Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Race Report: Rock 'n' Roll Chicago 5K and Half Marathon

Friday afternoon, I took a flight out of LaGuardia to get to Chicago Midway airport, getting in around 7:30 in the evening.  Upon landing, I proceeded straight to the CTA terminal for the Orange Line, which seemed to take forever to get to.  Already, the Chicago weather was hot and humid, so it was a relief to make it to the air conditioned train.  I headed into downtown Chicago, where I would meet up with my friend Ainsley’s cousin to pick up her apartment keys, as she and my other friend Amy were at the White Sox game nowhere close to where I was going to be.

Party Rockers at the RnR Chicago 5K!
I picked up the key and headed straight up to Lakeview…. Aka Boystown… where Ainsley lives.  After dropping my stuff off, I proceeded to get food at a nearby Thai restaurant and then headed to my favorite local bar, Side Track, a popular multi-level bar that showed music videos on screens all throughout the venue.  As I walked the ¾ mile down to the bar, I noticed lightning to the south.  I guess I was a little worried, but then again, it is Midwest weather, which is all too unpredictable.  I ordered my frozen slushie alcoholic beverage and waited for Ainsley and we tore through another one, and were nicely buzzed as we walked back to her apartment, still with lightning in the distance.

Photo by PhotoRun
The 5K was early the next morning, so we headed straight to sleep – through the middle of the night, the storm had come through, dampening downtown Chicago, but didn’t affect the race at all, other than the expected heat and humidity.  We took the train down, a roughly 35-40 minute trip, and then got off at Monroe to walk over to the startline on the Lake Michigan waterfront.  I picked up my bib and my shirt (unfortunately, of course, they run out of small tees when picking up my bib the day of!) and then met up with the rest of the Party Rocker crew!

With the GoPro at the 5K start
(Photo by Adrian Mauricio)
Conceived by Bill Kwok, the Party Rockers were put together to ….  As RnR Chicago would be the first time this would be tried out, we wore makeshift “Party Rocker” RnR Chicago bibs for both the 5K and Half Marathon races, with the idea that we would stop at pre-specified locations to cheer on other runners along the course along with our portable speakers.  We joined Corral 5 for the 5K and then were off and running at a conservative pace, before soon stopping to cheer on runners for about ten minutes along the course, giving out high-fives and whooping and hollering to their amusement.  It wasn’t about time at all… we were just out there to have fun!

With FRNY members at the 5K
Soon, the heat began to take its course, and we made our way to the one and only water stop just after mile 2.  We stopped to pose for a quick group photo, and with our shoes in a circle, as we also caught up with a bride and her bridesmaids, dressed to the nines in their wedding formals, running in the heat!  We ran right alongside them and posed for more pictures as we progressed down the course.

Running across the 5K finish line with Mallory!
Soon, the marina was within view, and we stopped short of the finish line to keep cheering on some remaining runners.  There were even a few kids who ran the race who were really excited when going through our “tunnel of love.”  When 14-year old Mallory and her mother Susan came through our race, we decided to run into the finish with her – this young girl has Down Syndrome, and she was running a hot and humid 5K… we were so inspired!  She and her mother were thrilled to have us run with them through to the finish and she sprinted right on through the finish chute, with a huge smile on her face.  The Party Rockers finished the 5K in just over 58 minutes, but it didn’t matter – we had a blast!

Being a dork the night before the half
We stuck around right before the finish, ushering more runners through, and then some of us went off to have lunch together.  After lunch, Amy, Ainsley, and I headed off to the expo for me to pick up my bib and for them to retrieve the coveted "Gold Record" bib which hadn't come in until that morning. Ainsley and I headed back for much needed naps, before coming back into the city for dinner – Hot Dogs at Portillos! -- with Amy and their friend (and my new friend) Alex.  Ainsley and I closed the night out with drinks at nearby pub, Fadó, where we met up with my friends Hollie, Deb, and Jake.

With our Gold Record bibs at the expo!

All ready to go!

The next morning was super early, as the half was starting at 6:30am. It had rained again overnight, and you could feel the saturation of moisture in the air.  Amy and I had talked about running together so she could help pace me toward sub 10 minute miles – and as close to 9 as possible. Ainsley and I left her place just a little after 5:30am to get ourselves back downtown on the train, arriving around 6:00 at our meeting point with the rest of the Party Rockers.  Because of the anticipated intense heat and humidity, I had a contingency plan in case I couldn't keep up with a 9 minute pace; that is, run with the Party Rockers.  Their plan was to run at our own individual paces and then meet up again at the 6 mile and 12 mile points. As we assembled, we left as a group to head to the corrals and joined in around corral 8 or 9.  Soon, we crossed the start and I was off, right in line with Amy.

With the GoPro at the Half start
(Photo by Adrian Mauricio)
We proceeded up Columbus Drive, and then headed into the underpass under Randolph Street, headed east toward Lake Michigan. We emerged out of the underpass onto Lower Wacker Drive, then hitting mile 1 in about 9:20.  But, as usual, my watch began to go haywire due to the tall buildings of downtown Chicago, so my splits were not very accurate from then on.  The next mile was tough - the heat was definitely taking its toll on me, and I slowed down pretty significantly.  It was around here where I took my first walk break and told Amy to go on, and I decided to just hoof it till the 6 mile mark and just take this one easy.  Around the 3 mile mark, I ran into fellow Party Rocker Mayra, and we decided to help pace each other on the course until we hit the six mile mark.

The RnR Chicago Half gives you quite an excellent tour of the city, turning several times on its early miles, running across its iconic bridges going over the Chicago River as well as passing underneath the city's busy El train.  While one of the more prominent complaints of this particular Rock 'n' Roll race is the lack of music on the course in the first six miles (due to the city's strict noise policies at that hour of the morning), we tried to allay that with our crew running with our portable speakers along the course, providing music to runners from the IHeartRadio Rock 'n' Roll Marathon station on blast.  At mile 6 (the corner of State and Harrison), Party Rockers stopped for about ten minutes to cheer on fellow runners along the course.  After this stop, I continued on, turning right onto Michigan Avenue for the long, nearly 3 mile straightaway until we turned onto 31st Street.

Post race celebrations with the Party Rocker crew!
(Photo by Adrian Mauricio)
I had lost track of Mayra when I decided to go back onto the course after the mile 6 mark, but ran into her again as we made the turn onto 31st Street.  This was where the race had its only course change from the year prior; instead of a loop down into Turnham Park, the race did a one mile out-and-back on Martin Luther King Dr., one that seemed to go on for FOREVER!  Soon, we were out of it, and we hit the mile 10 mark and then turned left onto Fort Dearborn Drive, headed back toward Downtown.

The mile 11 stretch was rough.  Luckily, this was where RnR put out all the stops and had speakers playing some fast paced dance-electro-pop music for us for the length of the road all the way until McCormick Place.  It was just before McCormick Place that we also got the legendary cold sponges that helped cool us down for the last two miles of the race.  By the time we got into the tunnel at McCormick Place, I was spent, and so were my legs - I began to develop a bad cramp that I ended up having to walk off til we reached the 12 mile mark, where luckily I was able to rest it while we cheered for runners for the next twenty minutes.

The Mile 12 stop was a lot of fun, but it was in the blazing heat, as it was on the offramp of US-41.  We stopped here to cheer for runners for awhile as we gradually began to bring in other members of Party Rockers, so we could run the last mile in together as a group.  So proud of seeing Leny get to the 12 mile mark, only weeks after having surgery -- the whole group of us took to the street and ran that last mile with such pride and happiness!  Yeah, we crossed the line in 3:09:50, but I didn't care... I crossed the line with a great group of friends! And I earned my coveted Gold Record Heavy Medal, for my tenth RnR event this year!

Earned, never given.

Met Andy Grammer afterward!
The coolest part?  After my requisite beer and photo op with friends (including meeting up with running buddy Hollie, who reached the Sun in Half Fanatics after checking off the state of Illinois, her 30th in 365 days; and my second cousin, Josanna, who ran the race), I stuck around for the Andy Grammer concert happening on the mainstage... and because Alex (who we had dinner with the night before) works as a vendor for RnR with Michelob... we got backstage meet-and-greet passes with the artist himself after the show!  It was pretty sweet.  I took advantage of my friend Kenny's nearby hotel room to take a much needed shower and then met up with a bunch of the Party Rocker crew for lunch and then went back to Ainsley's to get my stuff together for my flight back to NYC.  With a stop at a Boystown bar, of course.  NECESSARY.  Lol ;) Can't wait to party rock again in Virginia Beach in September!!!

Proud of Hollie... she reached the Sun at Chicago!

My cousin Josanna!
Victory Headstand!

Holy crap, I get to go backstage!

The lucky ones :)

Party Rockers all cleaned up at lunch!

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