Friday, May 9, 2014

First Midwest Bank Half Marathon

At the last minute, about Wednesday of last week, I decided to run the First Midwest Bank Half Marathon on Sunday, May 4th.  This half marathon is a local one in the Southwest Suburbs of Palos Heights.  It's practically a back-yard half marathon for me, only about 20 minutes away from home.

I was pretty excited to run this half for a couple of reasons:

1. My cousin Nick and his sister Gayle were going to be doing this one as their first half marathon. 

2. Many of my Yankee Runner friends and my Frankfort/New Lenox Running Club friends do this race so there will be lots of friendly faces around.

3. It's a very easy out-and-back course that I've heard is all flat!

4. There was going to be perfect running weather that day, so if I wanted to push my pace a bit, that was the half to do it. Flat, out-and-back, and perfect weather.

5. You can park within a block of the start line!

I've actually wanted to run this race for a couple years now. I first heard about it in 2012 but the Illinois Marathon was the week before and I didn't want to double up (even though many friends did). In 2013, I ran the Mini Marathon (half) in Indianapolis, which is the same weekend as this Palos one.  This was the first year since I've known about the race that I was able to do it.

Some of the FNRC before the race
Short and sweet, I wanted to get under 2:10 if possible.  Even though that's still a bit off from my PR time of 2:03, it would be my best time in a year.  I felt it was do-able as I ran a 2:13 in March at the Get Lucky half.  I hung out around the 2:10 pacer but everyone was so mushed together that I was also around the 2:06 pacer. When we started running, I realized I was near a couple of my running friends and we were all hanging by the 2:06 pacer.  Also, the 2:06 pacer was Joe, who leads the Yankee Runners and I knew him so I thought this might work well.  I decided maybe I could push myself a bit further and decided to try to stick with the 2:06 pacer. If worse came to worse, I could fall back and run with the 2:10 pace group.

My garmin didn't pick up signal until mile 3 and then it was so off, I really wasn't using it. I told Joe that I was just going to stick with him and not worry about it. He would pace me (he is the pacer after all).  It was nice to chat a bit with some of my friends from the Yankee Runners that I haven't seen all winter!

Around mile 5, the pace (which was a bit ahead of what we should have been) started catching up to me. I fell back just slightly from the pace group but they were right ahead of me.  I thought I would just try to hang right behind them for as long as I could.  At mile 6, I realized I never took any fuel.  I've been trying to get away from eating Gu and trying to eat "real food", so I brought a Picky Bar recommended by Kelly and a back up Gu (just in case).  I've eaten the picky bars before running and I like them so I thought I would try it during the half to see what happens.

Well at mile 6, I was struggling a bit with pace and realizing I haven't fueled yet (I normally do around mile 5), I opted to go with the trusty Gu instead of the picky bar. It was more for comfort since I was just a tad "off" during my run.  I hit the turn around and saw a fellow FNRC member Tiffany and started running with her. I was feeling a bit tired but was really trying to hang in there with my pace as best as possible. After a few moans and groans to Tiffany, I felt my second wind coming on!  And I have to say, I really do run better with people that by myself. I find it easier to just push myself.

Running with Tiffany
Tiffany ended up slowing up a tad and I decided to just keep running by myself.  My goal was to try not to let negative thoughts creep in and try to stay positive. I've really been struggling with this the past year.  I seemed to be doing pretty ok at this so far. However, by mile 9.5, I got a cramp in my side. I tried to "run it out" which usually works, just keep running and take some deep breaths.  It just didn't work.

I stopped to walk a minute at mile 10 and that's where my run just crapped out. I tried to keep running but my legs were tired and the cramp wasn't going away. I stopped to walk at least 4 times from mile 10 to the finish (maybe more).  Tiffany caught up to me at some point and I ran with her for a bit more but pulled ahead again. I just wanted to beat the 2:10 time!  I hadn't seen the 2:10 pacer yet and up until mile 10-11, I could still see the 2:06 pace group way ahead. I knew I was in the middle. I wanted to keep going. 

It was mile 10.5 and I thought that maybe eating part of the picky bar might help.  I broke a piece off and stuck it in my mouth and proceeded to... try to chew. This is why I just stick with Gu! I can't chew while running long distance. I just kept trying to get that piece of the bar down and it took forever. I wasn't sure I'd get it down and finally I did. I decided to put the rest of the bar away. It's clear I have trouble chewing while distance running (not a new phenomenon for me anyway).

Finally the finish line was in sight. I thought there was no way my legs could sprint to the finish. They were shot. My recent half marathon and maybe helping at the Ultra and the IL Marathon were finally catching up to my legs. But the final straight away came and people were cheering and my legs just took off! Not sure how that happened!  I saw the clock and it said about 2:10:20-ish when I crossed. I thought I was about right over the 2:10 mark by only a couple seconds. I didn't think I started 20 seconds behind the start line. 
A friend captured my sprint to the finish photo!
I felt slightly defeated that I couldn't get under 2:10 when I was so close and thought the last walk break about 12.5 is why.  But I knew I should be happy with my time as I was only a few seconds off.  Word came that you could print out your results so I went to the table and ... low and final time was...

.....2:09:54!  Ha! Not a PR but I made my goal. I'm glad my legs were able to sprint to the finish line!  And yes, those seconds really did make a difference to me. Overall, I felt glad for the push I gave my race.  I'm far off from PR running but I'm headed in the right direction.  It gave me a bit of confidence back that I can push myself and I'll be alright.

Me, Gayle, and my cousin Nick

Cheesy finisher photo!
Afterwards, I tailgated with the Yankee Runners. And they know how to tailgate right!  I had a burger and some other goodies!  Yum!  Thanks for the invite Yankee Runners! 

In my opinion, this half marathon is a bit pricey for the Southwest Suburbs.  But I had such a good time I think I would be willing to fork over the cash again to do it. It is so much fun with so many of my running friends. The out-and-back course allows you to see people for a good portion of the race!  I did so much smiling and waving to friends and cheering while running, that was my favorite part!

In other news, it was 90 yesterday.  And it was my Thursday run group night!  I thought it was pretty hilarious to look at the "before and after" photos from my Thursday run group. Last Thursday (5/1), it was colder and we were bundled up.  This Thursday (5/8), it's the hottest day of the year so far, with temps about 90!

Thursday run group 5/1

Thursday run group 5/8
 Gotta love Chicago!!


  1. Congrats on the sub 2:10! I can totally understand that those few seconds are important. Sounds like a fun race!

  2. Ahh! Congrats on hitting your goal! That's awesome!

  3. Congrats on hitting your goal!! I still want to do this race again someday.

  4. Wow, great job Amanda!! I know this weather has been so weird - I kind of miss not having a spring, but just happy the cold is gone for a few months - longest winter evah!