Friday, October 31, 2014

Tomorrow's Race Goals

I'm taking a short break from my Halloween festivities to prepare for tomorrow morning's race. I'm laying out my clothes and shoes, packing my gear check bag, and double checking that I have everything I'll need ready to go and easy to find because I'm not a morning person and tend to be something of a zombie until I've had coffee, especially when I'm waking up at 5am.

I'll keep this short because I have scary movies to watch and candy to eat. My goals for the Carrera de los Muertos 5k are simple:

1. Finish the race. I know...I know...this is always one of my goals. But this feels especially important this time. My recent runs have not gone well, and for the first time in a long time, I'm actually a little worried about being able to run a 5k. Don't judge me.

2. Have fun! I was so focused on running at my last race that I failed to step back and enjoy myself. I want to be able to enjoy not just the run, but all the festivities that go with it. I'm not running a marathon, after all. This is a fun themed 5k. I've heard that this race is a giant party from start to finish, and I'm ready to party! There will be other races in my future where I can focus on time and pace. I don't want this to be one of them.

That's it. Pretty basic, huh? And yes, I know that these are pretty much the exact same goals I set for every race, but I've been having trouble following through with the second one.

Wish me luck!

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Halloween is my favorite holiday for a number of reasons:

Candy!

I may be at work all day, but that doesn't mean that I can't also eat candy all day.
Movies!

I unabashedly adore Garfield's Halloween Adventure.
It has been a staple of my Halloween movie watching since I was a small child.
Candy!

Skittle for the win!
Decorations!

One of my favorite decorated houses this year.
Candy!

Everyone needs a little chocolate now and then.
Costumes!

Hannah is going to be James Bond this year. Really, the bow tie is as much of a costume as she will wear.
Candy!

Candy corn = tiny niblets of sugar and joy.
So, to sum everything up, I really like candy. I guess it is a good thing I went to the gym this morning and have a race tomorrow!

Have a happy and safe Halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Running to Race Packet Pick-up

I picked up my packet for this weekend's race on Wednesday morning. I'll be running the Carrera de los Muertos 5k in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood on Saturday morning. I'm super excited for this race! A day of the dead 5k with live music that encourages costumes? Sign me up!

(Image Source)
I've been nursing a pretty terrible cold all week, but I when I woke up yesterday morning, I was feeling pretty good. Packet pick up was at Universal Sole, which is almost exactly 5 kilometers from my building. How convenient! I threw on my running gear and hit the road. My plan was to run there, get my race packet, and then walk home, taking care of some errands on the way home.

I dressed warmly because it was cold - running tights, a long sleeve running shirt, and I had gloves and a hat packed in my back pack in case I needed them (the back pack is a recent purchase and I'm in love with it - I may have to write a post about it in the future). I started out feeling good. I was running slowly, but everything seemed to be working and I felt like I could keep up the pace for the entire run.

By mile one, I was too warm and had to roll my sleeves up. By mile two, I had a side stitch and my lungs were on fire and I had to slow to a walk. I ended up walking for almost half a mile.

I reached the store disappointed in myself. I thought I was making progress and getting better. I guess not. I have to admit that I really haven't been running regularly. My runs have been few and far between lately, and it really shows. It is amazing that my running ability declines so quickly. I trying to look ahead and use this as motivation to keep moving forward. November's goal is to start and maintain a regular running schedule.

This was the second time that I've been to Universal Sole for a race packet pick up. (Image Source)
Anyway...once at the store, I grabbed a cup of water from the water table outside the store (I love that this is a normal thing for running stores) and got in line. Packet pick up went really smoothly. The folks working the table knew what they were doing and the line moved very quickly. I must say, I really appreciate a pain free packet pick up. The volunteer helping me confirmed all my info, including shirt size, before giving me my packet, which I also appreciated. No surprises = happy Rebecca.

I browsed the offerings in the store, as I was given a coupon while in line. Who doesn't like new clothes? Especially discounted new clothes? Sadly, the store doesn't seem to acknowledge the existence of larger lady runners such as myself. There were plenty of smalls and mediums in the women's clothing, but very few larges and no extra larges. Yes, I may be the largest I have ever been at the moment (something else I want to work on in November), but the fact that they didn't carry my size made me feel a bit unwelcome. Good thing I have at least two other running stores where I know I can find running gear that will fit me.

My walk home was cold. My run/walk to the store had kept me warm. Too warm, in all honesty. But the walk home made me wish that I had a jacket with me. I stopped a couple places along the way (the grocery store and drug store) to run some errands and warm up.

When I was home, I checked out everything in my race packet:

The cat was not part of the packet. Hannah just thinks that everything brought into the apartment is for her.
There was the race shirt, my bib number, some safety pins, a map of the race route and market layout, and a couple of flyers for different businesses. I could have done without the flyers, but I was very happy to have the race map. I know a lot of folks prefer digital versions, but my phone doesn't always like to work, so I love having a printed copy to take with me to look over on my way to the race.

The shirt is a long sleeve technical shirt, which should come in handy for the rest of this fall and into the winter. I was hoping for a brighter color, but I still like the design. A lot of folks on Facebook were complaining about the shirt's quality and design, but this is a step up for me when compared to some of the other race shirts I've gotten this year (oversized pink cotton t-shirt, I'm looking at you). I do, however, feel that sizing is off. My women's large is very tight and feels more like a medium or even a small, especially when compared to other running shirts that are the same size. Yes, I've put on some weight in the last few months and all my clothes are fitting a bit tighter, but this shirt is uncomfortably tight. My other women's larges aren't nearly this small. I'm hoping that I can drop a few pounds to wear the shirt, because I do genuinely like the design.

The front design.
The back design.
Folks who registered early for the race had the opportunity to personalize our bibs with a name of our choosing. On Saturday, I will be La Rebu! My coworkers should enjoy this, as Rebu is my nickname at work.

I am...La Rebu!
I'm excited for the race on Saturday and looking forward to exploring a neighborhood of Chicago that I'm not terribly familiar with. The race sounds like it will be a lot of fun, and I'm planning on using it to kick off a healthy November full of running and healthy food choices.

Monday, October 27, 2014

No Shower

Today isn't going so great. I'm dirty. I'm smelly. And I just want to go home, take a shower, and go to sleep.

The day started out pretty good. I woke up to an adorable kitty who just wanted to hang out and nap all day. 
Hannah says, "Why are you getting up? Go back to sleep, human. Sleep is good."
I actually managed to get out of bed early for a three mile run this morning. My running was even slower than usual due to a.) me not being a morning person and therefore not being fully awake and b.) I've been nursing a cold for the last few days. Running was still the right choice, however. It helped me wake up and I felt so much better when I was finished and back at home. I was excited to shower and have breakfast and coffee.

There was just one problem. There was no water. 

I don't know why, but the water was shut off in my building. This meant no shower, no breakfast, and no coffee. Booooooo! Not okay! It would have been nice to have been given some notice that water was going to be shut off. If I had had more time or knew that water was being shut off, then I could have gone to the gym and showered there. Or I could have prepared by having a bucket and some bottles of water ready and standing by.

Soooo...yeah...I showed up to work dirty and sweaty. It kind of ruined my whole day. And probably that of my coworkers, who are all sitting just a little bit further away from me than usual.

I've tried to turn the day around. I was early for work, so I had time to buy coffee and a breakfast sandwich and then walk around the park while I ate. I walked around and checked out some of the art and just generally soaked in the lovely weather.

There is so much art in and around Chicago. I love it!
It is gorgeous today! I love all the fall colors and crunching through the fallen leaves. I love fall so much! Why can't it be fall forever?

Yay! Fall!
I'm going to try to get another walk through the park in during my break today, to try and force myself into a better mood. I'm always amazed how such a little thing can completely ruin my day. I'm just really hoping that the water is back on when I get home tonight. Otherwise, I'll have to head to the store to buy some jugs of water.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I Love Fall

Fall is my favorite season! I just love everything about it! I love the cooler weather and wearing sweaters and seeing the leaves fall. I love pumpkins and apples and hot cocoa. I love baking bread and making soup and having hot oatmeal for breakfast. Fall is also my favorite season for running.

Last night's run was amazing! I was tired, so I kept my run short. I only did two and a half miles, but it felt great. The air was cool and crisp, and I loved crunching through the leaves on the sidewalk. A lot of houses in my neighborhood have decorated for Halloween (aka the best holiday ever), and I was positively giddy seeing all the fun and spooky decorations. It was pretty much fantastic and helped remind me that running can be enjoyable. I've had a lot of rough runs in the last couple of weeks and was getting a bit discouraged, but last night's run helped rejuvenate me and gave me a reason to keep going.

I'm going to enjoy fall while I can, because I know that winter will soon be here.

Hooray! Fall!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Congratulations!

Congratulations to everyone who ran the Chicago Marathon today! You are all awesome! Virtual high five!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Taking It Easy

I don't know what I did to my knee during the 5k last week. I thought it was fine. After all, I was able to finish the race, and it felt fine the next day. Or perhaps I should say it felt fine until I tried to run on Monday.

So I've been taking it easy all week - walking and using the elliptical machine at the gym instead of running. My knee is feeling much better, so I'm going to attempt a short run tonight after work and see what happens. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

The weather has been beautiful and I'm itching to get back to running outside, having spent the last week working out inside at the gym. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 6, 2014

2014 Rosehill Cemetery Crypt 5k Recap

This is going to be a long post. Sorry about that, but there is a lot to cover with this race. As I mentioned in my last post, the 2014 Rosehill Cemetery Crypt 5k was a bit of a mixed bag. The course itself was amazing, but the management seemed to be incredibly disorganized.

I woke up early on Saturday, October 4 and went online for what has become one of my race day traditions - checking the weather forecast. The morning was cold and rainy, but according to the weather forecast, the rain was supposed to end in the early afternoon, so the race that night would be chilly but rain free. I was super excited to kick off the Halloween season with a 5k through a graveyard at night, and I spent the entire day eagerly awaiting the race.

As the evening approached, I started to gather my things and prepare for the race. I made sure I had everything I needed: bib number, safety pins, drink ticket, running gear, tissues, id, cash, etc. I also made sure that my head lamp was fully charged. I had considered not bringing it, but I had read some reviews of the race from previous years, and they all talked about how dark the course was. I also packed a hat and gloves, because I figured it would be better to be safe than sorry. It was chilly, after all. Finally, I packed my race shirt, because I wanted to exchange it for a different size.

I got dressed for the race, taking into account the chilly temps (it had been hovering in the high 30s/low 40s all day). Although I covered up a bit more than usual, I didn't break out my actual cold weather gear because I didn't want to overheat during the race. Running tights and a long sleeve shirt were enough to keep me warm pre-race, but not too warm once I started running. At the last minute, I decided to also throw my running skeleton shirt on top of everything - it is reflective and seemed like the right choice for a cemetery race. 

The bib numbers were lime green, so I dressed to match.
I did one final check to make sure I had everything I needed and then set off for the race. I wanted to be there early, so I left the house at about 5pm because it would take me about an hour to walk there. It was a perfect fall evening, and as I got closer to the race site, I started seeing a few other runners.

Chicago, you're so pretty.
I arrived at the race site just before 6pm. There weren't many people there, yet. I saw a few folks being dropped off and a lot of people clearly driving around searching for parking. 

The starting line was just outside the cemetery's main gates. Once through the gates, the course was entirely in the cemetery.
There were the usual tents set up - race day registration, pre-registration packet pick-up, gear check, etc. None of the tents were very busy, so I went ahead and asked one of the volunteers about exchanging my shirt for a different size. It is a great shirt, and I'd like to be able to wear it. I was once again told that I could only exchange after the race was finished and was instructed to bring my unworn, unwashed shirt to the packet pick up table after the race and I would be able to exchange for any size they still had available. I thanked her and made my way over to gear check.

Race day packet pick-up.
I was greeted by another volunteer at gear check, where I grabbed the things I needed/didn't want to check from my bag, and then handed it over to the volunteer who explained that I could pick up my bag anytime after the race as long as I had my bib number. Next to gear check was a Dunkin' Donuts van handing out free samples. The only thing better than coffee is free coffee.

Hello, free coffee!
I still had a ton of time before the race actually started, so I used the facilities and then went for a walk around the neighborhood. The walk gave me something to do and also kept me warm. I was really happy that I had a hat and gloves. I knew that I would probably end up removing them during the actual race (the gloves did end up coming off), but without my coat and scarf (which were shoved into my gear check bag) I was freezing. They were still setting things up inside and around the main gates, so I couldn't go into the cemetery.

Weeeeee! Spooky cemetery race! A great way to kick off October!
I was a little surprised by how few people there were at the race. Doesn't everyone want to run through a cemetery at night? As the start time got closer, I made my way back over to the starting line. I positioned myself in the back of the pack as usual. I had my headlamp, my glow necklaces, my bib number was pinned on, I had my GPS and stop watch ready for me to hit go to record my race...I was ready to run!

Pre-race selfie - a time honored tradition.
As we got closer and closer to the 7pm start time, the sun crept out of sight and the darkness creeped in and the crowds began to gather. I managed to push my way a little closer to the starting line when it became obvious that those walking the race were mingled in randomly with those who were planning on running. The race was small enough that there were no corrals or staggered start times. There were also no signs suggesting that slower runners and walkers move to the back, and I kept waiting for the announcer to say something about walkers heading to the back of the pack, but an announcement never came.

I was still a good way back from the starting line, so I knew it would take a minute or two for me to actually cross the starting line once the race began. Soon, we were getting updates about the starting time. People were clearly excited to be participating in the race, and as each announcement was made, the excitement grew. There were only 5 more minutes until 7pm, now 2 more minutes, now 1 more minute....and the race had started!

Everyone lining up and getting ready to run.
Much to my chagrin, I was trapped behind an entire pack of walkers. As I've discussed before, I'm a very slow moving runner, so I guess I now know what it feels like for faster runners to get stuck behind me. I tried getting around them by moving to the side, but that didn't work. They were spread out across the entire path. As soon as we actually crossed the starting line I started my GPS/stopwatch, which was much easier to do at my unexpectedly slow walking pace.

I was still stuck walking behind this big group of walkers who had spread out, and I was not alone. I notice several other runners struggling to push past them. I tried saying "excuse me" and "pardon me", but I finally just belted out "coming through!" and pushed my way through the group. Sorry about that, guys. I'm glad you were all there and having fun, but next time start at the back or make sure there is room to pass you if you plan on walking at a leisurely pace the whole time.

Even once I had left the group of walkers behind me, things were still tight for the first chunk of the race. There were lots of faster runners clearly frustrated about being behind slower runners and walkers. I was elbowed out of the way several times, and I found myself having to push through clumps of folks even slower than me. The crowd eventually thinned out and it became much more comfortable to run without fear of folks hitting you as they passed or being elbowed by those running a little too close to you for comfort. There was finally room to breathe!

The course was marked with small artificial tea lights lining the path and the random lighted arrow signs marking the turns. Even with these in place, it would have been easy to make a wrong turn or get lost, as there were a few places where the signs weren't very obvious, and I only knew to turn because I could see people turning in front of me.

I was incredibly happy to have my head lamp. Although the moon provided some light, there were some sections of the course that were pitch black. I saw one person ahead of me fall, and during the final mile, I heard someone else behind me fall. Both people were thankfully okay and got right back up and continued running.

I notice several other people with headlamps, and there were also quite a few people running with flash lights. I use the Black Diamond Sprinter Headlamp (I got it on sale, so shop around). It is rechargeable, the brightness is adjustable, the back light can be switched off if desired, and it is just really comfortable and light weight. It is the only headlamp I've ever used, and it works well for me. There are a ton of headlamps available on the market, and many are specifically made and marketed for runners. If you ever run in the dark, then I highly recommend investing in a headlamp.

There were several crypts that had been lit up with various colored lights. I wish that I had stopped for some pictures, but I was making decent time (for me, anyway) and wanted to keep running. During one turn, I must have stepped wrong because I felt a sudden twinge of pain in my knee. I had to slow to a walk several times during the second half of the race because of this, but I still tried to continue running as much as I could. Some ice and ibuprofen after the race helped my knee, though it is still a little sore, so I'll be taking it easy for the next few days.

The run itself was great! It was dark and chilly and a little spooky. It was easy to imagine zombies or ghost running after you. The darkness and the surroundings made for a really memorable run, and the moon peeking out from behind the clouds gave for some fantastic views.

Oooooohhhhh...spooky.
When I finally crossed the finish line, I was surprised to see that my GPS told me that the race was actually a bit more than 5 kilometers. It was, in fact, 5.5 kilometers, which I verified when I looked it up online afterwards to make sure that my GPS wasn't just flipping out. Maybe it was 5 kilometers if you hugged the inside of the entire course? I was pleased, however, to see that according to my watch, I had made good time, with my final time (according to my watch, not the "official time" - more on this later) from the starting line to the finish line being 36 minutes and 32 seconds.

I grabbed a bottle of water, a banana (runners love bananas - we have to, they are handed out at almost every event), and a bag of popcorn. The popcorn may be my favorite post run treat ever. It was a delicious Chicago mix - cheddar and caramel.

This was delicious. More races should pass this stuff out. 
The finish line was a bit of a mess, with the post race treats just piled on and under tables lining the finishing area. There were volunteers handing things out at the tables on the right, but the tables to the left were pretty much just a free for all, with some runners taking as much as they could carry (I saw one guy after the race putting an entire case of water and a whole box of popcorn bags into his car). Guys, guys...I shouldn't have to say this. Take your fair share and leave some for the rest of us. If there are things left once everyone has crossed the finish line, then go to town and grab as much as you want. I speak from experience when I say it sucks to cross the finish line and find out they have run out of water and snacks because people were taking two, three, or four of everything.

Even with the free for all at the snack tables, the finishing area was pretty much a party. There was music playing, faster racers cheering on the slow pokes, and general merriment. There were also lots of people grabbing photo ops at some of the monuments and crypts.

I made my way out of the cemetery to grab my things from gear check and trade in my shirt. There was one problem. All of the tables/tents that were not gear check had already been taken down and put away. I asked the volunteer who got my bag for me where to exchange my shirt, and he explained that it was too late to do that and everything had already been packed up and taken away and I should have exchanged it before the race. So...yeah...it looks like the people who told me to wait until AFTER the race to exchange my shirt had been wrong. Bummer. I guess I can wear my awesome race shirt if I lose about 20 pounds (that's never going to happen - I love eating too much).

I decided to console my lack of properly sized shirt despair with my free beer. I made one last pit stop at the port o potties (my headlamp came in handy here, too - it was pitch black inside!), had a short wait at the id check line to get my "over 21" wrist band (there was a long line, but it moved pretty quickly), and made my way to the after party, which was hosted right next door at Fireside Tavern & Grill.

Yay! Beer!
The party featured one free drink (the drink ticket was attached to the bib number), a live band, and food available for purchase from Fireside. The atmosphere was on the festive side, but it was clear that things hadn't really started, yet.

People starting to make their way to the after party.
There seemed to be some confusion as to where the id check and wrist band table was, as the bouncers in charge of the entrance to the after party was turning a lot of people away because they didn't have wrist bands. It would have been nice if the id check was more obvious or closer to the party entrance, instead of around the corner and poorly labeled, or even better, they could have made an announcement pre-race about the wrist bands and where to get them. I would have liked to have been able to get my wrist band before the race, as after I was done running, I was ready for a drink and some music.

I got my drink and waited for things to really start. The band was warming up and more folks were filing in, but it was getting late and I was getting hungry. I finished my drink, enjoyed some music (the band was awesome), but then I started the long walk home. I was getting cold and was ready for some dinner.

The band was The Late Night Lunatics. They were a lot of fun.
The next day, I went online to check out the official race results. I knew my time thanks to my watch, but I was curious as to how I placed overall and in my age group. I was shocked to see my official time listed as a full minute longer than what my watch had said. Yes, that was the time displayed at the finish line when I crossed it, but it had taken a little more than a minute for me to actually cross the starting line. I guess the timing chip was useless, as they took the "official" times based from when the race started to when an individual racer crossed the finish line instead of taking the time based on when the racer crossed the starting line. I was, and still am, incredibly disappointed.

The Rosehill Cemetery Crypt 5k has a lot going for it, mainly the location and time of the event.

However, there is also a lot going against it. It just felt incredibly poorly managed: packet pickup was long and unnecessarily disorganized, there was miscommunication regarding the shirts' sizing and then additional miscommunication regarding exchanging shirts, the race distance was off, the race course was poorly marked, and the official times were not correct.

Would I run the Rosehill Cemetery Crypt 5k again? Yes, yes I would. Although I was not a fan of the way this race was managed (that's a bit of an understatement), running through the cemetery was great.

Next year, I'll know what to expect. I'll give myself extra time for packet pickup, I won't trust the website regarding shirt sizes and will double check with the organizers about sizing before I order, and, most importantly, I won't pay extra for chip timing (non chipped timed participants paid $5 less at registration than those of us who were being times) now that I know the race distance isn't necessarily as advertised and the timing is taken off of the actual start time instead of when the individual runner actually crosses the starting line. Maybe next year I can get a group together to run the race with me, and I'll take my time and really enjoy my run. I'll step off the course to take pictures and hang out in the cemetery after the race.

Next year, I'll look at this race for what it really is - a cool, gimmicky, fun run that is done just for kicks. After all, I had a lot of fun at this race, despite the various frustrations.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

2014 Rosehill Cemetery Crypt 5k Packet Pickup Recap

The 2014 Rosehill Cemetery Crypt 5k was a bit of a mixed bag. Some things were terrible. Some things were awesome. And some things were somewhere in between the two. I have a lot of things to cover with this race, so I've decided to break my recap into two parts. This first part will only cover packet pickup. I'll be posting the actual race recap tomorrow. 

Registration was easy and painless - go to the website, input some info, pay it all off, and get a confirmation email. Done. There wasn't very much information about the race available (no parking info, no packet pickup dates, no course map), but I did register early, and I've noticed that things often get added or sites get updated as race dates get closer. 

I chose to register for the chip timed event, which was $5 more than the non timed event, but I wanted an "official" time. I also ordered a shirt size smaller than usual due to it being a unisex shirt (more on this later). I added the race to my calendar and then started the long wait until race day.

As the weeks passed and the race grew closer, I kept checking the website and waiting for an email that would have more information. I began to get really frustrated with the lack of information. I wanted a course map, and I needed to know when and where packet pickup would be. Although they never released a course map, a week before the race, the events company sent an email with packet pickup instructions. There were two days available for advanced pickup, or there would also be on site packet pickup the night of the race. I always like to pickup early, if possible. Luckily, one of the days would allow me enough time to get my things on the way to work.

Packet pickup was at Runner's Edge on Clark Street. The store is only a few miles from my apartment building, so I decided to walk there. 

I always try to walk through the park when I'm walking anywhere.
We had had storms the night before, the rain had stopped and the clouds had parted to reveal a lovely fall day. It was damp and a little chilly, but it smelled like fall and the leaves were beginning to change colors and fall from the trees, so I was able to enjoy a beautiful morning walk.

The store is in the Andersonville neighborhood.
I love this neighborhood - it is very pretty with tons of fun shops and restaurants.
My walk didn't take as long as I thought it would, so I arrived really early. I walked around the neighborhood for a while to kill time, but I eventually headed back to the store to get in line.

It was day two of packet pickup, so I thought they would have figured out how to streamline things. I was wrong. Pickup was very slow and disorganized.

I was promptly greeted and directed to the back of the store for pickup, but that was about the only pleasant thing that happened. The lines moved incredibly slowly, and the folks working just seemed really annoyed to be there and helping people. Those of us waiting in line were basically tasked with keeping the lines organized ourselves. There were two lines, one to look up your bib number and the second to collect your packet. There was no one there to direct people to the correct line, which led to some confusion as more people began arriving. There were several people who they weren't able to find on the list, despite these people having their confirmation emails.

The only good thing about the slow moving lines is that I did make a new friend:

Look at his furry face! He was very friendly, and his person let me pet him.
There was also a lot of confusion regarding shirt sizes.

I, and many others, were under the impression that the race shirts were unisex shirts. A quick google search showed that they had been unisex shirt for previous years of the race, and online registration (at least when I registered) also showed unisex shirt sizes. So I was very surprised to have them call out "women's medium" when picking up my packet. Ummm...excuse me? I would have ordered my usual large or extra large if I had known that they were going to be gender specific shirts. Several women in line in front of me also voiced their displeasure with this, stating that they wouldn't have ordered the size that they did if they had known that the shirts were in gender specific sizes.

I was told that I could exchange the shirt for a different size AFTER the race, as long as I didn't wear it. The guy passing out shirts was clearly tired of explaining this. I get it, dude, you weren't the one who ordered the shirts, but you don't have to be rude. Anyway, I figured that exchanging it after the race was better than nothing, especially because I love the fun design of the shirt.

My race packet - drawstring bag, bib number, shirt, a glow necklace, and an envelope containing a coupon to Runner's Edge  (must be opened by store employee to be valid) good for the month of October.
In addition to my shirt and bib number, I was given a glow necklace to wear at the event and a drawstring bag. As I was leaving, one of the store's employees gave me an envelope containing a coupon for the store that was good October 5 - October 31. While I understand that the purpose of dating the coupon this way is to get people to come back to the store, I'm not going to go out of my way to use the mystery coupon (it is a sealed envelope and is only valid if the envelope is opened by a store employee). Sure, I'll drop by the store if I'm in the neighborhood again, but I'm more likely to use a coupon that I can use immediately while I'm already in the store.

There was also a game where you could guess the number of candy corn in a jar. The winning guess will win a new prize every month for a year. Sounds good. I'm terrible at these types of guessing games, probably because I'm distracted by all the delicious candy and think about eating it instead of how many are likely to be in the jar, but I went ahead and placed my guess. It couldn't hurt, right?

The packet pickup left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. I've seen much busier packet pickups run more smoothly and much longer packet pickup lines move more quickly for other races. Once I had my packet in hand and had made my candy corn guess, I quickly made my way to the red line so that I could get to work. Pickup had taken so long that I was worried about getting to work on time. Luckily, I managed to make it to work right on time, without a minute to spare.

A disorganized packet pickup always make me a little nervous for the actual race, as do surprises such as the shirt situation. I was still really excited about running through Rosehill Cemetery at night, though. I love Rosehill Cemetery. It is really beautiful and peaceful. Their gates close around 4pm each day, so I've never been able to explore it in the evening. Even with the unfortunate packet pickup, I was still excited for the race.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Rosehill Cemetery Crypt 5k Race Goals

I run the Rosehill Cemetery Crypt 5k tonight. I'm super excited! A race through a cemetery at night sounds pretty awesome, if you ask me. I have my head lamp charging right now in preparation for tonight.

I can't wait to see what Rosehill looks like at night! (Image Source)
The race begins at 7pm tonight, but I'm going to leave early this evening to get there. I've decided to walk to the race tonight, as the cemetery isn't too far from my building. That being said, I'm not exactly sure how long of a walk it will be, so I'm going to give myself plenty of time to get there. Sure, I'll probably end up just sitting around waiting for the race to start, but getting there early will also give me time to use the bathroom and check my bag. I was hoping not to have to use gear check, but the shirt from packet pick up is way too small, so I'll be bringing it with me in hopes of exchanging it for a larger size after the race. Also, the weather is also going to be chilly and there is a possibility of rain, so I'm going to take a jacket to wear after the race, but I won't want to run in it, so...yeah...gear check, here I come.

I'm way too excited about running past all the crypts and tombstones. (Image Source)
My goals for the race tonight are, as usual, pretty simple:

1. Finish the race. Enough said.

2. Have fun. Instead of focusing on finishing in a certain time, I want to focus on enjoying this unique experience. I'll use one of my other upcoming races (maybe the Thanksgiving one) as an attempt to PR and really test myself.

3. Don't fall. I'm clumsy on my best days, so I'm always a little concerned when I run in low light conditions. This is why I'll be wearing a head lamp tonight.

There you have it. Simple goals for what I hope will be a fun and unique race. I'll write up a race recap in the next few days to let you know how it goes.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Zombies, Run! App Review

It is October! Yay! October is the best month of the year because it ends with Halloween, the best holiday of the year.

And with Halloween quickly approaching, I thought it was a good time to share my favorite running app. It is scary, fun, exciting, and moving. Why is it perfect for Halloween? One word: zombies. That's right! It is Zombies, Run!

Zombies, Run! is available on iPhone and Android. (Image Source)
I love this app so much, you guys. It is amazing! I've sometimes run without any headphones (mostly at night, for safety reasons), but I've discovered that I really do prefer to be listening to something when I run - music, podcasts, audio books, zombies....

Zombies, Run! is a running game that puts you in the middle of the story. You get a great workout while this story plays out around you, with you as one of the characters. From the Zombies, Run! website:

"You are Runner 5. Hundreds of lives are counting on you. You've got to help your base rebuild from the ruins of civilization by collecting critical supplies while avoiding roving zombie hordes. Can you save them and learn the truth about the zombie apocalypse?"

It is a little ridiculous how caught up in the story you can become. There are a whole slew of characters that you get introduced to over the course of each season, and you get the story one piece at a time, with each season being divided into different "missions". Every time you go for a run, you choose the next mission and get the next piece of the story through your headphones. The app will also mix in your own music, which is a nice bonus. I've even set up a playlist of songs specifically for use with Zombies, Run! It is, as you can probably guess, zombie themed.

There are currently three seasons. Check out the trailer:


When I say that you get caught up in the story, I'm not joking. You can get really attached to the different characters you encounter. There was one specific mission where I became very emotional due to what was happening, and I ended up crying like a baby while I ran. It is surprisingly difficult to run while you are crying your heart out, but it is possible.

There are days when I don't feel like running, but I'll head out anyway because I want to know what happens next in Zombies, Run! In addition to the awesome story, the app also keeps track of your time, distance, and pace for you. If you like stats, then everything is easy to find. Did you really like the route you ran last time but can't remember exactly what it was? Zombies, Run! also keeps track off your routes, and you can pull up the maps for your different runs by logging in to the website. Want to run indoors? It also works on the treadmill, because you can track your distance in a number of different ways, or just turn the tracker off and input your distance yourself after your run is finished.

As you run, you collect supplies, which you can then use to build up your base within the app. Within the settings of the app, you can choose to set your runs to last about 30 minutes or about an hour. Once you have finished a mission, you'll hear "Mission Completed" through your headphones. If you want to keep running, then don't worry. It doesn't stop tracking you until you hit the stop button, and the app will automatically go into "Radio Mode" after you complete a mission. In Radio Mode, your music will continue playing, with occasional interruptions from Jack and Eugene, the two characters who run Radio Abel, which is pretty much what it sounds like - your friendly neighborhood zombie apocalypse radio show. I'm not going to lie. I kind of love Radio Mode. It may be my favorite part of the app, and I will sometimes set my runs for 30 minutes even if I plan to run for longer, because I want plenty of time to listen to the Radio Mode.

(Image Source)
Want an even better workout? There is an optional "Zombie Chase", which acts as a kind of interval training. If you choose to turn on Zombie Chase mode, then you will randomly be told during your run that zombies have been detected. You have to speed up to evade the zombies. As they get closer, you will hear them moaning behind you. You will get warnings that the zombies are gaining on you (zombies are 100 meters away, 50 meters away, etc.) if you aren't going fast enough. If the zombies get too close, then you will start to drop supplies that you have collected. If the zombies catch you too many times, then you fail the mission and will have to start over. When I say you have to speed up to escape the zombies in Zombie Chase mode, I mean you have to sprint. Zombie Chase doesn't mess around.


There is also a second app within the world of Zombies, Run! They have a 5k training program, which is what I used when I first started running. It is perfect for beginners. It is similar to a lot of 5k training programs in that it combines walking and running, with each week increasing the amount of running while decreasing the amount of walking. Although the characters are the same, the story is a little different, as the training program is training you to become a runner, while in the regular app you are already a runner.

(Image Source)
"You’re Runner 5, a vital member of one of the last outposts of humanity at Abel Township. Over the course of an eight week, 25 workout training programme, you’re trained to help collect supplies and protect the town from the encroaching zombie apocalypse."

When I first started the 5k app, I couldn't even run for 5 minutes without stopping. By the time the 8 weeks were over, I was able to run for 30 minutes without stopping. After I finished the 5k program, I bought and started the regular app. One of the things I really liked about the 5k app is that it isn't all running. Yes, you hear the instructions to walk or run (no need to time yourself, the app will tell you to start running when your 5 minutes of walking is done), but you also end up doing heel lifts, squats, stretching, and all sorts of other things that can help you become stronger and faster. Yes, it is a little weird stopping to do squats while you are running outside, but you get over it and do the exercise because you know that it is good for you in the long run.

A sample of a Zombies, Run! 5k training workout. (Image Source)
Neither of the programs are free, but they are both very affordable (under $5), and I've found them both to be more than worth the expense.

So...there you have it. Zombies, Run! is pretty much delightful and has made my runs much more interesting. It is one of my favorite things.

All views and opinions expressed within this post are my own. I want to make it clear that I'm not being paid for this post, nor was I asked to write this post. I just really love this app and think that it is awesome and wanted to share it.