Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chicago Half-Marathon Tempo Run

~1 mile w/u
Target: Tempo some part of half-marathon
Actual: 3 miles @17:52 (5:54, 5:55, 5:58); ~1 min. break; 2 miles @~12:35
2 mile c/d
Total: 8 mil

Chicago Half-Marathon starting. Photo courtesy of Chicago Half-Marathon.

It doesn't take a genius or a seasoned coach to figure out that I was in no way, shape or form ready to race a half-marathon this weekend. I've been back to "normal" training for less than a fortnight, and the last time I completed some semblance of a respectable workout was a full six weeks ago. Heck, I haven't even done anything uptempo save for a few one-minute pickups during Wednesday's morning run. Still, I would be lying if I didn't admit that all weekend I harbored some teeny tiny urge to toe the line and see what these leggies could do.

That is, until my alarm went off at 3:30am on Sunday morning less than five hours after I'd set it. Going on back-to-back-to-back 12+ hour workdays on my feet at the expo, coupled with very little sleep and a plethora of pre- and post-race responsibilities on Sunday, made the logistics (and appeal) of going for gold highly unlikely. However, it did not mean I couldn't at least lace 'em up for a few quality miles before scampering back to the Karhu/Craft area for the rest of the morning. After hastily warming up and pinning on my number (might as well look legit), I squeezed through the corrals and made it to the starting line with less than a minute to spare. Racing flats, not so much.

After an exceptionally patriotic version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" worthy of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the starting horn sent us off. In pleasing contrast to 13.1 Chicago a few months ago, this morning's weather was in the mid-60s with moderate humidity. As the throng of 15,000+ runners surged forward through the park and onto Lakeshore Drive with the sun rising over crystalline Lake Michigan in the background, one would be hard-pressed to find someone who didn't agree that it was a gorgeous morning for a race.

For me, however, a race was not in the cards. I split the first mile in a surprisingly comfortable 5:54 near the front of the pack, but by the second mile marker I could tell that my unfit and work-weary legs were not accustomed to (nor happy with) what I was subjecting them to. I suppose maybe I should've done a stride or something faster than seven-minute pace in the past month. Oh well. At any rate, by mile two I was securely in third place and already bargaining with myself about when to make my exit. One mile later I stopped, took a minute to rest my legs, and then rejoined the race with my friend Jill who was rocking out 6:20s with a few of her Fleet Feet teammates. (Jill, if you may recall, is my equally nomadic friend whom I originally met at 13.1 Miami and have since seen in NYC, Dallas and Chicago. If there is one person other than Jilane whose travel schedule rivals mine, it's Jill's.) After a few moderate miles with Jill & co., I decided that if I wasn't racing it was probably prudent to hustle back and do my job. Reluctantly I turned around and began meandering back toward the start/finish line, disappointed to leave the race but pleased to discover that six-minute pace didn't feel decidedly foreign. There are miles and miles of work to be done, but for today this knowledge is enough.