Monday, June 29, 2015

2015 Proud to Run 10k Recap

Do you know what I did this past weekend?

I ran and finished the 10k that kicked my ass last year. That's right! I ran the 2015 Proud to Run 10k! I did it! And it was glorious!

We meet again!
I was registered to run the same race last year, but I got sick and couldn't finish the 10k. It wasn't good, I wasn't happy, and I spent the weekend last year being ill and disappointed in myself. It was...unpleasant. And it was the start of a series of not good, very bad running days that lasted far too long. I promised myself that I would run the race again. So when registration for Proud to Run opened this year, I jumped at the chance to redeem myself and finally run the full 10k.

And it wasn't just a chance at redemption that had me signing up for Proud to Run again. I was a fan of the race itself last year, even though I wasn't feeling too great.

Proud to Run is awesome for a lot of reasons:

  • The race has been part of Chicago's Pride activities since 1982. Everyone is invited to celebrate, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. All are welcome!
  • In addition to celebrating pride, the race raises funds for local LGBT organizations. This year's beneficiaries were Affinity Community Services, AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, and Chicago House.
  • Proud to Run is organized by an all volunteer, community based board of directors. How great is that? 
  • The race offers two distances - a 10k run and a 5k run/walk - and have a staggered start, with the 10k starting 10 minutes before the 5k.
  • There are plenty of packet pick up opportunities, with 5 different advance packet pick up dates this year and packet pick up also being available at the race site the morning of the race.
  • The course is well marked and easy to follow, with volunteers staggered throughout the course to cheer on the runners.
  • Every finisher gets a medal (sorry, but I love the bling!) and various post race goodies (bagels, fruit, water, Gatorade, chocolate milk, etc.).
  • There is a pretty sweet raffle after the race with prizes from various local business, including Universal Sole.
  • The race has some of the happiest runners and volunteers I've ever seen, and the enthusiasm is infectious. You can't help but smile. 
  • Fantastic entertainment. The tunes were pumping before and after the race. Best of all, after the race, everyone was treated to a couple of performances. This year's entertainment was from The Windy City Cowboys and The Chicago Spirit Brigade. 

I woke up not feeling well and was worried that I would have similar problems to last year, but luckily my stomach was just playing tricks on me. After a quick shower and a light breakfast, I was feeling fine and was ready to go. I hopped on the bus (the race started and ended at Montrose Harbor) and made my way to the race. It was easy to know that I had found the right place, because everyone was decked out in their best Pride fashion.

So many rainbows! I was a little jealous of these guys' capes.
I slathered on an extra layer of sunscreen, pinned on my bib number, checked my bag at gear check (the happiest gear check tent I've ever seen - I got a high five when I stopped by after the race to pick up my bag), and attempted to warm up a little.

The weather was cooler than I was expecting, but that was fine with me. I'd rather be too cool than too hot, and I quickly warmed up once I started running.

When it was announced that it was time for the race to start, everyone made their way over to the starting area.

 And soon we were off! There were a few turns on the course, but it was clearly marked and there was a volunteer stationed at each turn, making sure that runners knew which way to go. I felt a little sense of accomplishment when we came to the point where the 5k and 10k course split and went in different directions. Last year, I was walking by that point and had to turn to the left to slowly walk to the finish line and end my suffering, having only completed the 5k. This year, I was running and turned to the right to keep running some more.

The volunteers were great, cheering the runners on. One young lady was high fiving people as they passed her, and one gentleman was dancing as he directed runners to make sure they turned in the right direction.

The 10k course had 2 water stations, both stocked with water and Gatorade. Not all of the miles were marked, but enough were to have a sense of how far you had run and how far there still was to go. They did have a clock displaying the split time, as well as a timing mat you had to cross for your time to officially be counted, at mile 4.

I felt great for the first four miles, but I struggled a bit after that. The sun was getting to me a bit, and I was feeling a little too hot, despite the beautiful day and cooler than usual weather. I managed to keep moving, though. I had hoped to run a consistent pace for the full 10k, but my last couple of miles were markedly slower, causing my final time (1:07:50) to be a bit off from what I had hoped for.

But the important thing is that I finished!

I rarely run races that give out medals, so I was loving the bling.
 There were folks handing out medals and water at the finish line, and just a little ways away were all sorts of goodies in the "Athlete's village". I grabbed a bottle of chocolate milk and downed it in record time. There were also bottle of Gatorade and granola bars being handed out by the armful. Each of the beneficiaries of this year's race had a tent with information about their organization, and there were also tents from each of the race's sponsors.

Whole Foods was one of the sponsors for the race, and they did not disappoint with the post race recovery food - apples, bananas, bagels with cream cheese, and fruit leather strips.

After the race, there was entertainment, introductions of and a few words from each of the beneficiaries, awards, and a raffle.

I loved seeing the shows from The Windy City Cowboys and The Chicago Spirit Brigade.
There was also an after party at Replay, offering free burgers and brats. Though I wasn't able to attend that party because I had to get home to shower and change clothes before heading to work, I thought that it was pretty great that they kept the celebration going.

I'm slowly learning not to beat myself up after a bad run or race, and I was very pleased that I had the chance to run this race again this year. It was basically a chance for me to erase last year's disappointment in myself and replace it with much fonder memories.

I had a fantastic time at the race, and I will be back again next year to run the 10k again.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Race and a Celebration

Tomorrow I'll be running the 2015 Proud to Run 10k. Proud to Run is "a part of Chicago’s Gay and Lesbian Pride Week activities since 1982, Proud To Run (PTR) is an annual 10K run & 5K run/walk along the lakefront, focused on celebrating pride in and raising funds to support the greater Chicago area LGBTQ community."

I attempted to run this race last year to help support About Face Theatre, which was one of last year's chosen beneficiaries. Let me refresh your memory on how it went for me:

What may be the most unflattering picture of me ever is the only thing that truly captures my disappointment.
What was supposed to be my first 10k turned into just another 5k after I got sick and simply couldn't finish the 10k, so I turned where the two courses split and walked the last bit the 5k. I was ill. I was miserable. And I was disappointed in myself.

I vowed to return this year and finally run the 10k. I told myself that I may end up being the last person to cross the finish line this year, but I will do it. And it will be amazing!

When I signed up for this year's race, I viewed it as my chance at running redemption. I would be running to test myself and mark my progress as a runner. I would be running to prove to myself that I could run.

After today's Supreme Court decision, however, I won't be running this race just for myself anymore. I will be running to celebrate love and equality. I will be running because our country has made a leap forward and because love has won a battle against hate.



I am proud to run to support my friends who can now marry and who can finally have their marriages legally recognized. Tomorrow's race is now much more than a race. It is a celebration. And I'm ready to party! 

Monday, June 22, 2015

2015 PAWS Run for Their Lives 8k Recap

I'm still trying to get caught up with my race recaps, so I'd like you to meet Hannah.

Meow.
She is pretty much my best friend, and I happen to think she is the best cat in the world.

I adopted Hannah from PAWS in February of last year. She was a scrawny little stray that had been picked up roaming the streets of Chicago by Animal Control She was at risk of being euthanized until PAWS Chicago found her and brought her to their facility. That's where I met her on a cold winter day. She was trying very hard to hide in the corner, but when I came and sat down in that room, she came over to me, crawled into my lap, and started purring. She told me that I was going to be her human and that I needed to take her home. I, of course, said yes, and we've been best friends ever since.

I'm eternally grateful to PAWS Chicago for saving my sweet girl and bringing us together. My schedule doesn't really allow me to volunteer, and I can't afford to make any sort of sizable donation, but I can run. So on Sunday, June 14, I ran the PAWS Chicago Run for Their Lives 8k and used the race to do a little fundraising for PAWS.

Online registration was super easy, and there was all sorts of information about the race itself, PAWS Chicago, fundraising or donating, etc. I signed up to run the 8k (there was also a 4k walk). 

There were various packet pick up options, with four different days for advance packet pick up AND race day pick up. I went to the first day and got my packet - the official race shirt, a breakdown of the schedule and important info for race day, my bib number, a couple of coupons, and my bracelet showing that I had raised money for PAWS (the bracelet gave me access to "The Lifesaver Lounge" after the race). 

Hannah kept trying to steal my bib number.
My only real qualm is the race shirt. The design is cute, and I loved the color (this year's blue shirt was so much better than last year's coral shirt). But...it is a cotton t-shirt. A cotton shirt that they encourage everyone to wear on race day. I know this is a charity race, but I wish they could have found a sponsor who would have donated tech shirts.

The morning of the race I woke to see that it was pouring down rain. Good times! The race was going to happen, rain or shine, so I got dressed, fed Hannah, grabbed my gear check bag, and went to wait for the bus in the rain. I missed by bus by about 30 seconds, so I had to wait an extra 20 minutes for the next one. This is why I always give myself plenty of time and usually show up to races way too early.

By the time I got off the bus for the short walk from the bus stop to the race site at Montrose Harbor, the rain had magically stopped, and the sun was peeking out from behind the clouds. Could it be? Was the rain over? Or, at the very least, would it hold off until the end of the race?

Hello, giant puddles. I'll be running through you later.
I was soon at the race site, and there weren't quite as many people as I expected, probably due to the rain. The field was muddy and had plenty of large puddles, but there was music playing, a cheerful announcer keeping everyone updated on what was happening, and plenty of friendly volunteers.

I made note of the starting line, the gear check tent, the "Lifesaver Lounge", and the bathrooms - basically everything I would need during the morning.

I made a quick round of the different tents to see what there was to see. There were tents for all of the various sponsors of the race, give aways from local vets and pet supply stores, a fundraising tent (if anyone had cash or check donations to turn in), a tent selling raffle tickets, a tent where you could sign up to foster dogs or cats, etc. Basically, there was pretty much everything you would expect to find at a race benefiting an animal shelter.

As I started towards gear check, Mother Nature decided that we weren't finished with the rain, after all. It began to rain again. It was going to be a wet, grey race. Everything would still go as planned, of course.

I checked my bag, waded over to the port-o-potties, and then made my way to the stage where the various pre-race festivities were taking place. There was a parade of adoptable dogs, a thank you from Paula, the founder of PAWS Chicago, a group photo with all the participants who were PAWS adopters, and a fun little show from Junebug the Pitbull.

Junebug and her human were pretty much adorable.
Soon the announcement was made that the race would be starting. The 8k run would start first, followed by the 4k walk. Although the two events were supposed to have different start locations, the 4k starting area was completed flooded, with water up to knee, so the 4k walkers would use the 8k starting line (also flooded, but not nearly as badly) after the runners were sent on our way.

The starting line. Not pictured, the slightly flooded area around the starting line.
Once the race started, it was clear that the rain had done a number on the course. There were huge mud puddles, especially at the couple of underpasses on the course. I found myself wishing that I had worn different shoes, as I knew that I was going to ruin my favorite running shoes thanks to all the water and mud. At one point, I had to slow point because the water came up to mid shin.

I was moving at a good pace, despite some weaving early on. Too many runners ahead of me would just come to a dead stop at a giant puddle or flooded part of the path. I mean...really? You are already soaked through! Another puddle isn't going to make that much of a difference!

I continued on! I have to admit that I was having a little bit of fun just dashing through the puddles. The course was the pretty standard race course along the Lakefront Trail.

Soon, I decided it would be smarter to do run/walk intervals. I did the first couple of miles too quickly and the humidity was getting to me. I knew I would be able to achieve a better time if I took the occasional one minute walking break.

The rain stopped, and the sun came out. As I kept going, I made sure to thank some of the volunteers yelling motivational things, such as "Just imagine that you are running towards a room full of puppies that want to play!" and "Each step you take is helping save more kittens!" One of the folks tasked with keeping traffic from running over the runners was giving out high fives to runners while giving drivers a dose of sass: "Do I look like I care who you are or where you work? People are running here! My job is to keep them safe, so you are just going to have to wait!"

Soon, the finish line was in site, and then the race was finished. I had very squishy shoes, a slight sunburn because the rain had washed off all of my sunscreen, and a new 8k PR.

I grabbed a bottle of water, my bag from gear check, a couple of sample bags of cat food for Hannah, and then made my way to "The Lifesaver Lounge" for food, drink, and puppies.

The orange bracelet means I can enter the lounge. The paw print means I'm old enough to have a beer.
This lounge area was for anyone who had raised at least $125. There was post run food and drink for everyone, but the lounge had shorter lines, more food options (including pizza), and a few small gifts (a reusable shopping bag, a PAWS mason jar, etc) for folks who had raised money for PAWS.

Now that the rain had stopped, people were in a much more festive mood. The 4k walk was pet friendly, so there were a lot of dogs hanging out with their people. They had plenty of dog treats available, so it wasn't only the humans who got to enjoy some post race snacks.

There was also a little area with adoptable dogs. I can't have a dog in my apartment, but that didn't stop me from getting in a little bit of quality puppy time.

This guy decided to sing me the song of his people.
With the music playing and my stomach rumbling, I was in the mood to celebrate and splurge a bit, so I pretty much ate ALL OF THE FOODS! And there were plenty of foods to choose from:

Beer.

Hello, deliciousness.
Pizza.

So many pizzas, so little time.
And other assorted goodies: water, Gatorade, apples, popcorn, chips, mini Clif bars, cookies, cupcakes, and brownies.

I wanted all of the snacks. Probably because I forgot to eat breakfast before I left the house.
Even with all the rain, it was a good race, and I had a lot of fun. They have scheduled a fundraisers' post race party for a night in July due to all of the rain (I think some folks either didn't show up or left early), but I have to work that evening and won't be able to attend.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the festivities, which had treats for humans and dogs.
I had fun at the race and was happy with my time. It was really nice running a race for an organization that I support and have a connection to. I also really enjoy that this was an 8k and not just another 5k. Don't get me wrong. I love a good 5k, but it is nice to shake things up a little bit every now and then.

I will be running again next year and hope to a.) get another PR and b.) raise even more money to help PAWS Chicago save more cats like Hannah.

Friday, June 19, 2015

2015 Original 5k Recap

Sorry that my recap is so late in being posted. Time got away from this week, so I'm trying to get caught up on everything: blogging, laundry, dishes...you know, the usual. Better late than never, so here we go!

The Original 5k may have taken the lead as my favorite race this year. It was a ton of fun, pretty laid back while still being well organized, and had a smaller crowd than most of the other races I've run this year. I had a blast and am already planning on running it again next year.

The Original 5k has a really fun concept. From their website: "We will be transporting you back to the ’70s, when American distance runners stood atop the podiums of the world’s most famous races...Come and run fast. Go ahead and grow some facial hair or sideburns. Feather your hair and throw on those short shorts. Come dressed as Pre or Frank or Joanie. Just come and experience The Original 5K."

Online registration was easy and wonderfully inexpensive, with the race costing only $19.72 (get it?), and instead of the usual race shirt, they gave out trucker hats. There was also an option during registration and on race day to buy tube socks, with all proceeds going to the charity partner, The Muscular Distrophy Association.

Packet pick up was also wonderfully simple, being held at all Fleet Feet location simultaneously the day before the race, as well as at the race site the night of the race. Night? Yes, this was an evening race. So on Wednesday night, I planned what I'd wear to work, made sure it would fit in my gear check bag, and then packed my running gear, race bib, and other essentials (sun screen, watch, safety pins, tissues, id, a little cash, keys...anything that I would need between leaving the house the morning to go to work and getting home from the race that night.
As soon as I was done with work, I ducked into the restrooms at work and changed into my running gear, slathered on some sunscreen, threw everything into my gear check bag, and made my way over to Diversey Harbor.  

Hello, Diversey Harbor. Nice to see you again.
The race site was easy to find. I just followed the sweet tunes being played. This race seriously had the best pre and post race music ever, compliments of the awesome DJ.

Everyone was in a festive mood and dressed to impress.
 Sorry it isn't the best picture - evening race + overcast skies made for some not so great picture taking light.
There were already a good number of people there and ready to run. Being a smaller race (less than 1,000 participants), the race site was also on the smaller side, so everything was easy to find. Once I had my bearings, I made my first bathroom stop before checking my bag and getting ready. With most of my races and runs being held in the morning, I wasn't really prepared for an evening race in terms of meal planning. I made the mistake of having a big lunch, so my stomach was not the happiest with me before or after the race, though it thankfully and surprisingly quieted down while I was running.

The evening was cool and damp. It had been a week full of rain, and the clouds in the sky threatened to open and unleash the rain at any moment. The area was already wet and a little bit muddy. That didn't dampen anyone's spirits, however. People came ready to party!

Everyone was in a great mood, despite the ominous clouds. Although most people were wearing their usual modern running gear, there were quite a few folks sporting some 70's inspired shirts and shorts and facial hair. I was excited and ready to run!

Just as they announced that it was time to line up for the race, it started to sprinkle. I was mentally preparing myself for another wet and muddy race, after racing through the pouring rain at the Run for the Zoo. Being a throw back to the 70's, there were no pace signs, so everyone just slowly made their way to the starting line and waited

Excited to run, but really getting tired of all of this rain.
Luckily, the rain held off! A little drizzle here and there was all the precipitation that we got. After the national anthem, the race began.

The course was great! There were enough turns to keep things interesting. Although the race made some modern conveniences available (chip timing, gear check, etc.), at each mile marker, there was someone with a stop watch and a megaphone calling out split times, which made me laugh each time I passed by.

During the first mile, I was actually running faster than usual, finishing the first mile in a little under 9:30, but I was feeling good. I was loving the cooler weather, and with a smaller field of runners, the course tended to be pretty clear and easy to maneuver around slower runners or walkers.

Before I even hit the 2 mile mark, however, things weren't going so well. I was already starting to tire. I made my usual mistake of starting out too fast. This is something I do on almost every run, unless I have a pacer. I'm slowly learning to pace myself. Very slowly. One day, I'll be better able to reel myself in at the start of a race/run.

I slowed down a bit, determined to finish strong and feeling good, and before I knew it, I could hear the music from the race site. I knew I was close to finishing. As soon as I saw the Finish line (which was also the Start line), I sped back up.

I grabbed a bottle of water, a piece of watermelon, and made my way to gear check. I had left my beer ticket in my gear check bag, so I had to retrieve my bag in order to claim my PBR. Getting my bag took a little while, as the gear check area was not nearly as well organized after the race as it had seemed before the race. Even so, I soon had my bag and was ready to party.

So. Much. Watermelon.
Much like the Run for the Zoo, this was one of my "just for fun" races. My only goals were to finish the race and have fun. I wasn't planning on getting a new 5k PR, but that's what I did, finishing the race in 30:39.

Results were printed out and stapled to a large piece of plywood. 
I'm super excited that my hard work and consistency are finally paying off. I'm finally seeing improvement! When I started running, I was averaging 12 minute miles. Then, earlier this year, I got down to 11 minute miles. Now, I'm consistently around 10. Maybe, if I keep it up, I'll be averaging 9 minute miles.

I stuck around to enjoy my cold can of PBR, some watermelon, and some Pringles. There was great music, and runners and volunteers all seemed in a festive mood. After the race, they announced the winners and handed them their awards. There was also a raffle held after race, with the prizes being free entries to other Fleet Feet races.

Once I was ready to leave and had filled my belly with free post race goodness, I made my way to the el. The rain started falling right as I got to the train, so Mother Nature had my back this time and didn't make me trudge through the mud.

I had a great time at this race. Fleet Feet puts on some great races, and they have quickly become a reliable source for fun, well organized running events. I still have some things to work on, but I achieved my goal of having fun and got a PR at the same time. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

And Another PR!

I'm still working on my recap of the Original 5k (long story short - it was awesome), but I had something I needed to share, first.

I got another PR!!!

I ran the PAWS Run for Their Lives 8k. My previous 8k PR was 55:19 at this year's Shamrock Shuffle, and I completed today's 8k in 51:46. I would have finished even more quickly, but I had to stop and stretch shortly before the 4 mile mark when I got a cramp in my calf.

I'm not going to lie. I'm feeling extremely pleased with myself right now. I may still be slow, but I'm much faster than I was this time last year (last year I ran the PAWS 8k in 1:01:36). It is amazing what sticking to a consistent work out schedule will do.

The best running week ever ended on a high note. 3 race + 3 PRs = a happy runner.

All three of my races this week felt great. In fact, my regular runs on my own, or group runs in the case of Chick's Night and the CES open house fun run, felt fantastic, too.

So why has this week been so amazing? Yes, the PRs are great, but what really made this week amazing was that it was one of the first times since I started running where my one and only goal for each race/run was to have fun. I wasn't trying to PR in my races. I wasn't working on pace or distance during my runs. I was just running for the sheer joy of it.

It doesn't mean that I won't set future goals for myself, especially distance goals. I still need to tackle a 10k and a half marathon, both of which are on the horizon. But taking a break and running for fun for a little while has helped remind me why I love running and how exhilarating it can feel. I just need to remember this feeling when my half marathon training starts next week.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Best Week Ever

Guess who got a new 5k PR?

That's right! I did! For the second time in a week, I've broken my previous 5k PR.

On Sunday, I ran the Run for the Zoo 5k in 30:50. And last night, I ran the Original 5k in 30:39.

Could this be the best week ever?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

2015 United Run for the Zoo 5k Recap

I've been hearing about the Run for the Zoo for years, but I this was my first time running it. I was either at a place in my life where running seemed impossible, or, once I did start running, the date for the race just didn't work with my work schedule. I decided that this was the year to finally run it. After spending all spring training for the Soldier Field 10 Mile, and getting ready to spend all summer training for a half marathon, I was looking for a "just for fun" race.

I wanted a race with no real goal distance or finish time. A race where I didn't need to plan nutrition or hydration. A race where I could just show up and have a good time.

And see a bunch of awesome animals!
A 5k that gives me an excuse to hang out at the zoo seemed liked the perfect race, especially with the race benefiting the zoo. The Lincoln Park Zoo is completely free, and I've visited it on many occasions, but I've never given back and made a donation. It is one of the free things that you enjoy and don't really think about how they are able to operate...kind of like NPR (though I do donate to my local NPR station - I have the mug to prove it). By running the race, I was helping support the zoo and getting to enjoy a day off from work.

And an excuse to visit a beautiful part of the city that I don't see nearly often enough.
Registration was incredibly easy. There was a 5k run, 5k walk, 10k run, or a kid's race called "The Safari Stampede". I chose the 5k run, put in my info, got my confirmation, and was done in less than 5 minutes.

As the race grew closer, I got a couple of reminder emails with information about the race and packet pick up. Advance packet pick up hours were terrible, but I figured I could get my packet the day before the race, as long as I was there right when they started. Although I showed up shortly after pick up began, there was already quite a line, so I ended up waiting for much longer than expected and had to grab a cab in order to get to work on time. There were times when the line came to a stand still. Things just didn't seem too terribly organized.

I have to say, however, that I do love the race shirt. It fits well and is very comfortable, and I can see myself wearing it on a lot of runs in the future.

When I checked the weather forecast the night before the race, I saw that we were due for some rain, so I made sure to pack a towel and change of clothes in my gear check bag. I also made sure to wear my trusty purple hate. I love running with a hat or visor because it helps keep the sun off my face in good weather and keeps the rain off my face in bad weather.

Pre-race selfie featuring my trusty purple hat. 
On race morning, the skies were dark and overcast, but I hoped for the best and made my way to the race site. I hate half a bagel with some almond butter on the train, and once I was at the zoo, I quickly oriented myself and figured out where everything was - bathrooms, gear check, starting line, beer tent...you know, the important things. I made a quick stop at the bathroom, which had a surprisingly short line, and then made my way to gear check. I had plenty of time before the race started, so my plan was to check my bag, see what there was to see, stop at the bathroom one more time, and then head to the starting area.
Unfortunately, this plan didn't work, as the gear check lines didn't seem to move. I don't know if the gear check tent was understaffed or if the folks working were just overwhelmed, but I stood in line for what seemed an eternity. Right as an announcement was made that the 5k would be starting in a few minutes, I was finally at the front of the line. I shoved my bag at one of the volunteers (sorry, bro, but I had a race to run), and sprinted over to the start. I quickly found the sign with my estimated pace and got in position. I was a little bummed about not being able to use the bathroom or roam the area before the race, but I also didn't want to miss the start. 

I only had to wait a couple of minutes to start after getting lined up.
Despite repeated announcements to line up according to pace, with anyone walking the course at the very back, I noticed plenty of walkers interspersed among the runners (everyone's bib color corresponded to the race they had signed up for - orange for 5k runners, green for 5k walkers, and yellow for 10k runners).

Soon, the race was underway. As expected, I had to do a lot of weaving between slower runners and walkers for the first mile or so. There was one section of the course where the path narrowed and things started moving really slowly, but it eventually opened up again. When I hit the first mile marker, I checked my watch and saw that I had gone out a lot faster than planned. I was feeling good, though, so I decided to just keep moving. I could always move to the side and walk a little if needed later in the race.

The water station for the 5k course was shortly after the one mile mark, but there were only two clearly overwhelmed volunteers manning it, and they just couldn't keep up with the demand for cups of water. Seeing that I would have to come to a complete stop and wait for one of the besieged volunteers to fill a cup, I decided to just keep moving.

The course went straight through the middle of the zoo before winding over towards the harbor and then back to finish in the zoo again. It was really great running on a different course than usual. There were some rough and uneven parts of the course, so I did have to pay attention to where I was stepping.

Right as I hit the two mile mark, the heavens opened and unleashed their rain. At first, the rain was light and felt refreshing. But it soon picked up and rained harder. And then the wind picked up. Every now and then, a rumble of thunder would sound. The rain and coming storm became a reason to keep running towards the finish line, as I was worried that they would cancel the race, and I wanted an official finish time.

Before I knew it, we were turning back into the zoo and I could see the finish line. I crossed the finish and did a double take at my time. I had not planned or expected to PR, but my watch said that I had just run my fastest 5k. A later check of the official results verified that I had a new 5k PR. Woo hoo!

Wet from head to toe, but happy with my PR.
I was handed a bottle of water, a bottle of Gatorade, and a banana. I quickly ate the banana (I was starving thanks to eating my bagel too early in the morning) and grabbed one of the bottles of chocolate milk that were also being handed out.

I was soaking wet, so I rushed over to gear check. It didn't take nearly as long to get my bag as it did to check it, but I was confused when the volunteer asked me to describe my bag, as they weren't actually arranged by bib number. Ummm...that's weird, but okay.

Once I had my bag, I made my way to the women's room to dry off and change. Sadly, everything in my bag was also soaked, so changing was pointless. I'm just confused as to how the inside of my bag got wet, but the outside didn't. Did someone open it and leave it in the rain? Everything was there and accounted for, but it was still strange.

Next stop? Beer and pizza. The pizza...well, it was the smallest piece of pizza I've ever seen, and it was cold, so I chose to console myself with beer. The beer was plentiful and cold and delicious and I may have gotten a little buzzed due to not having eaten enough before drinking it.

Mmm...beer. Free beer always tastes better. And the best beer is post race free beer.
I watched as more folks crossed the finish line, and then I heard an announcement that the remainder of the race was cancelled due to lightning in the area. They urged everyone to take cover. Like everyone around me, I ignored the warning and spent the rest of the morning wandering around the zoo.

Pictured: everyone not taking cover.
I was already soaking wet, so wandering around in the rain didn't seem like that big of a deal. There weren't many animals out, and I didn't see any during the race itself, but I was able to find a few who didn't seem to mind the rain. The ducks and swans in the pond didn't care about a little water, and the flamingos were also hanging out and doing what flamingos do. 

Flamingos are so pretty and yet so awkward.
And the harp seal was all, "Oh. Is it raining? I didn't even notice."

"I don't understand what the big deal is, guys."
My feelings about the race are a little all over the place. I had a good time and got a PR, but packet pick up and gear check were both a mess, and there just didn't seem to be enough on course support from what I saw at the water station (I hope the 10k water stations were better staffed and stocked). Also, communication wasn't great on race day. When I first arrived at the race site, I wasn't sure who was a volunteer and who wasn't. A few volunteers were wearing "volunteer" shirts, some were wearing the race shirt, and others were wearing whatever they wanted. There were plenty of announcements made over a loudspeaker, but the race site was such a big area, that you could only hear and understand the announcements if you were standing in certain places. Finally, it may sound petty, but I was really looking forward to a hot slice of pizza. Don't make a big deal about your post race food if you aren't able to deliver.

I did, however, love the shirt and the course. And, as I said, I really did have fun running the race, even with all the wind and rain.

Overall, I walked away feeling as though this was a nice, little, charity race that had great intentions but grew too big and just wasn't prepared to meet the expectations that many runners have for races today.

Monday, June 8, 2015

New 5k PR

Guess who got a new 5k PR yesterday? This girl!

I ran the United Run for the Zoo 5k yesterday morning. It started out as an overcast morning, and then the rain started, but I still managed to run my best time, yet.

I ran the race in 30:50, with an average pace of 9:54. My previous 5k PR was the Ravenswood Run, with a finish time of 33:39. To say that I'm excited would be an understatement.

I'll be posting my race recap tomorrow with all the details. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Happy National Running Day

In case you didn't know, today is National Running Day.

Happy National Running Day!

There are a ton of events happening in and around Chicago today. CARA is hosting several fun runs today to celebrate. Fleet Feet Chicago is having a relay with stops at all of their locations today to celebrate. Or you can always just go out and run for the fun of it by yourself. You do you.

If you do want to run with others, then check out the website for National Running Day to find events happening near you.

I'm hoping to make it to the last leg of Fleet Feet's relay today or possibly to Chick's Night. I just don't know if it will be possible with work today. Either way, I plan on using this year's National Running Day to remind myself about why I love running.

Although I'm finally making progress, I've still had several not so great runs this past week, so today gives me a great opportunity to just run for fun and not worry about distance or pace or anything other than the simple act of running.

I run because I want to live a longer and happier life. I run because running makes me feel like I can accomplish anything.

Why do you run?