As part of my whirlwind USA tour, I wanted to race the Fox Valley Half Marathon for 3 reasons:
1) Exposure – both for my sponsors and of the wider American sporting community (similar to my trip to St Neots sprint tri in England)
2) To make sure I ran and didn’t get fat eating all the amazing American food
3) It would make for a good story. Which it certainly did!
It began at 4am in a rental car with two Australian girls and no GPS. Leaving Chicago to head West, what should have been one hour’s drive took two. We got terribly lost somewhere in Illinois, almost crashed on the highway but somehow made it to Fox Valley, St Charles in one piece (with a beautiful sunrise along the way). I had missed the start of the race by 20 minutes, but was still allowed to cross the start line and my timing chip activated in real time (so no excuse for 1:57:47). This was never meant to be a competitive race for me and I have to say the first half of the race was the most fun I’ve ever had. Running through the ‘back-of -the-packers’, chatting with the amazingly friendly race marshals hollering at me to hurry up and enjoying the scenery. Fox Valley is an apt description for this quaint riverside town. I saw the American postboxes with their red handles and heard one of the runners say they dodged a raccoon! Considering 13 miles/21 kilometres was the furthest I’d run in about 8 weeks, I had a belly full of buttermilk fried chicken from the night before and had partied non stop since San Fran, the first half of the race is where the fun ended and the dreaded plod began. Luckily it was a fairly flat course up and back along the river and I was rolling the downhills better than ever, being ‘holiday weight’ rather than ‘race weight’. And so I chipped away, mile by mile, and in typical Zoe style, faked a smile and sprinted the last 100m across the line to ensure full spectator satisfaction. The finishers’ medal is a thing of beauty! And the recovery tent food options were next level, to the point of confrontation. Goose fat pudding, mac & cheese, strip steak and donuts thrown in your face immediately after finishing a half or full marathon. Hey, this is America after all!
I politely declined and waddled back to the car as we had to get back for a Bears game 😉 Thank you so much to Lucy for being my tour guide here in Chicago and helping with this adventure. Later, the shock of such a physical exertion on my fragile vacation body caused me to swell so much my new engagement ring didn’t fit. I’m not joking! And yes I am now sporting an engagement ring, which was kindly donated to me a few days ago, completely unexpected, in Boulder, Colorado. Boulder was first known to me as the land where triathlete legends were raised, but is now preferred as the town where my forever began. This blog will remain sport focused, but on this occasion- Hamish I love you so much and cannot wait to come home to my fiancé. Did I mention this has been a whirlwind tour?!?! Whilst Fox Valley Half was one of my poorest race performances time wise, I encourage everyone to not be scared, get out there and give it a go anyway. I’m very happy to successfully cross off reasons 1 and 3 from above, and will add a strong sense of humility to the boxes ticked.