2019 Chicago Half Marathon

So I had a nasty injury before Carmel marathon in March. Managed to push through and get a new PR. After the marathon I took some time off and ended up going to an orthopedist, getting x-rays and MRIs. Long story short…had to do a lot of PT, but got back to running safely about 3 months post Carmel.  Big thanks to Paul @ Athletico for helping me with therapy and loads of exercises.

I wanted to get back into things slow and gradually get back to my routine. I spent a lot of time building up my body at the gym and the getting back into running by focusing on the basics. I was very happy with my progress and decided to reach out to my coach and get the ball rolling on marathon training.

I had already signed up for CIM earlier in the year, since I love that race so much.. However I knew I would not be able to run it this year for other reasons. (Deferring to next year) So that meant my other option was a November marathon. My coach and I decided on Monumental Marathon in November, which would be 14 weeks of solid marathon training. Everything would need to go well in order for a possible PR attempt. And as my coach said, this is a crammed marathon training block that has 0 room for error.

Two weeks ago, I ran the Alpine Runners Half Marathon on my long run training grounds, this race was treated more as a tester to see what kind of paces I could hold comfortably. I didn’t have a real plan, and didn’t bring any special gels or anything. Suffice to say I felt pretty bad most of the race and the humid weather really did me in. I was able to get a time below expectations and muster out a 1:34:XX. Considering I paced part of the BQ.2 race the day before and was going on little rest I was happy with the result.

Next race on the schedule was the Hoka One One Chicago Half Marathon. Honestly, the main reason I signed up for this race was because Hoka was sponsoring it! If you have read any of my blog posts you know I’ve been running in Hoka since they released the Bondi v1 and Stinson v1. I pretty much have been a constant free spokesperson and gotten a lot of friends to try and purchase Hokas. Regardless, it aligned well with my schedule and figured it would be a good measure to see where I was at going into October. 

According to my watch on race morning…

I was able to take Friday off and head to the expo with Tony, a training partner who has really gotten faster over the last few years. He was planning on pacing the 1:40 group. We got to the expo after some wonderful Chicago traffic and were directed all over the mall area to get a bib first, then our packet and shirt. The best part about the expo was that the Hoka rep for our area said he might have some hats and would set some aside for Tony and myself since we saw him a few weeks prior. He forgot the hats… BUT one of his colleagues had some extra ones and was nice enough to part ways with them. Finally got the Hoka One One hat I have been searching for… =) 


We went up stairs to Fleet Feet where I purchased 3 of the brand new Maurten Caf 100 Gels. These guys are essentially everything the Maurten normal gel is… + 100mg of Caffeine. I figured I would try one during the half since their normal gels have worked for me in the past. Went to sleep at the normal time and took half a tablet of melatonin. Seems to have helped as I was able to get a few hours of sleep.

Lunch the day before @ Bonta

Fast forward to race morning…Tony, Tarik, Paul and myself decided to carpool. Which was a wise decision because of Chicago parking and traffic. We wanted to get there early… which meant I set my alarm for 2:50AM…. yup… Race time was 7AM. But the corrals closed at 645 and parking would fill up fast. It was also raining.. a lot. 

A very bad storm front moved into the area overnight and dumped rain on everything, and continued most of the morning. So much that the race organizers kept participants in buses and told them to wait in their cars for a bit until things calmed down. The race start/end area was essentially a giant mud pit and flooded with water. We were all drenched the moment we stepped out of the car. However, we managed to change and get ready for the race. Tarik was nice enough to bring my gear check bag over to the tent because I could not change into my race shoes without getting them trashed in the mud. So I did my change on a rainy sidewalk under a tree using Tarik as something to lean on. Thank you!

No Hoka’s for the race… I know.

Did a 2 mile warmup, going up and down a section of a closed off street. Took 2 of my enduralyte tabs and tried to relax listening to my usual pre-race music. Did a few drills and then got in line for a quick porta potty visit. It was about 6:35 at this point and I knew the Corral’s closed at 6:45 so I decided to enter. Unknown to me… I had to start from corral N and work my way down to corral B. Climbing a little fence each time… So I guess they decide to close things off earlier. Not going to lie, it felt a little weird passing by all these runners… There was a lot more than I expected.

Got situated in the corral at the start of C and noticed Tony was there with his pacing partner ready for 140. Said hello, and then Marie stopped over. Marie is another training partner who recently ran a PR at the Alpine HM and even won, being the top woman! She ran 1:28 something, which is crazy fast for that hilly course. Suffice to say she is running the full Chicago marathon in 2 weeks so this half was more of a final prep. I asked what her goal was and she was saying she didn’t really have a plan and was not super mentally ready for this one. I the asked if she wanted to run with me to maybe break 1:30? And she said sure! So we talked over the race plan and got set.

Shortly before the start I noticed Michael “Kofuzi” Ko, a Chicago runner who posts on YouTube daily about his training and such. (see his race video) Said hello and wished him good luck, he was going for 1:25 to 1:26ish.

Ben Bruce, a Hoka athlete and coach got on the speaker and gave some words of encouragement before the race started. One of things he said really stuck with me. He said that when the pain starts to set in and things get tough, just think of how you will feel the days and weeks after the race wondering if you just fought through it where you of finished. Basically saying, fight through it or you will be pissed at yourself later. National anthem was song by a local music group and next you know…. We were off.

Mile 1: –6:54
Mile 2: –6:53
Mile 3: –6:49

The plan was to stay within visual range of the 1:30 Pacer group. I didn’t want to run with them, as I knew I would be going s little slower and easing my way into the race. I remember looking at my watch a few times and saying to Marie, we were a little hot. But otherwise we were really only a few seconds faster than my ideal pace, so I wasn’t complaining. I remember when we passed by the 5k clock it read 21:15 or something close to that mark. I was like hmm that’s only a minute or so slower than that 5k race I did in August…

Mile 4: –6:45
Mile 5: –6:51
Mile 6: –6:45

This was suppose to be my ease in miles. Basically run a little faster than the first 5k. Since we ran the first few a little faster my thought was to just run these around the same pace. Things felt moderate at this point. I took my first maurten gel at mile 4. The normal kind. The followed up with two salt tabs at mile 5.
A couple ladies passed us in these miles and Marie surged ahead when they did, I could tell she didn’t like being passed. I didn’t say anything though. She did end up slowing down a bit for me to catch up, so hopefully I didn’t effect her race time too much.

Mile 7: –6:44
Mile 8: –6:43
Mile 9: –6:41

According to the race plan Marie and I were suppose to be going about 5 secs per mile faster here. Which looking at the splits we were pretty much maintaining, but with our early faster miles… this was perfect. This was also the out and back part of the course. So we got to see the race leaders. Including Ben who was in about 6th place at this point. I cheered go Ben, looking good! And he looked up and did a half wave. I could tell he was hurting. He had no one to run with or by. We also saw Tarik who was leading a group of 3-5 runners and looking strong, cheered him on as he went by.

At mile 8 I took another gel, this time the maurten caf 100. This sucker is a regular maurten gel with 100mg of caffeine packed in there. I made a rookie mistake and didn’t try this gel before using it in the race. When I started to eat it I began coughing uncontrollably for about half a mile…. I forced it down as this 1 gel cost me $4.50! Got some water at the next aid station and felt a lot better. As a matter of fact I felt like I just ate nitrous oxide. All systems were a go and was going faster without much extra effort. I guess it pays to not be a coffee drinker…

I was still reading out the mile splits to Marie each mile, but beyond that our conversation became minimal to non existent. We also passed by some of those girls from the early miles, with ease. At this point in the race I knew I had 1:30, I just had to hold the current pace.

Mile 10: –6:39
Mile 11: –6:38

Took the Extreme Enduralyte tab here. This pill was essentially 2x to 3x the amount of the ones I took earlier. I was debating taking it, but I knew it was muggy and the last few miles I had been dumping water on my head to cool down. This was also something I didn’t try before (lol). Ate half of a gu blok, spitting out the other as I just wanted something to chew on. After years of running I prefer over eating to under-eating during a race.

Decided to finally turn on my music around here. I wasn’t listening to anything up until this point. And it seems to help keep me focused on the mile I am in, my breathing and how I am feeling. I referred back to some books I read earlier in the year… focus on the mile you are in, and welcome the pain and muscle fatigue, better to acknowledge it then to let it make you angry.

We were gaining on the 1:30 group now. Each half mile they got closer and closer. The group itself had dwindled down to only a handful of runners. But we were tracking them. I said only a 5k left…and said to Marie, let’s go get em. 

Mile 12: –6:30
Mile 13: –6:27
Last Bit: –6:03

I remember briefly thinking to myself…umm I’m going to be under 1:30… How much under though? My coach is going to lose his mind…

Around mile 12 we got on the 1:30 pace groups tail, then blew past em as they gave us words of encouragement. I was hurting at this point and working hard to go faster. Grunts and all.The pacers cheered us on as we continued with about a mile to go. Marie probably thought I was nuts because I started slapping myself in the face. I don’t know why I did this, but it helped to wake me up and realize I still had work to do. It was a kind of… You got this…now do it!

This last mile was sort of a blur. I remember thinking Marie was right next to me and we were going to bring it in. When I saw the statue I knew the finish line was close …then I saw it and my form went out the window. Arms were probably flailing I most likely looked like a lunatic. I saw the clock and it was reading low 1:29 and I realized i might break 1:29! So put it into another gear and crossed the line. 
Immediately went to the side and held onto a fence and then Marie came up to me and said… You did it!! You broke 1:30! I was in shock at this point. I could not believe it. 1:30 had been the elusive goal for years, the closest was a few years back.. where I was about 50 seconds off. I went from 1:34:xx a few weeks ago to 1:28:57. I knew I could run faster but holy hell. 

Marie was so excited as well. She could not believe how well we executed the race negative splitting all the way. The last 5k of the race…I ran Faster than the 5k I did in August. Still in shock I got my medal met up with Tarik who not only qualified for New York but finished in 1:22! Damn.

We then proceeded to the mud pit of the post race. It started raining again and we quickly realized this was going to be a disaster. Getting my bag from hear check was first on my agenda. I slowly plodded over, getting my shoes muddy in the process. Then realized there were about 3 people at gear check retrieving bags… :/

I saw other runners inside of the gear check looking for their bag and decided I needed to do the same. I was very cold and really wanted to change shoes and clothes. They were yelling for us to leave and said they needed security, etc. But I found my bag and left without incident. I was able to change my shoes which helped with all the mud. But my ‘dry clothes’ were completely drenched…. 

Proceeded to shiver and noticed my left hamstring was super tight, so went over to the Atheltico tent and got them to help stretch it out. Then walked over to the pacing tent and waited for the gang before heading back home. Shivering…most of the way. 

Overall a fantastic result and I could not be happier. A huge PR and a negative split race. I was so grateful to have Paul drive, Tarik to help with the gear check, Tony to cheer me on and Marie to run the whole damn race with! I know this race could of gone a lot differently, but I think the support of running friends, a gentle mist during the run and some rest leading up to the race helped a lot.

The “diner plate” medal, tops the biggest medal I have ever gotten.

The race itself was put on well, a lot more spectators then I thought, way more than Alpine. Volunteers were amazing and the competition was good. Obviously the gear check was the biggest issue, the bag was very small and the amount of people to retrieve bags didn’t match what was needed. Something to think about for next year… I could do what Tarik does ..and have throw away everything for my next race…. And change in the corral. Hah.

Thanks as always to my family and friends for putting up with my running and encouraging me throughout the rebuilding process. Thanks to my training partners, and Strava friends for their help and words of encouragement. And a big thanks to Marie for running with me throughout the race, felt like a hard training run! Thanks to Will, my coach from runninglane for pushing me back into shape and helping me keep things realistic but also giving me a solid race day strategy. 

Up next… Monumental Marathon November 9th.

Notes for myself…

Went went right:

A lot of things!
-Sleep, melatonin helped again.
-Negative split was the biggest right here.
-Weather, was humid but temps were manageable. And helped to keep my core temp down.
-Nutrition, obviously I should of tried things before the race but overall Maurten and the salt tabs didn’t let me down.
-Water on my head helped a lot to keep my temp down later in the race.
-Separate bags for salt tabs
-Brooks shorts with side pockets 
-Shoes, Next% felt great, no foot issues. I think the offset lacing really helped.
-Having someone to run with. I had someone at Carmel to push with, and during this race Marie was there too. Gotta find someone else for Indy!


-Coughing at mile 8 from a new gel
-Post race injury from not stretching right away!! Have to stretch even if it’s in mud.
-Post race bag. Dry clothes were not dry, bring a another bag to seal them from the rest of the bag for future races. 

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1 Response

  1. Donna Wrightson says:

    Holy hell is right! Way to go on this one!

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