A Tale of Two Races

Phew…what a weekend!  Have you ever had a weekend that was both relaxing and exhausting or fun and miserable?  Well, that was this weekend for me.  It all started with a nice 5 mile run on the treadmill and a trip to Joliet after work to get my hair done, which always makes me feel better.  That is until I got a text message from my husband saying that, thanks to a severe thunderstorm that rolled through, we were without power for the second time this summer.  Of course, it had to be one of the hotter days we’ve seen this summer.  Lucky for us, my in-laws live close by and were kind enough to offer us an air conditioned room for the night!   After checking the estimated restore time all night, I decided I would have to get up early to bring the pug to Camp Bow Wow (so she didn’t overheat) before heading out to have some fun at the Hell Run.  I was so relieved when I got a text from ComEd at 1am saying the power was expected to be restored by 4:30am…hooray, I get to sleep in on a Saturday for once!  I got home around 9am (yes, 8:30am is sleeping in for me these days) and had plenty of time to change into my team uniform, eat a little something and head out for the…

Hell Run (Hawthorne Race Course) = Fun!

As I was grabbing my bag to head out the door, I heard a clap of thunder.  Shoot.  I pulled up the radar hoping for a small cell and was happy to see that it was small and seemed to be moving quickly.  As soon as I hit the road, it started to sprinkle and by the time I got most of the way there, it was a torrential downpour.  I hated opening my car window to pay for parking when I arrived ($10, by the way), but then had to laugh at myself…really, I didn’t want to get wet from the rain, but I was going to be jumping into giant mud puddles in an hour?!  I can be really blond sometimes!  After parking my car, I met up with my friends and teammates so we could get our bibs and swag.  Unfortunately, due to lightening in the area, we were directed to take shelter in the Hawthorne grand stand building.  Thankfully, it was nice and warm inside so we didn’t freeze from being drenched head to toe.

Fast forward an hour and a half (apparently that small cell kept growing and growing)…we are still sitting and waiting for the event to be cleared to start.  The race volunteers and directors were all really great.  They provided an update every 15 minutes or so and were very apologetic.  Some participants were throwing a fit and demanding their money back…a lot got tired of waiting and just left.  Obviously, the race directors cannot control the weather, I will never understand why people demand their money back when they are the ones giving up on an event.  Anyway, instead of complaining or giving up, we decided to make the most of the situation by enjoying some conversation and time spent together.  I have to admit, I did get a little bored for a minute and felt compelled to entertain my friends with this scene:

Just call me Super Bather!

Just call me Super Bather!

Finally, after about 2 hours or more of waiting, the event was cleared to begin.  The lines for bib pick-up were surprisingly short and we were ready to go in no time.  Unfortunately, because the rain was so intense, the race directors and volunteers had to re-set-up the swag area and gear check on the pavement, since the infield was so wet and muddy (bonus mud!), so we played the waiting game for a little while longer.  After all of the volunteers were back in place and the course was cleared the race went off in two waves of mud filled fun.  Apparently the course sustained some damage during the severe thunderstorm the night before, but only one obstacle was rendered unsafe – the low crawl in a tunnel.  I wasn’t sad about not getting to do that one at all!  We had a great time and got pretty muddy (more pictures to come soon).  I was happy that I was able to complete all of the obstacles, despite the loss of gripping power in my right hand due to a broken pinky earlier this year that didn’t heal properly.

Though not the most challenging of the obstacle races, overall, this race was a fun one.  This was my second year doing this race and not much changed from the previous year.  Everything was pretty much the same, right down to the t-shirt, cape (fun!) and medal.  The obstacles consisted of several mud pits, barbed wire low crawls, wall climbs, a tire maze, and of course in typical obstacle race fashion, a fire leap at the end.   The obstacles were in the same exact locations as the previous year so I knew what to expect next, there were no surprises which took a little of the fun and excitement out of it for me.  The only obstacle that was missing from the previous year was “heavy metal” (scrap cars you climb over).  They appeared to have replaced “heavy metal” with an additional very lame fire obstacle.  There were flaming logs on top of metal drums spaced very far apart.  You could easily have walked right between them, so to make it more interesting, we weaved our way through them.

Like I said, this isn’t the most challenging of obstacle races, but if you are looking for fun more than a challenge, this race is for you.  I will likely do the race again next year, but I hope to see a bit of a change up in obstacles.  It would also be nice if the medals or at least the t-shirts were a different design next year.  I now have two sets of the exact same medal, t-shirt and cape…adding a year designation would be a nice touch.

HR

HRM

After a very long shower, I spent the rest of my Saturday enjoying conversation and delicious food at my neighbors annual pulled pork party.  Have I mentioned how lucky I am to live on a block with such awesome neighbors?!  Sunday I spent the day being lazy, lounging around the house and watching a marathon of Breaking Bad on Netflix, my husband’s new obsession.  I managed to get the laundry done in between episodes and mainly hid from the heat and humidity outside.  Of course, in preparation for my next race, I ventured out for my usual pre-race carbo-load meal of Wisconsin Mac & Cheese from Noodles & Co.  I went to bed pretty early, in anticipation of my next half-marathon, the…

Oak Brook Half-Marathon (aka the REAL Hell Run)

I woke up at 5am on Monday hopeful that I would have a good race.  The weather was forecast to be much cooler than it had been in the last two weeks, so I hoped that I could finally have a good half marathon.  I picked up my packet on Thursday after work (it was a breeze…I was in and out in 5 minutes and most of that time was spent talking to a run club member who was volunteering) and I had gathered my gear, bib, goo, etc. the night before so I was thankful for the extra few minutes of sleep that afforded me.  The race also offered day of packet pick-up, which was nice, but I feel so much more “prepared” for a race when I have everything ahead of time.  Anyway, I made my way out to Oak Brook, which was a breeze at 5:45am on a holiday.  I think it took me a grand total of 20 minutes, the majority of the time was spent getting through Oak Park to the Ike.  I work very close to the start of the race, which was part of the appeal.  Since I’m familiar with the area and have run on part of the course before, I thought I knew what to expect.  Oh boy was I wrong.  I’m telling you, half marathons are my kryptonite.  I have yet to have a “good” one, but that is more my problem, than a reflection of the race itself.  The race was very well organized and the course was beautiful, I just can’t seem to run a half marathon without feeling like total crap.  Instead of bashing this race because my failures, I will take a step back and review it objectively before getting into why I failed.  Here is the breakdown:

Price:

After learning about the race last year (I was training for a 10K then), I was on the fence about this race mainly because of the time of year and Chicago’s fickle weather.  Plus, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend $65 to run a half marathon (since they have historically been my worst races), but a run club friend sealed the deal for me when she passed along a discount code.  Imagine my surprise when I went to register and was able to use an additional CARA discount code!  All said and done, the race was very reasonable at $53.18 (with taxes and fees).

What I Got for the Money:

For a mere $53.18 I got a nice gender specific technical shirt, a bag full of goodies (that included a tennis ball, Chapstick and several flyers for future races), free parking, a well planned and executed chip timed race (B-Tag), a beautiful and challenging course, great on-course support (water, Gatorade and Energy Gels), super nice and energetic volunteers, a medal at the finish and a nice finish line festival.

OB

Packet Pick-Up:

As I said above, packet pick-up was a breeze for those who chose to pick-up ahead of time.  Day of packet pick-up was offered and the upon arriving to the race site 45 minutes prior to race start, there did not appear to be a line at all.

Course:

The course was absolutely beautiful and quite a challenge for those of us not used to running hills.  Having run part of this course before, I was aware that there would be a few rolling hills, but I was not prepared for the “mountains” that I met on Spring Road and in the Fullersburg Woods Forest Preserve (miles 6 through 10).  I firmly believe that the combination of these hills and the rainforest like humidity that I met in the forest preserve were my downfall.  More on that later though.  The course was a good combination of street, paved bike path/sidewalk and crushed limestone.  There was also a good balance of sun and shade, which is always nice.  The scenery was mostly forest preserve complete with nice views of Salt Creek, but there was a nice mix of residential neighborhood and the McDonald’s Hamburger University campus to break it up a bit too.

Overall Opinion:

Overall, this was a great race.  It was well organized and had a lot to offer racers of every ability.  That being said, I will never, ever run this race again…even if I were given a free entry!  I know it seems silly to give a race a positive review and in the next breath say that I will never run it again, but you have to understand just how much of an epic failure this race was for me (again, totally my problem and not the race’s fault at all).

Growing up and running in upstate NY, I have run my fair share of hills (the type of hills even your car has trouble getting to the top of), but I’m not 16 anymore and I haven’t lived (or run) those hills in a VERY long time.  I’m weak and hills can make my already 1/2 or 1/4 full tank drop below “E”.  Add in rainforest like humidity (you know, the kind where you can actually see the moisture rolling off the roofs of the pavilions in the woods, or heck, even the breath of the runners in front of you) a forgotten inhaler and a calorie deficit (yeah, I thought I was a genius and was trying to lose weight by cutting 750-1000 calories a day – not smart when you’re training for a marathon…duh) and you have a recipe for disaster.  After suffering a minor humidity induced asthma attack somewhere around mile marker 7 or 8, I was more than ready to give up and take my very first DNF.  Thank goodness for my run club friend, Ann, who ran the race with me (I use “ran” loosely, as I had to walk a lot for the last half of the race).  Annie, you got me through this race, as painfully slow as it was.  I would not have finished without your encouragement.  Thank you so much for sticking with me!!!  For anyone unfortunate enough to be running near me, I sincerely apologize for the many F-bombs that I’m sure slipped out of my mouth in those hilly mountainous woods.

Here are my stats for the race, and a picture of the medal I so do not deserve:

Capture OBM

Here’s to hoping the marathon goes better.  After this disaster of a race, I’m not feeling too confident though.  I’m really nervous to see how my 18 and 20 mile runs go too.  I know I can’t quit this close to the finish line (and I won’t), but I’m feeling incredibly unprepared.  The thought that the big day is only 37 days away sends me into a panic attack.  Fingers crossed that my 18 miler goes well this weekend and I’m able to keep negative Nancy in my head at bay!

4 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Races

  1. Have you thought about setting an angle on the treadmill every once in a while to get used to running hills again and maybe increase them as you get more used to them. I would wait until after your marathon for that but hills are supposed to help your speed anyway. Just a thought. :) I hope you runs improve!

    • Great idea! I’ve been trying to switch up the incline from 0 to 1 and back to 0 every few minutes to simulate the road a little more. After the marathon I will be training for another half and will definitely be incorporating hills. I wanted to incorporate them into my marathon training, but alas, I got lazy. :)

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