Monday, July 24, 2017

July Half: Rock 'n' Roll Chicago

July's Half-Marathon... Chicago's Rock 'n' Roll Half.

After a string on races close to home, I wanted to hit the road.

The idea was to drag my youngest along, head up Saturday, hit the expo, play in the city a bit, have a nice dinner, run early Sunday, brunch it up, and get home. Good plan!

Yeah, not so much.

The boy had a thing pop-up that ate up Saturday, so we got to the city about 9pm... just in time for a movie and bed.

I woke to a humid, but remarkably temperate, and not-so-windy city.

And, to a shit-ton of people. I had no idea this was such a big race.

Luckily, it was insanely well run.

For example... let's consider about the start:
  • Super helpful and cheerful people to help runners who arrive too late for the expo and have to pick up their number at the start.
  • Plenty of well marked corals
  • Lots of room to get to your coral - too many races neglect that detail and get traffic jams on sidewalks between shrubs and fencing as people try to get to their spot
  • Extra space in the corals so you don't spend those last few minutes crotch to butt
  • Wave starts just a minute a part - runDisney space the waves 10 minutes apart, so the last wave stood around for an hour... I know, because I was in that last wave.
  • Decent sound system with not-really-annoying-at-all MC keeping us entertained
All of this produced a relaxed, easy, uncrowded, and timely start.

Once running, my GPS warned me that my pace over the first few miles was a kinda quick, too quick for a guy trying to take things easy, so I made a point to pull in the reins and slow down.

Hold that thought...

Some may remember from my February post, that I don't generally trust mile markers in races. These markers were way-the-hell off... by a tenth or more. WTF RnR?!?

Well... umm... Turns out, in the big city, where you can barely see the sky and the satellite signals bounce around the tall buildings, you can't really trust your GPS, either.

Yeah... GPS was, in fact the one that was way-the-hell off. Sorry about the outburst RnR.

So, I wasn't going nearly as fast as I'd thought in those early miles. That means that when I'd "backed off so I don't set some kind of record by accident", I was actually going from kinda slow to really slow...some might call it pokey.

But, as it turned out, may have been for the best anyway.

The miles clicked off, and I felt really good. Especially considering the disaster of last month. So I just kept poking along.

Me, poking along.

I saw two Elvises... Elvi... running with each other. One was barefoot, and carried a blow-up guitar.

We also crossed the river, once via one of the draw bridges that is just steel grate... so you could see through it... to the river... why the fuck down there. Some people freaked out and jumped to the sidewalk. I freaked out too, but decided to lean into it.

The race was just crowded enough that I always had lots of people around me, but roomy enough that I never felt crowded. It was like going to a movie and having just enough people to make it feel like a big deal, but not so many that you couldn't have an empty buffer-seat next to you for your jacket.

At mile 8.5 came the only knock I have on the whole race... the half-mile up, half-mile back U-turn. As someone who as designed a course or two, I know they are sometimes a necessary evil to get the distant right in a world of actual streets and neighborhoods and physics, but... for fuck's sake... a 1-mile U-turn is just not cool.

I forgot and forgave pretty quick because just after the end of that shitty mile was the 10-mile mark, and the turn north, toward the finish, along the Lakeshore.

Three lightly rolling miles over overpasses and on on-ramps, and the apparently obligatory trip under McCormick Place, we were in sight of the finish.

Eventually, I crossed it.

I say eventually because I was slow. Really slow... second slowest half ever for me.

But... I did finish. And not only did I finish, but I enjoyed the tiniest sweet redemption from last month's debacle... I didn't walk a single damn step.

Heat? Humidity? Woefully underwhelming training? Not a problem... as long as you don't mind this taking a while...

There was free (crappy) beer...
They gave out what seemed to be
water in these clever Michelob Ultra cans.
The medal is great.

The medal has the "Bean" on it. Pretty cool!

There was even a festival with a funk band, but I opted for the short walk to the hotel, to wake up my son, and head to a lovely brunch.

I've come to accept that these summer halfs are gonna be slow. Hopefully they'll make me faster in the fall.

Real quick... I have to comment on the Rock 'n' Roll series. I remember their first event 20 years ago, in San Diego I think. As I recall, it didn't go great. Since then, I'd always considered them as "Facebook events" - overpriced, underwhelming, big medal, no class.

I was dead wrong. These guys put on a fantastic event. I've run many big races and I've never seen one more smoothly and professionally run. And the staff was probably the best I've ever seen... friendly, well-trained, enthusiastic, genuine. RnR is as good as runDisney at about half the price. I'm a convert, and a fan.

If you'd like to catch up on the year in halfs so far, here are links:
  1. Jan: runDisney StarWars half at Disneyland
  2. Feb: Gasparilla Half in Tampa FL
  3. Mar: Sam Costa Half in Carmel IN
  4. Apr: Carmel Half in Carmel IN
  5. May: Geist Half in Fishers IN
  6. Jun: Zionsville Half in Zionsville, IN
Next month I hit the trails in Muncie, IN.

Good running!