2012 Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon Recap

I did it! After many weeks of training, early wake-up calls, and injuries, my first ever half marathon is down in the books and I have the medal to prove it. I’ll admit that there were many times where my goal to run the half marathon seemed unrealistic and unfeasible. Never would I have imagined that my body was capable of running 13.1 miles and dare I say…enjoying it?!? I’ll provide my thoughts on my running future a bit later, but for now let’s back up to Saturday.

Saturday morning I packed up all my gear and drove down to my sister’s apartment in the city.

{My gear: purple running tank, black running skirt, Armour Bra, CEP Compression socks, heart rate monitor, Garmin, RoadID, shiny purple headband, bobby pins, Sharkies, salt sticks, 3 Clif Gel Shots, Toe Caps, flower hair tie, FuelBelt, pain reliever, TUMS, bandaid, coconut water, Body Glide, sunblock}

On Saturday afternoon I had the opportunity to attend my first ever running Expo! I was pretty pumped and got my sister excited as well, so we set out together to McCormick place in the afternoon. I expected to spend at least 2 hours at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Expo, so the sis and I decided to pay the $21 to park in the garage.

After navigating through the huge building, Sasha and I finally found our way to the Expo. There were no lines for packet and shirt pick-up which was unexpected but great.

The Expo wasn’t too busy and I honestly expected it to be “cooler” although I guess I’m not really sure what would have made it cooler. It’s complicated, I know. I did love all of the free samples though! Lots of energy shots, GUs, and electrolyte drinks were sampled out and I even scored coconut water and mini LaraBars.

I did make one awesome purchase that made the entire Expo worthwhile:

An AMAZING iFitness running pouch!

After analyzing the water stops and realizing they were ~1.5 miles apart, I made the executive decision to not wear my FuelBelt. I still needed a way to hold my phone, gels, and other randoms, so upon seeing the iFitness double-pouch belt, knew it was practical for me. Everything fit! I had no problem carrying my phone, credit card, cash, 3 gels, energy chews, TUMS, salt pills, and even chapstick in the two pouches.

In the end we only ended up wandering around the Expo for only an hour or so, which made the $21 parking fee totally not worth it.

It was a lot of fun dumping out all of the contents of the swag bag and digging through the goodies I acquired:

Some items included: coconut water, LaraBars, arm pouch, blackberry GU, tuna (?!?), potato chips, a car sticker, and a Sports Authority coupon.

Come nighttime I laid out everything for the following morning…

…and then Sasha and I ended our night with a delicious protein + carb filled dinner and a side of Kardashians.

(salmon, brown rice + seaweed, curried red cabbage)

I chugged down multiple glasses of Valerian root tea and expected to sleep like a baby, but oh wow was I wrong. I tossed and turned and was lucky to get only 2 hours of sleep. It was a stressful, tortuous, and anxiety-filled night and I even had some minor heart pains (runs in the family). My alarm awoke me at 4am on that following Sunday, July 22nd and I was happy to see that my body did not feel sleep-deprived and dead. I made coffee, ate my favorite pre-run breakfast consisting of an Alvarado Street Bakery sprouted cinnamon raisin bagel with sunflower seed butter and banana slices, and foam rolled/stretched.

Afterwards I sunblocked up, got dressed, and headed out the door to catch a cab because I was too lazy to take the bus.

Confession time: I broke the cardinal rule of running TWICE and wore something that was new and untested during the run. First, I wore the iFitness running pouch, which fit like a glove and didn’t bother me at all. Second, I bought Toe Caps and decided to wear one on each of my small toes. HORRIBLE IDEA. I was totally misled by a salesperson in R.E.I to believe that these would protect me from blisters and black toenails. FALSE. The Toe Caps destroyed my toes and made the entire race painful and difficult. My fault my fault…I know…lesson learned.

(I do not recommend these for people who have toes that are close together. I’m sure they work wonders for some people but are obviously not suited for all.)

Anyway, I arrived to the race near 6am. I hoped to stop by the Chicago blogger meet-up but didn’t make it. My mission at the time was to find water, and I ended up wandering around for a while before finding a booth that provided me with a water bottle. So annoying – my suggestion to the organizers would be to have water stations! After chugging down some water and taking a TUMS pill (to prevent heartburn), I ran into an old college friend!

The reunion boosted my mood and calmed my nerves before the race.

I entered corral 18/19 around 6:20 and made it across the Start line around 6:45am. Much props to the organizers for getting all of the corrals started quickly and efficiently!

The run started smoothly. I did not feel blocked-in or claustrophobic and there was plenty of room to weave around and pass runners. Of course my Garmin lost reception the moment we ran under the bridges and my pace remained messed up the entirety of the run. I decided to run by my heart rate which actually led me to run slightly slower than usual. I never gave myself a hard time about my pace though…the ultimate goal was to finish (and enjoy the race of course).

One of my greatest concerns was the high temperature, but shades from tall buildings combined with a partially-cloudy day and many water stops made the run tolerable. I took water at every station, ran through water sprinklers when available, and put ice in my sports bra when possible (thanks Maggie for this suggestion!). It worked out well.

So how did I physically feel? Well, my heart rate was higher than usual and I slowed down as needed (and even walked twice) to lower it, but the main problem came from the Toe Caps. Both of my feet started hurting 1 mile into the run and progressively got worse with each step. Awful! My knees, especially my left one, troubled me as well, as did my ankles. I had to stop and stretch multiple times to alleviate some of the nagging aches.

The course itself was great. I loved running through the streets of downtown Chicago. I ran without music and tried to savor all the sights. I did expect there to be more music/entertainment along the course but it wasn’t something that bothered me too much.

Fueling: although I packed 3 gel shots, I ended up eating only the chocolate and citrus shots (LOVE the chocolate one – it takes like pudding!!!). I also munched on some watermelon Sharkies at one point and consumed 2 salt pills (I dropped the 3rd one at mile 11!).

(chocolate consumed at mile 4.5 and citrus at mile 9)

The first few miles flew by and it took me at least 3 miles to get in the “groove” of things. The lens from my sunglasses fell out around mile 3 and I threw them out. Luckily it was cloudy for the majority of the run!

The best part came at mile 7 when I got to see my mom and sister!! It was such a great energy booster and made me a very happy runner. Unfortunately, my dad couldn’t find parking due to the street closures and ended up driving around the entire time. We were all upset and I was bummed that I didn’t get to see him during the run. Regardless, my family is amazing for driving down in the early hours of Sunday morning just to cheer me on during the race ♥♥♥

As expected, the final three miles were the toughest. There was a moment at the 10 mile mark when I was like “Damn I just ran 10 miles” – it kind of blew my mind. Right around that time the sun decided to come out and grace us with its presence. Much of the final 3 miles was slightly uphill and by this time I felt very dehydrated. My heart rate shot up to 184 at one point and I forced myself to walk for a bit to lower it.

I’ll never forget the final quarter mile. The crowds were screaming and the Finish line was in sight. I sprinted (didn’t even hear my mom and sister screaming to me!) and crossed with my arms in the air (unfortunately un-pictured). Glorious!

I went straight for the water and chugged down an entire water bottle in seconds.

And then I got the grand prize:


My final time was a slow 2:37:16 but I was still proud!

Final Time2:37:16 (12:00 min/mile pace)
Overall Place: 10672/14990
Division: 1036/1447
Gender Division: 5822/9051

My mom and sister quickly came and congratulated me with two adorable balloons!

My final thoughts are these: I realized that I really enjoy the half marathon distance. I get in the zone around mile 7 and start feeling challenged around mile 11. I enjoy the long distance and am already looking forward to running more half marathons! Running fever is goin’ strong and this is just the beginning…

Future running plans: For now I plan to take 2 weeks off of running to allow my legs and toes to heal in peace. In fact, I suspect there won’t be too much running in my life in the next 5 weeks because of my mid-August 2 week trip to Russia, but in the meantime I plan to work on my strength and speed (not necessarily distance). I’m looking forward to giving my body the well-deserved rest it needs, and I definitely won’t miss the 5am running wake-up calls!

Did you love your first ever race experience? Did you get post-race running fever?

Are you guilty of the rookie runner’s mistake of trying something new on race day?

♥ Irina


  1. July 24, 2012 / 6:45 am

    Congrats!!! This was my first race 2 years ago… I really enjoyed the course.

    You did such a good job- especially since I heard the conditions were so awful!

    • July 25, 2012 / 8:47 pm

      Thanks Amy! I thought it was a great first race to run. The overall atmosphere was great and running through the streets of Chicago was amazing! I’m already looking forward to my next half marathon 🙂

  2. July 24, 2012 / 9:32 am

    Awwww, Irinia, congrats again. You worked your butt off and did awesome! Forget about “slow”, you finished with the pace that worked for your body, no quantifier needed. It’s making me really excited about training for my own half marathon…if I can survive this 15k first!

    • July 25, 2012 / 8:45 pm

      Thanks Faith!! I refuse to be tough on myself for my “slow” time because the goal was to finish and survive. Having that mentality made training and running a lot more enjoyable. And YES get excited for your half marathon (I didn’t know you were planning on running one…YAY!) because it’s an amazing experience!

  3. July 24, 2012 / 9:49 am

    Wow congratulations! That is amazing!! 🙂 Now that’s an accomplishment to be super proud of, great great job darling!

    • July 25, 2012 / 8:43 pm

      Thank you!! Your turn 🙂 I suspect I’m going to preach to everyone now about running a half marathon because I liked it so much haha

  4. July 24, 2012 / 9:54 am

    Congrats! You did an awesome job, you should be SO proud! those toe things look like little torture devices – who invented those??

    • July 25, 2012 / 8:42 pm

      Thanks! They WERE torture devices! Torture devices that tested my will-power and tolerance to pain (which is NON-EXISTANT).

  5. July 24, 2012 / 9:55 am

    You have to try the ClifShot Mocha with caffeine. It’s my favorite because it tastes like chocolate icing!

    Congratulations on powering through!

    • July 25, 2012 / 8:41 pm

      Thanks! I actually sampled the Mocha at the Expo and loved it! I bought 2 packets a few weeks ago and haven’t actually tried running with them (the higher caffeine content kind of scared me) but I plan on trying them on my next long run.

  6. July 24, 2012 / 10:07 am

    Congratulations!!! Sounds like you had a really great first half marathon! That’s no easy feat. There are so many rookie mistakes to me made! Many of which I made at my first – wore new shorts for the first time (and had never even heard of Body Glide), started out too fast, didn’t train properly, didn’t hydrate enough, etc. It was kind of a miserable experience.

    If you get blisters on your toes, have you tried Injinji toe socks? They are pretty much the only socks I run in. They are a little pricey but I love them!! I pair them with Zensah calf sleeves so I can still get compression.

    • July 24, 2012 / 10:09 am

      Oh, also, this was my 6th half marathon and I think the FIRST time I had a semi-decent night’s sleep before the race. Normally I am tossing and turning all night. This time I only tossed and turned part of the night.

      • July 25, 2012 / 8:38 pm

        Thank you! I still can’t believe I was able to run 13.1 miles. The human body is truly so flexible and durable. Wow.

        I’ve heard of the Injinji socks but haven’t seen them in stores. Aaaand I just Googled them and WANT THEM RIGHT NOW! I didn’t realize they were toe socks…brilliant! My toes are very close together so these may be the only solution to my blister problem. I’m 100% buying them this weekend. Thanks so much for “enlightening” me 🙂

  7. July 24, 2012 / 5:28 pm

    HUGE CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! GREAT JOB!!!! It was not an easy day to be out there running your first half marathon, and you didn’t just do it… YOU NAILED IT!!!

    You look so stylish – love the lavendar top and purple headband. And wasn’t it so much fun to come home and look through all the freebies from the expo?!?!?

    Sorry to hear about the sunglasses and the toe protectors, that is the worst! But yay for an extended period of rest and healing coming up, as well as a trip to Russia! You must be so excited!!!

    And I totally hear you about how scary it is mentally when you’re at mile 10 and still have 3.1 miles left to go, to think that you’ve just run 10 miles! Usually that is the point at which I pull out my headphones and try to “La la la” myself into distraction mode! =D

    • July 25, 2012 / 8:34 pm

      Thanks thanks thanks!! I still smile whenever I think of running across that finish line. Amazing! Of course I had to plan a cute outfit to wear on race day…gotta look nice for the spectators and photos 😉

      I am SO excited for the upcoming weeks. I already miss running and may start again next week. Even though I won’t be able to run while in Russia, I CANNOT WAIT to go back there and visit all our friends and family. Much-needed.

  8. July 24, 2012 / 7:15 pm

    Awesome job and boy what a race. I can’t believe your sunglasses broke-blerg. Too bad about those toe thingys too. I bet they would be awesome under better circumstances!

    • July 25, 2012 / 8:27 pm

      Thanks! Of course I should have expected lots of little things to go wrong but luckily everything turned out good and I survived 🙂

  9. July 24, 2012 / 9:01 pm

    Congratulations! Great race! Those toe things sound horrible, I give you a ton of credit for running in them for 13 miles. I’m not sure I could have!

    I signed up for a trail race for my first half and didn’t train trails or hills. Race day was miserable. I had to walk a lot of hills and ended up losing a toenail after! I trained better and smarter for my next race and dropped 20 minutes off my time.

    Rest up, you deserve it!

    • July 25, 2012 / 8:26 pm

      Thanks!! I can’t believe your first race was on a trail! That’s like double the challenge…wow! I also hope to drop some minutes off of my next big race but I’m trying to avoid putting pressure on myself.

  10. July 24, 2012 / 9:37 pm

    I’m so proud of you! I can’t believe the toe-caps were that horrible. What a bummer! I’m glad you were able to make it through the race though. And at least your belt/pouch worked out well!
    I love your outfit, by the way. You look adorable!

    • July 25, 2012 / 8:23 pm

      Thank you!! Yea I was so upset that they didn’t work…they were pricey too! I’m sure they work wonders for some people (and maybe for shorter distances?) but not for me. And you better believe I spend some time figuring out what to wear on race day! After all…you have to look cute for all the photos and spectators 🙂

  11. July 24, 2012 / 10:39 pm

    Awww. Congrats on your first half! The first is always the best, I think.

    I ran my first half last September and I’ve since been bitten by the running bug. Enjoy your accomplishment! You’ve done something many people will never be able to do!

    Hooray for you!

    • July 25, 2012 / 8:21 pm

      Thank you! Sometimes I forget how important it is to remind myself to be grateful for my ability to run. As you said, many people will never be able to do it (for whatever reason) and I need to appreciate my body for allowing me to put it through all that mileage!

  12. September 9, 2012 / 10:33 am

    I’ve been reading your running recaps and it’s great to see how much you have pushed yourself! I try to go running outdoors for at least 40 minutes a session (not sure about how much distance I cover), but I really want to start doing 5k’s and eventually half marathons :D!

    • September 9, 2012 / 10:19 pm

      Aww thanks for checking out my race recaps! I still re-read them sometimes when I need a motivational boost to get out the door and run. You should definitely sign up for some races – it’s a great way to push yourself. You will learn so much about your body’s ability!

  13. September 20, 2012 / 5:42 pm

    I loved this recap. I just ran my first half on September 2nd in Disneyland. It was the most amazing race!!

    • September 20, 2012 / 7:34 pm

      Running a Disney race is a dream of mine! What a perfect first half marathon race to run…congrats on completing it!!!