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 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.

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