Friday, June 9, 2017

north shore classic half marathon recap

Disclaimer: I received entry for North Shore Classic 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!

With good friend and BibRave Pro Frank.

This was my second year taking on the North Shore Classic Half Marathon. I enjoyed it the first year and wanted to run again in 2017. 

RAM Racing often has multiple days and locations for their races, and North Shore Classic was no exception. You can read more about the pre-race logistics in this post or this post. Here is my shorter BibRave review, as you probably know by now that I write lengthy posts haha.

The drive to Highland Park was easy, as it was so early in the morning – there wasn't a ton of traffic out. We arrived at the parking garage around 6:40am. Parking was free and plentiful. I parked at a garage about a block away, but there were closer lots available, I just figured they would be more crowded/full by the time we got there and went with where I parked last year to make it easy. 

In the corral ready to go.

The 5k start time was 7am and 7:30am for the half marathon. We got our gear ready and then went to meet up with my good friend and fellow BibRave Pro Frank. He was nice enough to grab our packets for us (I was able to make it, however, didn't really want to drive two hours for it and he was cool with it). 

Frank was at our meeting place and we chatted with him and our friend Nick for a bit before running back to the car to drop off our packets. When we got back, an online friend Maddie was chatting with Frank, and it was so great to meet her in person! We had been running all of the same races recently, but she's MUCH faster than me, and so finished most races/left before I finished and has to get in her corral earlier than I ever do. It was nice to have so many friends there to chat with pre-race.

I love meeting IG friends in real life! Becka, Maddie, Frank, Nick, me.

It was already pretty warm, though a bit cloudy before the start. It was the humidity really that had me sweating just standing around. Unfortunately, the sun would come out during the race and things were really going to heat up.

There were a good amount of porta-potties, but long lines. I waited until the half started and when lines were basically non-existent I hopped in quick. I was in the last corral, G, and we started at 7:43.

The course seemed a bit more narrow this year, as I don't remember so many streets at the start being open, so there were cones set up to keep you on the right. Didn't matter much, just something I noticed. It was still a wide enough course, most of the time, that congestion wasn't much of an issue. 

The course was well marked and each mile was marked with a flag and a clock. Plenty of cones and signs to make sure you were on the right path. Also, plenty of volunteers and police officers out keeping us safe in the streets at intersections. Not a ton of crowd support, but there were some lovely folks out cheering and some amazing community members that put our their sprinklers/hoses to help cool off the runners. During the span of our run, temps had gone up about 10–15 degrees, and of course the sun decided to make an appearance half way through, and then never go away.

The street had motivational signs on the trees.

The course is a bit hilly, with my Garmin saying elevation gain of about 500 feet give or take. The biggest hill comes right before mile 7, which is steep and long. There's a fantastic downhill right before it, about the same as what you go back up. So it was like, enjoy this downhill running towards Lake Michigan, because it's about to get REAL hard. haha.

This dang hill! They never look so bad in photos...

Right after the big hill though, is an aid station. To me the best one out there – lots of volunteers and they had Munchkins! It might have been hot out, but I took one anyway. I also met someone that was volunteering that recognized me! How fun - she was like 'Heather Runs - I follow you on instagram' haha - loved it. It gave me some extra energy when I was starting to get tired.

Speaking of aid stations – Nuun and water at each one. I don't remember how many there were, but I feel like a good amount and well-stocked with each liquid and peppy volunteers.

Lots of signs around the neighborhood alerting them of the event.

There were also lots of CES pacers out there helping runners keep pace. I was between the 13 and 14 for a while, but the poor 13 pacer was struggling in the heat (as most of us were) so we ended up passing her. The 14 was on pace for most of the race until maybe mile 10? I had seen her a lot while we passed each other, but then I got ahead and didn't see her again... though I know I was not keeping 14 pace at that point. 

I ran with my mom since it was going to be so hot out and she gets nervous running a course she isn't familiar with. We were both struggling by mile 8. The sun had come out, it was in the 80s, high humidity, and not being acclimated at all made it really tough. 

Around mile 9, a volunteer was telling us that the next part was mostly and out and back of 3 miles, and that if we wanted, we could skip it and go straight rather than turn to hit mile 12 and get to the finish sooner due to the heat. Anyone who chose this would still get their medal. I also found out later that they were allowing half marathoners to switch to the 5k the morning of if they wanted.

Tough times.

As tempted as I was to cut the course as was suggested, I knew I would feel bad if I didn't go the distance, so we headed on towards mile 9–12. I regretted it almost immediately. This part of the course had almost no shade at all. My mom was struggling hard, and even though I tried to get her to cut the course, she said no, but right after 9, she hit a wall hard. I told her to turn around and head to the finish, but she decided to stop under one of the few trees and wait for me to meet back up with her. 

I headed forward, saw Nick and we high fived and complained about the heat. I then saw Frank and stopped for a quick photo with him, both of us saying how hard we were struggling in the weather. He also admitted later that maybe he didn't love hot weather running as much as he used to. It was always a fun, playful point of contention with us, as he loved summer running and I preferred winter.

When you're struggling hard, and when a bit of the course is an out and back and you
run by your friend, you stop for a photo and some encouraging words (and complaining haha).

So for about a mile you go straight down a road, then you hit Fort Sheridan and go in a circle around the neighborhood before heading back out. I had tried to run during this portion, but ended up walking most of it. Around mile 10.5 volunteers were handing out towels and bottled water. I grabbed both and proceeded to dump water on the towel and buy head, arms, and legs. It helped cool me off for a minute or two, and I was grateful for a brief relief.

Some IG stories during a tough race haha.

Mom was waiting near the mile 11 marker and we headed on. I guess a lot of people checked on her to make sure she was ok, which I appreciated. She said she wanted to wait for me rather than go back on her own so that her finish time would still be close to what it would be if she had done the whole distance. She thought that was more fair. I told her it didn't really matter, there weren't age group awards or anything, and I doubt that the results were official then since they were allowing the cut. Turns out it didn't matter much since she was the only one in her age group anyway. I was proud of her for listening to her body – she's on the older side, so I'm glad she stopped and took a breather rather than pushed on. I reminded her it's better to take a breath and rest than to push on and leave in an ambulance, like a few others had done. I go by the motto 'Live to run another day'. No race, in my opinion, is worth pushing so hard you go to the hospital for it. I'll never be fast enough that I'm winning anything, so for me it's about running smart and safe. I know my limitations in the heat. I get heat sick all the time, so I know when I need to back off. Not everyone struggles as much in the heat, and that's great for them. Remember to always listen to your body – not try and do what everyone else is doing. Anyway haha...

Post-race photos. Sweat and sun in the eyes leads to a squinty photo. Sorry Frank!

Slowly, we hit mile 12 and then 13. We weren't doing intervals anymore, but once in a while would run to an end point (run to that sign, run to that street) or run down hills. There was a sprinkler around 12 and I just wanted to stand under it for a while. Before mile 13 Frank was walking back to meet us and we chatted a bit, then we were at 13 and we ran, albeit slowly, into the finish. The announcer said our names and we grabbed our medals and bottled water. They also had ice cold wet towels for us. That felt amazing.

Oh, when we finished, there were some other runners there cheering, and one girl congratulated us and asked if we were mother daughter. I said yes and she was like that is so awesome :) Runners are so nice.

We made it! Still upright after a tough race. Great job friends!

We also grabbed our bag of treats which was: a banana, Rice Kripsy treat mini, mini pretzels, a Clif bar, and Soy chocolate milk. After this station were fans and misters. I could have stood there all day, but we went to take our photo with the RAM Racing backdrop. Frank and I chatted a while more, but then had to say our goodbyes. 

Though race weather was far from ideal, I think RAM handled the situation well. They did their best to get runners to the finish if they wanted to take a short cut, there were bicycle aids out monitoring, volunteers checking on everyone, and added extra water and towels around that 10.5 mark. Plus those icy towels at the finish and the misters. I did hear a few had to go to the hospital for dehydration, but I feel like medics were quick to respond and grateful for all of the people out there that day trying to keep us safe – whether it was volunteers, police officers, EMTs, firefighters – every person out there was great. Thank you!

I do enjoy the race and the swag was fun – you don't see tank tops often, and I like the color and the feel of the material. The medal was pretty hefty and cool, too. I plan on coming back again next year. 


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