Sunday, August 31, 2014

2014 Magnificent Mile Chicago Women's 5k Recap

This morning I ran the 5k portion of the Magnificent Mile Chicago Women's Half Marathon and 5k.

The race itself didn't start until 7am, but I wanted to get there early (I'm always terrified of being late) and don't have a car, so I woke up before the sun was out to make sure that I had all the time I needed to make it to the race.

It was early, you guys. Really early.
Being a Sunday, I had to contend with the limitations of the CTA (Chicago's public transportation). It usually takes me about an hour to get downtown, but I knew it would take longer this morning because of the Sunday schedule for the el. I live on the brown line, which doesn't start running until 5am on Sundays, and only runs as far as Belmont until 7am, so I would have to transfer to the red line in order to get all the way downtown.

When my first alarm went off at 4am (I had two alarms set, just in case I slept through the first one), I got ready for the day ahead. I washed my face, brushed my teeth, got dressed (I made sure to have everything I needed out and ready last night), fed Hannah her cat food (she was freaked out about the change to our morning routine), and fed myself a light breakfast (a piece of toast with almond butter and half a banana). I made sure I had everything I needed, and then I was off!

This is my "Holy crap! It is sooooo early!" face
5:05am saw me waiting for the train. It was surreal being out so early, in the dark, on an empty train platform. The attendant at the train station greeted me with a hearty "Good morning!" as I went through the turnstile. I don't think he is used to seeing folks out this early on the weekends.

Hello, creepy and empty train platform.
As my train got closer to Belmont, more and more runners joined me. By the time I transferred to the red line, the whole train car was filled with other runners. I think the few folks who weren't on their way to the race (I counted 3 people on my train car) were wondering what the hell was happening. Who are all these people? Why are they all wearing spandex? What's with the weird numbers pinned to their shirts?

Everyone got off the train together and walked over to the race. It was incredibly easy to find, being right downtown in Grant Park.

When in doubt about which way to go, just follow the other runners.
It was strange being downtown so early, but it was also beautiful. I made a point to stop from time to time to enjoy the view before, during, and after the race.

Good morning, Chicago!
As the sun rose, I started to get ready for the race. I have to say it - I had a blast! All of my worries brought about by the changes to the half marathon course (I felt bad for the folks who were running a different race than what they signed up for), the changes to the shirt, and the disappointing market and packet pick up were quickly erased.

I watched the sun rise over the lake. It almost made me want to always get up early enough to watch the sunrise.
Personally, I thought everything was laid out well, with plenty of volunteers there to direct folks to where they needed to go. The volunteers were seriously awesome at this race, whether they were offering treats, water, information, or high fives. There were folks walking around before the race handing out Shot Bloks, but I didn't take any. I was only doing the 5k, so fueling for the race wasn't really a concern. Everything was clearly labeled and easy to find. Gear check was hard to miss, with different gear check lines assigned based on bib number, which made pick up after the race nice and easy.

My first stop (yes, even before gear check) was at the bathrooms, which were conveniently close to the starting area. I haven't done many races, but I think one of the most important pieces of advice I've ever been given and I can ever give is to find the bathrooms right away and make a pit stop, even if you don't think you need to. There is nothing worse than running an entire race (even a short race) while needing to pee.

Waiting in the line for the bathrooms. 
There was the usual pre-race group warm up, then everyone made one last pit stop at the bathrooms before getting into positions (seriously, go before the race starts, folks). As all the runners finished lining up, there were the usual announcements explaining how things would work, where to turn, where the aid stations were. Then the national anthem was sung. Then we just waited for the final word that everything was good to go for the run to start.

Let's do this!
Everyone was assigned to a specific corral (A-E). As expected, I was towards the back, in corral D. They released each corral separately, which helped make sure that things didn't get too crowded and that faster folks didn't get trapped behind us slow pokes. The corrals were packed! It was one of the few negative things I noticed. There simply wasn't room in each corral for everyone, and there were some folks who were supposed to be in corral A or B stuck back in D or E because it was too packed to move forward. There were even folks lining up along side the corrals, hoping to work their way into the crowd as people moved out of corrals and over the starting line.

Corral D - aka my home until the starting line.
The route for the 5k was fantastic! Running down Michigan Avenue was a great feeling and a wonderful experience. I usually run around my neighborhood, so being downtown, among all those giant buildings, was a little crazy. The views were outstanding, and it was an experience I won't forget.

The other runners were also clearly excited. There was cheering as the fast folks came whizzing by us, heading back to the finish line. There were high fives and shouts from runners to other runners of "You got this!" and "Looking good!" and "Keep it up!" It was a really great experience. The camaraderie and support among the various runners and the volunteers was really inspiring and helped make the morning incredible.

The first aid station (and only aid station for the 5k) was still well stocked when I got there. I did slow down and walk a bit while I drank some water once I hit the aid station. The day was beautiful, but it is summer, so it was hot, humid, and the sun was shining bright. There was little to no shade on the route, and by the time I hit the aid station I was already getting a little overheated and felt a headache coming on. I was struggling with the 5k, so I can't imagine what it was like for those running the half marathon. I just hope that all of their aid stations were well stocked, too.

Look at all those runners! 
I had the joy of hearing my name called out over the loud speaker at the finish line (the first time this has happened to me in a race) and was greeted by volunteers handing out cold water, cold wash cloths, and snacks. There were apples, Luna protein bars, Gatorade, and biscotti. I grabbed one of everything, found a quiet, shady place to stretch and sit down for a minute while I cooled off. Water has never tasted so good! And I think that the ice cold wash cloth was the best thing to happen to me this year. There were also frozen chocolate covered bananas, which were kind of delightful.

The only thing better than a banana after a race is a chocolate covered frozen banana.
After the race, there was music and general merriment as everyone waited for the half marathon runners to start coming in. I took advantage of the tent offering stretching and injury screenings. It was a little awkward having some random guy help me get a good stretch. I'm generally not big on touching and really dislike being touched by strangers. But hot damn! My legs felt so much better afterwards!

Free stretching and injury screens? Yes, please.
I hung out for a while, soaking in the general festive atmosphere, but eventually I was just too hot and my headache wouldn't go away, so I decided to begrudgingly abandon the festivities and headed home. I know I only ran a 5k, but I accomplished what I set out to do with this race, and, as a bonus, it is the first time in a long time that running hasn't felt incredibly painful.

Thanks for the fun morning, The Magnificent Mile Chicago Women's Half Marathon and 5k!
Overall, I thought it was a great race. Again, I ran the 5k, so I can't speak for the half marathon. Maybe next year I'll be able to tackle that distance.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Fitness Meets Fashion Market and Packet Pick Up

Earlier today I went to pick up my race packet at the Fitness Meets Fashion Market and Packet Pick Up for The Magnificent Mile Chicago Women's Half Marathon and 5k.

It would have been kind of hard to miss this sign.
It was easy to find and get to, being at the South Loop location of Fleet Feet Sports Chicago. I took the red line to the Roosevelt stop and then walked the short distance to the store.

Although I wasn't happy with having to wait so long for information about packet pick up (they only emailed Thursday, with pick up starting on Friday), I have to hand to Fleet Feet, packet pick up went very quickly and smoothly, as everything was clearly labeled and they kept the lines moving. I really only had to wait in line for maybe 5 minutes. All you needed was your bib number email and/or an id. For anyone who didn't get the email or may have lost the email, they had stations set up where you could look up your bib number.

There wasn't really anything to the packet, however. Inside I found my bib, 4 safety pins, the gear check bag, my shirt, and....nope, that's it. No freebies, no coupons, no course map or event information...just the absolute basics. I did pick up a Magnificent Mile Passport, but I don't think I'll be using it, as the discounts it offers are either not very good or for places that I'm not interested in going to.

Everything in the packet.
I found the "market" somewhat disappointing, too. Admittedly, I got there later than planned, so I wasn't able to participate in the shake out run or the complimentary yoga class. Even so, where was the live music? Where were the food trucks? Where were all the things that were promised? I'm sorry but a handful of tents does not a market make, and everything that was available was far too expensive and far too small (sorry, but just because I run doesn't mean that I wear a small or extra small). I don't know. Maybe I should have gone yesterday? Maybe they ran out of things because I waited until the second day of the event?

The entire market. Sorry, but I wasn't impressed.
Most importantly, I discovered that there have been many changes to the race. I've been beating myself up about having to downgrade to the 5k, so I haven't been paying attention to the event itself. It turns out that the course for the half marathon has changed (now on the lake front trail instead of through closed city streets) and the shirt has changed (a much simpler and much cheaper tank that probably won't last through one wash instead of the high quality shirt that was promised), and this leaves me a bit worried for the event itself.

I'm trying to stay positive. I'm hoping for the best tomorrow morning. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Nervous Nelly

My next race is this Sunday, and I'm already freaking out.

I'll be running the 5k portion of the Magnificent Mile Chicago Women's Half Marathon and 5k.

I was originally registered to run the half marathon. I signed up as soon as registration opened and immediately began training. I was making improvements in both speed and distance. I felt great. I knew I could do this race! It was going to be awesome! But then life happened. Health problems put an end to my training, and by the time I was finally able to run again, I was starting from square one (literally - I was having trouble finishing even one mile) and didn't have enough time to safely train for a half marathon. Cue sad trombone sound.

So...yeah...I had to downgrade my entry to the 5k. I was bummed. I'm still bummed. I spent a lot of money on a race only to have to switch to a shorter and much less expensive race (sorry, no refunds).

That being said, I'm trying to be positive. At least I'm running again. A 5k may not be a half marathon, but it is better than nothing. My health is improving. My running is very slowly improving. I can do this. Right? Right?!?

I'M FREAKING OUT! What if I can't finish? What if I'm the last one to finish? What if I end up walking the entire race? My running is getting better, but it still isn't where it was when I had to stop my half marathon training. Sure, I occasionally finish 4 or 5 miles during my runs. But more often than not, I find myself struggling to finish 3 miles. What if people judge me and laugh at me as I huff and puff my way to a sad, slow finish?

Okay. Breathe. There are too many "what ifs" in that last paragraph.

I'm trying to be nicer to myself. I'm trying not to let my general pessimism and negativity overtake and destroy everything I enjoy. Yes, I'm nervous. Yes, my mind immediately goes to all the things that could go wrong. I know, however, that no matter how horrible I may feel while running the race, I will feel a million times more horrible if I don't run the race. I need to remind myself about all the things I like about running. I need to remind myself why I started running and why I keep running. I need to remind myself about how much I hated those many months of little to no running.

My goals for this weekend:

1. Don't die.

2. Cross the finish line.

3.  Enjoy the race and have fun.

4. Don't beat myself up if the race doesn't go the way I want it to.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Treadmill

Behold! My nemesis!


Tonight's run took place at the gym on this evil machine. I hate the treadmill. I really do. I would always rather run outside. The treadmill is BORING. And it makes me hyper aware of just how long and how far I've run, to the point where I start watching the clock, waiting for the second when I can stop. When I'm outside, I sometimes lose track of time and distance and just enjoy my run more.

There are days, however, when I hit the gym to run on this hamster wheel. Sometimes it is due to weather. Sorry, but I'm not hardcore enough to run outside in the sweltering, face melting heat or the bitter, face numbing cold.

Other times, it is simply more convenient to hit the gym for a run. I may be at the gym already for a different work out, such as strength training, and want to still squeeze in a quick run that day. Or maybe, as was the case tonight, I want to work on speed. I'm not very good at judging my pace when I'm running outside, though I am slowly getting better. On the treadmill, it is super easy. I just set it for a certain pace, and, as long as I don't want to go flying off the back of the machine, then I know that I'm running at the pace.


Just look at the smug face of the treadmill. It is obviously taunting me. Judging me. Laughing at me. I'll show you, treadmill!

Hit or Miss

Soooo...yeah...mornings...ummm...mornings are hard, you guys.

My success at getting up and running in the mornings has been a bit hit or miss. I did well over the weekend and managed to drag myself out of bed for a morning run on both Saturday and Sunday, but then this morning happened. Or didn't happen.

My alarm went off. I turned it off. I went back to bed. It is amazing that i even made it to work on time.

I'm trying not to let it bother me. I have been running and working out (I also do a couple of days of strength training a week, plus I've started go for long walks after dinner each night) consistently since I set my goals, so that's step one. And I'll be able to run tonight after work. In fact, I may go to the gym and run on the treadmill (aka in the air conditioning) and start working on speed. I've decided to break my speed goal into smaller, more manageable goals. Right now, I'm consistently trapped at a slow jog at over 12 minutes per mile, so my first goal is simply to get that down to 12 minutes. Once I'm there, my goal will be 11:30. Then 11 minutes. And so on and so forth.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Mornings

Guess who overslept again? Guess who now has to go for a run tonight because she didn't get up early enough to run before work this morning?

Let's be real. I'm not a morning person. I never have been. Even so, I do prefer to get my workouts done early in the morning. My whole day just seems to go better after I've been for a run. I feel more awake, more energized, and ready to tackle the day.

I'm not a morning person. Hannah, however, is a morning cat.
I'm usually good about getting up and out the door for a run or a trip to the gym in the morning. Or at least I was...until a few weeks ago. I don't know what happened, but I started sleeping as late as I possibly could while still getting to work on time. I started running or walking late at night.

There is nothing wrong with working out at night. Evening workouts just make more sense and feel better to a lot of people. I'm not one of those people, however. I might not be a natural morning person, but I tend to be a better runner in the morning. I push myself harder in the mornings. I also don't have to worry quite as much about safety issues (visibility, parts of the city to avoid, being a woman alone on a running path) in the morning.

 I'm more likely to skip a run or cut a run short when it is night. I'm a bit of a homebody and don't really want to go anywhere after I get home from work each night. All I want to do is cook dinner, watch Netflix, and hang out with my cat. Don't judge me! Hannah is an awesome cat who enjoys watching Bob's Burgers as much as I do.

Does anyone have any tips or tricks to get up and out the door early in the morning? Remember my first goal is to run regularly, so I can't already be slipping up. I will run tonight, but I want to start running in the mornings again.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Goals

Soooo...I always hear about how it is important to set goals. Not just for running, but also for life. Life is big and scary, especially when I'm looking for a new job. Running...not so much. So here are some goals to help give my running some purpose. Some are small. Some are big. The small goals will help me achieve the big goals. I think all of them are achievable with a little bit of time and effort.

Small Goals
  • Run regularly. I've been really bad about slacking off lately. Well...maybe slacking off isn't the best term. I haven't been running as regularly as I once did or as regularly as I would like. Sure, I have the best of intentions, but that doesn't really count when I don't follow through. I want to get back on a regular running schedule, which will help me achieve many of my big goals (see below).
  • Run with others. I've been wanting to join up with one of the many running groups in Chicago for a long time, but I find them very intimidating. I don't want them to judge me for being to slow or fat. I'm worried that I'll look like an idiot. I need to get over that. I need to just go and give it a try. I'd love to meet other people who share a common interest, and I think running with a group will help me push myself to be better, as well as give me a concrete appointment to run each week. And there are so many groups to choose from that I should be able to find one that is a good fit, though it make take trying out a couple of different ones.  
Big Goals
  • Get faster. As I've said many times before, I run very slowly. I tend to run a little over a 12 minute mile. I want to get that down to a 10 minute mile. I think this is pretty easily achievable, as long as I start doing some speed work and stick with it. I had managed to get down to an 11 minute mile earlier this year, until I stopped running regularly due to some health problems. Then my time shot back up. Sigh. I'd really like to get my 5k time down to 30 minutes or less.  
  • Increase distance. I've been trapped at this 5k distance since I started running and haven't really been able to break out of it and run longer distances. Every now and then I have a great day and am able to jump up to 5 miles, but that seems to be my absolute max. I don't know why, but longer distances are really appealing to me. Before my health became an issue and stopped my training, I was training for a half marathon and was making progress in both speed and distance, so I know that I am capable of getting better with work and dedication. I'd like to first work on speed, but once I get that to where I want it, then I want to start working on distance.
  • Enter and Finish a Longer Race. I was supposed to run a half marathon next week. That planned changed drastically, and now I'm only entered in the 5k that is being held that same day. The same thing happened with my 10k earlier this summer. It turned into a 5k when I suddenly started feeling sick at the start of the race. I want to enter and finish a race longer than 5k. For the time being, I'm going to stick with 5ks as I work on speed. But as soon as I get to a place where I can start working on distance, I'm going to find a longer race to enter.
These are my current running goals. Do you have any goals that you want to work towards? What are they?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bad Day = Good Run

I don't know how it always happens, but my best runs tend to coincide with my worst days.

Yesterday, as I was leaving work, I got the news that I didn't get the full time position that for which I had applied and interviewed. It was a huge blow to my already frayed and delicate ego. I've been working part time at the company for over six years and have routinely been passed over for full time positions. I'm starting to wonder what is wrong with me. Am I really such a terrible person that I'm not even viewed as a candidate for a full time position in my own department? Am I that bad at my job?

It isn't just a matter of better pay or benefits. I'm at a point in my life where I really crave some sort of stability. I'm tried of working three part time jobs and having a crazy and irregular work schedule. I'm tired of not knowing if I'll be able to pay all or some of my bills each month. I'm tired of never being able to take a vacation or make plans for the future. Yes, I would love to make more money. I would love to have health and dental insurance. But ultimately, what I really want is the ability to plan for my future.

Last night, after I got home, I sat down and cried. Then, I laced up my shoes and went for a run.


It was a beautiful night. The sky was clear, the sun was setting, and the street lamps were coming on. It was very warm, but there was a cool breeze blowing. I walked for a few minutes, then I started to run. I was running slowly, but my pace was steady. I was lucky and didn't have to wait for any streetlights, so I was able to run without stopping. It felt good to be outside. It felt good to move.


At the end of an hour, I'd completed five miles and was hungry and tired. It was...well, it was my best run in a very long time. When I was finished, I still didn't feel very good about my current work situation (coming in to work today was ROUGH), but I did feel slightly better.

And this is one of the big reasons that I run. I sometimes have people ask why I run, and this is the perfect example. All day long, I have a little voice in my head telling me that I'm not good enough and that I'll never be good enough. When I run, however, that little voice is quiet. Running allows me to turn off my mind and just focus on moving forward. So even on no good terrible very bad days, running allows me to relax and forget about the awful feelings of inadequacy, even if only for an hour.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Rosehill Cemetery Crypt 5k

I'm super excited! Today I signed up for the Rosehill Cemetery Crypt 5k. How awesome does this race sound? A 5k. At night. Through a historic cemetery. Weeeeeeeeee! I can't wait!

You can find out more at the event's website.

Yes, I know that it is a gimmick. But you have to admit that it is a great gimmick. How often do you get to legally run through an awesome cemetery at night?

As I've mentioned before, I love races. I'm not competitive, at all. I'm slow, and I'm lucky if I manage not to be the last person to cross the finish line. I'm never going to win any awards. And I'm okay with that. I just love running races. I love feeling like part of a community. I love the goal that races give me to work towards. It is much harder to give into my laziness and not go for a run when I have a set date where I have to run a specific distance in front of people, especially when I paid money to do it.

I can't wait for October to arrive! A nice bonus is that Rosehill isn't too far from my home, so I should be able to walk to the event and not worry about gear check.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Today's Realization

Today's uncomfortable realization was that I will never be able to run the way I want to when I'm carrying so much extra weight and fueling my workouts with fake food instead of the real deal. In the last six months, I've gained 15 pounds, even though I've been working out all the time. I might not always run, but I do something physical every day (walking, strength training, a class at the gym, etc). The reason for the extra weight? I've been using my workouts as an excuse to indulge in junk food - chips, candy, french fries, etc. I need to go back to the way I was eating last year and save the junk food for the occasional indulgence instead of the daily treat. I need to start using food to fuel my body.

Let's be real. Food is delicious. I'm never going to be skinny because I love food too much, and even my short runs make me feel hungry. That being said, there is no reason why I can't satisfy my cravings with real food instead of junk food. I know that I need to start eating healthier. I need to start satisfying my cravings for sweets with fruit instead of candy. Carrots or nuts could work when I'm craving something crunchy. Do I want something creamy? Yogurt would be a good choice.

Don't get me wrong. If someone offers me a slice of cake, then I'm going to eat it. But I'm not going to eat an entire cake in one day.

I love broccoli, you guys. I really do. Especially roasted with some garlic and carrots. Mmmm...delicious. But I haven't been eating it very often because it is so much easier to stop and buy a cheeseburger.

But you know what? Not only am I gaining weight, but I just don't feel all that great. I feel tired and sluggish pretty much all the time. My recent health problems could be at least partly caused by a terrible diet. It is time to buckle down and eat right. This will help improve my health, my running, my budget (all that junk food is expensive, y'all), and my waistline. It is an all around win!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

2014 Esprit de She 5k Recap

Towards the end of July, I ran the Esprit de She 5k. It has taken me a little while to finally write up a review of the race because I had very mixed feelings about it. Basically, I felt that the race itself was very well organized, but I was not a fan of some of my fellow racers.

I registered early, so the race cost me $35. My registration fee included the official race shirt, as well as a "gift bag filled with goodies". The shirt was a cotton tank top with the logo on the front and "finisher 2014" on the back. I've worn it a couple of times and it is very comfortable. As for the "goodies" there was a coupon for 20% off one item at Athleta, a mini Luna bar, and complimentary food and drink on race day.

The official race shirt - image from the event website.
Even before race day arrived, things seemed to be pretty well run. There were periodic email reminders about the race and packet pick up. Packet pick up was nice and easy. I always try to do early pick up if possible. Early pick up was held at the Athleta store on Southport, which is right next to the Southport brown line stop, so it was super easy to get to for little old non driving, CTA taking me.

I was greeted promptly upon entering the store and was asked if I was there for packet pick up. I was directed to the back of the store, where they had tables set up. I was reminded that I needed to know my bib number (which I had received in an email earlier that week), but that if I didn't have it, then I could check it on one of the computers set up at the first table.  I told my bib number to the young woman at the packet table, and she confirmed my name, found my bib, and gave me the run down of what I needed to know - I needed to make sure to wear the bib, don't bend or fold it (the timing chip was attached to the bib, so I didn't want to damage it), any items I checked at gear check had to be in the clear bag they provided or I couldn't check them, etc. Next, I made my way over to the shirt table to grab my event shirt.

Once I had everything I needed, I decided to do a little shopping. I was at Athleta, after all, and they did give everyone a coupon. I found a great new pair of capris, which may or may not be my favorite bottoms to wear on runs. For the record, I don't work for or get paid by Athleta. I just really like these bottoms. In addition to being amazingly comfortable, they have pockets. I'm kind of a sucker for pockets. Anyway...moving on.

Race day arrived with beautiful weather. It was sunny and clear, but not too hot. The race was held in the evening on a week night, so I had to head straight to the race from work.

Me getting ready in the bathroom at work.
I had nervously packed a bag with everything I would need the night before to make sure that a.) I wasn't late for work that morning and b.) I would have everything I needed for the race that night. I had made sure that I could fit everything I would need in the provided gear check bag. It was a little tricky because that bag was really small. I ended up having to leave a few things at work.

After work, I hopped train and headed to the race. It was my first race in a row that was held over by Montrose Beach, so I knew where I was going. I somehow got lucky and arrived early enough to walk around a bit. I love the area over by the beach. It is lovely.




I was quick to locate the bathroom area because I've learned the hard way to always pee before the race starts, even short races like the 5k races I run. You know it is a women's race when there are tables of tampons and pads right in front of the port-o-potties.

There were complimentary lady products in case anyone needed them.
I then made my way over to gear check. I decided to hold off on checking out the various tents, because I knew that nothing else would fit in my gear check bag and I didn't want to eat right before running (there were snacks - there are always snacks). I did, however, get my wristband showing I was over 21 because I knew I would want a drink after the race.

That's right. I'm old enough to drink. Also, I never realized until now just how hairy my arms are, so I guess I have something new to be self conscious about. Weeeeeeeee!

As we got closer and closer to race time, more and more people arrived. There were going to be a lot of women running that night. Everyone seemed happy and relaxed. I noticed that most folks were in pairs or groups. There weren't very many people there alone. What can I say? I don't have any friends who like to run, so I'm usually at the events by myself.  

There were a lot of people enjoying the pre-race festivities.
When it was time, everyone started to make their way over to the starting line.

So many people! 
Before we actually started, there was a group warm up led by a couple of incredibly happy ladies. They got everyone moving and grooving and ready to run. 

Warming up!
Everyone was ready to go! We waited for the officially start to be called, and then we were off!

The view at the starting line.
The course itself was great and included some wonderful views of the park, the beach, and the lake.


The 5k course.
The course was well marked and had lots of volunteers along the way calling out encouragement and handing out water. The volunteers were really great! The course was easy to follow, and the turn off for the 10k (there was a 5k and a 10k - I was there for the 5k) was clearly marked to make sure that no one ended up running the wrong race by accident.

I enjoyed most of the run and only had to walk a couple of times. I've been having a lot of health problems during the last few months, and this was my first run when I accepted that I couldn't and shouldn't push myself the way I really want to. Instead of beating myself up for having to walk, I reminded myself that I was there for the experience, not for a specific finish time.

After the race, it was time to enjoy the "Night Market". There was music, food, and all sorts of vendors.

The entrance to the post race activities.
I went ahead and grabbed my bag from gear check, then I helped myself to a plate of food. It was delicious!

Tasty nibbles.
The wine wasn't bad, either. As long as you were 21 or older, then you got two complimentary glasses of wine. The wine tickets were attached to the bibs. The folks behind the wine tables were very generous with their pours, which was very much appreciated.

White or red?
I also perused the vendor tents. There were lots of people selling things, but I had no extra money to spend that night. There were also a few free things - a stage with musicians and a tent offering complimentary hair braiding, mini manicures, and massages. The line for the massages, manicures, and hair braiding was a little ridiculous both before and after the race, so I ended up not partaking of this aspect of the event, though it was a nice perk being offered.

One of many tents in the Night Market.
The event itself was lovely, but, as I mentioned before, I wasn't a fan of some of my fellow runners. Esprit de She bills itself as "a community of active women connected by a shared desire to celebrate fitness and fun, sisterhood and strength." I definitely got that feeling from the organizers and volunteers, but someone should have clued in some of the other racers. I encountered so many rude and unhappy people during the pre and post race events as well as during the race.

I had numerous people cut in line in front of me while waiting for gear check and the bathrooms. I was actually pushed by someone who wanted to get in front of me at the starting line, before the race had even begun. One woman even yelled at me to get my "fat ass" out of her way during the race. I know I'm fat. I also know I'm a slow runner, which is why I position myself at the back of the pack. I didn't appreciate being yelled at or called fat by a stranger. After the race, I had my first plate of food actually taken out of my hands by another participant who walked away eating it. Then, when I was finally enjoying a snack and a drink at one of the small tables they had set up around the event, and I had a group of women tell me that I needed to get out and let other people who actually had friends use the tables.

I left the event fairly early and walked away feeling really terrible about myself. I thought that the race would be a fun event full of women supporting each other, but that wasn't what I experienced. Even though I was running with a crowd of other people, I felt alone.

The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that my negative feelings weren't the result of the event itself, but were rather brought on by some negative interactions with some of my fellow runners. There were a lot of runners participating in the race, and I only remember a handful of people being mean and unpleasant. I may be new to running, but I believe that common courtesy doesn't disappear when you pin a race number to your shirt.

In the end, I would run this race again next year if I could find people to participate with me (come on, co-workers, surely some of you want to run). I don't think I would run this race alone again, however. I think the purpose and the mission of the event is great. I just wish that more of the event's participants would embrace that mission.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Change of Plans

I recently had to change my entry in the Magnificent Mile Chicago Women's Half Marathon and 5k from the half marathon to the 5k. So instead of running 13 miles, I'll only be running 3 miles on August 31.

At first I felt terrible about this. I hated myself for changing my entry. I beat myself up during every easy run, telling myself I wasn't good enough because I could only run a few miles when other people could run more than 10 miles.

Then I realized that changing my entry was a good decision.  In fact, it is one of the better decisions that I've made lately.

Running a half marathon was a good goal. It was a goal I was willing and ready to work towards. I signed up for the race with plenty of time to train, and I attacked my training with excitement and vigor. And guess what? Things were going really well. I was steadily improving in terms of distance AND pace. I was really excited. I knew I'd be finish near the back of the pack, but I also knew that I could finish.

But then life happened, and my training fell through the cracks. On top of regular life problems, I started to experience some health problems and found myself unable to really run. I still tried to run, but I failed miserably. One week I was running seven miles a day, then the next week I could barely manage three miles. Even with multiple walk breaks, every run left me feeling sick and hurt.

One day, I finally gave myself permission to rest and stopped running on a regular basis. I started to slowly feel better. I finally got to the point where I'm okay to start running regularly again, but I've been advised to take it slow.

With the half marathon getting closer and closer, I realized that there was no way I would be able to complete the distance because I didn't have adequate time to train and didn't want to risk making myself sick or hurt again. I contacted the race organizers and was able to switch to the 5k.

I never anticipated this sudden change of plans, but shit happens. I'm trying to look at this as a new start. Instead of focusing on the race I won't be running, I'm trying to focus on the one I will be running.

I'm going to run a race. I'm going to finish a race.

And I'm still going to run a half marathon one day. Just not right now.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Reasons Not To Run

I haven't been running as much as I would like lately. I've been struggling with some personal things related to my health as well as my professional life. Last night, even though I didn't feel like running, I went for a short run and felt soooooo much better afterwards.

Although I've grown to really enjoy running, there are plenty of days when it is a real struggle to lace up my shoes and head outside for a run. Morning runs mean getting up early, and I'm not a morning person. Evening runs mean going for a run after dark when I'm already tired after having spent the whole day at work.

Way too often I find myself making excuses for why I shouldn't run on any given day - I'm tired, I'm hungry, I have a headache, I don't feel good, etc. Most of the time, these are just excuses and nothing more. Most of the time I'm able to force myself to get dressed, lace up my shoes, and head outside. And guess what? I'm usually glad that I sucked it up and went for a run.
Ready to run!

There are days, however, when I force myself to run and do regret it. These days are very rare. There are also days when I just can't force myself to run. These are also very rare. Both of these types of days are usually days when I not only don't want to run, but days when I really shouldn't run. And yes, there are good reasons not to run. I hear all the time that a bad run is better than no run, but there are those rare times when running is just not a good choice.

Here are my top three reasons not to run:


1. I'm sick. And this doesn't mean I have the sniffles. This means that I'm really sick. I'm talking fever. I'm talking vomiting. I'm talking diarrhea. I'm talking all of those nasty, terrible things that mean I really shouldn't go anywhere other than going to bed. Do I have a cold? Too bad. Go for a run. It can be a short and easy run, but go for a run. Do I have the flu? Maybe it is a good day to take the day off and let my body recover.

2. I'm injured. Much like being sick, I'm talking about the real deal here and not just normal aches and pains. Not running due to injury means that something is really wrong. It means that my doctor has said I shouldn't be running. Am I kind of stiff and sore from strength training at the gym yesterday? That's not the same as being injured. Go for a run. Can I not move without screaming in pain after throwing my back out? Yeah...running doesn't seem advisable.

3. I'm exhausted. Now this is important - there is a difference between being tired and being exhausted. If I'm just tired then I'm still going for a run. If I'm exhausted, then it is time to take a day off and hang out on the couch with my cat. When I'm tired, I feel like I need a nap. When I'm exhausted, I feel completely done with everything. I've depleted all of my energy, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

My cat thinks I should never run and always tries to untie my shoes when I'm getting ready.
Really, the most important thing I do is to check in with myself and see how my body is feeling. 99% of the time, I should go for a run. That other 1% can be tricky though. I'm slowly learning to listen to what my body is telling me and am getting better at distinguishing the difference between my body telling me "I don't want to run today" and "I really can't run today".