Friday, May 27, 2016

2016 Chicago Spring 10k Recap

The Chicago Spring Half Marathon and 10k was a race that I had been wanting to run for the past couple of years after hearing some really great things about it. I was always hesitant, however, due to it being the week before Soldier Field 10 Mile and being completely on the Lake Front Path, which can't be closed to the public during races and which I can run for free any day I want to.

This year, I finally pulled the trigger and signed up for the 10k. I was already registered for Soldier Field, and I didn't want to push too much, so the 10k seemed like the perfect distance.

Packet pick up was offered several days leading up to the race at Fleet Feet's Old Town location, or there was will call packet pick up the day of the race for an additional fee. Not wanting or needing to pay extra for packet pick up, I made my way to Fleet Feet after work one day and walked out with my packet in hand in less than five minutes. 

The morning of the race was gorgeous! Blue skies, sunshine, a light breeze...the perfect spring day in Chicago. I ate a quick breakfast, grabbed my gear check bag, got dressed, and headed down town. The race site was located in the Park at Lakeshore East, with the starting line and corrals being just east on the lakefront, about 1/3 of a mile away from gear check. 

If you ever don't know where to go to get to a race site, just follow the other people in running gear.
I stopped by the Chicago Endurance Sports tent to greet friends and take care of some pre race business - applying sunscreen, filling my water bottle, pinning on my bib number, etc. I was excited to run, but I quickly noticed that the half marathon was clearly the big draw, as I wasn't seeing too many 10k bibs (blue bibs for half marathon and orange bibs for 10k) as I wandered around the race site.

So pretty! I can't believe I had never been to this park before!
Another indication was the fact that pre-race gear check was scheduled to close at 6:30am, which worked well for those running the half, but for those of us running the 10k, that meant arriving over an hour before our race started if we planned to check a bag.

Pretty and peaceful....or at least it was peaceful until thousands of runners showed up. Sorry to all the neighbors!
The park was really beautiful, and I was there really early, so I had time to sit back and relax and enjoy my surroundings before the race began. I found a shady spot where I could hang out for a bit and stretch (I've been having problems with really tight calves) before the race began.

This view!
When it was about time for the half marathon to begin, I made my way to the restroom. There were plenty of port-o-potties at the race site, as well as some near the start corrals, but the lines were long and confusing, as it was hard to tell if there was one long line or multiple small lines. Also, by the time I visited the facilities, many port-o-potties were out of toilet paper. Thankfully, I always carry a travel pack of tissues with me during races for just this reason. Always be prepared for anything!

I made my way over to the start area in time to cheer on some friends as they started the half marathon. The 10k was scheduled for a 7:30am start, but I didn't know where to go or what to do, as there was no clear place for the 10k runners to wait. All of the race information said that 10k runners would use the last corral, but where was the last corral? As more half marathon corrals were released, a man holding a big 10k sign finally showed up, and we started trying to line up for the race. 

The view from the 10k area wasn't too shabby.
The half marathon corrals were assigned based on estimated finish time, but the 10k was self seeded. This would have been perfectly fine if there was some way to help people line up, signs with estimated pace or something similar. Unfortunately, there was nothing to help with the self seeding beyond an announcement for the fast people to move to the front and the walkers to move to the back. I found my way to the middle of the crowd and hoped for the best.

The half marathon started at 7am, and the 10k was scheduled to start at 7:30am, but it took longer than expected for all the half marathon corrals to all get over the start line, and then we had to wait for the all clear from course personnel, so the 10k ended up starting over 20 minutes later than expected.

Pre race selfie featuring a few hundred of my running buddies for the day.
By the time we started, the sun had managed to heat everything up a bit more than I would have liked, and I was suddenly very glad that I was running the 10k and not the half marathon. Once across the start line, I found a comfortable pace that was a little slower than I would normally run for the distance, but that I knew I could sustain despite the increasing temperatures.

By the time I hit the first mile marker, I was feeling good. I was a bit too warm, but my pace was comfortable, I knew where the aid stations were, and I was confident that I would nab an easy 10k PR. I may still be slow, but I'm not nearly as slow as I was at my previous 10k.

I soon met the Back of the Pack Crew for the half marathon, who were the event staff who were in charge of bringing up the rear of the race and signified the end of the field for the half marathon. Before too much longer, I was encountered other half marathon runners/walkers. 

By the time I hit the second mile marker, however, things had changed. My stomach was not happy, and I was worried about losing its contents as it churned uncomfortably. As I was fighting to keep my stomach contents inside my stomach, my feet suddenly went numb, which is not a pleasant sensation or something you want to happen while running. I slowed to a walk until I regained feeling in my feet. This was something that I would have to do several more times during the course of the race.

Before I reached the turn around for 10k, we were encountering the faster half marathoners on their way back to the finish line. The leaders were each met with cheering and applause as they flew past the 10k runners.

At the turn around, which was clearly marked, it was important to slow down and merge with the half marathon traffic so as not to injure yourself or another runner. Sadly, my feet were once again numb, so I quickly moved to the far side of the path to loosen my shoes, in hopes that this was the cause of the problem. 

It didn't help.

For the remainder of the race, I had to keep slowing down to a walk in order to regain feeling in my feet, all the while fighting with the churning in my stomach. I was hot, uncomfortable, and starting to beat myself up for my less than great performance. In the last two miles, I abandoned all plans for specific finish times and changed my goal to simply finishing under my own power. This actually helped a bit, and my spirits lifted as I reminded myself how far I've come in the past couple of years and that I could and would finish the race.

I have never been so happy to see the final mile marker and know that the finish line was close. I was feeling ill and sped up as much as I was able to in order to get across the finish. I crossed the finish line, was handed the usual post race snacks - water, electrolyte drink, banana, pretzels - and a finishers medal.

The Ferris wheel actually spins! This may be the coolest race medal I've gotten. I'm just a little bothered by the large 13.1, as I didn't run the half, but they were giving the same medal for both distances.
I quickly found a shaded place to sit until my breathing was normal and sipped water until my stomach calmed down. Once I was feeling better, I stretched for a good long time and tried to work out a knot that had formed in my calf.

My final time was 1:06:15, which still gave me a 10k PR, but it was still a long way from the finish time was I hoping for and should have been able to accomplish. Even so, I was happy to have a new PR and thrilled that my many walk breaks had not hurt my time as much as I thought they would. Now I just need to figure out what was happening with my body that caused all of my problems.

I made my way over to the main race site to partake in the post race festivities. There was food and drinks and various tents with giveaways and raffles or merchandise for sale. Although it had been pretty empty earlier in the morning, the race site was now hopping with activity, as hot and tired runners made their way across the finish line and went in search of refreshments.

More and more people slowly filled the park.
Having my priorities in order, my first stop was the food. There was a full breakfast buffet for all runners. You just had to turn in the breakfast ticket from your race bib to gain access to the buffet, and it was pretty amazing: scrambled eggs, sausage, potatoes, pancakes, fruit, and beverages. They even had little packets of butter, syrup, and hot sauce. I think it may have been the best post race food I've ever had and was much better than the usual snacks or sad slice of pizza. 

I took a little bit of everything, making sure that I didn't forget the hot sauce, and grabbed an extra bottle of water.

Hooray! Breakfast!
There was also beer, and each runner had two beer tickets to use after the race. Not feeling in the mood for beer, I gave my tickets to a couple of other runners to use. I made my way back to the Chicago Endurance Sports tent to eat my breakfast with some of my CES friends. After eating, I stretched some more and then made my way around the site.

There were various giveaways - bags of popcorn, pretzels, and even some t-shirts and hats from Stio Mountain Studio. My favorite thing, though, was the fact that every runner got a flower to take home with them.

It was a nice little touch for a spring race, and I loved it! My flower now lives in my kitchen, because that is the only place where it can get some sun with my cat messing with it. 

I named my flower Gertrude. Isn't she pretty?
I wanted to watch the kids' race, but my watch was telling me that it was time to leave if I wanted to make it home to shower and change and still get to work on time. I made sure I had all of my things and made my way to the train.

I'm glad I ran the race, even with all the problems I had, and I would run it again next year, though I would probably opt for the half marathon, as that seems to be where all the focus is. I just need to figure out why my body decided to rebel against me so that I can try to avoid having similar problems at future races.

They also offered free photo downloads, so I finally have a race picture!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

So Many Races

Remember how back in January I mentioned wanting to cut back a little on the number of races that I run? Yeah...about that...I sort of got swept up in the excitement at the Shamrock Shuffle Expo earlier this year and may or may not have signed up for a whole bunch of races without really thinking about how they fit into my schedule.

And by "may or may not" I mean that I did.

Today is the start of a race extravaganza for me. This morning I ran the Chicago Spring 10k (recap coming soon), next weekend I run the Soldier Field 10 Mile, the weekend after that is the Run for the Zoo 5k, then I am running the Ragnar Relay (Madison to Chicago), and then I have the Proud to Run 10k.

I did not plan this very well. I did not plan this very well, at all.

And now I'm freaking out about ALL OF THE RACES!!!

Why do I do this to myself? Also, why do I keep running the same races every single year, when every year I say that I'll try to find new ones to run? Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to each of these. I'm just feeling a little overwhelmed every time I look at my calendar and all the packet pick ups/race days.

Learn from my mistakes, everyone. Don't sign up for a race on the spur of the moment. Take some time and think it through and double check your calendar before committing to something.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

2016 Ravenswood Run 5k Recap

My recap of this year's Ravenswood Run is much later than usual, coming almost a full month after the race, but I wanted to make sure that I got it posted, as the Ravenswood Run is one of my favorite races for a few reasons:

1. It has always been well run and organized.
2. It is a nice flat course that is entirely on city streets.
3. It has a lovely start time of 8am, so I don't have to wake up at the crack of dawn.
4. It is in my neighborhood, so I can walk to the race instead of taking the train/bus.

This year was my third year running the race, and it was, as usual, a really lovely race. My body wasn't too happy with my efforts, as I experienced more than usual discomfort during the race, but I still enjoyed myself. 

Packet pick up was a quick and easy affair. I stopped by Fleet Feet's Lincoln Square location (packet pick up was also available at the Old Town and Lakeview locations), said hello to all the friendly faces I know from spending way too much time at Fleet Feet, made my way upstairs, and left a few minutes later with my race bib, shirt, and clear gear check bag.

Although I was once again disappointed at gender specific colors for the shirts (men's shirts were grey and women's shirts were purple), I was pleased that at least this year's shirt wasn't bright pink. I really dig the purple color and the overall design and fit of the shirt. It is 52% cotton, however, so I don't think I'll be wearing it as much for running as previous years' shirts. It is shaping up to be more of a running errands and/or the occasional gym shirt than a running shirt.

The day of the race, I woke up, had a quick breakfast, got dressed, grabbed my previously packed gear check bag, and started the walk over to the race site at Wilson and Hermitage. It was a gorgeous day! The sun was shining, there was a light and pleasant breeze, and the forecast called for a low in the 50s and a high in the 70s. I actually found myself wishing that I had opted for shorts and a tank top instead of the capris and short sleeved shirt that I was wearing.

Once a the race site, I made use of the port-o-potties, threw my jacket into my gear check bag, and scoped out the area.

The great thing about a neighborhood race is seeing a ton of friendly faces. There were plenty of ladies from Chick's Night running that morning, as well as some of my friends from Chicago Endurance Sports.

When it was announced that it was almost time to start, I made my over to gear check. This was my first time utilizing gear check at the Ravenswood Run. Being so close to home means that I usually don't have any unnecessary items with me, but I was planning on doing my grocery shopping on the walk home from the race, so I had a few extra items with me this time. Gear check was quick and painless. The folks staffing it were fast and efficient and generally awesome, wishing everyone a good race.

Start corrals were self seeded, but they had placed handy estimated pace signs along the street to attempt to help people find the right starting position. There were repeated announcements to find your way to the area closest to your estimated pace and for walkers and those pushing strollers to start at the back of the pack.

I found my way over the start line, and lined up for what should have been a good but conservative 5k pace for me. I was planning to run somewhere between 9 and 9:30 per mile. Though I really wanted to PR, I knew when I woke up that morning that a PR just wasn't in the books for me that day. I had been slacking off on my speed work and generally not feeling that great, so my primary goal was to simply to finish in less than 30 minutes.

After opening announcements and the national anthem, the race began. As usual, there was a lot of weaving during the first half mile. I tried to stay to one of the sides to minimize weaving, as the bulk of the crowd around me seemed to be keeping fairly center.

Unfortunately, I made the classic mistake of going out too fast. I hit mile 1 in 8:36, which I knew was not a pace that I was going to be able to maintain, as my body was already rebelling. My lungs were already burning, my legs were already tired (partly because I did my long run the day before), and I had a side stitch. One day I'll be able to do 8:30s, but that day was not this day.

I slowed down to a more comfortable pace and focused on my breathing. When I hit the aid station, I slowed down to a brisk walk and grabbed a cup of water from one of the friendly volunteers before falling back into a comfortable 9:30 pace.

We turned on to Lincoln Ave, ran by the Fleet Feet store, where staff were all gathered outside to cheer on the runners, before we hit the mile 2 marker and were in final third of the race.

As we turned on to Lawrence, I had to pull over to the side to stop and tie my shoe, which another runner had thankfully pointed out had come untied. I was feeling good, despite mile 1 being too fast and briefly entertained the idea of speeding up to try for a PR before my body once again began to rebel.

My stomach started to churn right as we turned and started heading down Damen. We were so close to the end of the race! I tried to breathe and fight through it. I haven't had to walk during a 5k in over a year, but I realized that I would rather walk for a minute or two than throw up in front of everyone. I once again pulled over to the side and slowed to a walk and focused on taking deep breaths. Right before the final turn, I began to run again, as there was no way that I was going to cross the finish line walking.

Making my way down Wilson, I tried to pick up the pace as I kept my eyes on the finish line. I gave one final burst of speed to make it over the finish and was just happy to be done. I slowed down, grabbed the first bottle of water that I could, and tried to get my breathing and my stomach under control. I hadn't felt that sick and shaky after finishing a race in a long time, so I found a shady spot to sit for a minute while I sipped some cold water. Luckily, it didn't take too long to start feeling better, and I was able to grab my bag and visit with some friends, one of whom was beaming after snagging a new PR.

Once my stomach was no longer churning, I visited the most popular tent at the race site: the post race cinnamon rolls!

Let's be honest. Everyone really runs this race for the cinnamon roll at the finish. I didn't buy the optional pancake breakfast this year, but there were plenty of folks who were enjoying their breakfasts, the proceeds for which benefited our neighborhood's food pantry.

My last stop before leaving was the kids' race. It doesn't matter the race, if there is a kids' race before or after, then I want to watch. I love seeing the looks of joy on the kids' faces as they run. They aren't running to lose weight or hit a PR, they are running because it is fun, and that is always a refreshing thing to see.

I really enjoyed running the Ravenswood Run again this year, even though my run was plagued by problems. I learned a lot from those problems that I can use in the future. For example, I will be much more careful about not going out too fast in the future. I also need to start running more by how I feel and stop paying so much attention to my watch.

Although I now find myself gravitating towards longer distances, I do love a good 5k. It makes for a quick and fun race, and I love that the 5k distance gives me a chance to see what I can do in terms of speed, though I can't continue skipping my speed work if I ever want to get a new PR. I know that I am capable of more. I just have to put in the work.

I finished the race this year in 28:31, which gave me an average pace of 9:11. Though not a PR, I'm extremely happy with my time. Because I run this race every year, it serves as a really good marker of the progress that I've made. My first Ravenswood Run was completed in 35:22.  Last year, I finished in 33:39. So this year's 28:31 feels pretty great.

I look forward to running the Ravenswood Run again next year. Maybe I'll be able to drop that finish time a little lower.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

I'm Not Dead

I've gotten a few messages wanting to check if I'm okay, because I haven't posted in about a month. I want to thank those people for their concern and let everyone know that I'm still here, I'm still running, and I'm still blogging.

I've been taking a little bit of time off from the interwebs to try to sort out my life and get things under control. I haven't had a real day off from work since January, and the lack of down time is getting to me a little bit, so I needed to stay away from something in order to maintain my sanity, and the easiest something to step away from turned out to be the internet.

I'll be posting my recap from the Ravenswood Run 5k soon, as well as blogging about a change in my goals for the remainder of the year.