Monday, July 27, 2015

2015 Esprit de She 5k Recap

I don't know about you, but my idea of a good time involves leaving work a little early and heading to the beach...to run a 5k.

This past Thursday, I did just that. I clocked out a littler earlier than usual (with the approval of my boss, of course) and changed into my running gear. I threw everything in to my gear check bag, hopped on the red line, and then made my way over to Montrose Beach for the 2015 Esprit de She 5k.

My usual pre race selfie, including my trusty purple hat.
Despite the fact that I haven't been feeling very good lately, and despite the week's earlier abysmal runs, this year's Esprit de She 5k was a much more enjoyable experience for me than last year's race was. Pre and post race festivities were great, everyone from volunteers to the other runners were incredibly friendly and nice, and even though I didn't even come close to my previous 5k finish time, I felt pretty good about my efforts in the race and accomplished my goal primary goal for the race: finish with no walking. Though I had considered registering for the 10k, I'm really glad that I registered for the 5k, as I don't think I would have felt as good doing the longer distance on Thursday.

It was a beautiful evening. The skies were clear, the weather warm, and there was a nice breeze blowing. In addition to all of the runners, there were plenty of people out at the beach and in the park, enjoying the beautiful evening.

A gorgeous night in Chicago.
The race site was easy to find, and they had everything clearly labeled and easy to navigate, and there were plenty of folks working the event who were more than happy to point people in the right direction or answer any questions.

Signs set up around the event pointing the way to everything you may need.
The first thing I did was make a pit stop to use the restroom. The second thing I did was slather myself in sunscreen (SPF 70, thank you very much). Then, I was ready to get down to business. I had overestimated how long it would take me to get to race site from work, so I had plenty of time to take in the sights before the race began.

We had almost ideal race conditions. It was just a hair too warm, but otherwise great weather.
I familiarized myself with the race site. I found the starting line, gear check, the drink tent. You know...the important things. 

But first things first - taking care of some important business. I didn't want to find myself standing in line any more than was necessary, so I made sure to get my "Over 21" wristband right away. Being so early meant that there was no line, yet, so I quickly had my wristband and was on my way to scope out what the "Lifestyle Market" had to offer.

Yes, I'm legally old enough to drink alcohol. This wristband makes it official.
There were plenty of booths to visit, including a booth  for the race's official charity partner, Girls on the Run. A lot of the booths seemed to have some sort of sample to give out: mini Luna bars, protein powder samples, yogurt, body lotion, tomatoes (yes, tomatoes), etc. I decided that I would wait until after I was done running to make the rounds and gather up all the freebies that were being offered.

Behold! The tomato booth!
One of the largest tent was the one offering mini manicures, hair braiding, and massages. Even with almost an hour to go before the race began, there was already a line of ladies waiting for these services.

Things I don't usually expect to find at a race - manicures. 
When the announcer started calling for everyone to make their way to the starting line, I made a bee line for the bathrooms one last time before the race started. I was a little worried that I had waited too long and would miss the start, but I managed to still make it to the starting line in time for the pre race group warm up.

These ladies were awesome, even if the crowd wasn't up for dancing.
The ladies leading the dance based warm up were super energetic and generally awesome. I felt a little bad for them, though. The runners, including myself, just weren't feeling it, and I only saw a handful of ladies joining in. I joined some of the folks around me for the first song, but I chose to do my own stretching/warm up during the second song instead of following along because I simply have no rhythm, so it was better for everyone around me if I didn't try to dance.

The race started right on time. There were a couple of para-athletes racing, so there were sent off first. The 5k runners had the next start, followed by the 10k runners about 10 minutes later. Staggering the start times was a great idea and really helped keep the course clear and less crowded.

Like a lot of races in Chicago, Esprit de She utilized the Lakefront Path, which meant that there were not only the race participants and volunteers on the course, but also anyone who decided to go for an evening run, walk, or bike ride. I was very happy that they had several reminders before the race that this would probably happen and to share the path and keep to the right as much as possible, as well as a final warning at the starting line right before the race started.

The course was clearly marked with signs at every turn to show which way to go depending on which distance you were running. There were also volunteers strategically positioned along the course to make sure everyone was heading the right way.

There was plenty of support on the course, with well stocked and well staffed aid stations at every mile. Due to the heat, which wasn't terrible for this time of year even though it was getting to me by the end of the race, there were also misters and ice cold towels at the finish line. Also, the Race Guards, a volunteer group or athletes trained in First Aid and CPR, were present to help any runners who needed assistance.

They started getting ready well before the race started.
I struggled more than usual for a 5k. I got a stitch in my side shortly after the first mile marker, and then I soon had a slight cramp in my calf. I was determined to keep running, so I adjusted my pace and slowed down a bit. Even though my goal was to run the full race, I told myself that if I was still hurting at the next aid station, then I would walk through it while grabbing some water.

Luckily, it turned out that I didn't need to take that walk break. By mile two, I was feeling better and was able to pick up the pace a little. I started playing a game with myself - I only had to run until I reached the big tree or until the song playing on my ipod was done or until I passed the lady sitting on the bench. Each time I reached my end point, I chose a new one. This helped take my mind off of my discomfort and helped break the race into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Even though the heat wasn't terrible for this time of year, it was starting to get to me and that final .1 kilometer felt like it took forever. I crossed the finish line having run the full 5k, but I was shaking and wasn't feeling well. I hadn't eaten much during the day (I'm really terrible about fueling properly before an evening run and/or race), so I knew I needed to cool off AND get some nutrition in my system. I was handed an ice cold wash cloth and found some shade to sit in while I downed a cold bottle of water and a banana. I had a couple of people stop and check in to make sure that I was okay, which I appreciated.

Soon, I was feeling better and was ready to enjoy the post race festivities.

Feeling better after cooling off a bit.
I stopped at the spa tent, and seeing that there was only a few folks waiting for a massage, I got in line. I got a quick massage that helped work out some of the tightness in my legs. I'm  not usually a fan of massage, but it felt amazing, and I felt much better afterwards.

I grabbed my bag from gear check and made my way around the market, collecting various freebies from the different booths. Gildan, the main sponsor of this year's race, was giving out free shirts. They even had an area where you could decorate and personalize your shirt.

I chose not to do anything special to my shirt, but a lot of ladies were having fun decorating their shirts. 
I was still shaking a little, so I grabbed some food. There were some tasty tapas to enjoy, such as a mango bruschetta and a chickpea dish served on flat bread (even though they did end up running out of flat bread, it was still delicious). Also, every runner got two drink tickets. I couldn't decide between the Sangria and the beer, so I got one of each. I found a comfy chunk of grass to call home until I was done eating.


Once I had eaten, I felt pretty good. I chatted with some of the other ladies around me about the race we had just run, as well as some other races that we all had coming up. Soon, it was time for awards. In addition to the usual awards (overall awards and age group awards), there was a raffle for some bigger items donated by some of the sponsors. There was also live music after the race. Sitting in the grass on a warm summer's night with a cold beer in hand listening to some tunes is a pretty great way to end the day.

Thanks for the tunes, gents!
Everyone was having a good time, including me. As it started to get dark, I decided it was time to start heading home. I had foolishly decided to walk home (about three and a half miles), and I didn't want to get home too late. Once home, I put away all the freebies I picked up at the race, fed Hannah cat, stretched, took a long bath, and went to bed feeling pretty satisfied.

I had a lot of fun at this race and would run it again. I enjoyed the pre and post race activities and amenities, the course was nice (running right next to the beach for part of it, with beautiful views of the lake), and all of the people I interacted with were lovely. I only wish that I could convince some friends to run with me, as I think the race would have only been better if I had had some company.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Holy Swag, Batman!

Last night, I ran the Esprit de She 5k. I struggled a bit during the race, but I still had a lot of fun and will be posting my full recap this weekend. 

Last night there were soooooo many freebies from the various race sponsors that I didn't know what to do with all of the stuff I ended up with.The race packet was fairly standard - official race shirt, bib number, safety pins, a couple of samples (mini Luna bar and a sample pack of gummi vitamins), and some coupons. 

At the race site, each of the various sponsors had booths set up and were offering various samples and freebies both pre and post race. 

Taking the number one spot for the strangest freebie that I've ever received at a race (this position was previously held by the box of rice handed to me at the Shamrock Shuffle Expo) is this box of tomatoes:
I've never had a stranger hand me a tomato before...but whatever. I'll take it!
Gildan was the main sponsor for the race this year, and they had a booth that was giving out shirts, hair ties, water bottles, etc. I got a pretty sweet t shirt. They had a variety of things you could do to your shirt to customize it (instructions for cutting and/or tying it, stencils, pens to write on it, etc.), but I chose to keep it plain so that I could wear it to work. 
Or I will wear it if I can get it back from Hannah.
After crossing the finish line and grabbing a bottle of water and a banana, I was handed a canvas Target bag on my into the Night Market (aka post race party).

This will come in handy when Chicago's plastic bag ban goes into effect on August 1.
When I got home and started unpacking it, I was astounded by how much stuff they managed to fit in one small bag:

Just...so...much...stuff.
There were samples of various snacks, vitamins, body lotion, nut butter, bubble bath, face wipes, cleaning products, lip balm, hand soap, and so much more. 

The different sponsor booths were also handing out all sorts of stuff: mini Luna bars, packets of protein powder (the protein powder booth was also doing demonstrations on different ways to use protein powder and giving out samples of their recipes, such as protein French toast), body lotion, yogurt, sports drinks, etc. There was also a raffle for larger items and prize packs from a few of the sponsors. 

And to think...I was just exciting about the free bottle of water and banana at the finish line.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Time for Another 5k

Tonight, I'll be running the Esprit de She 5k.

This race kind of snuck up on me. I'd forgotten that I'd registered for it until I started getting reminder emails and information about packet pick up. Luckily, I'm only scheduled to work until 5pm this evening, so I should have no trouble making it to the race.

I brought everything I would need during the day and at the race, and I double checked last night that everything will fit in my gear check bag.

It may look like a random pile of stuff, but it is everything I need for the race AND for work.
I was able to pick up my race packet last week after my long run. Advance packet pickup was held at Fleet Feet's Old Town location, and the race also offers race day packet pickup. After a very hot and sweaty run Saturday morning, I went home, showered, changed for work, ate a sandwich, and then made my way to Fleet Feet. I was worried about having to wait in line for a long time, but I was in and out in no time, which meant that I was actually early for work that day.

Included in the packet: the official race shirt, bib number, safety pins, clear gear check bag, a few coupons, a mini Luna bar, and a packet of gummi vitamins.

Race shirt and number. Not the best picture, but the only one I could get that didn't include my cat.
I'm really glad that this year's shirt is tech material, as last year's cotton tank top isn't comfortable to run in (cotton, too many seams that cause some chafing, etc.). I also really like the blue color of this year's shirt. I also got a bonus Moxie cycling tee because I had registered early for the race. Apparently, anyone who registered before a certain deadline got the extra shirt.

I ran this race last year and had some mixed feelings about it, due largely to some unpleasant interactions with some other runners (the volunteers and folks working the race were all lovely), but I'm hoping for a fun race.

As I've already detailed in other posts, I'm not feeling all that great. Everything just feels much more difficult than usual, so I'm not holding out hopes for another PR or even for a decent finish time. In fact, I don't plan on really racing tonight. Instead, I'll be using the race as an easy run, which is what my training plan calls for, anyway. My only real goal for this race is to finish without any walking.

It will be nice to get out of my own neighborhood and run a different route than usual. And despite the funk I currently find myself in, I don't want to start canceling plans or skip out on any runs or races for which I've already registered.

Also, one of my goals for the year was to run more races than last year, and this race will give me my eighth race of 2015, thus tying me with last year. After tonight, I'll only need one more race this year to accomplish that goal.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Still Struggling. Still Working.

Soooo...yeah...things are still not great. I'm still struggling with...well...with pretty much everything. 

But I'm not giving up. I'm still moving forward. I'm still working towards my goals in the hopes of getting out of this slump. I'm doing my best to put a positive spin on things.

I've been working with a personal trainer again to learn more about strength training and other non running activities that can help me be a better runner. She has been great about working with my crazy schedule and my limited financial resources, though I have been fortunate enough to squirrel away enough from each paycheck to meet with her a minimum of once every two weeks. After discussing my struggles with her last week, she helped me develop an action plan that should help me achieve my goals.

Hannah helped me fill out the action plan worksheet. Thanks for the help, kitty!
Basically, the point is to have an overall goal that is measurable and has a specific time frame. Then, I have specific things to work on, sort of like mini goals (in my case, two fitness and two nutrition mini goals) that will help me achieve my goal. At the half way point, my trainer and I will check on my progress and adjust the plan if needed.

The action plan takes things one step beyond just goal setting. I'm great about setting goals. I'm not so great about following through with them (though I am getting better). I had to write down specific rewards if I stick to the plan and specific consequences if I stray from the plan. For example, if I wake up one morning and just don't feel like doing that day's planned run, then I have to decide if skipping my run is worth having to do 50 burpees at the end of the week.

I taped my goal sheet on my door, next to my half marathon training plan. This way, I'll see it everyday, which will help me keep working towards that overall goal.

I may be in a slump right now, but I'm hoping that as long as I keep working, I'll eventually break through and will start feeling better again. Having a training plan has helped. It takes some of the guess work out of things because I know exactly what each day's workout will be from now until my race in September. And even though I've only had my action plan for a couple of days, it seems to be having a similar effect because I know what to eat and when, what to do on cross training days, and am not just allowed, but actively encouraged, to reward myself on a weekly basis for sticking to my plan.

Basically, giving myself fewer choices is generally making life easier right now.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Struggling

Wow....What a difference a week makes.

And not in a good way.

A week ago, I was feeling pretty good and making progress. My long runs were slowly getting longer as I train for my first half marathon. Sure, I had a lot of work to do, but I was working on finding balance and was generally pretty happy with my progress. I was feeling strong and surprisingly confident.

I don't know what happened, but this week is pretty rough. I'm struggling a lot with exercise and diet and am generally just not feeling good. Everything is just feeling a lot more difficult than usual. My recent runs have felt awful - long, slow slogs that I have to force myself to complete. My eating feels out of control - donuts are both the best and the worst things in the world. And I haven't been able to get a good night's sleep in a couple of weeks. Even worse, that little disapproving voice in my head keeps getting louder and louder. You know what I'm talking about - the little voice that says that you are not good enough. Negative self talk is a pernicious thing that is incredibly difficult to stop.

I'm trying to push through, though. I'm sticking to my training plan, even if I hate it right now. I'm trying to reign in my eating, even though one of my co workers brought the most amazing donuts I've ever seen to work today. And if I can't silence all of my negative thoughts, then I'll do my best to ignore them.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

July Check In

July kind of caught me by surprise. June was suddenly here, and then just as suddenly it was gone.

I'm pleased to say that things are going well. I've managed to get one day off each week this month, which is much better for my overall sense of well being, and I'm working on making sure that I can continue having one day off each week moving forward.

I'm shaking things up a little on the fitness front, taking at least one class a week at my gym. So far spinning and yoga seem to be the ones that are working the best with my schedule. It is nice to break out of my usual routine every now and then, and having a class with a set start time helps me get out of bed and get a work out in on those non running days.

I'm also officially training for my first ever half marathon, which is both exciting and terrifying. Yay! New distance! Training is going pretty well, so far. After my positive experience with Chicago Endurance Sports this spring, I'm training with them again this summer. I'm maintaining a consistent running schedule, and all of my runs have been manageable so far thanks to our unseasonably cool weather. I am a little worried about what will happen when we get some real heat and humidity later this summer, though. I know this wonderful 60 degree mornings can't last forever.

Nutrition is still a little hit or miss. I fell back into some bad habits at the end of May and have been struggling with my love of junk food for the past month. I'm slowly regaining control, though. I've learned that completely cutting out junk food just doesn't work for me because it leads to binges, which leads to a lot of negative feelings, both physical and emotional. Right now, I'm trying to focus on finding balance.