Saturday, September 17, 2016

volition america chicago half marathon recap

Disclaimer: I received an entry for Volition America Chicago Half Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

You can read my shorter review over on

You may recall that back in June I had a weekend with two half marathons. It included Volition Busses Woods and RAM Racing North Shore Classic. Well, September brought me a similar weekend with RAM Racing Run Mag Mile Half Marathon and another Volition race - this time in Chicago.

I originally hadn't planned on the Busses Woods race, as it was about an hour from home and I didn't know the area well (and I had a half marathon that weekend already), but when BibRave needed a runner, I decided to step up. It would be a new challenge for me – two half marathons back to back in one weekend (as in one Saturday and one Sunday), but I figured if I could get through Dopey Challenge which included a half marathon and then a full marathon, I should be able to handle two half marathons. 

Anyway, my point is that since I decided to do Busse Woods, I wanted to also do Chicago so that I could participate in the Double Duty Challenge. This meant an extra medal. It was a little extra, but if you signed up for DDC, it registered you for either your choice of: half at both Busse Woods and Chicago, a 5k at both locations, or a combo of a half and 5k. There was also a PR Challenge – sign up for this, tell them your PR, and if you beat it, then you get another medal.

Chicago's race was held on Sunday, September 11. It seemed a very fitting day for this race, as it's very patriotic, and it benefits Folds of Honor. Read more here, but the short of it is that it is in organization that that honors the sacrifice of our fallen and disabled service members by supporting their legacy with educational scholarships. Great cause, and I was honored to run this specific race on that specific day and in a way, honor those that sacrificed their lives that tragic day.

Packet pickup for Volition Chicago was held on Friday at Road Runner Sports in Chicago from 3–7, Saturday at Road Runner Sports Wilmette 10a–2p, and then on race day morning at the race site (I want to say from maybe 5 or 5:30–6? but not sure).

I went in on Friday with my mom, as we did pickup for Run Mag Mile that day too, and the running stores are just a little over a mile apart. For me, pickup was easy. My mom had some issues, as her name wasn't on the list. We can't quite figure out if it had something to do with registering for Double Duty Challenge as a half and 5k or water. Thankfully, the volunteers working were very helpful and friendly in creating a bib for her and getting her her shirt and bag. I really appreciated how quickly they resolved the problem. My mom had her registration confirmation email too, so it was easy to let them know what day she had registered and what. 

Goody bags included a blue drawstring backpack with the Volition America logo and a zippered front pocket, a tech-shirt, your bib, and safety pins. We were probably in and out within 15 minutes. I also tried on my shirt there to check that it fit well and that I didn't need to exchange. It fit well so I kept it.

The race site was at Arvey Field, a well-known location for mom and I for races. We parked over at Soldier Field and walked over (maybe a 10 minute walk). The half marathon start was at 7 and the 5k at 7:15. We got there around 6:30 and headed to the portapotties. There were 2 lines for 12 toilets, and though they seemed long, they moved pretty quickly (bonus points: they had had washing stations with soap and water). From there I texted Mark, he had just left that area, came back quick to have a chat and wish each other luck, and then he was off to toe the line.

Around 6:55 we went over to the start line. Towards the back it was hard to hear anything from the RD or announcers, but eventually the National Anthem was played, mom and I wished each other luck, I went to the back of the line of runners, and we were off.

The course took us around Arvey Field on the sidewalk (which that first stretch gets a bit crowded, but once you turn the corner it widens a bit and people spread out), and then underneath the tunnel towards the lakefront path. The half marathoners went south around the aquarium, past Soldier Field, and down to about the 7.25 mile where the turn around was. Some points had the runners split so not all runners going out and back were on the same path, but I think mostly we were. It was nice though, because I could see Mark coming, take some photos of him running, and we high-fived / encouraged one another as we passed. There was also someone that yelled BibRave at me and I think my response was yeaaaaah! haha.

Things were going pretty well for me. I was holding a pretty quick pace using 45/30 run/walk intervals. The day before I had had GPS problems with my watch, and this day I had user problems... I somehow didn't start it at the start, and when I looked down about .25 miles in it was still on the start screen, so I was annoyed about that. Generally I could still figure out my pace since it wasn't too far off, but I was so excited to know exactly how I had been doing since the day before was so off haha. Oh well.

Mile 2 on the course was very special. It was the Blue Mile. Members of Wear Blue: Run to Remember were out there. They lined the course with photos of service members who had lost their lives during their service. All of these people were of some relation to someone out running the course – family member, friend, loved one. It was very moving. Then after the photos, the course was lined with men, women, and kids holding American flags and cheering on the runners. Inspiring.

After the turnaround, approximately 7.5 or 8 miles in, I started having shooting pains in my ankle/achilles area of my left foot. It was a sharp pain that was practically debilitating. I'm honestly shocked I was able to stay on my feet when it decided to hit while running. I started to walk a bit more to try and work it out, and when it felt better I'd get into a slower run, felt good, so went normal. Then it would come back. Ouch. I stopped a few times to massage and stretch, and eventually after about 2 miles it went away.

With less than a month before the marathon, I started freaking out internally a bit. Thoughts of tearing ligaments or tendons popped into my head and I was like this race is not worth sacrificing all the hard work I've put into my marathon training. If the pain didn't go away, I'd just walk the remainder, or stop if it was bad enough. Thankfully, my active imagination didn't become reality. At race start it was in the 60s, a nice breeze, so seemed like a great morning, but for me by mile 9 it was creeping into the upper 70s and with all sun – I was getting hot. There were about 8 aid stations on course that had both water and Gatorade. Even towards the back of the pack they were well stocked with product and cheering volunteers. Always appreciated. Sometimes, being on the slower end, some races run out of water or Gatorade, and you are left with nothing, so it's always great when races are prepared for even the slower folks.

No problem following this sign :P

I had been texting my mom occasionally throughout the race and she told me my friend was looking for me. I was a little perplexed. I knew she was talking about Mark, but I was like looking for me at the finish? I still have 3.5 miles to go haha, but then I thought maybe it meant he was out on the path, so kept my eyes peeled. Sure enough around mile 10, he caught up to me and then ran the rest of the race with me. What a friend. Honestly, that act of kindness, camaraderie, and friendship really meant a lot to me. It also helped to keep me motivated. It was a nice distraction to have someone to chat with, too. 

Once the half marathoners got back around the aquarium going north, they went on the lower path near the lake to the end of that portion (that was mile 12 marker), then turned around going south again, down the hill, west back under the tunnel, up a small incline, and a sharp right turn to the finish line.

Mom had seen us before hitting the lower path by the lake and then joined us back towards the finish. After the tunnel they went to cheer me on at the finish line while I ran the last .1 miles.

Wish I had known my face was in shadow. Oops.

With Lacie - she's awesome and did a great job!

All of the miles were marked with mile marker flags, and maybe four of them had clocks. At the finish line the announcer called out your name and everyone in the area cheered. I was finishing with an older gentleman who was so sweet, and I told him 'let's finish this strong' and he told me to finish ahead of him haha. I told him I didn't mind finishing together if he wanted. What a cutie.

2 more medals to add to the collection.

You received your medal and a bottle of water, oranges, bananas, and pretzels. There was a Volition backdrop with a photographer. Mark and I also ran into the guy who had yelled BibRave (and to Mark he yelled 'Daddy' haha) - turned out it was my twitter pal Nick! We took a photo, chatted, said our goodbyes to Nick, took some photos with Mark and I, I took a photo with the backdrop, and then we went to the after party area.

The after party had a DJ, some samples of Naked along with free shoelaces, sunglasses, and stickers, the Info tent where you went to get your Double Duty Challenge medal, Wear Blue, and a few others. I grabbed some Naked samples that were delightful and then went for my DDC medal. My mom, having issues with packet pickup and her name not in the system, also had trouble getting her medal. Since her name wasn't on the list, they took her info down and planned on mailing out her medal. I had met the Executive Director Friday (such a sweet woman), who found me after the race to see how everything went. I thought it was a great event, and told her so (as did Mark), but mentioned my mom not being able to get her medal. She took care of it right away and so my mom took her name off the list so they didn't send her a duplicate. I thought that was an awesome touch.

Finish line photo courtesy of Mark.

This was a great event, well-organized, great medals, great support, and a great cause. I highly recommend this race series and I'll be keeping my eyes open for 2017 dates.

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