an awesome parking spot with plenty of time to spare. We were reluctant to step out of the warm car, but we eventually did in order to make a port-a-potty stop. The port-a-potties were plentiful, which was a huge relief, as I usually need the services of one at least twice prior to a race! We scurried back to our car for a few more minutes (seriously, it was chilly), but then decided to bite the bullet and look for our friend Karen in the warming tents. At the last minute, I decided to wear my arm warmers for the race start, planning to roll them down if necessary.

What a smart cookie she is; we found Karen and her friends right next to a wonderfully toasty space heater! It was great to chat with her, as well as meet some of her friends who are also running the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon!

Karen, Wendy, and myself (still too chicken to shed my throwaway clothes)
I usually start to retreat into myself to get my "game face" on as race time draws near, but Wendy provided some comic relief by photobombing some complete strangers, accompanying me to the port-a-potty (again)  and keeping the atmosphere light. Before I knew it, it was (past) time to line up. Both Wendy and I used our stealth sneaking skillz to weave toward the front of the crowd.  I staked out a spot between the 1:40 and 1:45 pace groups, knowing that I would probably stick with neither.

The Race!

Start line pic, my arm warmers still intact. Dang, my legs are kinda muscle-y! Swiped from the Get Lucky Facebook Page.
To my surprise, I hung on to the back of the 1:40 pace group for the first mile, even while repeatedly checking my watch to make sure I wasn't going out too fast. I don't know if the pace leaders were just warming up or what, because all of sudden they took off like bats out of Hell, and I had to put the dream of a 1:40 finish to rest. My first mile split was 7:47 -- a tad faster than my pace band mandated, but I patted myself on the back for hitting my pace and then keeping it under control. This race could end up all right, after all!

The Lakefront Path on race day, swiped from the Get Lucky Facebook Page. It could be a lot worse!
We were running with a tailwind on the trip south of the city, and I ended up ditching my arm warmers at the Mile 1 marker. Wendy told me she saw them on the side of the road and chuckled to herself! I put it in autopilot as the miles rolled on, continually monitoring my effort level. I found myself in a pack of folks, and I figured that as long as I stuck with them, I would make it to the finish line in PR fashion.  I was trying to make my own pace group, in other words. I glued myself to a tall, buff-looking guy in an Ironman tank and we began to leapfrog each other.

The pace group worked great for the first few miles, and my splits were in the 7:40s. At around Mile 5, a girl and her friend/boyfriend pulled into our pack. Ironman Guy was beginning to slow down, so I hitched myself to their wagon. Unfortunately, they were going exactly my pace, which made it a bit awkward when trying to navigate the path, since the fasties were now coming back the other direction. We were passing Hyde Park, and as has become tradition, I gave the peace-sign to my old apartment building where I lived during Law School.

I passed Just My Pace Girl as the turnaround approached. I think I might have made her a little upset. Shortly thereafter, the girl reminded me why I generally hate pace groups, as she took off like she strapped a rocket to her back.  I knew I couldn't hang with her, and I was left muttering forlornly (in my head): "I thought we had an agreement..." 

Worryingly, (No Longer) Just My Pace Girl was not the only one leaving me behind, as I was now heading into the wind and my pace was slowing. Mile 7 was my slowest of the race at 8:02. I pulled it together for a 7:50 Mile 8, only to be hit with the double-whammy of 8:01 and 8:00 for Miles 9 and 10. My PR cushion was melting away with every mile.

Even though I had vowed not to stress about hitting a PR, I was very upset to see it slipping from my grasp. It is one thing to start the race and have a sense that this isn't your day; it is another thing to be on PR pace for over half the race and not end up with one. I knew there was only so much I could do as my legs could only move so fast, but as Soldier Field started getting closer and I could smell the finish line, I resolved to dig as deep as I could. My Mile 12 split was finally back on pace, but would it be enough? I managed a 7:38/mile "sprint" for the final .18.

The clock at the finish line was reassuring, but I quickly pulled out my phone to check the online results. A nine-second PR.  I was happy, of course, but a tad disappointed that I hadn't pulled off something more magical.

Final Time: 1:43:27 (9-second PR) (7:54 average pace)
Age Group Place (40-49): 9/124 (Man, this age group is rough!)
Gender Place: 36/474
Overall Place: 111/771 

Post-race selfie with my pretty bling!
Post-Race Revelry

I headed to the warming tent to see if I could find my throwaway pants that I had stashed under a table. Happily, they were still there, as I was cooling off rapidly! It wasn't long before I got a text from Wendy, who had scored a massive PR, as well as second in her age group! There was much celebrating and photo-taking.

After confirming that there wasn't an award ceremony, we high-tailed it to the car before frostbite set in. Okay, that is a bit of hyperbole, but it was still quite chilly! The ride home was full of happy chatter at how well-run the race had been (both by the organizers and the two of us)!

What Does It All Mean?

Now that I have had the benefit of a few weeks to process the result, I am more than satisfied with my time. If I had run my January race in an outdoor environment (and had the most-likely-slower time to show for it), my PR would likely have been bigger. I did as well as I could have hoped, given my level of fitness on March 14. Does that mean I am satisfied? Heck, no!  My next race is the Chi-Town Half Marathon on April 4th, and I hope to chip away further at this time.  Stay tuned.  Onward and upward!


  1. I have decided that I really like going to races with you! We need to make a habit of this! Plus you inspire me to run faster! What a fun day!

  2. Congrats on pulling off a PR! Sounds like you and Wendy had a great time and both ran fast!