Monday, December 3, 2018

2018 Turkey Trot Chicago Recap

Ahhh...Thanksgiving. A day to give thanks for what we have and spend time with our loved ones and run a road race before sitting down to a large meal. 

The turkey trot has become the most popular type of road race in America. Be it a 5k, 8k, or longer, the tukey trot has become as much a part of the American Thanksgiving tradition as a turkey dinner or pumpkin pie. The turkey trot is often the first race that many runners ever complete, myself included.

Me at my very first race, The Grant Park Turkey Trot, in 2013.
Turkey trots are great for new runners because they aren't nearly as intimidating as other races can be. They tend to more about having fun and being part of a community than about being super competitive. They are family friendly events, and you see runners of all ages, sizes, and abilities, which is always a win in my book.  

This year, I ran the Art Van Turkey Trot Chicago 5k on Thanksgiving morning. When I woke up that morning, I considered skipping the race completely. It was cold and windy, and I was exhausted and looking forward to a rare day off. Luckily, the race had a later than usual start time, so I had a good chunk of the morning to drink my coffee and rev myself up enough to get out the door and head to the race.

It was a grey, cold, windy day in Chicago, and though I thought I only gave myself enough time to get to the race site, check my bag, and then start the race, I found myself at the race site incredibly early thanks to a much shorter than usual wait for the train. Once I got off the train at Diversey, I headed east to the park, where it was easy to find the race site, even if you hadn't read through the participant guide. Just follow all the other people dressed to run and look for the giant turkey.



I had too much time to kill before the race and foolishly checked my bag too early. I was freezing! I knew I would warm up once I started running, so until the race began, I just had to keep moving. The race offers day of packet pick up, but I had been able to make it to one of the early packet pick up days and didn't need to bother with it. When it was announced that it was time to head to the corrals, I made a quick stop at the Great Chicago Food Depository truck to make my donation and then joined the crowd in the corrals.

The race sold out, being capped at 8000 runners, so the corrals got pretty crowded very quickly. It appeared that I was not the only person who arrived early.


The corrals were self seeded, which is always a mixed bag. Despite corral entrances being clearly marked with signs stating the estimated pace, it was obvious that people were lining up where ever they pleased. The last corral was specifically for those who planned to walk the race, but there were numerous people in corrals ahead of me who were clearly not going to running, being dressed in jeans, boots, full winter coats, scarves, etc.

No matter what pace you run/walk, you deserve to participate in races. I can't stress that enough. I hear too often from people who feel like they can't run races because they are too slow, or that they don't feel welcome if they want to walk the course even if the race has a corral for walkers. As long as you are able to complete the full distance, then you can and should participate. But please, for the sake of everyone involved, put yourself in the appropriate corral if the race is self seeded. If you are planning to walk the race, then you don't belong in the 9 minute per mile corral. By moving up to corrals where you can't keep pace with those around you, you put yourself and others at risk and create an obstacle for those behind you.

I put myself towards the back of the 11 minutes per mile corral. I averaged 12:40 at my last race early in the month, but had been working hard and hoped to be closer to 11:30 minutes per mile this time around, having finally achieved that on a couple of runs earlier in the week.

There was a lot of waiting around in the cold, as they smartly did a staggered start, releasing each corral after the one before had enough time to not create a dangerous back log of runners on the path. Using the lake front path tends to be the go to for races in Chicago, but it is extremely narrow in places and can make it tricky to maneuver around others in a crowded race. It also isn't allowed to be closed to the public, so you often have to deal with random/unhappy folks who were unaware that there was a race using the path and weren't prepared to deal with the crowds during their regular run or walk.

Unfortunately, many of us had to deal with finding our way around slower runners/walkers almost as soon as our corral was released. With the race being sold out, the 5k course never really opened up and allowed for any breathing room, because it was so jam packed with participants. It can be frustrating, but with races like this, you have to remind yourself that it is really meant to be a "fun run" and so many of the participants are new to running and may not know proper race etiquette. A simple"excuse me" is all you need much of the time to create a hole big enough in a group for you to squeeze through.

I was very pleased with my effort as I hit the first mile marker. I had found a comfortable pace very early and was finely starting to feel warm. I had once again chosen to run by feel and was prepared to walk, if needed. I kept waiting for the tell tale tingling in my foot that always eventually led to numbness, but it thankfully never came. I hit the second mile marker still feeling good and knowing that I was getting closer to the finish line. There was plenty of bobbing and weaving through the course, finding my way around folks who were walking, but soon the finish line was in sight.

For the first time in a long time, I was able to finish a run with no walking! Hooray!

And I ended up with a slightly better finish time than I had planned. My final time was 34:57, giving me an average pace of 11:15.


There were plenty of snacks at the finish line: water, Gatorade, popcorn, apples, and mini bags of candy corn. There were also tents with mini pumpkin pies (delicious), warm apple cider, and beer.

As soon as I stopped running, the cold returned. Despite being elated to have had my best finish time in almost a year, I ignored the beer tent and went straight to gear check to get my bag, which contained a coat and scarf. I would have loved to stay for the post race festivities (they had music and lots of games, such as turkey bowling), but I was ready for a hot shower and a real meal.

Despite my initial bad mood, I had a lot of fun at the race and will probably run it again next year. I was extremely happy to see my hard work pay off in such a big way when it came to my finish time, having shaved almost 5 minutes off my 5k time in just a few weeks, so I have a bit more hope for the future than I did at the start of the month.

Running the 5k was a great way to start the day because it got me moving and out of the house for at least a little while. Once home, the rest of the day consisted of cozy pajamas, kitty cuddles, Netflix, and plenty of yummy food. All in all, it was a great Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

2018 Hot Chocolate 5k Recap

Have you ever signed up for a race and then forgotten to add it to your calendar? 

Because I have. And I don't recommend it. 

I ran the Hot Chocolate 5k on November 4. I didn't intend to run the race, but I signed up for it at some point and proceeded to forget about it until I started receiving emails about packet pick up. So hooray for reminder emails! But boo to forgetting about registering for the race!

On Friday, November 2, I made my way down to McCormick Place to pick up my race packet. Thankfully, I was working downtown that day, so it was fairly easy to get to packet pick up in the morning and still get to work on time. I've heard so many horror stories about the Hot Chocolate race expos and packet pick up lines, but I have never experienced that. I was there nice and early, arriving only about 10 minutes after the expo opened. There were no lines when I arrived, so the packet pick up process was incredibly quick and easy - first you get your bib number, then you head to the packet pick up area, then you have a chance to try on your swag and exchange sizes (subject to availability). My jacket surprisingly fit perfectly, so I skipped the exchange area and made a quick sweep of the expo. I even had enough time to swing by the chocolate booth for some hot chocolate and goodies before I needed to catch a bus and head to work. 

If you are ever at one of the Hot Chocolate race expos and aren't sure where the chocolate goodies are, then just look for this guy:


The night before the race, I made sure that I had everything I needed laid out and ready to go for the morning. The forecast called for wind and rain, so I made sure that my race clothes were appropriate, including a light weight jacket that would provide some shield from the rain without being too heavy. 

I was going to have to head straight to work after the race (forgetting about the race meant I hadn't requested the day off), so I had a much heavier gear check bag than usual because I had to take everything that I would need for work with me to the race. I don't really like to have anything valuable in my gear check bag, but I had no choice this time due to my poor planning.

The morning of the race saw me waking up before the sun. Hannah, my cat, was not impressed and decided to sleep in. I'll admit that I was a little jealous. 


As my train made its way downtown, I watched as more and more runners got on at every stop. I was feeling surprisingly calm, which was a nice change of pace. I soon discovered, however, that I had given myself too much time to get to the race and ended up arriving far too early. Despite being in wave 2, I was there before wave 1 had even closed their corrals, let alone started. I decided to make the best of it, checked my bag with the 5k gear check, made a quick pit stop at the port-o-potties (which were plentiful), and then went to watch the start of the race.

Once everything was underway I started the long walk back to my own corral.


The worst part of every race is the waiting - waiting for gear check, waiting in line for the bathroom, waiting around in the corral for the race to start. I hadn't run a race alone in almost a year, and I was not fully prepared for the loneliness I felt in the corral, despite being surrounded by other runners. And I do mean surrounded. This race may have officially grown too large for me to handle. There were sooooooo many people.

I was starting to feel anxious, and I just wanted to get started so that I could finish and go to work. I was feeling like this whole thing was a mistake and I should have stayed in bed, snuggling with my cat. Soon wave 2 was getting ready to start. We began inching forward, getting closer to the start line, and I realized that I was here, so I might as well do this thing.

My corral was finally at the start line, and I began my run.

The 5k course was the same as last year, with the first mile being on the lower roads beneath the loop, Lower Wacker specifically. Not the prettiest course, and I heard quite a bit of grumbling from those around me who had never run the race before, but it did keep us out of the wind. I felt pretty good for the first mile, but shortly after the mile marker, I felt the tell tale tingling in my foot that meant it was about to go numb (something that has continued to happen during almost all of my runs for the past year). The remainder of the race was peppered with regular bouts of walking, as I tried to stop my foot from going numb. Good times! We had finally emerged above ground again, which was good because Lower Wacker was starting to freak me out a little - it is just so dark and warm and claustrophobic feeling.

Before I knew it, we had passed the one aide station on the 5k course. I was moving super slowly, had resorted to run/walk intervals, but I was moving and wasn't feeling as anxious anymore. Though it was windy, the temperature was great for a run, and the rain seemed as though it was going to hold off until later.

I did get a few negative comments from other runners every time I would walk, which was entirely unnecessary. Fellow runners, if someone slows to a walk during a race, you don't need to put them down, especially when they are doing their due diligence of moving to the side and checking behind them before slowing down.

As the 5k and 15k courses split, the 5k turned onto Roosevelt to head towards the finish line. It was fun seeing the marathon's blue line painted on the road. As usual for races downtown, I wanted to make sure that I ran all the way up Roosevelt, which I'm happy to report I did.


The finish line was in sight! Once I was across the finish line, I instinctively reached to stop my watch, forgetting that I had chosen not to wear it. There were tables filled with tiny cups of water and Nuun just after the finish line, but if you kept moving through the finishers' chute, you eventually reached full bottles of water.

Once I was finished, I made a bee line for gear check, grabbed my bag, and headed to the post race party area to get my finisher's mug full of goodies. Yes, I needed to get to work, but I wasn't going to forsake the sweet snacks that were waiting for me. I couldn't spend any time at the party, but with my tray of deliciousness in hand, I headed for the train to go to work.


All in all, I was pleased with my effort and happy I ran the race. Sure I wish I was faster and could run continuously without walking, but I am really trying to make a concerted effort to stop dwelling in the past and accept my current ability for what it is.

My finish time of 39:20 is more than 10 minutes away from the finish times I used to be capable of, but that gives me something to continue working towards. My goal this winter is to get back to continuous running. I have another race coming up next week, so we'll see what happens.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Searching for Joy

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Not only have I found this saying to be true when it comes to comparing yourself to others, but in recent months I've come to realize that this is also true when comparing your current self to your former self.

I started being so hard on myself as I noticed my pace slowing and distances that were once easy becoming more difficult. I frequently found myself running alone during group runs because I could no longer keep up with my friends. I started having to take walk breaks during even my "easy" runs.

Running, which was once a refuge and a source of joy, became another area of my life where I just wasn't good enough.

So what am I doing about it?

Once I was finished feeling sorry for myself, I took stock of my current situation. I realized three things pretty quickly: 1.) that I needed to focus on taking baby steps instead of hurling myself straight into speed work and long runs, 2.) that I needed to stop dwelling on the past, and 3.) that I needed to, as much as is possible, eliminate external factors that make me feel bad about myself.

This all led me to make some changes to how I approach running.

As I mentioned last week, rather than getting frustrated that I can't easily run 10 miles anymore, I'm starting from square one and have committed to relearning how to run. I am currently in the midst of a couch to 5k training program. This allows me to a.) have structured runs with a set schedule and b.) have a specific and attainable goal to work towards.

I have also stopped running with a group, so that means no more early morning runs with my friends or evening visits to Fleet Feet for their weekly group fun runs. Although I miss my running buddies and the social aspect of those group runs, it is really nice being able to run my own pace. I'm not struggling to keep up with anyone or having to turn around before the rest of the group. For me, running alone has also brought back a kind of peacefulness that I didn't even realize I was missing when I run.

I have also stopped running with any sort of GPS. I leave my Garmin at home and haven't bothered with Strava in months. I have also turned off the GPS on the 5k training app that I'm currently using. I know that I am slow, and the fact that it bothers me as much as it does means that the last thing I need right now is to be reminded of my pace or distance. It was initially hard giving up my beloved Garmin, and I frequently found myself looking down at my wrist out of habit. After a while, though, I stopped worrying about pace. As it turns out, I discovered that running without thought to pace or distance can be very freeing.

So that is how I am currently approaching running. I refuse to compare myself to anyone else, including my former self. And it seems to be helping. I haven't found the joy that I have lost, yet, but I am starting to feel better.

I am still struggling. I won't lie about that. But I feel like I'm making progress. Hopefully by the end of November, I'll be able to once again run a 5k without stopping. Then I can find a new goal to word towards.

And my search for joy will continue. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Relearning to Run

Hi, my name is Rebecca, and I'm currently learning how to run.

Or relearning how to run, I suppose.

I started running in 2013 and made a lot of progress over the first few years. It seemed that every month I was able to run faster and farther than before. Then everything started going down hill in 2016. My depression and anxiety spiraled out of control and I got injured while training for my first marathon but insisted on continuing my training and running the race. I started getting slower. Then last year, shortly before my second marathon, I started to hate running because it was yet another area of my life in which I felt like a failure. I was once again hurting, and I was angry at myself and felt defeated, and I was jealous of those around me who were thriving while I was struggling.

I ended up missing several races this year due to either illness or anxiety, but then things started looking up as I ran a couple of 5k races with friends who were new to running. Having another person there was not only motivating, but it also helped me remember that running could be fun.

I was running again. Or at least trying to run again. Many times my runs turned into walks, as my fitness level is no where near where it used to be.

Then last weekend, I went out to watch part of the Chicago marathon. I've never had the opportunity to spectate a race before, and it was amazing. I decided that it was time for me to recommit to running. I signed up for a Turkey Trot that day and began a 5k training program the following morning (Zombies, Run! 5k Training - the same 5k training app I used when I decided to run my first race 5 years ago).

So here I am, relearning how to run. I'm taking things slowly and trying not to think about the past, the successes or the failures. Instead, I'm just trying to keep moving forward and putting one foot in front of the other.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

2018 Ravenswood Run 5k Recap

I did it! I ran a race! 

For the first time this year, my anxiety did not win. 

I ran the Ravenswood Run 5k on Sunday, and I didn't do nearly as badly as I expected. This used to be my favorite 5k, but I missed it last year due to a scheduling conflict. I'm glad that I was able to return this year, as I really needed the confidence boost that starting and finishing a race finally gave me. 

I picked up my race packet (bib number, shirt, and gear check bag) on Friday at Fleet Feet Chicago's Lincoln Square store. It was incredibly quick and painless, and I was in and out in about 5 minutes.  I was a little less than excited about the thought of the race. I was worried about a repeat of this year's Shamrock Shuffle, panic attack included. I was worried about how long it would take me to finish. I was worried that I had been assigned to corral A, and I don't belong in corral A. 


FYI, I found out after the fact that RAM Racing, who now owns and manages the Ravenswood Run, offers "preferred start corral" placement based on previous finish times at previous RAM Racing events (or runners can also submit their finish times from non RAM Racing events), so that is how I ended up in corral A. Surprisingly, you only need to average 11:30 per mile to qualify for this, and they automatically assign you to a "preferred start corral" (basically a corral towards the front or in the first wave, depending on how many corrals and/or waves there are for the race) if you have qualified via one of their previous races. Because Ravenswood Run is a smaller race, with only one wave and three corrals, it felt as though everyone who qualified for this was placed in corral A, as I was not the only slow runner with a big A on my bib number. 

I barely got any sleep on Saturday night, as I kept tossing and turning and couldn't convince my brain to be quiet. I ended up getting out of bed much earlier than needed (5:30am) for a race that I can walk to. If I wasn't going to get any sleep, then I might as well get up and start my day. I washed the dirty dishes in my sink, fed my cat, fed myself, took a quick shower...basically I was trying to distract myself from the idea of the race. 

Shortly before leaving my apartment, I checked the weather report and saw it was chillier than originally expected, so I switched from capris to tights and added a light weight long sleeved shirt to my planned race outfit. This is a decision that I would later regret.

The race started at 8am, so I left my apartment at 7am and started the walk to the race site. I figured I would arrive between 7:20am and 7:30am, which would give me just enough time for one final bathroom stop and then a quick stop at gear check before I would need to get into my corral. 

The lines for the port-a-potties were blissfully short, which made up for the fact that the line for gear check was insanely long. Once I had made it through the line and handed over my bag, I headed to my corral and managed to find standing room at the very back of the corral, being careful to stay to the side so that it would be a little easier for faster runners behind me to pass.  


I felt oddly calm standing in the corral. It seemed that all of my panic disappeared once I was at the race site. They did the usual announcements, followed by the national anthem, and then, before I really knew what was happening, we were off. The race had begun!

I was doing it! I was running a race again!

I quickly found a pace that I felt I could maintain and started trying to enjoy myself. There were thanks given to volunteers and high fives given to children. I was feeling good when I hit the one mile mark. In fact, I was enjoying myself a lot more than I have in a long time on a run. I still had the nagging calf pain that seems to have become my constant companion, but it wasn't as bad as usual.

Then, right around the half way point, I got hit by the sound of my own wheezing, which is usually my first indication that asthma attack is looming. I slowed to walk and spent the next couple of minutes getting my breathing under control. Once I started running again, I made sure to occasionally do a full check in with myself - was my breathing controlled? was my calf pain still manageable? head up, shoulders back. just keeping going.

Mile 2 was over, which meant that I was in the home stretch. Just a hair over a mile to go. I was shocked by how good I felt. I just wished that I had gone with my original planned outfit, as I was very very warm. I unzipped my quarter zip and pushed my sleeves up as much as I could. I cursed myself for over dressing.

Finally, the finish line was in sight. I tried to speed up a little, and before I knew it, the the race was done. I was so happy to have finished! I felt great! The gear check line was just as long as it had been to drop things off, so there was some standing around and waiting, but that gave me time to drink some water, because I was incredibly thirsty. Once I had my bag, I was starting to get chilly again, so I threw on my sweatshirt and went to hand out by the finish line to cheer on others until I had to head home to get ready for work.


It was a good day.

My finish time was 34:59, which, let's be honest, is not even close to my best 5k time, but I'm still very happy with it. Just getting to the starting line can and has been a challenge, but I think I'm finally heading in the right direction.

I still have a lot of work to do, but maybe next year I can return to the Ravenswood Run and finish faster and stronger.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Future Race Plans

The F^3 Half Marathon didn't happen for me due to illness.

The Shamrock Shuffle 8k didn't happen for me due to anxiety and a panic attack.

That is two races this year that I was planning to run that I didn't run. Disappointing? Yes.

 Am I going to try to race again? Absolutely.

I may not be interested in running as many races as I have in the past, but I do still want to race. I find that I need specific goals to work towards to keep myself motivated, and signing up for a race gives me a specific distance that I have to run on a specific date. I just need to choose races a bit more carefully, which may mean signing up closer to race day, even though that means paying a higher registration fee.

Additionally, I'm hoping that if I can get myself to another race and manage to cross the finish line, then perhaps it will help me deal with the anxiety/panic that I've been experiencing lately when it comes to racing and running in public.

I am currently signed up for three races, all of which are 5ks: the Ravenswood 5k, the Run for the Zoo 5k, and the Proud to Run 5k. I'm not terribly excited for Ravenswood or Run for the Zoo, but I am very much looking forward to Proud to Run, which I'll be running with one of my co-workers. It will be his first race, and I always enjoy helping people discover a love for running and run their first race.

I am debating whether or not I want to do a half marathon later this year, but I don't want to sign up for something unless I'm 100% sure I want to do it, so my three 5ks will be a bit of a practice run for future possible races.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Did I Shuffle?

The Shamrock Shuffle was Sunday.

So...did I run the race? To put it simply, no. No, I did not run the Shamrock Shuffle this year, even though I was registered. I broke my own tradition of running the Shamrock Shuffle every year and my own rule about always running the races I sign up for as long as I am not sick or injured (and even then I sometimes run).

To be honest, I don't really feel that bad about it.

By the time I got home from work on Saturday night, I was starting to feel better about the idea of racing on Sunday. I was even starting to get a little excited for the race. Before going to bed that evening, I packed my gear check bag and laid out my special Shamrock Shuffle gear - Shamrock Shuffle neck gaiter, green sparkly visor and skirt, four leaf clover compression socks, etc.


When my alarm went Sunday morning, however, I was no longer excited. I got up, had breakfast, got dressed, and made my way to the train. I felt like I was on autopilot. Then, sitting on the train on my way downtown, the panic set in.

I just couldn't do it.

I couldn't deal with the crowds or the noise. I fet the tears coming on. I tried to catch my breath. I was on the verge of a panic attack. I had signed up for a race that I've run and enjoyed before, so what was the problem? It was only an 8k. It wasn't like I was on my way to a marathon. Why couldn't I pull myself together?

I got off the train and transferred to one heading back towards home. Once home, I changed out of my running clothes and went back to bed. My cat, Hannah, snuggled up next to me, and I fell asleep.

I woke up a few hours later feeling infinitely better. I felt refreshed. I expected to be disappointed in myself, but I surprisingly felt fine. There was no resentment towards those I know who ran. There was no feeling of remorse for having missed another race.

I headed out for a run alone that evening. I haven't enjoyed a run that much in a very long time. I ran without music or distraction. Listening to the sound of my own breath and the sound of my feet hitting the ground was exhilarating. I felt free. I felt as though a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. It was incredible!

I still can't quite pinpoint what caused my panic, but I know that skipping the race was the right thing for me to do. There will be other races to run.

Right now I find solace in the knowledge that I can still find joy in running. Even if it comes less often than it once did, that feeling is still something that is worth chasing.