Wednesday, August 15, 2007

i completed my second half marathon

Ordinarily this follow-up would have been posted by Monday, but our family experienced some unforeseen events, which prevented me from immediately sitting down to write about race day. Around 1 a.m. post-race my mom started getting "intensely dizzy" (in her words) and by last night was admitted to NW Community Hospital, where she stayed for the past 20 hours. The good news is all her tests were negative. The doctors think some crystals got dislodged from her inner ear (who knew we had crystals in our ears??) during the half marathon causing some kind of vertigo (i forgot the the technical/medical term). She's still a little dizzy but in good spirits.

So here is my half marathon overview.

I set my alarm for 3:45 Sunday morning, noting before I went to bed that if I fell asleep immediately, I'd get four hours of sleep. Well, that's better than no sleep, I thought, as my head hit the pillow. Around 3:00 I woke up to what sounded like the house about to be blown over. I remember lifting my head off the pillow, staring at the headboard in the dark and mumbling, "There's no way I'm running in this" as rain whipped against the siding. Next thing I knew my room was suddenly lit up and my mom cheerily announced, "It's 3:30, Alyse--time to get up!" Oh, shoot me in the face. There is no way I'm doing this. I refused to get up and squeezed my eyes against the intruding light, intent on getting back into my dream of a stormy castle on a hill (reading Harry Potter before bed every night has great effects on my dreams).

By the time we left the house, the storm had ceased, but the intense humidity lingered. My dad drove us (mom, mom's friend--Cheryl, Sheri, and me) in the minivan to SuperSibs! headquarters in Rolling Meadows to meet the rest of our suburban teammates by 4:30 a.m. My sister and I remained planted in the back seat, groaning about how tired we were, while my mom and Cheryl went inside to check in and use the bathroom. They came back and handed us temporary tattoos of the SuperSibs! logo and wet paper towels to apply them to wherever we felt like putting them. I decided to go all out, and as we began our caravan down to the city, I put one on my thigh, one on my arm and one on my cheek. Represent.

(Note to my Shorashim crew: en route to the city we passed a school bus that said something Israel on the side as well as something in Hebrew...i got so excited and immediately started singing "Shlomie you can drive my bus" etc. etc. etc.)

When we got downtown, Melanie (founder of SuperSibs!), who was driving in front of us started excitedly pointing out her window for us to follow her past the parking garage entrance. There, to the left, was SUPERSIBS spelled out in lighted office windows of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Building. Not only did we acquire 4x as many team members as last year (our first year), but one of the new members included Commissioner Raymond Orozco of the Chicago Fire Department! Thanks to his help, we got this incredible exposure as part of the city skyline!

Another new and great thing--we had a team tent this year, donated by Peacock Construction. This served as our 6 a.m. meeting place for our team photo, of which Before getting there, though, I insisted on stopping at a port-a-pottie to pee out the bottle of water I had drunk on the drive down. We headed to the start line with the other 10,000+ runners and waited for the 6:30 a.m. "GO!" announcement. My sister and I, who had both gotten hungry last-minute, saw a Wheaties booth and each grabbed a mini box and started shoving cereal in our mouths to feed our hunger. Unlike last year, there weren't port-a-potties lining the start area, which was detrimental to me because I had anticipated on using one at least one, if not two, more time(s) before we took off (as i did last year). I attempted to run to them but only had 5 minutes, and when I saw the lines of people waiting to do the same, I headed back to where my mom and sister were standing and decided I'd relieve myself somewhere during the next 13.1 miles.

For the first two miles or so Sheri and I jogged side by side, showing our overtired-induced enthusiasm by punching the air in time with the music playing on our ipods (We both stayed up the night before constructing our own 10-hour playlists). At one point she turned to me and started singing, "turn around..." (from "Total Eclipse of the Heart"), and I responded by screeching because at that same moment, I had begun singing, "Don't turn around..." (Ace of Base classic). I found this rather amusing.
Around 2.5 miles, Sheri pulled ahead as I slowed down to power walk for awhile, not wanting to use up all my energy in the first 30 minutes of the race. For awhile, I kept her in sight, but eventually I knew I'd never be able to catch up to her and resorted to fully concentrating on my music and the fact that I wouldn't have anyone to talk to for the next 2.5 hours.

Mile 4 was right around when the course curved back onto Michigan Ave. and so there was a good crowd of people milling around to watch the action. As I approached all these people, "You Sexy Thing" started playing in my ear, and I laughed to myself at the irony. "I am so the opposite of sexy right now," I thought. "This is hilarious." A few steps later my dad jumped out at me from the sidelines and yelled, "Lyse! I love you!" as he held my sister's camera to his eye and took an action shot of me running. This only made me laugh harder.
Around mile 6, though, I started to hate my current situation...I was extremely sweaty, sick of pushing myself to run when I knew I couldn't, and missing the company of my sister...or anyone for that matter (last year I pretty much completed the entire race with two other members of our team...this year i flew solo). I thought the music would be enough to keep me motivated, but all my chosen songs made me want to do was dance. Not run. I couldn't even visualize the finish line and had serious thoughts about giving up at the halfway mark, even though I knew that wasn't an option.

Close to the mile 8 marker the path looped around from going south down Lake Shore Drive to a path going north, closer to the water. I recognized my sister heading north while I was heading south and yelled, "Sister!" while frantically waving my arms. She saw me too and happily waved back. She yelled that her ipod had froze after mile 2 and yelled back, "This isn't fun without you!" But seeing her and knowing I only had five miles remaining re-energized me and I started to enjoy my surroundings again as I rounded the corner to head north myself...bypassing the port-a-potty I could have used.
Ended up seeing my mom as I was down there and she was up where I had been previously yelling to Sheri. Unlike Sheri, though, she didn't notice me (even though I was screaming, "MOM!", waving my arms like a madman and running up the grassy hill in her direction) until someone next to her pointed. She looked like she was having a good time.

Just past mile 10 I stared in disbelief at the large amount of orange sponges littering the ground. How did I miss those?? Last year that was the best thing--someone handing out sponges soaked in very cold water, which I kept in my sports bra the remaining three miles. Instead of concentrating on how hot it was and how I missed out on my one chance of relief, I focused my attention on Lake Michigan and the great Chicago skyline in the distance. "This truly is a beautiful city," I thought with genuine appreciation.

At mile 12, with just over a mile left, I was greeted by our neighbors--the Nizynskis--including Shelley, who I've been friends with for over 20 years. She ran to meet me, as I struggled to power-walk the remainder of the race, holding a huge fuschia posterboard that said, "GO ALYSE BONNIE AND SHERI!" complete with a pasted-on caricature of me running. As I ran past her parents, Pat and George, her dad took my picture. Then Shelley's boyfriend, Brent, ran after us and I had one of them on either side of me literally pushing my back to propel me forward, encouraging me to finish the last mile as fast as I could. I thanked them and said to go back to their post so they didn't miss cheering on my mom, who I knew was several minutes behind me.
That last mile sucked. It seemed so much longer than a mile and was a huge tease because you see the finish line but then have to do this like half-mile zig zag to get there. I mostly power-walked, intent on saving whatever adrenaline rush I could muster to sprint to the finish line. As I rounded the final corner, Stevie and Lexie (two of my sister's best friends) stood behind the fence cheering loudly for me, waving flowers in the air. I told them I felt like I was going to die and frantically skipped songs on my playlist to find one worthy enough to listen to as I finished...I found it. "I Feel Good Again" by Pete Yorn.
The finish line appeared to be another half mile away (in actuality it was only 1/10 mile away), so I wouldn't let myself sprint yet because I feared I'd lose steam before I actually crossed it. My dad appeared again, proudly shouting for me to face him for a picture. Then, "Oops! I missed your head! Let me take another one--turn around!" So I turned around and threw my hands in the air in a champion pose as I jokingly jogged backwards. "Got it!" And I continued towards the elusive finish line. With about 100 yards left, I saw one man that I could potentially beat, and that was enough to motivate me into sprint mode. As I crossed over, the announcer guy said, "And she finishes strong at the last second--that's the way to do it!" I expected someone to throw a freezing wet towel around my shoulders, again--like last year, but no such luxury this time around. After someone put a medal around my neck and a different person cut the chip off my shoe, I limped over to the giant fans blowing water into the air and stood there for a few seconds loving the wet breeze. I saw some people with wet towels and found out I could get one at the medic tent. So I headed there, where the medic accusingly asked me, "Didn't someone give you one when you crossed the finish line?" "Um, no. That's why I'm here." And he begrudgingly handed one over. Thanks dude. Didn't see you just complete 13.1 miles.

I slowly made my way over to where my dad, sister, Stevie and Lexie were standing waiting to cheer for my mom. Stevie and Lexie handed me a bouquet of carnations. Not only had they brought flowers for Sheri but for me and my mom too. So thoughtful. I laid on the ground with the wet towel around my head staring at the sky until I heard them yell that my mom was rounding the bend. We all stood up and started cheering, and when my mom saw us, she pumped her arms in the air and yelled, "ROCKY'S ON!" (she loves listening to the "Rocky" theme song when she runs) and we all laughed. My dad stood there displaying his wingspan-long handmade banner, which he's held at the finish of every race she's run, since she started running a year ago. W+2G+O, 1-[graphic of a set of lungs, of which he crossed out the right one with a black Sharpie...see photo].

(For those of you who don't know, my mom had her right lung removed five years ago after she was diagnosed with a carcinoid tumor...and a year ago March she decided to take up running, and has been a running machine ever since.)
She finished in 3:22, improving last year's time by 15 minutes!! I finished in 3:04, a 10-minute improvement, and Sheri, who had never run a race before, finished in 2:53. The final picture is of the three of us back at the SuperSibs! tent to celebrate our great finish. My mom changed into a shirt that said, " 13.1 miles and still smiling."

I've been unbelievably sore since I finished the race Sunday morning, but as I said last year, at least it's a relentless reminder of a worthwhile accomplishment.

Special thanks to:
Dad, for driving, taking pictures, cheering loudly in two locations
Shelley (& co.), for the awesome sign and encouraging words as you ran alongside me in sandals
Stevie and Lexie, for being a pair of extra little sisters and for the flowers
Having you all ^ ^ ^ ^ there (smiling, despite the early hours!) was definitely key in my success (my mom and sister agree).
Your cheers of encouragement kept me smiling and made the experience way more enjoyable than it would have been without your presence

and to Amy, for letting me borrow your earphones the night before when I realized that the foam things on mine were destroyed

And of course, thank you to everyone who donated and helped me surpass my fundraising goal (check your mailboxes--your real ones--soon).
Our team raised $43,000+ this year!!!!, which will allow SuperSibs! to provide full services for over 500 children whose brothers and sisters have cancer. I encourage you to learn more about this wonderful and much-needed organization by visiting their website at

As I mentioned, I attached a few photos. If you'd like to see the complete album, follow this link: CDC '07
If you'd like to see last year's pictures (because last year i brought a camera with me [whereas this year i didn't]), so you can see shots of the actual course, follow this link: CDC '06

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