Halloween Hustle 5K Recap

That’s right folks…one Halloween themed race is and never will be enough!  Besides, after my disappointing experience at the Monster Dash and thinking about my upcoming races, I wanted to try my hardest for a shiny new 5K PR before the end of the year.  I have only one or two more timed 5K’s on my race calendar before the end of the year, one being the Hot Chocolate 5K this weekend and possibly a local Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day.  The Hot Chocolate is not a good race for PR’s since it is so crowded (last year I ended up spending the first mile running on a sidewalk to get around the crowds) and the local Turkey Trot I’m planning to do is a little “short”.  Since the Halloween Hustle was a CARA circuit race, I knew it wouldn’t turn into a costume parade and would be a good opportunity to push myself for a PR.  Plus, a few of my run club friends would be running so I was guaranteed to have a good time no matter what!

After some hemming and hawing, I finally decided to sign up for the race at the eleventh hour, just barely making it before the online registration window closed Friday afternoon.  Knowing I wouldn’t have time to buy or make a new costume, I pulled out the pumpkin suit again and headed across the street for my block “book club” meeting.  Not wanting to be late for book club, I opted to skip my usual pre-race dinner of Noodles & Company Wisconsin Mac & Cheese, thinking I would find something to munch on there, or worst case, I would find something when I got home.  Oops!  I got caught up in good conversation with my neighbors and didn’t munch on a single thing!  I then lost track of time and before I knew it, it was after 9:30pm.  I knew I had to get up early the next morning so I said my goodbyes, went home, ate a Rice Krispie treat and went to bed.

I was surprised when I woke up the next morning at 5:30am and didn’t have my usual pre-race stomach.  Maybe this skipping dinner thing was a better idea than I thought?  Having laid out my gear the night before, I was ready to go with plenty of time left, so I took my time packing my bag and headed out the door.  I met my run club friends at our usual car pool meet-up spot and we began our trek to Palatine, a roughly 45 minute ride from Oak Park.  We were able to find the race location easily and I was pleased that we were able to park in the parking garage for free.  Packet pick-up was located on the lower level of the parking garage, which was also nice, since it was a bit chilly and the wind seemed to go right though me.  They also offered race day registration, which appeared to be super fast and painless.  Our goodie bag consisted of a nice long sleeve tech tee (unisex), a reusable shopping bag and a few flyers including one for their upcoming Santa Hustle (so sad I won’t be in town for that one this year).

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About 10 minutes before start time, we walked to the start line which was conveniently located only a block away from the garage.  The race started on time and before I knew it I was on my way to a potential PR.  I planned to keep the pace around 9:15 or 9:30/per mile and was surprised when my Garmin beeped at mile 1 with an 8:48 mile and I still felt good.  Somewhere around mile 1.5 I started to get a stitch in my side and could feel my breathing being thrown off as I attempted to struggle through it.  That darn stitch stuck with me for the rest of race and I pretty much hated life until I saw the 3 mile marker, but I’m happy to say that I didn’t give up and let Negative Nancy take over.  Thank goodness for my run buddies Jessica and Julie…they really helped me keep focused and pushed me to keep going when I really wanted to dial back the effort, or lets be honest, grind to a screeching halt.  We turned the corner into the final stretch and I dug deep for any remaining energy to sprint it in.

I crossed the finish line feeling elated that I had set a new PR, but the awful “I just raced a 5K and feel like I’m going to get sick” feeling that arrived shortly thereafter wouldn’t allow me to celebrate for too long.  After I finally got myself back together, I looked at my Garmin and realized that not only had a I set a new PR, I had finally blown my old high school cross country time out of the water!!!  Here are my stats:

Halloween Hustle

Overall, I thought this race was great and I will definitely be back next year.  It was well organized, reasonably priced and fun.  Here is a quick review:

Registration:

  • Cost – $33.28 (day before the race) with a $5 CARA discount. – Great value!
  • Online, fax, mail or in person day of. – Super convenient!

Packet Pick-Up:

  • Several opportunities for those who are local.  Luckily, for those of us who don’t live so close, they also offered race day packet pick-up.
  • Race day packet pick-up was fast and well organized by last name.

Perks:

  • Reusable shopping bag doubled as our goodie bag.  Participants also received a nice long sleeve tech tee (unisex).
  • Free parking.  – Always a plus!
  • Gear check was scary at first (they used giant boxes), but they found my friends vest very quickly and without issue.

The Course:

  • Flat and fast looped course.  Pavement was well maintained.  A lot of turns though.
  • For a course entirely within residential streets, there was surprisingly VERY little spectator support.
  • Not one, but TWO aid stations offering water and Gatorade. – Probably a little overkill for a 5K in the fall, but appreciated nonetheless.
  • Start and finish lines conveniently located within a block of the parking garage.
  • Finish line had bottled water, Kind Bars, bananas and soft pretzels.

The Field:

  • Definitely a smaller race for a CARA circuit race.  According to the official results, there were only 911 finishers.
  • Lots of speedy runners and lots of great costumes!

Until next time, happy running and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!  Candy Security is on duty tonight in Oak Park.  Zoe says “No costumes, no candy!”  🙂

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Chicago Monster Dash 5K Review

Do you know what I love even more than running?  Holidays!  Any holiday really, especially if its a fun one like Halloween, New Years, Thanksgiving or St. Patrick’s Day.  I mean, holidays that include gifts are pretty awesome too, but any holiday that gives me an excuse to dress up like I’m a kid again, includes dancing – or food – or candy, and involves Guinness and the sound of bagpipes playing is way up there on my list of favorites.  Imagine my excitement when I came across an event that combined my love for running with my love for one holiday in particular, Halloween!

I heard about a little race (its actually a good sized race) called the Monster Dash a few years ago, and have a few friends who have run it in the past, but I have never run it since it always seems to fall on the same day as another local race.  When given a choice, I prefer to support the smaller local races over larger races downtown, especially when they benefit the community I live in.  The Monster Dash typically falls on the same day as the Frank Lloyd Wright races, which is organized by the Park District of Oak Park, and runs practically right by house.  I ran the 10K last year and absolutely loved it.

Anyway, back in January I ran a 5K, the Polar Dash, (organized by the same group as the Monster Dash, the Get Lucky race and the Women Rock races) and the lead bike turned around too early, causing the 5K runners to miss the 5K mark by almost a mile.  The 5K race wasn’t timed (they typically time only the longer distances, usually a 10K and/or half marathon option), but some of the runners put up a stink, and the company was kind enough to offer discounted registration to another event, to make up for their oops.  At the time I was already registered for the Get Lucky 7K, so I decided to register for the Monster Dash, thinking it would be fun to dress up in costume for a fun 5K.  After the discount, and various fees I paid only $27.64 for the race.

Fast forward 9 months and there I was, exactly one week post marathon, thanking my lucky stars that the race wasn’t going to be timed, so I wouldn’t feel pressured into trying to set a PR.  I was really looking forward to participating in a nice, fun, organized recovery run.  Here is my review.  Brace yourselves, this is going to be another long one.  If you don’t want to read the novel, feel free to scroll to the bottom for the brief overview.

About a week before the race I received an email with an update on the race, including packet pick-up times and locations.  I was surprised to see that they were offering two locations for packet pick-up, since they hadn’t for the two other races I have run with them.  Packet pick-up was to be held in Andersonville on Wednesday and Thursday; and downtown at the Congress Hotel on Saturday.  Knowing I wouldn’t make it all they way to Andersonville in time, I opted to pick-up my packet on Saturday.  Not wanting to fight traffic and pay a million dollars to park my car for five minutes, I chose to take the Green Line.  The Congress Hotel is only a few blocks from the Adams/Wabash stop, so it was pretty convenient to get there and back.

Super comfy hoodie!

Super comfy hoodie!

Packet pick-up was a breeze.  When I arrived around 4:45pm there were no lines at all.  I was in and out in less than 5 minutes.  I picked-up my bib and super comfy finisher hoodie and was on my way.  I have to say, Team Ortho races have awesome swag.  The race organizers even provide an opportunity to register or pick-up your packet and swag for their upcoming races as well.  This time, they were offering pick-up for the Polar Dash.  The convenience was an added bonus in my book!

Moving on to race day, I awoke to a brisk 30 something degree morning and was thankful that I could wear leggings and a black compression jacket under my costume without ruining it.  As an aside – can we can a conversation about women’s costume options?  OK, not everyone wants to dress up like a sexy this or a sexy that…come on, we need more modest options please!  Anyway, not wanting to show off my assets, I chose a simple Jack O’Lantern costume that left a bit to the imagination.  Black leggings and a black compression jacket worked perfectly under the costume and kept me warm as I waited for the L with my run club friend who was also running.

Boo!

Boo!

Once we got downtown we found the start line area quickly and checked out the medals for the different races.  My friend was registered for the half but wasn’t sure if she should do it or drop down to the 10K, as she was nursing a slight injury and has an important race coming up soon.  After checking out the medals, she decided to drop down to the 10K.  The registration table representative was very kind and made the swap quickly and painlessly.  We then headed over to gear check and were surprised that they were making everyone place their bags in a clear plastic bag.  I had a few problems with this.  1)  I get that you are trying to make things safer for everyone, but putting a backpack into a plastic bag without checking the backpack first is not going to make anything safer.  2)  Perhaps sending an email letting us know that we would be required to use your clear plastic bag ahead of time would have been a good idea.  Or heck, maybe give us the bag and/or say something to us at packet pick-up!

Anywho…on to the race.  From what I could tell, all three of the races went off on time.  The half marathon was first, followed by the 10K and then the 5K.  I lined up for the 5K about 10 minutes prior to the start and was surprised to see people with strollers and dogs in front of me when I was standing at the 9:30 min/mile pace flag.  I knew immediately that this was not going to be an event to “race”.  I crossed the start line and immediately started dodging walkers, strollers, little dogs in costumes and small children.  I know it was supposed to be a fun event, but it was still a fun “run”, not a fun “let’s walk six people across the Lakefront path with our dog and umbrella stroller”.  I know I probably sound like a crab @$$ but I really wanted to run, even if it was slow.  That being said, after the first mile things opened up a bit and I was able to run, though still weaving around people.  Obviously, this is not the race organizer’s fault though, so I don’t hold it against them at all!

The course itself was mediocre at best.  The first quarter mile or so was on the broken sidewalk around Avery Field and then merged onto a nice well maintained path.  Just after the 2 mile marker, we turned onto the lower part of the Lakefront path…the part that is right next to the water and consistently has broken or uneven pavement and potholes from the beating it takes from Lake Michigan every time the wind picks up a bit.  Great.  Needless to say, there was some careful stepping and leaping going on for fear that I would roll an ankle or trip.  The last quarter mile was back on the nice path and was full of spectators cheering participants in to the finish where their medals were placed around their necks.  Outside of the course itself, I have to admit that the “aid stations” were fun.  At just about every mile marker there were volunteers with big bowls handing out candy to the participants…AWESOME!  There was also one aid station distributing water.

The 5K medal!

The 5K medal!

By the time I finished this run, my knees and ankles were screaming again.  There was a short flight of steps leading to the gear check area and I winced as soon as I stepped down on the first step.  I felt like I had just run another marathon.  I met my friend at the gear check area so we could collect our belongings and head home.  The race offered a free PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) and finisher party, but for me, it was just too early and too cold to drink beer.  The gear check volunteers found my bag immediately, but minutes later, they were still searching for my friends.  Afraid that they had given her bag to another participant, the volunteers were just about ready to give up when after about 15 minutes of walking up and down the aisles of bags, her bag was finally located.  What a relief!

Overall the race was pretty fun, but I think I’d rather stick to the Frank Lloyd Wright races and run another fun Halloween race that is timed instead.

As promised, here is the shorter version of my overall opinion of this race:

The Good:

  • Fun event with a variety of distance options.
  • Longer distances have a nicer course along the Lakefront path.
  • Candy aid stations!
  • Sweet swag…a super comfy sweatshirt and a medal for everyone.
  • Awesome participant costumes.  My favorite was a group of dogs and their owners.  One dog was dressed as a “Rufferee” (complete with a yellow flag in a pocket), two wore shirts that said “Wide Retriever”, two more were dressed as cheerleaders, and their humans were dressed in Chicago Bear’s jerseys.
  • Packet pick-up was a breeze.
  • The free beer was a nice touch.  If it was warmer, I probably would have taken them up on it.

The Bad:

  • The 5K course…broken and uneven pavement is just asking for problems.  I know there are logistical challenges that accompany a three distance race, but perhaps a new start/finish location is in order?
  • Gear check…lack of communication with participants, nonsensical “security” measures and misplacing my friend’s bag left me unimpressed and nervous to leave my bag at gear check ever again.

I did it…I RAN a MARATHON!

That’s right friends, after 6 months of panic attacks, 4 months of dedicated training, 456.49 miles logged over 82 hours and 46 minutes (and 7 seconds to be exact), 2 booze free block parties and a lot of early weekend mornings…I am a marathoner!  I cannot even begin to describe how awesome it is to be able to say that!

I’m a little (ok, a LOT) behind in my blogging, but better late than never, right?  Things have been quite busy around here since the race, but that’s a good thing, especially since I took a week off from running for recovery.  Taking time off from running makes me antsy.  I feel like a sloth, my sleep is thrown off and I’m generally crabbier and irritable.  Yes, I think I just might be addicted.  Luckily, between hosting an out of town guest (my Mom), catching up at work after a week off and catching up on my schoolwork I haven’t had time for much else, so I didn’t really have a chance to go through withdrawals too badly.  Sure, I missed the structure of training and I missed the “all is right in the world again” feeling I get during and after a good run, but there was just no way for me to get my fix last week.  I’m writing after a great 2 mile recovery run yesterday and I’m feeling inspired again.  So, without further ado, here is a review of my very first (but certainly not last) marathon!

Bank of America Chicago Marathon (10/13/2013) – aka The Best Day of My Life!

The day began like any other race day.  I woke up before the alarm went off with my usual race day nervous stomach, and in an attempt to get as much sleep as possible, I closed my eyes and tried to shut out as many thoughts as possible.  I must have been successful because the next hour and half flew by and before I knew it, the alarm began to sing it’s happy tune.  Not wanting to wake up the whole house, I immediately got out of bed and began preparing for the big day.  Having laid out my outfit and other race gear the night before, I finished getting ready with lots of time to spare.

I left the house at 5:15am so I could catch the 5:30am Green Line train to downtown Chicago, and thanks a series of red lights, I arrived to the station only a few minutes before the train arrived.  Once on the train I was able to relax a little – as much as a first time marathoner can before the big race.  I calmed my nerves by mentally going over my pacing, nutrition and hydration plan for the day.  The train had a few other runners on it, and I have to admit, eavesdropping on their conversations about their past Chicago Marathon experiences helped too.

By the time the train pulled into the Adams/Wabash stop I was more excited than nervous and as I reached the bottom of the stairs on the corner of Adams, I couldn’t help but feel the excitement in the air.  The city was still asleep, but it was very much awake with the buzzing and excitement of 40,000 runners.  After walking a few blocks I made my way through Gate #3 and into the Start/Finish line area.  As corny as it may sound, the combination of the excitement in the air and my nerves got the best of me and when the security agent who checked my bag said “you’re all set, have a great race”, I began to tear up.  All I could think was “Wow, I’m really going to do this.  They told me I would never run again and here I am.  I’m going to run a MARATHON today”.  For the next hour I sat on the sidewalk, watching the sun rise over the lake and then the city, listening to other runners excitedly talk about their months of training and plans for the race.  I helped a few fellow runners take photos and chatted with them about the weather, the course, and just about everything in between.  Here is a photo of me before I was brave enough to shed my warm-ups:

Freezing before the start.

Freezing before the start.

It was a cool morning but I knew that I would warm up as soon as I started running.  Knowing this didn’t make it any easier to take off my jacket and sweatpants and hand them over to gear check.  Concerned that I was placed in a much slower corral than I should have been in (due to my own stupidity when I registered), I wanted to be sure I was at the front of the corral.  To ensure my place at the front of the corral, I checked my gear about 45 minutes before start time and subsequently stood there freezing for the next hour and 7 minutes.  After about 30 minutes of goosebumps and constant shivering, I began to worry that I was wasting some much needed energy, but there wasn’t much I could do so I just put the thought out of my mind and tried to enjoy the start line experience.

Finally, 22 minutes after my wave started, I crossed the start line and began my journey to the finish.  As I said in my previous posts, my goal for the day was to run the whole race and just finish.  I was not concerned with meeting a time goal this time around, and more than anything, I wanted to savor the experience.  I heard that the crowd support at the Chicago Marathon was fantastic and I was looking forward to reading signs, high-fiving complete strangers and experiencing the on course entertainment.  Within the first mile I knew the rumors were true.  Every inch of the course was lined with spectators holding signs and cheering us on.

Running with the masses just after Mile 1!

Running with the masses just after Mile 1!

The first 9 miles of the race were great.  I kept to a slow and steady pace, taking in the sights as I ran under the BP Pedestrian Bridge, past the Chicago Theater, through Old Town, past the Lincoln Park Zoo, through Boys Town (my absolute FAVORITE part of the race…awesome entertainment and energy through that section!) and back through Lincoln Park and Old Town again.

Having fun at Mile 3!

Having fun at Mile 3!

My breathing was right on and my legs felt rested and strong.  I was cruising right along and really enjoying myself when I felt the first twinge of pain radiating from my big toe.  I knew exactly what was happening…my recurring giant blister was making its race day comeback.  I don’t understand how I can run miles and miles on my solo long runs and not have a problem, but when I’m participating in an organized event I always seem to end up with a large and very painful blister starting around mile 7.  I knew I should stop to get a band-aid from one of the medical tents, but it didn’t hurt that bad so I decided to just keep trudging along.

Meanwhile, my husband was running a marathon of his own.  He was a rockstar! By the time I got to mile 11, I saw Josh 3 times, and was looking forward to seeing him at least 2 more times before I finished.  He put together an awesome plan and seeing him gave me the oomph I needed to keep going strong.

Crusin' along at Mile 10.5

Crusin’ along at Mile 10.5

Mile by mile I made my way to toward the finish.  Somewhere just after the halfway point I stopped to walk through an aid station and when I began running again I noticed that my knees and ankles were starting to ache a bit, nothing serious though.

Still all smiles at Mile 14.5!

Still all smiles at Mile 14.5!

Moving right along, I saw my In-Laws and Mother cheering me on at mile 14.5, and I gave them high fives as I ran on by.  I was so glad to see Josh at mile 16.5, as he was holding two extra CLIF Shots for me since I couldn’t fit them all in my SPI belt and small water bottle pocket.

Wishing Josh had a new big toe for me instead of just CLIF Shots at Mile 16.5

Wishing Josh had a new big toe for me instead of just CLIF Shots at Mile 16.5

At this point, I really wished he had a new big toe for me instead of the CLIF Shots though!  I stopped for a quick shot transfer and a photo op and was on my way again.  This time, I noticed that my knees and ankles were getting really sore, but only when I started running again from a walking stride.

The next 4 miles are a complete blur.  I tried to “check-out” for a while and focused on my surroundings instead of the radiating pain coming from my big toe.  At mile 20 I remember feeling nervous about the next 6.2 miles but calmed myself by giving myself a once over, almost as if checking the system status of a car on a long road trip.  All systems were functioning well, and I knew I would make it to the finish with no problem.  My breathing was still nice and even and I still had plenty of energy.  I couldn’t feel the pain in my toe anymore, but my knees and ankles were still sore when starting back up from walking through aid stations, so I tried to run through them if I wasn’t planning on taking fluids since they were fine as long as I kept running.  I was amazed when I crossed mile 23.1 and realized that I still felt great and I only had a 5K left.  Easy peasy, I thought, I’ve got this in the bag!  I picked-up my pace a bit those last 3 miles, and determined to run the whole thing, focused on powering through the hill right before making the turn to the finish line.

Still going strong at Mile 25.5!

Still going strong at Mile 25.5!

As I made the turn for the final 400 meters of the race I ran into a friend and we ran to the finish together.  This is the same friend that helped me through my very first half marathon and inspired me to start running again in the first place, so it was almost poetic that out of 40,000 other runners I would run into her right at the finish of my first marathon.  As we sprinted (as fast a sprint as one can muster after running 26 miles) to the finish, I got a little emotional, but held the tears back and went for elation instead.  I raised my arms, yelled “woohoo” and crossed the finish line smiling ear to ear.  I did it!  I ran a marathon! 

Unofficial Results

Unofficial Results

We continued to walk through the finisher chute and I teared up again when a very kind lady placed my medal around my neck and said “congratulations, great job!”.  We then grabbed a banana and a beer as we walked toward gear check to gather our belongings.  I took about three bites of the banana and one swig of beer before tossing them both in the trash.  My stomach was not ready to handle anything just yet, it was too full of water, Gatorade and CLIF Shots.

The medal!

The medal!

I was never in such a hurry to take my shoes off and put on a pair of flip flops as I was after this race.  As soon as I got my bag from gear check I carefully slipped off my shoes and stared in awe at the size of the blister on my big toe.  Surprisingly, my feet were the only body parts that hurt immediately after the race, or maybe it was just the runner’s high and pride of finishing a marathon masking the aches and pains that would come later.

After finally locating my husband, we all boarded the L to head back home.  Walking was fine and I was surprised at how easily I was able to climb the stairs to the platform (sure, it wasn’t comfortable, but it wasn’t painful either).  Sitting on the train felt great and I began to feel a little tired.  By the time we reached the Oak Park stop I was ready for a nap.  We got off the train and as I took one step down the stairs I saw stars.  After what seemed like an eternity, I finally made my way to the bottom of the stairs and shuffled up the street to Gepetto’s Pizzeria where my run club was hosting a pizza party for runners and volunteers.  It was so fun to hear everyone’s story, and the pizza was pretty good too!  We left the pizza party about an hour later and headed home to relax.  The first thing I did was take a looooong shower and boy did it feel good!  I still felt pretty darn good, until I sat down for an hour and then tried to stand back up.  Every muscle from my lower back to my toes felt like it was tightening up and I started walking around like Frankenstein.  My hips were tight, my knees ached, my ankle was sore and swollen, and my toe was, well lets just say, angry.

Look at the angle of my ankle...no wonder it was swollen!

Look at the angle of my leg…no wonder my knees and ankles hurt!

While sitting down for dinner and looking at some of the pictures of me running, it dawned on me…the reason my knees and ankle were so swollen and sore was because I was constantly dodging and passing other runners (and sometimes walkers, especially at the end of the race).  I knew I was assigned to the wrong corral, but I certainly did not expect to be passing that many people.  According to  the unofficial results, 38,535 people started the race and I finished 29,553rd.  I was in corral “L” with only one corral behind me, corral “M”.  I would guesstimate corrals L and M held about about 2,000 runners total, since they looked pretty small.  This means that I passed approximately 6,900 people over the course of the race.  Even if my guesstimate is off by 2,000 people, that still a lot of people to pass!  No wonder my knees and ankles were sore and swollen!  Oh well, lesson learned for the next one!

Overall this was an absolutely amazing experience and I’m so glad I chose Chicago for my first marathon.  The crowd support is amazing, the course is scenic and flat (except for that evil and cruelly placed hill right before the finish), and if the weather is right, it’s hard to have a bad race.  If I could be guaranteed to have the weather we had on October 13th, I would do this race again in a heartbeat.  But alas, Chicago weather is so unpredictable, especially this time of year, I’m afraid to chance it.  I almost feel that because I had such an awesome experience, I would be tempting fate by running Chicago again.  I had such a perfect day and race, I’m afraid to ruin the memory.  Maybe I’ll see if I can get into New York next year.

Well friends, that’s it…”marathon” has now been checked off my bucket list.  I would like to take a moment to thank my family, friends, coworkers and all of my blog followers for your support and encouragement throughout this process.  You have given me the drive and have helped me succeed in reaching my goal.  You have gotten me out of bed at 3am to get my long run in before the heat of the day.  You have given me fueling, hydration and gear advice.  You have inspired me to run faster and even just to keep running when I wanted to quit.  You have all been an inspiration to me and I am forever grateful for your support, advice and encouraging words.

Now that the marathon is over, I will switch my focus to my next half marathon, which is scheduled for January 25th.  This time around, I’m going to try using a more advanced training plan and will work in strength training and yoga in the hopes of improving my speed and breaking my half marathon curse.  Training officially starts in a few weeks, but rest assured, I won’t be just sitting around in the meantime.  I have a few races coming up and I would really like to PR in a 5K and 10K before the end of the year.  On that note, I’m going to head to bed so I can get up early tomorrow and get a quick run in before work.  Tomorrow evening is girls night out with my run club friends, a sure to be good time!

Until next time, happy running!

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!

CARA Beginning Running Program and Chicago 10K Race Recap

After a nice weekend of good food and good friends (more on that in my next post), I woke up to a nasty sinus infection on Monday and have finally gotten myself together enough to finally post my recap of the CARA Beginning Running program and the Chicago 10K, as promised.  So without further adieu :)…

CARA Beginning Running Program – Group Leader Recap:

What can I say, the last 8 weeks have been a total blast!  As a group leader for the 5K group, I had a unique opportunity to not only make a new friend, but to help this friend reach an important goal and even surpass her own running related expectations.

When I first met “S” on our first Thursday night group meet-up, I was excited to help someone discover their love for running and honestly, it felt good to “give back”.  At the same time, I was incredibly nervous that I would be holding her back since I’m not even close to being considered a “fast” runner.  I was relieved when “S” indicated she currently ran a 13 min/mile pace, but after our first run together, I knew she had the capability to go MUCH faster than that (we ran a 11:52 min/mile pace that night).  From the first group run, “S” seemed to be excited about running her very first 5K, but not very confident in her natural running abilities.  Over our 8 weeks together, “S” was game to try whatever pace or however many miles we threw at her, always accepting with a smile.  She was very dedicated to the program – we even met up on an extremely hot Tuesday night to run together on a week she knew she wouldn’t be able to make it to the Thursday group run.  I am happy to report that by the end of our 8 weeks together, “S” was able to complete a 6 mile run with ease and improved her pace from 13 min/mile to…drum roll please…10:28 min/miles for a 4 mile run!  She’s a natural!  🙂  For someone who has never run before, this kind of improvement in only 8 weeks is amazing to me!  Not only is “S” ready to run her first 5K, she could easily run a 10K too!  Way to go “S”!!!

The program itself was fantastic from start to finish.  We had a bit of a slow start due to lack of enrollment, and we had a few weeks “off” due to crazy Chicago weather (severe thunderstorm one week and extreme heat another) and a holiday (4th of July), but our group runs were typically very well attended and the guest speakers were wonderful.  During the program, we were given presentations on proper pre- and post-run stretching and injury prevention, nutrition and hydration, gear (running shoes, socks, etc.) and even had an opportunity to test “drive” new versions of the most popular Saucony running shoes before they even hit store shelves.  The information conveyed was very valuable for beginning runners and a great reminder for those of us who may have become complacent (ah hem…yeah, that would be me).  We were also treated to a very yummy post-run dinner treat from Noodles and Company along with some coupons for free meals…bonus!!!

I really wish I had known about this program when I began running again 2 years ago.  The information conveyed was very helpful and the training program they provided was fantastic.  The 5K training program was similar to many of the other 5K training programs out there, but much more advanced than the C25K program I used, with only one week of run/walk workouts as opposed to several weeks in C25K.  Overall, I think this training program is great, but I would not suggest it for someone who has not engaged in cardiovascular exercise recently.  Luckily, under the Beginning Running program umbrella, CARA also provides two levels of run/walk training which would be a great starting point (and almost exactly like the C25K program I used) in addition to the 5K and 10K options.

The bottom line is, I would HIGHLY recommend this program to any runner (or potential runner) that is looking to get started, run a faster 5K, train for a 10K or even run a faster 10K).  The price is reasonable at $52 for CARA members or $76 for non-members.  I know I am seriously considering using a CARA program as I strive to reach my next running related goal.  Lastly, if you are considering membership in CARA, stop considering and just do it!  Membership comes with so many perks that the yearly fee practically pays for itself!  Perks include race discounts, a free subscription to Runner’s World magazine, discounts at local retailers and service providers and so much more.

Chicago 10K Race Recap:

As a general rule of thumb, I tend to stay away from summer racing, mainly because I overheat very easily and as a result, my times are usually much slower than my spring/fall/winter races, making for a lovely string of PW’s from late June to mid-September.  However, I am trying to do at least one “real” race every month this year.  I blew that goal out of the water pretty early in the year when I came down with Mono in February, but I am determined to keep going through the remainder of the year and have been successful every month since.  I was already registered to do the Hell Run on August 31st, but needed a real race for August and when I saw a few of my run club friends and one of the CARA Beginning Running 10K participants were registered for the Chicago 10K, I thought I would give it a shot, despite the chance of a sweltering summer day race.

The registration process was great – super fast and easy, a little on the pricier side, but that is my fault for waiting until the last minute to register.  When registering, they also gave you the option to choose either a free cotton shirt or pay an extra $5 for a gender specific tech tee.  The shirt design wasn’t too bad so I opted for the tech tee, but now I wish I hadn’t.  The material is more like the silky unbreathable, stick to your skin when you sweat tees than a true breathable wicking tech tee.  Oh well, at least I have a new loud (black with fluorescent green lettering) shirt to wear on the weekend!  🙂  The design is pretty cool though, with the Hancock building making an appearance in the lettering on the front and a bright fluorescent green “FINISHER” scrawled across the back.

Moving on to race day, the weather was forecast to be a typical Chicago summer day – mid-80’s, semi-humid and a little bit of a breeze.  When I arrived at the “L” station at 6am to meet my run club friends, the weather was perfect…not too hot and not too humid.  By the time we got downtown it was starting to heat up a bit and I began to wonder why they chose an 8am start time for a summer race along the Chicago Lakefront path.  As many of you know, I have a love/hate relationship with the Lakefront path.  I love it in the spring, fall and winter, but I HATE it in the summer.  It’s not the amount of non-racing people on the path that bothers me (though the cyclists could stand to take a chill pill and stop screaming at us racers who paid good money to be running on the path…a simple “on your left” or “excuse me” would be sufficient), it is more the total lack of shade that throws me for a loop in the summer.  That being said, the view is beautiful and the lake breeze can help a bit, at least for part of the race, but in the summer, I would really like to see a much earlier start time, more like 6:30am or 7am depending on the length of the race.  In this case, I think a 7am start would have been perfect.

Another thing that really surprised me about this race was the lack of Gatorade or a similar sport drink.  When I got to the first aid station I was surprised to see that there was no Gatorade.  Given that this was not only a “longer” race but a late starting summer race, I thought that, for sure, Gatorade would be offered at the aid stations.  When I didn’t see any at the first aid station I assumed it was to save on costs and expected to see it at the mid-point station at least.  Imagine my surprise when the next two aid stations didn’t have Gatorade either.  I was even more surprised when I finally crossed the finish line, legs cramping up from sweating out so much salt, to find out that there was again, no Gatorade!  Really, not even at the finish of a 6 mile race?!  The finish line area consisted of a bottle of water, the biggest finisher medal I have even seen (more on that in a minute), granola bars, fruit snack packets and bananas.  I was pretty disappointed, but at least the bananas weren’t cut in half!  Though I cannot speak for anyone but myself, I think a lot of other runners had a similar reaction to the heat and sun exposure, as there was a whole lot of run/walking going on around me, and considering I finished in the middle of the pack with close to a PW time, which is pretty unusual for a well attended (2,612 finishers) Chicago race.  All whining aside, I have to commend the volunteers, they did a fantastic job keeping everything moving smoothly (from packet pick-up to the finish line) and provided a lot of encouraging words along the way.  Way to go volunteers!!

Now, lets discuss the finisher’s medal.  There are some who believe finisher’s medals should be reserved for “harder” races, like the half-marathon, marathon, ultra marathon, etc.  It seems like in the last year finisher’s medals have become so popular they are almost expected at every race of any distance…almost like the little league “everyone gets a trophy, even if your team didn’t win” mentality of late.  I have to agree, to some extent.  Sure, getting a finisher’s medal is fun and like a little kid, I want to wear it home so everyone can see it as I wear my “that’s right, I just ran a race…and finished” smile…except sometimes when I hang up a 5K finisher’s medal next to a half marathon finisher’s medal it feels like I cheated…like it’s not worthy enough to be hung up with the rest of the “big” ones.  I worked so hard to get that half marathon finisher’s medal, but barely broke a sweat in the 5K and I am rewarded with a medal?  It just feels like cheating sometimes.  Anyway, I’m fairly confident that the bulk of the registration fee for this race went to the awesome Flavor Flav like finisher’s medal.  This has got to be the BIGGEST medal I have EVER seen!!!  Seriously, it is twice the size of a “normal” medal and weighs about twice as much too!  Even though I was disappointed with the start time, lack of Gatorade, selection of post-race treats and most of all, my time (obviously not their fault); I was pretty impressed with this medal.  It is a bit over the top, but it is really fun and the Chicago references (“L” car etched behind the 10K) are awesome.  I just wish I had a better time to go along with it so I didn’t feel like a cheater again.  Once again I have been rewarded for a mediocre performance, but I guess the medal is right…I did finish…and for that I should be proud and thankful!

In summary, I think this race could easily be one of my favorites, with a few small tweaks:

1)  Earlier Start Time

2)  GATORADE!!!

3)  Salty Snack at the Finish

Chicago 10K

The “Flavor Flav” Finisher’s Medal!

Recapping a Race and a Streak

Community Bank of Elmhurst 4 on the 4th Race Recap

I had a hard time sleeping Wednesday night, likely because of the pre-race nerves I seem to get before every race.  It’s so weird that even after running 26 races in the last two years I still get nervous before a race.  Do you get nervous before races too?

When the alarm went off at 5am I was already awake so I rolled out of bed, walked the dog and went through my usual race day rituals.  Shower…check.  Comfy race gear…check.  Garmin…check.  Inhaler…check.  Race bib and pins…check.  Diet Coke…check.  CLIF Bar…check.  At 5:45am I was ready to walk out the door, happy that my husband could finally make it to a race to cheer me on and meet my new run club friends.  The garage door opened with a few unusual creaks and bangs and we knew something was wrong.  Since we were supposed to meet for the club carpool at 6am and there was clearly something wrong with the garage door, I had to leave Josh behind so we wouldn’t come home to a very clean garage and missing lawn tools.

I arrived to the carpool meet-up location right on time, we loaded up and were on our way.  The race was located in Elmhurst, a really nice suburb about 15-20 minutes away (if traffic is good).  Since it was the 4th of July, traffic was very light so the ride was fast and easy.  We arrived and quickly found parking, which was free.  Hooray for free parking!  I usually end up paying anywhere from $15-$36 for parking on top of pricey registration fees for races downtown, so I really appreciate free parking.  The registration fee for this race was VERY reasonable too at $25 for pre-registration and a $5 CARA discount.

After meeting up with other club members at the club tent and chatting for a while, it was finally time to line up.  Due to a lack of sleep the night before and my “tired” legs, I wasn’t feeling up to “racing” but was looking forward to a nice relaxed run.  Thinking about it, I have to say that I’m not really “racing” when I run any of my races.  Sure, I’m working to PR and I’m racing against myself, but I’m not really a competitive person by nature and I’m certainly not fast enough to even come close to placing in my age/gender group.  Maybe someday, but certainly not yesterday!  I’m just happy that I can run and that running affords me an opportunity to meet and hang out with a cool group of people.

The gun went off promptly at 7:15am and we were on our way.  I had a great time running, chatting and cheering on fellow OPRC members with Laura (another club member).  The course was great – it offered a good deal of shade (a welcome perk on a sunny summer morning), beautiful views of residential streets and the neat downtown Elmhurst area, and a nice challenge.  As I’ve said before, Oak Park is very flat, so any course that has more than one hill offers a bit more of a challenge for me.  This course had three…one just after the one mile marker, another at about mile 2.5 and then another right at the finish, which is just cruel.  🙂

Even though I wasn’t racing, I was still happy with my time. I felt good the entire run, despite forgetting to use my inhaler before the start, and I was pleased that the hills didn’t totally kill me.  Here are my stats for the race:

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The Elmhurst Running Club did a great job organizing this race.  There was plenty of water at the finish, as well as Gatorade, bagels and bananas just off the finish line area.  I didn’t take any, mainly because I never take bagels after a race and the bananas were cut in half and I’m a bit of a germaphobe that way.  There is just something about a ton of sweaty hands potentially touching (or even just sweat dripping onto) something that I’m about to ingest.  Blech!

After the race, we all gathered back at the club tent to enjoy good conversation and all of the yummy goodies everyone brought for the pot luck.  We also took a group photo and what a group it was!  There must have been 50 or more club members there…way to represent OPRC!  Have I mentioned how lucky I feel to be a part of this group?  They are truly an awesome group of people.  They all inspire me to be a better runner and person.

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Photo by club member Erin’s husband, Jason.

Runner’s World Run Streak Challenge Recap

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That’s right friends, I am a Runner’s World 2013 Summer Run Streak Challenge finisher!  I have made it through a 39 day run streak, running at least one mile a day from Memorial Day to Independence Day.  There were so many days that I would much rather have been lazy or taken a rest day after a long run (or brutal half marathon), but I’m proud that I kept going.  I kept going through a nasty nagging leg pain, blisters and pug induced sheer exhaustion. I ran through rain, sunshine, heat and humidity…I even ran after a nasty storm hurdling tree branches and dodging downed trees.  The bottom line is, this was a great experience.  I’ve gotten so used to running every day that I feel guilty taking a rest day today.  I might just have to lace up and get in an easy one miler…we’ll see.

Anyway, here are my final stats for the streak:

Total Miles: 104.34

Consecutive Days:  39

Miles to Goal:  25.66 (close, but no cigar)

Total Time Spent Running:  17 hours, 54 minutes and 32 seconds (wow!!)

Elevation Gain:  512 Feet

Calories Burned:  11,092

Lessons Learned

Well friends, no surprise – it was another busy week/weekend!  This seems to be the trend lately and I’m finding myself longing for a weekend with no plans, no races and no projects to complete.  I feel like I need a break…a day to do absolutely nothing but put my feet up and relax (preferably on a beach somewhere).  Luckily, I’m taking a few days off for a stay-cation this week.  Unfortunately, there will not be a trip to the beach, but I am looking forward to making at least one of the days a “me day”.

Through all of the craziness lately, I have had a great opportunity to learn some very important lessons and for that, I am grateful.  I believe that there is a lesson to be learned in every day…whether that lesson is big or small, it is still a lesson.  Here are a few of the lessons I have learned in the last few days…

Thursday – Lessons #1 and #2:

As I mentioned in my last post, I volunteered to help pace the CARA Beginning Running 5K program and the first meeting was on Thursday.  After a busy day at work getting my boss ready for his many trips this week, I headed over to “The Foot” to meet up with the group.  Since I changed at work I thought I would be able to get there and park with plenty of time to spare.  Oh boy was I wrong!  I had completely forgotten that in the summer, Oak Park hosts a super fun event every Thursday night (“Thursday Night Out“).  It’s a very cool event and I love that the village hosts awesome events like this, but I do not love the fact that The Foot is located right in the middle of all the action which can make finding parking a challenge.  After driving in circles for 15-20 minutes, I finally found a parking spot a few blocks away and made it to The Foot with about 10 minutes to spare.

The meeting/workout was great, there were about 7-8 beginning runners, who all seemed really excited about the program and reaching their goals.  As the 5K pace leader, I had one runner to pace.  When we first met I asked her what pace she liked/felt comfortable running and she said “about 13 min/mile”.  Phew!  I was really worried that I would be holding her back with my slow (relative to my friends in the club) pace.  The workout for Thursday was 6 x .5 miles with a 1 minute walk rest between intervals.  We began the workout at a nice and easy pace, talking and getting to know each other.  We both got lost in conversation and before we knew it the workout was over and we were back at the store.  I wasn’t really paying much attention to the pace/mile feature on my Garmin, focusing instead on the mileage and lap time features to be sure we stayed on track.  After the workout was over and we did a few cool down stretches, I looked at my watch and happily reported that she had just completed 3.48 miles at an average pace of 12:18/mile!  She seemed really excited that this was her fastest run yet.  I really hope that excitement lasts and she continues to the end of the program.  She is a much better/faster runner than she thinks…she was able to easily hold a conversation with me during the workout which means that she can run much faster than even the 12:18/mile we ran together.  The lessons I learned here are:  1) I should leave work a little earlier to get home and ride my bike to The Foot on Thursdays so I don’t have to fight for parking.  2) Running with others allows us to see and reach our full potential as runners.  The power of distraction is amazing and the “talk test” is much easier to do if you actually have someone to talk to!

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Stat’s for Thursday’s CARA Beginning Running Workout

Friday – Lesson #3

Friday was a pretty quiet day at work and I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to take advantage of summer hours and leave at 3:30pm.  I left work and headed to Old Town (a 10 mile drive from my house) to pick-up my race packet for the Chicago Women’s Half Marathon.  Unfortunately, there really isn’t a good way to get there from my office or even from home for that matter.  I could take the highway, but I would inevitably get stuck in traffic and it would take over an hour to get there; or I could take North Avenue and run into the same problem.  I was hoping that since it was “early” I would be able to beat the rush.  Wrong!  It took me 1.5 hours to get there and another 1.5 hours to get home.  That’s right folks…1.5 hours to drive 10 miles!!!  Good thing I had some decent tunes to listen to in the car!  After getting my packet, I finally made it home and headed out for a quick one miler.  I felt good and was glad to be running instead of sitting in the car!  My lesson for Friday was:  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Sitting in traffic is annoying, but getting frustrated and anxious isn’t going to solve the problem.  It’s best to just crank the tunes and have a positive attitude…it makes it so much more enjoyable.

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Stat’s for Friday Night’s Streak Run

Saturday – Lessons #4, #5 and #6

Even though I didn’t have a race, Saturday was an early morning for me.  My Mother-In-Law and I were planning to get into some trouble together!  Every year the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair comes to town and every year my Mother-In-Law takes a few classes and learns some great new crafting techniques.  This year, I decided to join her for more than just shopping.  Our first class was scheduled to begin at 10am and the festival is held about an hour North of where we live, so I planned to meet her at 8am so we could ride up together.  After some kitten play time we hit the road and arrived with a few minutes to spare so we checked out some of the goodies for sale before heading to class.  Our first class was a polymer clay class.  We learned how to design and make fun handles for silverware, crochet hooks, knitting needles, etc.  Here is a picture of my finished products (the black one was my last attempt – I finally figured out how to keep the pattern from distorting when rolling out the clay)!

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In the next class I learned how to make a beaded wrap bracelet, but didn’t have time to finish it.  I will post a picture when I finish!  The process is super easy, but it does require patience.  After a little shopping we returned to our neck of the woods and I hurried home to carbo load for Sunday’s race, get my streak run in and visit with my neighbors at our block party.  I stopped and picked-up my usual pre-race Noodles & Co. Wisconsin Mac and Cheese complete with Rice Crispy Treat dessert and raced home in an attempt to take the dog out and run a mile before my food got cold.  I’m happy to report that I was successful and even got to eat with my neighbors at the block party (even though I couldn’t try any of the yummy pot luck food).  The run felt really good and even though I intended on making it a slow one due to the race in the morning, I surprised myself and pulled off a relatively quick mile with no problem at all.  I guess I was motivated to get back to my food and the party.  However, since the race was slated to begin at 6:30am, I couldn’t stay at the block party long, but it was nice to visit with everyone for an hour or two.  Lessons I learned on Saturday include:  1)  Polymer clay is super easy to work with and can be used for so many fun projects!  2)  Why pay crazy amounts of money for trendy jewelry when I can make it myself?!  3)  I am incredibly lucky to live on a block with such amazing neighbors!

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Since this is a blog about my training, I have to include my stat’s for Saturday’s quick one miler.

Sunday – Lessons #7, #8, #9 and #10

I wanted to die when the alarm went off at 4am on Sunday.  We all know how bad I am about getting up in the morning and Sunday was no exception.  The only thing that got me out of bed was the fact that I needed to be out of the house no later than 5:15am to make it downtown, park and get over to the starting line of the Chicago Women’s Half Marathon before the gun went off at 6:30am.  Even though I hate getting up super early for races, this was one of the few times I was thankful for such an early start time.  After monitoring the weather for a week, I wasn’t looking forward to running my next half marathon at all.  As much as I hoped and prayed for “the perfect racing conditions” it looked like I was going to be joining thousands of my fellow runners in misery as we ran 13.1 miles on one of the hottest and muggiest days of the summer to date.  All week the weather forecast threatened high temperatures and high humidity.  I knew it was going to be bad when I received an email from the race directors indicating that the EAS (Event Alert System) status was at Red (potentially dangerous conditions) and that they recommended participants slow down and make sure we stayed well hydrated.  I was feeling hopeful and optimistic when I arrived downtown to an overcast sky, a nice lake breeze and a comfortable 70 degrees.  Even though it was really humid, I was praying that the clouds would stick around so we wouldn’t have to deal with the 90% direct sun exposure I was afraid of, since I knew the course offered very little in the way of shade.  I really wasn’t expecting much since I knew the heat and humidity would make it hard for me (I tend to overheat VERY easily), but I was hoping for at least a 2:30:00 finish.  I also decided that as long as I ran 7 miles (marathon training long run for the weekend) I could run/walk the rest if I had to.

The race started promptly at 6:30am and I felt great through mile one.  I tried to hold back and keep my pace at a nice and easy 11:20-11:30/mile, and was surprised when my watch indicated my first mile was a 9:42 (shoot!).  I lost satellite signal for a little bit as we ran through the tunnel on Columbus to Wacker so I wasn’t sure how fast/slow I was going until it was too late.  I immediately slowed it down a bit and still felt really good well into mile five (despite the clouds burning off somewhere around mile two), still struggling to slowing my pace at each split until I finally got to the magical 11:15/mi in mile five.  By then I was starting to get really hot and could feel my singlet sticking to my back from all of the sweat dripping off of me.  I was also starting to notice a stinging pain coming from my armpit area.  Oh no…it couldn’t be the dreaded chaffing I’ve heard so much about but have been lucky enough to never experience!  It most certainly was…and I wasn’t looking forward to what would become of my pit over the next 7 miles.  I also started to feel a twinge from the big toe on my right foot.  The same spot that a huge blister developed on during my last half marathon (double shoot!).  There was really nothing I could do, so I tried to ignore it the best I could and move on.

Mile 6 was a little slower (12:47) since I stopped to walk while I ate an energy gel, and wash it down with some Gatorade and water, but my 10K split was still a respectable 1:10:16 (11:19/mi pace).  By the time I made it to the turn around in mile 7 I was starting to fade fast.  The breeze that was helping me through the first half of the race was now at my back and I couldn’t really feel it anymore, plus it seemed like every cloud in the sky had disappeared.  The sun was beating on me and the elephant was starting to sit on my chest so I took a puff off of my inhaler and shuffled along.  In an attempt to motivate myself, I decided to give the 8 mile marker a “high five” as I passed it…5 miles to go…ugh.  Shortly after that I felt my first heat goosebumps appear.  Luckily, I have only experienced this phenomenon twice before – once while running a 5K race in May last year during a heat wave (it was 80 degrees with direct sunlight the entire race) and once while training for a 10K in the middle of summer under a heat advisory (I think it was one of those crazy 100 degree days last summer).  Either way, I knew it wasn’t good and it was a sign of impending danger.  Since I was already run/walking I decided to lengthen my walk breaks.  The new plan was to walk a quarter mile and jog the remaining 3/4 mile for each split.  That plan worked well for all of about 2 miles when the goosebumps got really bad and I noticed that I wasn’t sweating anymore.  Instead, my skin was dry with a thin layer of salt…no bueno.  Even though I had downed a water and a Gatorade at each aid station I had managed to become dehydrated.

The last few miles were pure torture.  I have never wanted to give up on something so bad in all of my life.  Between the goosebumps, the nausea from the heat combined with Gatorade/water/energy gel slosh stomach and the new chafing situation going on thanks to the seam on the shorts under my run skirt, I wanted to find a nice shady spot to curl up in and take a nap.  Even though I wanted to give up, I trudged forward and finished the race in 2:43:09…not the time I was hoping for, but at least I finished.  I was one of the lucky ones.  Toward the end of the race I noticed that participants were starting to drop like flies.  Several were even taken away by ambulance…I hope they are all OK!

I have to say that this race was the absolute hardest race I have run in my life to date.  Even though my time was awful, I am still happy that I saw it through to the end and I feel so blessed that I CAN run.  The lessons I learned during this race are:  1) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  2)  Listen to your body.  I thought goosebumps in the warm weather was odd and probably a warning sign, but I didn’t realize how serious it was until I got home and looked it up.  I really should have stopped running altogether when I got the goosebumps and realized I wasn’t sweating anymore.  I’m very lucky I didn’t end up with heat stroke and in serious trouble.  3) Thanks to my first ever chafing experience, I know where I will need to apply Body Glide before long runs and the big race.  4)  It is important to recognize and celebrate achievements, even if they fall short of our expectations.  We are our toughest critics and I really need to work on seeing and celebrating the positives instead of focusing on the negative (i.e. celebrate the fact that I finished a half marathon on a crazy hot and humid day and not focus on the missed 2:30:00 finish time).

Chicago Women's Half Marathon Stats

Chicago Women’s Half Marathon Stats

Monday – Lessons #11 and #12

Today was just your ordinary work day…except half the office was either traveling on business or taking some well deserved personal time.  Given the fact that I was absolutely wiped out after the race yesterday, and the fact that my lovely pup decided it was time to go for a walk at 4:45am this morning, the quiet office made it hard to focus.  Thanks to several caffeinated beverages I was able to be a relatively productive employee today, but was glad when 5pm finally rolled around.  I left the office and sped home in the hopes of beating the severe thunderstorm that was quickly approaching.  I got within 3 miles of home and the sky opened up.  The wind was so strong…it reminded me of the tropical storm and hurricane remnants I experienced while living in Florida.  I just prayed that I would be able to get home without a tree branch crashing down on my car.  Luckily, I made it home without incident, but a car parked two doors down didn’t weather the storm too well.  A tree branch fell from the tree above and went straight through the driver’s side of the windshield.  Good thing the owner’s were not waiting out the storm in the car!!!

Shortly after I arrived home and took the dog for her walk, my Mother-In-Law arrived so we could go pay our respects to my neighbors (she also knows them) who both lost their mother’s on Friday.  We walked down to the house, gave our condolences and stayed through a short service.  Afterward we said our goodbyes and I prepared for a short run that served no purpose other than to keep the streak alive.  Between the giant blister on my big toe, the lingering headache from yesterday, my chaffed inner thighs and a sore hammie, I was less than motivated to run quickly.  Since I ran a half marathon yesterday, today really should have been a rest day, so I don’t feel bad about one slow mile nor will I feel bad about slower training runs this week.  I put a lot of stress on my body yesterday, and it deserves a little bit of a break to heal.  The lessons I learned today are:  1) Tell the people you love that you love them, and tell them often.  2) It’s important to rest and give your body an opportunity to heal properly even if that means keeping a slower pace for a few days.

Tonight's Streak Mile

Tonight’s Streak Mile

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#RWRUNSTREAK Update:

Miles to Date: 75.33

Consecutive Days:  29

Miles to Goal:  54.67

Days Remaining:  10