The thing I like best about running is that you get exactly what you put into it. I always run a half marathon prior to a marathon because it's the best test of fitness. I decided not to to do the Rock N Roll Chicago half because it's just too damn expensive. The race is costly, plus you have to pay for parking for packet on pick up and race day. The Oakbrook Half was not an option because it falls on Labor Day and since I'm a slave to my Pfitz schedule, it would have thrown off my days. The Half Madness race fit because it was a CARA race which means quality and I get a discount.
Parking was so easy it was a joke. My spot was in a public lot and the only thing separating my car from the start/finish chute was a field of growing pumpkins. Smaller races have this advantage over mega races. My only problem was how fast I was going to run? 7:32 pace is my PR (1:38:43) but my last 7 mile tempo run at a 7:10 pace suggested I could faster. Ilanarama had thrown a finishing time of 1:35:00 at me. The pace made me hesitate so I thought I'd start at 1:36:00 and see what happened. Some times you have to roll the dice (as the race logo suggests dice = bones) and get out of your comfort zone.
Mile 1- 7:24 The start chute was narrow which led to an uphill bike path. The race announcer warned everyone about it. Another sign of a well run event. Feeling good and no sign of fatigue after a one day taper.
Mile 2- 7:03 The course flattens out. My second mile of a race is always too fast as I'm warmed up. Yeesh, slow down killer. Note to race: No styrofoam cups next year! You pinch them too hard drink and they break.
Mile 3 - 7:15 That's a little better pacing
Mile 4 - 7:05 We are now running on the asphalt bike path along the Fox River. A picturesque run and slightly downhill. Ummm, are you running a 10k or half marathon. Slow.It.Down.
Mile 5 - 7:15 The mile markers are clearly marked with someone calling out the splits as we pass. I mumble the word "sh*t" as I begin to worry it might be too fast. The guy next to me hears me laughs and asks, "Too fast or too slow?" I laugh and say maybe too fast. Might be the morning coffee making my go.
Mile 6 - 7:20 The one and only Gu.
Mile 7 - 7:24, Mile 8 7:17, Mile 9 7:22, Mile 10 7:21 The next 4 miles are gently uphill giving the overall course a 175ft gain. So subtle you don't really notice it except for two spots. No fatigue at all on my part. I feel strong.
Mile 11 - 7:07 The last three miles are gently downhill on the back path. I start to push the pace as gravity is on my side.
Mile 12 - 7:04 Only a mile to go. Slowly passing a few people. The tree shaded downhill is pushing me. I decide I love downhill finishes in every race.
Mile 13 - 7:06 Pass a few more people, cross the bridge on the river and head for the chute.
Last .1 - :37 (6:10 pace). I gun it through the chute and across the finish.
Final time 1:34:46. A PR by 4 minutes. The highest age grading of my short running career. The post-race was great for the Sam Adams Boston Lager every racer got. Real beer! None of that MGD 64 diet beer. The finishers medal doubles as bottle opener! I grabbed a bagel and watched other finishers from the beer garden right next to the finish chute.
The race was first class all the way minus the styrofoam. I will definitely do this race next year. Now, the 3:30 for Chicago appears to be a given. The conservative Greg Maclin predictor suggests 3:22:xx. As long as it's not 80 degrees on race day. This race proves you just need to trust your training and roll the dice.
The boys from Rush sing about it. Even if the video is just goofy.